Travel UK update – live: Last countries likely to leave red list as airlines slam long-haul tax rise – The Independent

The government is expected to announce further changes to the UK’s red list today, with the seven-strong list of countries expected to be heavily reduced or scrapped altogether.

This afternoon, Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said that England has no plans to abolish its “red list” of high-risk countries for Covid, which requires travellers to quarantine in hotels on arrival.

But the spokesman did not rule out the possibility that the final seven countries on the list will be removed when transport secretary Grant Shapps unveils the latest update on travel restrictions later today.

He dismissed reports that the seven – Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – will all be declared safe as “speculation”, insisting that final meetings to decide any changes were still to take place.

Such a move would align the UK with many other European countries and ease the barriers to travel – but people in quarantine hotels will be expected to complete their 11-night stays.

In other news, airline bosses have slammed the government’s decision to raise APD (Air Passenger Duty) on long-haul flights in yesterday’s Budget, with Iata director general Willie Walsh calling it a “cash grab masquerading as a green tax the week before COP26”.

Follow the latest travel news below:


Emirates returns “SuperJumbo” to Gatwick route in time for Christmas

London Gatwick, which was previously the world’s busiest single-runway airport, has at last received a crumb of comfort: Emirates is planning to bring the Airbus A380 back in time for Christmas.

The Sussex airport has lagged behind other Emirates gateways in getting a link to Dubai restored. London Heathrow and Manchester already have multiple Airbus A380 services, while Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle are also back on the Emirates network.

The Dubai-based airline had already announced a return to Gatwick, but with a smaller Boeing 777 aircraft. The daily link will now be served by the double-deck A380, with almost 50 per cent more seats.

Richard Jewsbury, divisional vice-president UK for Emirates, said: “Upgrading the Gatwick route to our incredible A380 will help us meet ever growing demand for international travel from the British public.

“London Gatwick airport has long been a valued partner for Emirates and we look forward to welcoming passengers back onboard Emirates’ flagship aircraft soon.”

At present Gatwick is operating with only its smaller North Terminal, with the South Terminal mothballed.


Simon Calder28 October 2021 14:24


United Airlines restoring flights from London Heathrow to the US

One of the world’s biggest airlines is to restore some of the links between London Heathrow and the US that were cut during the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier will offer seven daily flights to and from its hub at Newark, New York. United claims the highest frequency of any US airline from Heathrow to New York, but British Airways flies more often – serving both Newark and JFK.

The United schedule from Newark to Heathrow offers overnight flights on the hour, every hour, from 6pm to 11pm, as well as a daytime service at 8.30am.

From Heathrow, departures are also on the hour at 8, 9 and 10am; 12 noon; and 1, 4 and 6pm.

United will also add a link from Heathrow to Boston, which it did not previously serve, and boost service to Denver and San Francisco.

(Simon Calder)

Simon Calder28 October 2021 13:58


‘No plans’ to remove hotel quarantine, says government spokesperson

England has no plans to abolish its “red list” of high-risk countries for Covid, which requires travellers to quarantine in hotels on arrival, Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has said.

He dismissed reports that the seven – Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – will all be declared safe as “speculation”, insisting that final meetings to decide any changes were still to take place.

Lucy Thackray28 October 2021 13:35


Red list travel update expected ‘late afternoon’

No 10 has confirmed that Grant Shapps will announce the latest changes to the red and Rest of World (ROW) lists for travel today, with the update expected “late afternoon”.

There has been much speculation that the seven countries currently on the UK’s red list, requiring arrivals to pay for 11 nights of hotel quarantine, will be removed.

Helen Coffey28 October 2021 13:03


‘Not viable to maintain Queen Elizabeth’s existing schedule’ – Cunard

One of the UK’s leading cruise lines, Cunard, has cancelled all previously scheduled voyages on Queen Elizabeth between February and May next year, and replaced them with new itineraries.

A statement from the company read: “Unfortunately, based on the most recent advice for cruise guests, and given the complexities of many of the international destinations involved, it will not be viable to maintain Queen Elizabeth’s existing schedule.

“All departures from 20 February to 17 May 2022 inclusive are now cancelled.”

