Britain’s busiest airport has revealed it lost almost three-quarters of its passengers last year due to ‘lockdowns and border closures’. Only 22 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in 2020; 73 per cent less than the previous year.
‘The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival,’ said Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye of the announcement. ‘We need a road map out of this lockdown […] while we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.’
Heathrow initially surpassed passenger records at the start of 2020, but by March the coronavirus pandemic caused numbers to spiral downwards. Even in December, traveller numbers were at only one-sixth of the predicted number.
North America was worst hit, with only one-fifth of normal passenger numbers while Africa was the least affected – though still only saw one-third of expected passengers. UK domestic passengers were at 30 per cent of normal numbers.
There looks to be no reprieve from these dire figures, as January numbers will be hard hit by the third UK lockdown. One of Heathrow’s two runways has been closed to save funds, and two of the airport’s four terminals, 3 and 4, have been closed since April 2020.
Scroll down for the latest news.
Strict new lockdown laws come into effect in Sweden
A new emergency lockdown law in Sweden came into effect on Sunday (January 10), giving the government the power to impose coronavirus-related restrictions for the first time.
Famously one of the freer countries to live in during the pandemic, the new law has come almost a year after the country first rejected the strict public health measures that swept through the rest of Europe in 2020. Sweden now has the highest per capita Covid death rate of all the Scandinavian countries, and is currently in the midst of a severe second wave.
In response to escalating cases, a pandemic law was passed on January 8 and permits the government to ‘introduce special restrictions for both certain activities and places.’ It is now possible to restrict the number of people in shops, businesses and public places including theatres and swimming pools, and authorities can also fine individuals for breaking Covid rules and order non-rule abiding businesses to close.
Though not yet being enforced, the law is expected to be used imminently. ‘We see a great risk that we will be in a difficult situation for some time ahead, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told Swedish network SVT of the move. ‘And we will be using it in the near future.’
“We will see if we can do more in public transport, but it could also be about gyms, sports facilities, events and businesses that operate premises for parties,” added Lofven. There is a limit to restrictions in Sweden, however, as the country’s constitution prevents ministers from being able to impose a state of emergency, or initiate a nationwide lockdown.
The British Isles are waiting – these are the best UK cruises for 2021
Intriguing traditions, an abundance of history and a coastline of soft-sand beaches and dramatic cliffs – right on your doorstep:
While thousands of cruise passengers set sail for warmer climes every year, the British Isles quietly lie in wait for those who know just how special these islands are. You might not be guaranteed great weather here, but there’s a rugged allure to these islands that makes even the most miserable day an exciting adventure.
British Isles cruises offer an opportunity to explore places that are, put simply, a pain in the backside to reach. There’s no need to spend hours in the car schlepping down to Cornwall when a cruise ship can drop you off just a few miles from the county’s most beautiful beaches on the Isles of Scilly. And there’s no need to pay extortionate train fares up to Scotland either, as you can explore the islands and Highlands of our northernmost nation from the comfort of vessels large and small.
Whether you’re a first-time passenger or a seasoned cruiser, these itineraries around the British Isles offer something truly thrilling. Here’s what to book for 2021.
Read Lottie Gross’s round-up of UK cruises here.
Germany’s ÜberMcCarthyist crackdown on critics of its Covid decrees is remarkable
There is little of the apologetic dithering of Her Majesty’s Government in Berlin. Threats like ‘Masks on or we close the area down’ are preferred, writes Daniel Hardaker:
Unlike in Britain, where the consensus regarding lockdown has been strong but not quite total, in Berlin, there has been for some months now almost no space for dissent on anything other than the logistics of the policy – like the delayed vaccine rollout.
Any opposition to the government line has been unequivocally equated with the far right. The Querdenker group (lateral thinkers) of German lockdown sceptics, headed by an IT professional from Stuttgart, has been put under surveillance by the Bundesverfassungsschutz (Germany’s MI5) and was hit with water cannons during protests in December. Undoubtably, those who see conspiracy in everything will have tagged along, as they have elsewhere, but the ÜberMcCarthyism of this response is clear with a sideways glace at Britain, where those potential stormtroopers Kirsty Allsop, Denise Welch and Matt Le Tissier have expressed the same views.
Read the full story.
Britons abroad could be trapped in hotel rooms if they test positive
British travellers who test positive for Covid-19 abroad may be forced to quarantine for two weeks in their hotel room – unable to return to the UK, and unable to leave their accommodation.
