Tui cancels all holidays for UK customers until June 30

Tui cancels all holidays for UK customers until June 30 and its Marella Cruises sailings up to July 30 as a result of ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions

  • The UK’s biggest tour operator had previously cancelled all trips up to June 11 
  • Rival tour operator Jet2holidays has also suspended its holidays, up to July 1 
  • Tui said that all impacted customers would receive a refund credit
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Tui has extended the suspension of all beach holidays for UK customers until June 30 and all Marella Cruises sailings up to July 30, 2020. 

The UK’s biggest tour operator had previously cancelled all trips up to June 11.

Tui said in a statement that it has extended the suspension of holidays ‘due to the ongoing travel restrictions’. 

Tui has extended the suspension of all beach holidays for UK customers until June 30 and all Marella Cruises sailings up to July 30, 2020 

It added: ‘All customers whose bookings are impacted by the above changes will receive a refund credit and if their booking was for a package they will also get an up to 20 per cent incentive, or they can request a cash refund via an online form on the Tui website.

‘All customers should receive their refund credit within four weeks before their original departure date. Customers who booked on the Tui or First Choice website or via the Tui or First Choice app can amend their booking with their incentive themselves via Manage my Booking.

‘With so much uncertainty around when travel will be able to recommence customers due to travel before the end of August have the opportunity to amend their holiday for free so they don’t have to pay until closer to their new departure date.’

Rival tour operator Jet2holidays has also suspended its holidays, up to July 1.

A 14-day quarantine for international arrivals is due to begin in the UK on June 8.

Jet2 has extended the cancellation period of all of its flights and holidays until July 1

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential international travel since March 17.

Major UK tour operators will not run trips until the FCO changes its position.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared to be more optimistic than in the past when asked about the prospect of people being able to go on holiday this summer.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think the answer is let’s see where we get to.’

Mr Hancock had previously commented that ‘big, lavish international holidays’ were ‘unlikely’ to be possible this summer.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, April and May 2021 have become the most popular months for Britons to book overseas package holidays for 

Meanwhile, yesterday, it was revealed that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, April and May 2021 have become the most popular months for Britons to book overseas package holidays for.

That’s according to UK data gathered over the past month by TravelSupermarket, which revealed that the most booked destination is Paphos in Cyprus, followed by the Costa Blanca then Orlando.

The rest of the top 10 most booked destinations list comprises Tenerife (fourth), New York (fifth), the resorts around Antalya in Turkey (sixth), the resorts around Dalaman in Turkey (seventh), Dominican Republic (eighth), Ibiza (ninth) and Majorca (10th). 

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Spain’s islands to open to British tourists ahead of biggest cities

British holidaymakers will be allowed back to Spain’s islands ahead of the biggest cities, the Spanish foreign minister has said.

Arancha González Laya told the BBC Today programme that her country hopes to open up in June – with the Balearic and Canary islands first to open up to tourists.

Spain has had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, which it is lifting – but at different rates in different places.

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Ms González said Spain is aiming to become “the safest destination in Europe”.

“That’s top of our priorities right now.

“We want to make sure that at this moment when every country is suffering from this pandemic, we can provide them with a safe experience.

“At the beginning of May when we thought that the situation was stabilising, we started gradually to de-escalate the measures. We hope to end by the end of June.

“When we open the country first to Spaniards and then to tourists, everybody will be safe.

“Some of our territories, like the islands, are Covid free.

“They can open faster.”

In contrast, she said, Madrid and Barcelona “will need to build sanitary capacity that would allow them to face a new surge in the future”.

Spain is currently imposing 14 days of mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving in the country, but Ms González said: “We are very clear in our minds this is a temporary measure.”

She said it could be replaced by temperature checks and other measures, possibly including a certificate showing the traveller is free of coronavirus.

The Spanish moves are currently academic for prospective British holidaymakers, as the Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel abroad.

In addition, the UK government says that in June it will introduce mandatory self-isolation for two weeks for everyone arriving in the country, with a few specific exemptions.

The imminent measure means no significant bookings are being made for the coming summer peak, while travel companies and airlines are unsure about whether holidays will take place.

