Travel News

London likely to move to tier 3 amid rising rates - BBC

DECEMBER 14, 2020

London highly likely to move into tier 3 after a sharp rise in coronavirus infection rates that have left health officials “deeply concerned”

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Tough Christmas lockdowns looming in Europe: Coronavirus live - ALJAZEERA

DECEMBER 14, 2020

Dutch PM Rutte to announce month-long lockdown in Netherlands, as London faces being placed in toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions.

By Arwa Ibrahim

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to announce a tough month-long lockdown, including the closing of schools and shops, according to broadcasters NOS and RTL, as his government tries to slow soaring COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, London is likely to be placed into the toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions following a sharp rise in coronavirus rates, the BBC reported.

In Asia, South Korea ordered schools to close from Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst outbreak of novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous peak in February.

POLAND and faces real threat of pandemic third wave

Poland faces a real threat of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said, adding he would recommend that current restrictions continue until at least January 17.

Poland’s government is expected to adopt a national coronavirus vaccine plan on Tuesday.

Tough Christmas lockdown looming in Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to announce a tough month-long lockdown, including the closing of schools and shops, according to broadcasters NOS and RTL, as his government tries to slow soaring COVID-19 infections.

Rutte held emergency meetings on Monday about the rapid rise of infections and took the unusual step of inviting the heads of all political parties in parliament to join the talks.

NOS and RTL cited government sources as saying that all schools and non-essential shops would be closed until January 19.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to announce the tighter lockdown measures in a rare television address to the country at 1900 local time [File: Tatyana Zenkovich/Reuters]

London likely to move into toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions

London is likely to be placed into the toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions following a sharp rise in coronavirus rates, the BBC reported.

The British capital is currently in the second highest tier of restrictions, with a review currently scheduled to take place on December 16.

Since 02 December the UK government replaced national lockdown restrictions against coronavirus with a regional tier system of lockdown restrictions [File: Andy Rain/EPA]

Germany will get 11 million doses of BioNTech vaccine by March

Germany expects to receive 11 million doses of BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine by March, the health ministry announced.

In January alone, three million to four million doses of the vaccine will be provided for inoculations in Germany, a ministry spokesman said.

Swiss report 10,726 new coronavirus cases over three days

Coronavirus infections rose by 10,726 since Friday, data from Swiss health authorities showed .

The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 384,557, including from mass testing in the Swiss canton of Grisons conducted Friday through Sunday.

The death toll rose by 193 to 5,589, while 445 new hospitalisations kept pressure on the healthcare system, as hospital directors write to Health Minister Alain Berset expressing their concerns.

Study adds to debate over Gilead’s remdesivir for COVID-19

A single-patient study conducted by British scientists has found that Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir could be highly effective against COVID-19, raising questions about previous studies that found it had no impact on death rates from the disease.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study describes how doctors who gave the drug to a patient with both COVID-19 and a rare immune disorder saw a marked improvement in his symptoms and the disappearance of the virus.

“Our patient’s unusual condition gave us a rare insight into the effectiveness of remdesivir as a treatment for coronavirus infection,” said Nicholas Matheson, who co-led the study at Cambridge University’s Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease.

Hospitals in S Korea struggle with bed shortages amid COVID19 spike

Civic and labor groups have urged the government to mobilise more beds and medical personnel from private hospitals to cope with hospital bed shortage amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

Public hospitals have received most local COVID-19 patients but have now reached the saturation point, according to media reports.

The number of newly confirmed cases hovers around 1,000 per day.

Singapore approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

Singapore has approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s novel coronavirus vaccine and expects to receive shots by year-end, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, adding that he planned to be among the early vaccine recipients.

The city-state of 5.7 million people expects to have enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of 2021 and will make it free for citizens and long-term residents, Lee, 68, said.

Vaccination will be voluntary.

