Conservative MPs join calls for airport testing instead of blanket quarantines

COVID-19: CAPA lists airports' varied sanitary protection measures ...

Senior Conservative MPs have called on Boris Johnson to introduce German-style tests at airports to replace blanket quarantine or risk being “left behind other nations.”

The MPs including Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 Tory backbench committee, and former aviation minister Paul Maynard warn that the aviation industry faces “six-figure” job losses unless the prime minister adopts a “more nuanced” response.

This reflects industry calls voiced by Tui UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham, urging the government to remove the ‘blunt tool’ approach to quarantine and consider regional travel corridors.

Travel Counsellors boss Kirsten Hughes also called for Covid-19 testing at airports instead of blanket quarantine restrictions on entire countries.

The 20 MPs who have signed the letter also want regional “air bridges” that would connect holidaymakers and business travellers to “low-risk” areas within countries hit by the UK travel ban.

They said: “We are particularly worried that further quarantines and continuing weak passenger numbers will further exacerbate what is an already desperate situation, with associated job losses projected to reach six figures in the coming months.”

The move follows the government re-imposing quarantine on travellers returning from mainland Spain and the Balearic and Canary islands.

Quarantine rules were also re-introduced on Luxembourg on Friday, while Portugal remained subject to the UK travel ban including the Azores and Madeira Islands even though their low rates of Covid-19 mean they are classed as “safe” destinations by the Foreign Office.

While accepting measures to protect public health, the MPs who also include former international trade minister Mark Garnier and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it demonstrated that a blanket quarantine approach was “not always appropriate,” the Telegraph reported.

“The government should consider moving towards regional travel corridors recognising that not all parts of a country may be similarly affected from a spike in infections, allowing quarantine-free travel from those places,” the MPs said.

This would allow quarantine-free travel to the low-risk Balearic and Canary islands, which, with Spain accounting for 2.4 million UK holidaymakers in August alone, and to Madeira and the Azores.

Airport testing would also open up vital long-haul trade routes to countries like the US and Canada following similar moves by Germany and France which have introduced schemes from this week that will allow in passengers from “red list” countries if they test negative for Covid-19.

“This would mirror the measures announced by the German government and the UK should not be left behind as other nations look to more nuanced responses that allow travel to continue and for the risks to be minimised,” said the MPs.

Heathrow has offered to run a trial where passengers could be tested on arrival and then at five or eight days, after which they could be released from quarantine if they proved negative for Covid-19.

Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation Group and MP for the Gatwick constituency of Crawley, said in an article for the newspaper: “If the government is serious about Global Britain it needs to protect and support our aviation industry immediately as it faces the greatest challenge in its history.

“But the potential impacts of a blunt blanket quarantine risks damaging more than just aviation and its related industries.  The concept of a Global Britain is itself at risk.

“Aviation is more than our summer holidays, it is a key economic enabler opening up the UK to trading markets and opportunities across the globe.”

The MPs urged the government to provide a “longer-term package of measures” to protect aviation jobs, each of which research shows supports a further 24 jobs.

Options that have been put forward to ministers include reduced business rates, employment support to workers and waivers on Air Passenger Duty.

“It is, of course, right that the Government remains vigilant and has the flexibility to respond to the public health challenges as they occur,” the MPs added.

“However, it is also right that this response considers the serious economic impact that these measures have on a sector that will be vital to our long-term economic recovery.

“We, therefore, urge you to reform the quarantine policy to allow for regional travel corridors, introduce airport testing linked to high-risk nations and provide longer-term employment support to the millions of employees working in the sector.”

Meanwhile, random coronavirus testing will be introduced at airports in Ireland, according to the country’s health minister.

Stephen Donnelly said the move was needed because the “international situation is becoming more volatile”.

He said passenger locator forms were being made electronic and tracing teams were to be “bulked up”.

Royal Caribbean reveals numbers seeking refunds

Cruise Planner: Pre-Cruise Deals | Design Your Cruise | Royal ...

Royal Caribbean Cruises has revealed just under half of its customers have requested cash refunds for cancelled cruises, with its operations currently suspended through to June 11.

In a business update, Royal Caribbean revealed it was holding $2.4 billion in customer deposits at the end of March and said, as of April 30, “approximately 45% of guests have requested cash refunds”.

The cruise giant is offering clients with cancelled bookings credits for future cruises worth 125% of the price they paid in lieu of cash refunds.

Royal Caribbean reported it started the year “in a strong booked position and at higher prices” than the previous year, but said: “Booking volumes for the remainder of 2020 are meaningfully lower than the same time last year at prices that are down [in] low-single digits.”

However, the company described booking trends for 2021 and beyond as at “more typical levels”, reporting: “The booked position for 2021 is within historical ranges . . . with 2021 prices up [in] mid-single digits compared to 2020.”