The minister was also asked about the British approach to the Brexit negotiations.

Ms González said: “There is clearly a desire on the British side to continue to enjoy the benefits of belonging to the European internal market. And that has to come with a price because Britain will no longer be a member of the European Union.

“You cannot be out and still enjoy the benefits as if you were in.

“All sides need to show flexibility.”

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A refund for a canceled tour Some firms offer credit only

The travel shutdown has exposed the delicate balance of the travel ecosystem, with many suppliers struggling or just declining to offer customers refunds on trips that the companies have been forced to cancel.

While large, long-established tour operators such as Collette, Tauck and Globus say they are making good on requests for refunds from customers whose tours have been canceled, many small operators say they have been unable to because money paid in by customers has often already been paid out to vendors and partners.

Others, such as G Adventures, say they are simply sticking with their long-standing policies against offering anything but future credits on canceled trips, because that not only helps them and advisors hold on to customers through rebookings, it also supports the global supply chain that, like everyone else, is suffering.

“The local communities are really struggling through this,” said Ben Perlo, managing director of U.S. operations for G, a small-group, adventure travel company that was founded with a strong social mission of sustainable travel and support for developing countries.

By sticking to its policy of credits only, he said, “our hope … is that we can get travelers back to traveling to those locations, to get back to what our original mission was: wealth redistribution.”

As with commission payments, many companies have tweaked their refund policies as the shutdown has dragged on. Others have stopped announcing blanket cancellation dates, as their policies require them to make refunds only on trips they cancel.

The confusion around differing and sometimes changing polices prompted ASTA last month to call on suppliers to offer full refunds.

But a recent poll by WeTravel, which processes payments for some 3,000 tour operators and their partners around the world, showed that making good on such a demand is complicated.

Almost half of the poll’s 592 respondents, mostly multiday operators with fewer than 20 employees, said they have managed to give full refunds to their travelers, while 27% are first waiting for refunds from their vendors.

At the same time, only 39% of vendors said they were willing to give full refunds to tour operators, while 11% of vendors were not willing to refund at all or even reschedule.

“The general theme is [operators] want to give refunds, but unfortunately, a lot of them just don’t have the money,” said Lucas Ennis, head of sales for WeTravel. “Not because they have spent it on their staff, but because they have given it out to different partners.”

While companies have emphasized that future travel credits (FTCs) help the agents hold onto commissions, travel advisor Tom Baker, president of Cruise Center in Houston, said such policies are disconcerting.

“What initially started as refund or future travel credits, almost all the tour operators have rolled over to FTCs and no refunds, which leads us to believe they don’t have the cash assets to start refunding this much money, which is scary itself,” he said. “I’m concerned about anyone’s viability at this juncture. There’s too much we don’t know. I advocate for any clients that possibly can to take the refund. I’m being honest and I’m saying, ‘Think about your money.'”

However, Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui, CEO and owner of the luxury destination management company Experience Morocco, said advisors have been some of the biggest advocates for their credit vs. refund policies.

“Maybe we’ve just been lucky, but most agents we work with have been remarkably understanding,” he said. “The whole industry is uniting around this message of postpone, don’t cancel.”

He explained that most relationships in the travel space are based on prepayments. Once travelers commit to a trip, he said, the bulk of their money is prepaid to hotels, guides and other local suppliers.

“We have confidence that all our suppliers are going to be around,” he said. “So effectively, that money isn’t lost, it’s just with our partners to be used whenever you travel.”

G Adventures’ Perlo said transparency, communication and consistency were key.

“My worst nightmare … is to go out with a policy and then retract that policy,” he said, adding that G has “gotten a lot of positive feedback” about its openness.

Still, bigger, long-established operators say they have and always will honor requests for full refunds on trips they are forced to cancel, regardless of whether customers have purchased insurance.

At Collette, for instance, executive vice president Jeff Roy said that while the company encourages customers to rebook instead of canceling by offering a 105% credit, when a customer wants a refund they give back all of their cash without passing on any penalties from airlines or other suppliers.