Under rules set to be introduced this week, anybody entering the UK from overseas must present a negative result from a test taken no more than 72 hours before travel – or face a £500 fine. Those who receive a positive result must adhere to the rules in the country they are travelling from – which, in many instances, requires a two-week quarantine.
In Spain and Dubai, for example, those who test positive must self-isolate for 14 days; in Italy, people may only end their quarantine when they have tested negative twice.
Who, then, would be liable for your unprecedented extra two-week hotel bill? A spokesperson from insurer AXA UK told Telegraph Travel: “If a customer tests positive for Covid-19 while abroad, they can claim for appropriate medical care, additional accommodation and travel costs.”
The new entry testing rules are set to be introduced from this week, though the UK Government is yet to confirm the legislation or the date of its commencement.
‘Revenge travel’ will be key 2021 change, say agents
Aito agents have been told to expect a surge in demand for bucket-list trips this year when the holiday market returns, as consumers seek ‘revenge travel’. The new term emerged on a panel at Kickstart, a virtual version of the domestic conference held each January by the agency arm of The Specialist Travel Association (Aito).
‘People have been putting off plans for big trips, such as life-stage holidays, and they have been thinking about them for a year,’ said Roy Barker, co-founder of data insight specialist Spike Insight. ‘It’s called ‘revenge travel’, according to [management consulting firm] McKinsey & Company – people want revenge on the virus and travel for a special birthday, for example.’
‘They want to travel and they want to go soon,’ agreed Sandra Corkin, managing director of Oasis Travel in Belfast. ‘This lockdown is the greatest opportunity of them all, with vaccinations on the horizon and people seriously considering making plans.’ Steve Rushton, Travel Marketing Systems’ founder, added that there would be a ‘stampede’ through agents’ doors if travel restrictions were lifted now.
Surveys from Barker also highlighted the resilience of the more mature Aito market, with 70 per cent of clients stating their financial position will stay the same or get better in 2021, and many due to be vaccinated soon.
Introducing Spain’s newest national park, home to soaring mountains and pretty villages
Sierra de las Nieves is only an hour’s drive from the Costa del Sol, writes Annie Bennett:
Andalucia will get its third national park this year when Sierra de las Nieves in Malaga province finally gets official approval after being delayed by the pandemic and the usual red tape. It looks like mañana will now actually come and these limestone mountains north of Marbella and east of Ronda are finally going to get the recognition they deserve. This will be the 16th national park in Spain and the third in Andalucia, joining the Sierra Nevada in Granada and the Doñana wetlands that straddle Huelva and Seville provinces.
The area, which is part of the Serranía de Ronda range, is currently classified as a natural park and has been a Unesco Biosphere Reserve since 1995. The national park designation brings with it much stricter environmental protection plus investment in infrastructure to make it easier for visitors to explore the mountains. Hiking, cycling and horse-riding routes are being improved in readiness and the park is also great for activities such as birdwatching, climbing, abseiling, canyoning, potholing and kayaking. You’ll come across plenty of pools, streams and waterfalls for exhilarating secret dips too.
Read the full story.
Dubai added to Scotland’s quarantine list
Dubai has been added to Scotland’s travel quarantine list, with a 10 day quarantine being brought in for returning travellers from 4am today (January 11). Passengers who have travelled to Scotland from Dubai since January 3 are also being asked to isolate for 10 days, from the date they arrived back in the country.
Failure to comply with the requirement to quarantine may result in a fine of more than £480.
Advice is still in place that people should not be travelling other than in exceptional circumstances, however there are those that continue to do so, with Lizzie Frainier reporting on the number of high profile UK visitors currently in Dubai earlier this week.
‘It is evident, both in Scotland and in countries across the world, that the virus continues to pose real risks to health and to life and we need to interrupt the rise in cases,’ said Transport Secretary Michael Matheson. ‘Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving in the UK is our first defence in managing the risk of imported cases from communities with high risks of transmission. That is why we have made the decision to remove Dubai from the country exemptions list.’
‘Whether or not an overseas destination has been designated for quarantine restrictions, our message remains clear that people should not currently be undertaking non-essential foreign travel. People need to stay at home to help suppress the virus, protect our NHS and save lives.’
Japanese pray for end to pandemic in annual ice bath ritual
Men wearing traditional loin clothes and women dressed in white robes took part in a Shinto ritual at a Tokyo shrine on Sunday to purify the soul and pray for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only a dozen people took part in the annual event at Teppou-zu Inari Shrine, scaled down this year due to the pandemic, compared to over a hundred in early 2020. Spectators were not allowed at the event.