PM Lee Hsien Loong said he and other government officials would be among the early recipients after healthcare workers, other front-line personnel, the elderly and the vulnerable [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]3 hours ago (09:50 GMT)

Japan to suspend ‘Go To’ subsidised travel programme

The Japanese government has decided to suspend a travel subsidy programme dubbed “Go To Travel” from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11 nationwide, local media reported, responding to concerns about its impact on the spread of the coronavirus.

Media had widely reported earlier that the suspension would cover only the hardest-hit cities and regions such as the capital, Tokyo, and Nagoya, in central Japan.


Medical experts in Nigeria warn of second wave of COVID-19

Medical experts have warned that Nigeria will likely record a large increase in COVID-19 figures.

A principle reason for a potential second wave is because many people have abandoned safety precautions in recent weeks, according to professor of virology Oyewale Tomori.

Chief executive officer and director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, told The Guardian: “There is the risk of a ‘second wave’ and many countries have begun to experience a spike in cases.”

There has been an increase in the number of cases across 23 states in Nigeria, with majority of the cases detected in Lagos, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory [File: Temilade Ade/Reuters]

South Korea orders schools to shut as COVID-19 cases spike

South Korea ordered schools to close from Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst outbreak of novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous peak in February.

Schools in the capital region would move classes online until the end of the month, in the latest ratcheting up of social distancing measures which so far have failed to reverse the spike in infections.

The school closure is a step towards the imposition of Phase 3 social distancing rules, a move that would essentially lock down Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said such a step required careful review, as the government comes under mounting pressure to do more to step the rise of infections [Al Jazeera/Screengrab]

Ireland may need to reimpose COVID-19 curbs in January

Ireland may need to reimpose some COVID-19 restrictions in January, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said, after health chiefs warned that cases may be rising again following the reopening of most of the economy in the last two weeks.

“You could very well be looking at some further restrictions in January,” Martin told national broadcaster RTE, noting that the curbs lifted this month were not as strict as the initial lockdown.

He said the government would consult widely before making any decisions.

Ireland currently has the lowest incidence rate of COVID-19 in the European Union after it moved early to temporarily shut shops, bars and restaurants in October [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

French central bank sees recovery taking longer

The French central bank said that it expects the country’s economy to recover more slowly than previously and return to its pre-pandemic level only in mid-2022.

The forecast is based on the COVID-19 pandemic not dying down immediately and widespread vaccination not being achieved before the end of 2021.

The Banque de France now sees economic output falling by nine percent this year, with a rebound of five percent in 2021.

France expects unemployment to jump to 11 percent during the first quarter of 2021, and fall to nine percent by the end of 2022 [File: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

5 hours ago (08:25 GMT)

Russia reports 27,328 new coronavirus cases

Russia  confirmed 27,328 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,874 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,681,256.

Authorities said 450 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 47,391.

5 hours ago (08:17 GMT)

Japan picks the kanji character to define coronavirus year

Japan selected a kanji character used to encourage social distancing as its defining symbol for 2020, highlighting a catchphrase used extensively during the coronavirus pandemic that even inspired its own computer game.

The character “mitsu”, meaning “congested” or “dense”, was derived from a buzzword “San-mitsu”, which was central to Japan’s approach to the containing the pandemic.

Translated as “Three Cs” in English, it refers to avoiding closed spaces, crowds and close contacts.

Japanese TV networks broadcast the annual announcement live, with the master of the ancient Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto writing the character on a huge white panel with an ink-soaked calligraphy brush [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

5 hours ago (08:12 GMT)

Mexico registers more than 8,600 new coronavirus cases

Mexico’s health ministry reported 8,608 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 249 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,250,044 cases and 113,953  deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Germany likely to avert second recession despite new lockdown

Germany will likely be able to avoid another recession despite a second national lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic, due to start on Wednesday, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said.

“I hope we can prevent a complete economic standstill in the second wave of the pandemic,” he told public radio Deutschlandfunk.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has reached 1,337,078, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases [File: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

6 hours ago (07:36 GMT)

CureVac enrols first participant in pivotal study of COVID vaccine

Germany’s CureVac announced that it has enrolled the first participant in the Phase 2b/3 study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The trial will assess the safety and efficacy in adults and is expected to include more than 35,000 participants in Europe and Latin America, it added in a statement

World’s top glove maker says Malaysia worker died from COVID-19

Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp has reported that a worker died on Saturday due to COVID-19, the first death since the outbreak at its dormitories and factories in October.