Royal Caribbean confirmed it continues to take future bookings for later this year, 2021 and 2022 and to “receive new customer deposits and final payments on these”.

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean chairman and chief executive, said: “Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have severely impacted our operations.

“We are taking decisive actions to prioritise the safety of our guests and crew while protecting our fleet and bolstering liquidity.”

Best Cruise Ships: Discover Our Top-Rated Ships | Royal Caribbean ...

He reported: “The company’s fleet is now either in port or at anchor and we have developed strict protocols to protect our crew still on board ships.”

Royal Caribbean said it was developing “a comprehensive and multi-faceted programme” to address the public health challenges posed by Covid-19, including “enhanced screening, upgraded cleaning and disinfection protocols and plans for social distancing”.

Chief financial officer Jason Liberty reported the company had also undertaken “significant cost-cutting, capital spend reductions and other cash conservation measures” and said: “We continue to evaluate all options available to us to further enhance liquidity.”

The company had $2.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents available to it at the end of April and increased its secured credit facility on May 4.

Royal Caribbean’s ships “are currently transitioning into various levels of layup, with several ships transitioning into a cold layup, further reducing operating expenses”, he said.

The company has laid-off about one-quarter of its 5,000 US onshore employees and identified $4.4 billion in savings on capital expenditure this year and next.

This will see the deferral and delay of planned ship deliveries.

However, these measures have still left Royal Caribbean with operating expenses of $150 million to $170 million a month and total monthly expenses, including interest and debt payments, of up to $275 million.

Coronavirus: Cruise lines cancel and change itineraries amid mounting travel restrictions

Image result for quantum of the seas

Quantum of the Seas

Cruise lines have responded to a wave of travel and entry restrictions from countries across southeast Asia by cancelling and changing itineraries amid the coronavirus outbreak. Harry Kemble rounds up all the latest developments.

Royal Caribbean International has cancelled two Quantum of the Seas sailings departing from Singapore on February 15 and February 24.

Affected passengers have been given full refunds, the line said.

A Royal spokesperson added: “Royal Caribbean’s number one priority is ensuring the health and welfare of our guests and crew.

“We will continue to monitor conditions and will share other itinerary adjustments should they become necessary.

“The Singapore market remains of great importance to us and we look forward to returning there very soon.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises has lifted its ban on passport holders from China, Hong Kong and Macau after adopting the controversial policy last week.

A statement from Royal Caribbean Cruises, parent of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea confirmed the reversal on Tuesday.

Every passenger who has travelled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau 15 days prior to the departure date is still banned from boarding any of Royal’s vessels.

Norwegian Cruise Line has pulled its entire Asia programme for the newly refurbished ship, Norwegian Spirit.

Image result for norwegian spirit

Norwegian Spirit with its new hull design.

All sailings between 15 and December 7 have been dropped and full refunds are being offered, along with 10% future cruise credit.

The line also said it would cover up to $300 per person for any air change fees.

“While it is always our intention to maintain original itineraries, at times, unforeseen circumstances require us to make modifications,” the line said. “We appreciate our guests’ patience during this time.”

Celebrity Cruises has cancelled Celebrity Millennium’s sailing departing from Hong Kong on February 15 and altered two Celebrity Constellation itineraries to avoid Singapore and Thailand.

Constellation will spend more time in Cochin, Goa and Mumbai, instead of calling into Phuket, Thailand.

Cunard ship Queen Mary 2 is to miss several ports in southeast Asia and will sail direct to Fremantle, Australia, during its world cruise.

The vessel had been scheduled to call into Phuket, Thailand; Pulau Penang Island and Klang in Malaysia; Singapore; and Hong Kong.

Cunard said the “various travel and entry restrictions…are increasingly impacting ship itineraries and connecting travel” across the world.

Holland America Line (HAL) ship Westerdam was stopped from docking in Laem Chabang, Thailand, a day after the ship had been diverted from Japan.

Image result for westerdam

Holland American cruise ship Westerdam who got turned away from Thailand yesterday (Tuesday)

On Tuesday, HAL said: “We are actively working on this matter and will provide an update when we are able.”

Princess Cruises on Wednesday confirmed a further 39 passengers onboard Diamond Princess tested positive for coronavirus. The total has now risen to 174 confirmed cases out of 3,700 passengers and crew on board.

The ship is the largest centre of cases outside China.

P&O Cruises is removing calls into Shanghai on March 5-6 and Hong Kong on March 9-10 as part of Arcadia’s world cruise and will announce alternative ports “as soon as possible”.

The UK line said: “We are very closely monitoring and assessing the impact of the latest developments and health advisories, as well as various travel and entry restrictions which are increasingly impacting ship itineraries and connecting travel.

“We are actively seeking to mitigate these risks to our guests and crew, and are making appropriate adjustments to our operations to protect all onboard our ships.”