“I prayed that the coronavirus comes to an end as soon as possible,” said 65-year-old participant Shinji Ooi, who heads the Shrine’s ‘Yayoikai’ parishioner group, after the ritual.
“Normally we have more participants and it makes the water temperature a little bit warmer. But this year, there were just twelve people, so it (the cold) was crazy,” commented participant Naoaki Yamaguchi.
New Zealand will still expect vaccinated travellers from the UK to take a test
New Zeland has announced that even travellers vaccinated against Covid-19 will be required to show proof of a negative test result before boarding flights from the UK or US to the country. The news emerged as part of a new set of Covid rules, which go into effect at 11:59pm on January 15.
Released by the government in response to concerns over high rates of infection overseas and the new Covid variant, the rules state that a test must be taken no more than 72 hours before the first flight in a traveller’s journey is set to depart. Those transiting in New Zealand before continuing to another country are also included in this, as are vaccinated travellers.
From January 29, arriving into New Zealand from the UK or US without a negative test result will be considered an infringement offence. Travellers will have to pay for their own tests, which must be taken in an authorised laboratory at an airport, such as Heathrow, or privately. Only PCR, TR-PCR, LAMP and antigen test results will be accepted. Work is currently underway to extend these requirements to long-haul flights from other destinations.
‘The pre-departure test is a measure to keep us all safe,’ states the country’s Covid-19 website of the move. ‘Most airlines already require travellers to have a pre-departure test and provide evidence of a negative result prior to boarding a plane. Pre-departure tests are also a legal requirement for most countries that are transit hubs.’
‘Day one’ tests upon arrival in New Zealand will still be required, and travellers from the UK and the US will still have to complete 14 days in quarantine. The website states that the new requirement of a negative test is ‘complementary’ to these existing measures.
‘British Airways owes me £8,500 – and its vouchers are perplexing’
Confusion arises because BA has issued two different kinds of voucher. Neil Record writes in:
Last year I had more than 20 return flights booked with British Airways for myself, my family and friends. BA cancelled some of these flights and I received cash refunds. The remainder I was forced to cancel at short notice due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
For almost all of these, BA has offered me “future travel vouchers” (FTVs) which are difficult to use in that you must phone and speak to a BA agent. For other flights I have been issued with “eVouchers”, which can be used online and are not restricted to the person named on the ticket.
Why the difference? I have written to the airline asking for an explanation but unfortunately have received no response. As I have held Gold Executive Club status for many years, I did expect a reply. At the moment the airline owes me about £8,500. Can you help?
Read Gill Charlton’s advice here.
Winter storms reveal shipwrecks in Cornwall
A combination of winter storms and low tides over the past couple of weeks have exposed the remains of two shipwrecks near St Ives. A series of images showing the fragments of ship that have appeared has been published by Cornwall Live.
The steam collier Bessie, which was wrecked alongside two other ships during a bad storm on November 17, 1893, is a familiar sight to locals, frequently appearing on Carbis Bay (pictured above) after winter storms and low tides. However, timbers from a shipwreck have also emerged in the middle of neighbouring Porth Kidney Sands, causing a debate over which vessel they belong to.
Locals have said they do not remember seeing these new fragments on the beach before. They could belong to one of the beach’s earliest recorded shipwrecks on this beach, a Spanish ship carrying a cargo of cloth in 1514. Other contenders are the cargo ship Recovery, which was wrecked in November 1780, the 1859 Severn wreck, and the French brigantine Providence which was wrecked during a storm in October 1865.
Coronavirus rekindled our love for holidays on home soil – but will it last?
With the Brexit break-up and months of lockdown, it’s hardly a surprise that many Britons are ready to reignite their romance with UK travel, writes Kerry Walker.
You’ve surely heard the one about heaven being a French cook, a German mechanic, an Italian lover, a Swiss banker and a British policeman. Hang on a minute: a policeman? So while the French are working culinary magic in the kitchen, the Germans are living life in the fast lane, the Swiss are totting up the francs and the Italians are busy in bed, all the Brits get is a lousy, booby-prize policeman?