The world’s largest glove maker told Reuters in an email that the 29-year-old worker from Nepal had worked at its manufacturing facility in Klang, 40 km west of the capital Kuala Lumpur, for more than two years.

The outbreak at Top Glove’s facilities in which more than 5,000 workers tested positive was Malaysia’s largest cluster.

Airlines Are Picking Routes Based on Family Travel Patterns - CN TRAVELER

DECEMBER 14, 2020

Whether visiting relatives or ancestral homelands, airlines are tapping into the needs of diaspora populations.

Although most air travelers were grounded in 2020, those who did fly this year were provided an opportunity to reconnect with their roots, return to ancestral homes, and visit friends and relatives abroad. What started as demand for specially coordinated repatriation flights for those stranded abroad amid the unfurling COVID-19 crisis became the inspiration for lucrative new international routes. Carriers have capitalized on this trend by creating new routes for diaspora populations seeking not only refuge from the pandemic, but also a rekindling of cultural bonds.

One of the most prominent examples? United Airlines. After operating more than 1,300 repatriation flights from 20 countries, the Chicago-based carrier announced in September that it would launch three new nonstop routes in spring of 2021, specifically centered around serving the African diaspora. The routes, to Accra, Ghana, and Lagos, Nigeria, will depart from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., a metropolitan area with the second largest population of Ghanaians in the United States. Similarly, Lagos is the largest Western African destination from the U.S., and United's new route will make it the only airline to serve the city nonstop from Washington, D.C.

United says tapping into demand from diasporas reflects its approach of taking “calculated bets” on its global network. While the new routes capitalize on so-called visiting friends and relatives traffic, a key market for airlines amid the pandemic, the international flights can also act as a placeholder for lucrative business travel that's gone on pause. “As we anticipate international business travel to slowly rebound, we’ve also identified opportunities internationally to encourage business travel while providing a way to reconnect customers with loved ones in new international locations,” says Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances.

Although airlines have recently started to go all-in on the trend, interest from the Black diaspora in travel to Africa had already been growing. “There has been a steady increase in non-familial diaspora travel to Africa over the year," says Naledi Khabo, CEO of the African Tourism Association. "Ghana saw a significant increase as a result of their Year of Return in 2020, specifically aimed at the diaspora. As a result of their efforts, there was an increase of 45 percent international visitors especially from the U.S. and U.K. And they reported $1.9 billion into their economy,” Khabo says. The interest in Ghana had a positive effect on other destinations across Africa as well: Khabo notes in particular a growth in interest for secondary hubs on the continent, like Kumasi, Ghana, and Cape Town, South Africa.

“I think we will see the trend continuing, of course at a slower rate given the pandemic," she says. “If recent activity is any indication, the diaspora community has illustrated they are ready and willing to travel. The key to getting them to travel to African destinations is transparency and instilling trust in safety protocols that have been implemented. Direct and authentic engagement with the diaspora remains a priority and is critical to Africa tourism growth.”

Elsewhere, United is widening its offerings for diaspora travelers by launching two new nonstop flights to India, including a route this month to New Delhi from Chicago, which has the second largest population of Indian-Americans in the U.S., according to Quayle. A San Francisco-to-Bangalore flight, the first-ever to the destination from the U.S., is also launching next spring. 

Other airlines are seizing on the trend, too. Qatar Airways became the world's largest international carrier between April and July—according to data from the International Air Transport Association—simply by taking people home. “By continuing to fly during the pandemic while others stopped, we gained the trust of passengers as an airline they can rely on," says Paul Starrs, SVP-western region for Qatar Airways. The carrier operated more than 47,000 repatriation flights carrying 2.8 million passengers. "In short, repatriation flights have absolutely influenced not only the routes we’re flying, but our business strategy,” Starrs says.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Qatar has added six new destinations, including San Francisco and Abuja, Nigeria. The airline also created a new route to Brisbane after carrying nearly 45 percent of international travelers to and from Australia during April, including more than 30,000 passengers between Doha and Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth. Other new destinations—including Cebu in the Philippines and Toronto—were added due to repatriation needs. (The airline repatriated nearly 13,000 passengers in Toronto alone.) “We saw many existing routes experience higher demand. Pakistan, for example, has more than tripled in volume when comparing pre-pandemic to the present," Starrs says.