“We’ve been in business for 102 years,” he said, adding that after 9/11, Collette made more than $30 million in refunds, and “this is much bigger.”

“The bottom line is we try to put the customer at the center of everything here,” Roy said. “We try to take care of our customers first, then negotiate with our partners to make us whole.

Tauck and Globus are also sticking to their refund policies, while also offering incentives to rebook.

“Our focus has been to provide options for any departures we suspend that include either a refund or the ability to move the original booking on any other date or Globus family of brands’ product via our Peace of Mind letter of credit and rebooking bonus,” said Steve Born, vice president of marketing for Globus. “And when that Peace of Mind option is taken, we’re paying commission up front.

“The other thing that’s in high demand right now is time,” Born added. “With each move on our operations status, we’ve created a communications path and timing window of three full weeks to activate the option. And moving forward, our aim is to stay ahead of upcoming final payment dates with decisions about future departure operations.”

Tauck said that in instances where it has canceled a trip, it will give refunds but is encouraging guests instead to shift their funds into a Tauck Travel Wallet for future use by providing an additional credit of either $500 per traveler for reservations that are paid in full or $250 per traveler for reservations under deposit.

The funds in the Tauck Travel Wallet never expire, while the credits can be applied toward any 2020 or 2021 Tauck land tour or cruise.

“The Tauck Travel Wallet program has been very popular with our travel advisors, because it provides a strong incentive for their Tauck clients to travel with us once they’re able to,” company spokesman Tom Armstrong said.

News editor Johanna Jainchill contributed to this report.

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Greyhound Launches Rides for Responders Program to Support Frontline Heroes

WHY IT RATES: Greyhound is looking to help the fight against coronavirus by offering free travel for those working on the front lines of the viral pandemic.—Donald Wood, Breaking News Senior Writer.

As the largest provider of intercity bus transportation in North America, Greyhound has always been on the front line of critical transportation during national crises. Greyhound is currently providing safe transportation that directly supports essential services. To provide further support, today Greyhound launched, ‘Rides for Responders,’ a program that provides free travel for medical personnel and first responders who need to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These frontline heroes are putting their lives at risk to provide support and expertise not only in their communities, but they are also volunteering to travel across the country to help communities being hit hardest during the pandemic,” said Rob Friedman, Chief Commercial Officer, Greyhound Lines, Inc. “We are so thankful for their sacrifices and we want to be able to help in whatever way we can. Transportation is what we do best; with this program we can take out the hassle and worry about how these medical personnel get to their destination so they can be rested and focus on their important task at hand.”

‘Rides for Responders’ provides two free one-way tickets to any doctor, nurse, paramedic, EMT, medical technician, firefighter, member of law enforcement or mortician volunteering and needing to travel to a volunteer site by utilizing its existing Road Rewards program. Those looking to take advantage of the tickets can visit the program’s website and follow the simple instructions. After signing up for Road Rewards and providing the necessary information, Greyhound will deposit the tickets into the member’s account in approximately 72 hours.

The new program is not the only way the transportation line is providing assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. Greyhound’s long-standing program, ‘Home Free,’ in partnership with the National Runaway Safeline, provides free tickets home to runaway and homeless youth. The program has seen an influx in calls related to the crisis due to stay-at-home orders, and to date has issued over 28% more tickets in the last two months than it did in 2019.

Currently, Greyhound is the only remaining nationwide bus network serving both rural and urban communities. While routes have been reduced and safety measures have increased, Greyhound plans to continue to provide travel for essential services.

SOURCE: Greyhound Lines, Inc. press release.

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Viking Opens Bookings for New Mississippi River Cruises 2022-23

Viking today officially opened reservations for the general public to book its all-new Mississippi River cruises, which will debut for the 2022-23 season.

As part of Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen’s promised exclusive preview, past guests of Viking were the first to be afforded early-booking opportunities, beginning March 30, 2020, and some departure dates have already nearly or completely sold out.

The cruise line’s first custom vessel, Viking Mississippi, will launch in August 2022, sailing voyages on the Lower and Upper Mississippi River, between New Orleans and St. Paul. The all-inclusive, state-of-the-art river ship will feature five decks with 193 all-outside staterooms to accommodate 386 passengers.