The cruise line has announced a series of new itineraries, all from Southampton. They include voyages to the Norwegian coast, the Canary Islands, the western Mediterranean and through the Panama Canal to Vancouver.

“Cunard continues to work very closely with authorities in all the destinations visited to ensure compliance with local health and entry requirements,” the statement continued.

The line’s president, Simon Palethorpe, said: “We hope our guests will be inspired to find a little adventure with these new itineraries.

“To all guests affected by the cancelled voyages we are sorry for the disappointment this will cause and we hope to welcome many back on board when we return to Japan in 2023.”

Passengers are being offered full cash refunds or a future cruise credit with a 25 per cent bonus.

Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth cruise liner

(Steve Dunlop)

Lucy Thackray28 October 2021 11:45


Five-week bus strike in North Wales

Bus services in North Wales will “grind to a halt in the run-up to Christmas,” according to the Unite union.

Four hundreds drivers working for Arriva have “voted overwhelmingly to strike,” the union says.

The stoppage will run from Sunday 14 November to Sunday 19 December and will affect depots at for Amlwch, Bangor, Hawarden (near Chester), Llandudno, Rhyl and Wrexham.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is time that Arriva Cymru’s management woke up and smelled the coffee.

“The 95 per cent vote in favour of industrial action shows how determined our members are to fight for a better pay deal.

“They were local heroes in the pandemic, so surely now is the time for that dedication and hard work to be rewarded with a substantial pay rise.”

Simon Calder28 October 2021 11:16


Heathrow is big winner for aviation tax cut

When the chancellor announced that Air Passenger Duty will be halved for domestic flights, he described it as “a boost to regional airports like Aberdeen, Belfast, Inverness and Southampton”.

In fact, the main beneficiary will be the UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow.

The Independent has analysed Civil Aviation Authority figures for the top 10 domestic links in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

London Heathrow is at one end of five of them, including four of the top five: to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Belfast City. The fifth is Heathrow-Manchester, in 10th place.

Simon Calder28 October 2021 10:44


Ryanair says it’s better than Facebook

Europe’s biggest budget airline has unveiled what it claims to be a wide range of “customer improvements” – and in doing so disparages Facebook.

Ryanair tweeted: “We’ve been listening (not like Facebook). Our new customer improvements are here.”

The carrier has created a “Digital Self Service Hub” that will allow changes such as flight bookings and the names of passengers to be made without calling the airline.

A “Day of Travel App Assistant” will provide information such as the gate number and, in the event of widespread disruption, live video updates.

The carrier also promises a “Ryanair Wallet” with refunds for cancelled flights made within five working days – which merely meets existing European air passengers’ rights rules.

Simon Calder28 October 2021 10:04


Spanish trains between London and Paris?

Another continental train operator has expressed interest in competing with Eurostar on the high-speed line from London through the Channel Tunnel.

Spain’s national railway, Renfe, could launch services between St Pancras International and Paris.

A spokesperson for Renfe told the International Rail Journal: “According to the demand analyses carried out, it would be viable and profitable for Renfe to compete with Eurostar.”

The Spanish train operator also said it might extend trains deeper into France, but did not reveal details.

A decade ago Deutsche Bahn, the German rail operator, ran a test train later this month through the tunnel to try to make the case for relaxing regulations and hope to run services to Cologne and Frankfurt.

But the plan never took shape. Other operators, ranging from a consortium involving Air France to a “low-cost” Italian rail firm, have shown interest in running trains to and from London St Pancras.

But Eurostar – which has been extremely hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and international travel restrictions – currently has the line to itself.

(Simon Calder)

Simon Calder28 October 2021 09:05


Chancellor defends cut in flights tax

Rishi Sunak has defended the cut in Air Passenger Duty (APD) that will incentivise flying on UK domestic flights.

In the Budget, the chancellor announced that APD on domestic flights will halve from £13 to £6.50 from 2023.

Speaking on BBC Today, Mr Sunak said the tax cut would be “largely offset” by the introduction of a new ultra-long-haul APD band – even though the government’s own figures show that the overall tax take will decline by £35m in the first full year.

Simon Calder28 October 2021 08:38

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