Whether it be the desire to reconnect or simply get home, diaspora travelers' needs will continue to evolve. “We see the trend of travelers looking to visit friends and relatives continuing into 2021," Starrs says. “There are still millions of people who have not been able to reunite with their friends and families amid the pandemic, and as a result, we can expect to see diaspora populations continuing to travel in a bigger way next year.”

Why We Don't Want To Travel For Christmas—Nigerians - SAHARA REPORTERS

DECEMBER 14, 2020

In the South, most roads are bedevilled by kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry, while in the North, abductions are added to terrorism.

Some Nigerians who planned to travel during the holiday period – Christmas and New Year – are now expressing doubts over the rising insecurity and the unsafe roads across the country.

In the South, most roads are bedevilled by kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry, while in the North, abductions are added to terrorism.

File photo used to illustrate story.

Some commuters, who spoke with SaharaReporters, recounted their harrowing experiences plying Nigerian roads as well as fears ahead of the festive period. Some of these roads are Abuja-Kaduna road, Okene-Lokoja road, Benin-Ore road, Sokoto-Gusau road, Kano-Katsina road and Akure-Akoko road.

A resident of Kano, Umar Taminu, said he was travelling on the Abuja-Kano road from Abuja on November 29, 2020, at about 10 p.m. when he encountered kidnappers, but narrowly escaped by speeding off.

He said, “I escaped being killed by their gunshots on November 29. We had to speed off away from the bandits, although they were sporadically shooting at us. There were other cars on the road at the time, and I saw many vehicles that were hit by the bullets. Some managed to escape with deflated tyres.”

Taminu lamented that kidnapping had become a booming business in many parts of the North, hence the fears of commuters on that route.

“Just yesterday, a friend told me that her younger brother was recently kidnapped, and they had to pay a ransom of N1.5 million before he was released. It’s too bad. To travel for Christmas and New Year now is a lot of worries. The roads are not safe,” he added.

Also speaking, Olamide Abiola, who schools in Zaria but lives in Lagos and sometimes stays in Abuja, said that whenever he was travelling on the Abuja-Kaduna road, he did so with fear because many of his colleagues had become victims of abduction.

He said, “The last time I plied the route was immediately after the inter-state travelling ban was lifted and I am not travelling again anytime soon – even for the end of the year. Most of my colleagues have been kidnapped along that route. Bandits are operating both day and night. This time it is not safe. After all, some of my colleagues even got abducted travelling during the day.”

He said his fear was not as a result of what people say but as a result of what had happened to his friends and what he had seen on the route.

Another frequent traveller, Aminu Auwal said he could have almost become a victim several times but had escaped miraculously.

“It is tough to travel by road these days,” he said. “It is difficult to differentiate between a thief and a police officer. Bandits appear like uniformed men such as the policemen or even the military. They operate like security checkpoints. They know virtually everything regarding security checks, but they end up killing or kidnapping people who stop,” he added.

Auwal said both the Abuja-Kaduna and Abuja-Kano roads were dangerous and unsafe, adding that the insecurity was responsible for the increase in the cost of flight tickets.

“People are avoiding the road, so they either want to use a flight or train. The railway station is now also a hell. People have suffered. I know many victims who have had to pay through their noses to gain their freedom from those criminals,” he explained.

Ehis Bernard, who works in Lagos but has a family in Kaduna, said she would miss her family this festive period, pointing out that it would be her first time to spend Christmas away from home.

She said, “I am terrified of travelling by road. Kidnappers and bandits ride the Lokoja road and the Kaduna road. So I would rather stay here in Lagos for the holidays than travel and risk my life. I have never spent Christmas away from home before, and flights are costly.