This latest announcement solidifies the coming of a new milestone for Viking with its arrival on the Mississippi, which has, historically, been perhaps the country’s single most important waterway.

“Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us,” remarked Hagen when Viking Mississippi’s introduction was announced on March 30, 2020. “The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”

Viking’s evolution as a company has recently kicked into high-gear, with several planned expansions of its fleet and new destination-focused tourism offerings in the works.

Fresh aspirations have prompted the launch of Viking Expeditions, with the carrier’s first 378-guest, purpose-built expedition ship, Viking Octantis, planned for launch in January 2022, first sailing voyages to Antarctica and afterward to North America’s Great Lakes.

A second expedition vessel, the Viking Polaris, will then make her debut in August 2022, sailing to the Arctic regions and Antarctica.

When the addition of Viking Expeditions was first announced in January 2020, Hagen said of the company’s expansion: “We began as Viking River Cruises; then we evolved into Viking Cruises with the addition of ocean cruises; today, we stand singularly as Viking, offering destination-focused voyages on more than 20 rivers, five oceans and five Great Lakes, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents.”

He also referred to Viking as, “the company that covers the most water systems on Earth.”

For more information, visit viking.com.

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ASTA Outlines Next Steps for Coronavirus Relief

ASTA has outlined its list of priorities for the next phase of coronavirus relief efforts.

“While we appreciate the support Congress provided for agencies, agency employees and independent contractors as part of the CARES Act, it is clear that more needs to be done,” said Eben Peck, executive vice president, advocacy for ASTA. “Our recommendations for the next round of coronavirus relief legislation are largely informed by gaps in and implementation issues with the programs in the CARES Act, and are based in extensive consultations with our members over the past few weeks.”

The organization has identified four priorities it says will prevent further damage within the industry.

The first priority is the expansion of the Payroll Protection Program. ASTA points out that last-minute changes to the SBA loan program have made it less attractive to both borrowers and lenders, specifically restrictive “hire-back” provisions when business remains at a standstill.

ASTA asked that Congress include several changes in upcoming legislation related to coronavirus relief, including an increase to the employee cap to 2,000, increase funding for the PPP to $750 billion, extend the program through December 30, 2020, increase the loan threshold and more.

ASTA also recommends that Congress provide additional funding for ticket agent loans.

“Applications for this program are due April 17, so as of this writing we have no way of knowing how much of this $25 billion will be set aside for travel agencies as opposed to airlines or repair stations, but it is unlikely to be enough to meet the needs of agencies across the country,” ASTA noted. “As such, ASTA requests that Congress provide the Treasury Department with additional funding to extend loans to ticket agents under Section 4003(b)(1).”

ASTA would also like to see funding for the Emergency Economic Injury Program increased by $50 billion as the program has been overwhelmed, and it would like enhanced support for larger businesses.

“Specifically, ASTA supports amending the CARES Act to provide ESF loan forgiveness that mirrors PPP loan forgiveness, enabling mid- to large size businesses to obtain up to three months of loan forgiveness for employee retention and basic expenses; and clarifying that the Treasury Department may serve as the facility for direct lending to severely impacted businesses, similar to the direct loans that the Treasury Department is authorized to make to airlines and aviation businesses,” ASTA noted.

ASTA also outlined several steps needed to help travel agencies with airline rebookings and refunds.

The organization would like to see legislation in Congress that relaxes fare rules, stops the issuance of debit memos, ensures that all airline tickets are fully refundable, allows travel advisors to process refunds through the GDS and/or ARC, protect commissions and more.

“We have been in constant communication with Congressional offices, the Treasury Department, the SBA and others on these issues and will continue to do so,” said Peck. “This remains the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced, and our goal is the same as at the start of the crisis–to fight as hard as we can to get the most financial relief for the largest number of our members as possible.”

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Airlines Cancel 150 Orders for Boeing 737 MAX

Boeing Co. has largely been out of the spotlight in the last month, as the continuing saga over the fate of its troubled 737 MAX aircraft has taken somewhat of a back seat behind the more pressing woes that have befallen the airline industry due to the coronavirus.