“The road is not an option so Christmas without my family which is like a tradition for me will be depressing,” Bernard said. 

London, parts of southeast England put under stringent COVID restrictions - retuers

DECEMBER 14, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s capital London and parts of southeast England will be put under more stringent COVID-19 restrictions from early on Wednesday, health minister Matt Hancock said, saying the rise in cases could overwhelm hospital services.

“Over the last week we’ve seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire ... We therefore have decided to move greater London, the south and west of Essex ... and the south of Hertfordshire ... into tier three, which is the very high alert level,” Hancock told parliament on Monday.

“There restrictions will come into force at midnight on Wednesday morning.”

Reporting by William James, writing by Elizabeth Piper

Ontario puts an end to free COVID-19 testing for international travel clearance - YAHOO NEWS

DECEMBER 15, 2020

BY  Elisabetta Bianchini

Turkey announces 4-day curfew over New Year's to fight virus - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DECEMBER 15, 2020

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced a four-day lockdown starting New Year’s Eve to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the curfew would begin the evening of Dec. 31 and go until the morning of Jan. 4

The government this month re-introduced weekend lockdowns as well as nighttime curfews amid a spike in infections and deaths. It has avoided a full lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic to keep the country's beleagured economy running.

Erdogan also announced some rental support for businesses and promised to continue discounts for value added taxes.

Monday’s health ministry statistics showed a record of 229 confirmed new daily deaths, bringing the total death toll to 16,646. The 7-day average of confirmed infections hovers above 30,000, making Turkey one of the worst-hit nations in the world.

The Associated Press

Singapore to Open for Business Travelers and House Them in Bubble - BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 15, 2020

BY  Katrina Nicholas and Michelle Jamrisko

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore will start a new travel lane for business, official and high-economic-value travelers that will allow people to come to the city-state without quarantine for short-term stays and reside in a dedicated bubble facility near the airport.

The travel lane, announced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday, builds on Singapore’s efforts to reopen its borders in a controlled manner. The Southeast Asian nation, which has largely beaten back the coronavirus, announced Monday that it will progress to the third and final phase of its national Covid-19 response strategy on Dec. 28.

Read more: Singapore Approves Pfizer Vaccine and Enters Last Phase of Curbs

Singapore’s small and open economy is largely dependent upon the tourist and service sectors for growth. To that end, it’s been trying to reopen its borders by establishing green lanes and special travel arrangements with countries where the virus is also under control, like New Zealand and Australia.

Authorities are also keen to position Singapore as a prime spot for meetings, events, conferences and exhibitions and the new dedicated bubble facility near Changi Airport will be a big part of that. Earlier this month it was revealed that the World Economic Forum has held preliminary talks with officials in Singapore about relocating its high-profile Davos annual meeting to the city-state.

Applications for the new travel lane will open next month. People from all countries can apply but must adhere to the travel lane’s strict health and testing protocols.

For the duration of their up to 14-day stay, visitors will be housed in a “bubble” within a dedicated facility, undergo testing upon arrival and on days three, five, seven and 11, and must observe all prevailing safe management measures. They will be able to conduct meetings with local visitors and with other segregated travel lane groups at the facility, however if they’re meeting with locals, travelers will need to remain behind floor-to-ceiling dividers.

Air-Tight Panels, Vending Machines

Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte on Tuesday outlined the short-stay facility that will support such safe business exchanges. Called Connect@Changi, the initiative also involves The Ascott Ltd. and Sheares Healthcare Group, and will be located at the Singapore EXPO, about a five-minute drive from the airport.

“Ideally, you would like to have people free to move around, do what they want to do and spend where they want to,” but this is a “good alternative option” as we try to stamp out the virus, Temasek Senior Managing Director Alan Thompson said at a media briefing Tuesday. “This is an attempt to begin to open up and reinvigorate the air travel and hospitality sectors in Singapore.”