That has changed, as Boeing announced this morning that its customers have canceled orders for 150 of the 737 MAX jets, according to CNBC.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the 737 MAX after two fatal crashes last year. The 737 MAX, the company’s most popular plane, has not flown in more than a year as it has faced numerous stops and starts trying to solve the software issue that was the cause for the tragedies.

Of the 150 cancellations, 75 came from the aviation leasing firm Avolon and 34 had been ordered by Brazilian airline Gol. CNBC noted there were 31 orders for passenger planes and military aircraft in March, meaning the net cancellations were 119. Still, that means net cancellations for the first three months of the year are now at 307 planes.

Worse, it’s likely that airlines will be scaling back on further orders now that the virus has dramatically dropped the demand for travel, forcing carriers to literally park planes on runways.

“We are working closely with our customers, many of whom are facing significant financial pressures, to review their fleet plans and make adjustments where appropriate,” Boeing said in a statement. “At the same time, Boeing continues to adjust its order book to adapt to lower-than-planned 737 MAX production in the near term.”

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DOT makes rules for airline aid more flexible

Responding to airlines’ objections, the Department of
Transportation eased service requirements for airlines that accept financial
assistance from the federal government.

Originally, the Cares Act required airlines receiving a
federal grant or loan to continue serving until Sept. 30 domestic destinations
they had been serving on March 1.

The rigidity of the proposal drew criticism from several
carriers, both small and large. Airlines noted in regulatory filings that they
routinely operate seasonal service to many destinations, making the requirement
impractical. 

In its final order on April 7, the DOT gave airlines more
flexibility. Airlines getting aid will have a choice of continuing to fly to
all domestic points they served during the last week of February or flying to
all domestic points they served during the first week of August 2019. 

The DOT also made it easier for smaller carriers to qualify
for federal aid, imposing less stringent minimum-service requirements than the
Big 4.

American, Delta, Southwest and United will be required to
serve any domestic destination that they had been serving more than 25 times
per week with at least five flights per week. Those carriers also must schedule
at least three weekly flights to markets they had been serving between five and
25 times per week. And they must schedule at least one weekly flight to
destinations they had been serving fewer than five times per week. 

The remainder of U.S. airlines will have to maintain at
least thrice-weekly service to domestic destinations they had been serving at
least five times per week. They also must schedule at least one weekly flight
to markets they had been serving fewer than five times per week.  

The smaller carriers won’t be burdened with the Big 4’s
requirement for destinations served more than 25 times per week. 

Under the Cares Act, U.S. passenger airlines are to receive
up to $25 billion in federal payroll grants and are eligible — along with
large travel agencies and aircraft maintenance businesses — for up to $25
billion in federal loans.

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American Airlines applying for 12 billion in cash and loans

American Airlines will apply for approximately $12 billion
in airline rescue grants and loans, CEO Doug Parker and president Robert Isom
said in a letter to employees.

“We intend to apply for these funds and are confident that,
along with our relatively high available cash position, they will allow us to
fly through even the worst of potential future scenarios,” the executives said.

Under the Cares Act, U.S. passenger airlines are
to receive up to $25 billion in federal grants and are eligible — along with
large travel agencies and aircraft maintenance businesses — for up to $25
billion in federal loans.

Grants must be used to maintain salaries and staffing levels
through Sept. 30. Airlines that accept them must also continue service to
markets they flew to as of March 1.

On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation clarified how
it will manage that latter requirement. The rule will pertain only to U.S.
destinations. In cases in which airlines serve multiple airports in the same
market, they will be allowed to consolidate to a single airport. Carriers can
also reduce the number of routes offered from any airport as long as at least
one route is operated.

For destinations that a carrier served at least five days a
week as of the last week of February, the carrier will be required to continue
a minimum service level of five days per week. If carriers had been flying
routes less than five days per week, they will be allowed to drop to
once-weekly service. 

The DOT will also allow the airlines that take federal
assistance to request permission to halt service in certain markets. Airlines
will have to explain why cessation is necessary.

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