Connect@Changi will have more than 670 guestrooms and almost 170 meeting rooms that each can accommodate from four to 22 attendees. When fully constructed in mid-2021, the facility will include more than 1,300 guestrooms and about 340 meeting rooms.

The arrangement is primarily aimed at official and multinational business meetings, as well as medical consultations, private banking transactions and document signings or legal consultations. Its target audience is mainly short-term visitors who don’t intend to stay longer than a few days.

“Guests can meet their local counterparts or other guests from the region safely in specially designed meeting rooms outfitted with air-tight glass panels, reducing the risk of transmission,” Temasek said in a statement. “Entrances, exits and ventilation systems for both guests and Singapore-based visitors are separated” and there will be “a rigorous Covid-19 testing regime for guest travelers before and throughout their stay, as well as prior to departing the facility for their home countries.”

Meals will be delivered to pre-installed shelves outside guest rooms, and guests can also opt for additional food and beverage options via vending machines.

A Living Laboratory

Singapore had been developing the idea months before the World Economic Forum news, Chan said during a separate briefing Tuesday.

“We’re now in discussions with the World Economic Forum on logistical arrangements,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the Changi facility would be sufficient in terms of the number of meeting rooms required for such a large event.

Temasek also added that as a “living laboratory, Connect@Changi will feature an array of novel Covid-19 management strategies, such as wastewater testing for early detection, latest rapid point-of-care tests to complement established lab-based polymerase chain reaction tests, and automated contact tracing within the facility to enable rapid and precise identification of individuals.”

“If successful, these strategies can be deployed at existing facilities elsewhere, such as hotels, to strengthen and boost Singapore’s pandemic response,” the investment firm said.

(Updates with Temasek quote in 8th paragraph.)

UK competition regulator to investigate airlines over refunds failure - REUTERS

DECEMBER 16, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s competition regulator said on Wednesday it would investigate whether airlines had breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not legally take during a COVID-19 lockdown.

The regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, said the new inquiry was part of its ongoing work in relation to holiday refunds during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights. Consumer groups have accused the airlines of being slow to issue refunds and misleading passengers into accepting flight vouchers instead of cash, flouting rules.

Airline finances have been choked by COVID-19, with restrictions suppressing travel since March. EasyJet and British Airways-owner IAG have had to ask shareholders for new funds and take on new debt to survive.

But the CMA said that despite the strain airlines were under they had a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.

The extra probe announced on Wednesday is looking at England’s second lockdown in November, when people were banned from travelling. Despite this some airlines did not cancel flights or offer refunds to those who had booked.

The CMA said it was working with the aviation regulator, the CAA, on the issue.

In its statement, the CMA noted that only a court could decide whether any airline had breached consumers’ rights.

Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Estelle Shirbon and Kate Holton

Air passengers unable to travel due to government restrictions may get refunds - THE INDEPENDENT

DECEMBER 16, 2020

BY  Simon Calder

Passengers prevented from taking flights because of government travel restrictions may be in line for cash refunds.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into whether airlines have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully access.

Tens of thousands of travellers in England who booked trips before the second lockdown was announced in November found themselves with flights they were unable to access due to strict rules on non-essential travel.

Travellers from the other UK nations have faced similar problems.

If the flight was subsequently cancelled – as many were – the passenger is due their money back in full within a week under European air passengers’ rights rules.

But where a flight went ahead, airlines either offered a voucher for future travel or – in the case of Ryanair and Wizz Air â€“ enforced their normal flight-change rules and fees.

The CMA investigation will look at both cases. Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive, said: “We will be carefully analysing all the evidence to see whether any airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by refusing people cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take.

“We recognise the continued pressure that businesses are currently facing, but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.”

The standard coronavirus policy that the CMA has adopted is that in any contract frustrated by government action, the consumer should get their money back in full.

But carriers argue that of the seat on the flight was available, the fact that the holidaymaker could not legally access it was regrettable – but the traveller had agreed to the airline’s terms at the time of purchase.

While the CMA cannot itself issue fines, it can seek to enforce what it sees as breaches of consumer rights through the courts.


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