It might be a tired cliché, but there’s a niggling truth in there somewhere and it is this: Brits have often felt that they have drawn the short straw when it comes to what Europe has to offer. And they have often looked, with dreamy, grass-is-greener, loved-up eyes to the other side of the Channel for romance, inspiration, landscapes, beaches, food, plonk, dolce vita, je ne sais quoi. Everything is better Over There. Or is it? And will those introspective months of lockdown and now Brexit ultimately change the way we feel? Are we ready to rekindle the love affair with our own country?
Read the full story.
‘Test before travel’ scheme must end in February says Ryanair boss
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has demanded that the UK’s new ‘test before travel’ scheme – of which details have yet to be released – end in February, coinciding with the date the most vulnerable in the nation will have been vaccinated.
Expected to take effect next Monday, January 18, the scheme will ask that all travellers to the UK produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure or face a £500 fine. Transport secretary, Grant Shapps is expected to announce more details this week.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, O’Leary criticised ‘government mismanagement’ of the Covid pandemic and said Ryanair plans to run ‘about 10 or 20 flights’ per day compared with a normal daily schedule of 2,000 while the current restrictions apply. He also called for the scheme to last only four weeks, ending in mid-February – the same date as the Government’s target to vaccinate the most vulnerable 14 million in the UK.
‘On the one hand Boris Johnson is telling us that all the high-risk groups will be vaccinated by the middle of February, yet at the same time they’re introducing travel restrictions.” said O’Leary. ‘Why isn’t it ending in the middle of February, co-terminus with the vaccine roll-out? Why are you restricting people from moving thereafter?’
‘Nobody can make a booking for two weeks out in February or March. Bookings have collapsed, and air travel will collapse to and from the UK,’ warned O’Leary, going on to stay that the company was, ‘calling today on Grant Shapps to tell us when this restriction is going to be lifted.’ The Ryanair CEO also said that he expected ‘very few travel restrictions across Europe’ by summer.
Over 100 cars turned away by police from Welsh beauty spot
Members of the Welsh police force has blasted ‘selfish’ Covid rule-breakers who attempted to access well-known beauty spot, Moel Famau this weekend, claiming they were ‘turbo-charging the spread of the deadly virus.’ The area is in North Wales, which has been one of the parts of the country hardest hit by the new Covid strain.
Located on the border of Flintshire and England, over 100 cars had been turned away from the highest hill within the Clwydian Range by Saturday lunchtime, causing officers to call for a crackdown via social media on those who ‘blatantly’ broke the rules. This led to a Welsh police and crime commissioner saying a new and tougher approach was needed.
Cars turned away included ones that had travelled over the border from England, and all would have had to have driven past past signs saying the road was closed.
‘Another day wasted dealing with COVID rule breakers,’ wrote North Wales Police’s rural crime team. ‘So frustrating that we have to deal with these people who simply don’t care whilst the vast majority of us do the right thing and stay at home We are seeing people from England and various areas of Wales… so selfish.’ The force added that people were arrested overnight and taken to custody for failing to provide their details for breaching Covid restrictions.
‘Wales is under Alert Level 4 restrictions and infections are dangerously high,’ said Superintendent Nick Evans later. ‘Our teams will therefore continue to target those who are blatantly breaching the rules, placing others at risk and putting further demand on our over-stretched NHS. Level 4 restrictions state that exercise should start and finish from home and that nobody should be travelling unless essential.’
Driving in France: 10 perfect pit stops en route to the Riviera
Anthony Peregrine pulls off the autoroute to explore Champagne country, the home of Charles de Gaulle and a stupendous aqueduct:
When driving through France, there’s much to be said for roaring out of Calais and blasting Med-wards non-stop. Among the things to be said are that you’ll arrive bug-eyed and murderous, in the throes of divorce and having supplied your kids with blood-curdling material for the “my early life” chapters of their autobiographies.
The alternative is to dawdle, stopping here and there for little stretches to break up the motorway day, contemplate something interesting and eat calmly. I’m not talking overnight stops, just commas in the day’s sentence – places that aren’t too obvious, are easy to access (no traffic-ridden towns) and no more than 12 miles from a motorway junction.
Read the full story.
Brussels sees jump in Covid-19 cases
There has been a large rise in coronavirus cases in Brussels since the end of December, according to statistics released on yesterday.
The number of infections in the Belgian capital rose by 62 per cent in the week from December 31 to January 6, compared with 11 per cent across the country when taken as a whole.
A health official in the city told public broadcaster RTBF the increase was likely to be due at least in part to travellers returning from the Christmas holidays.
Belgium has seen more than 664,000 cases and 20,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
Passengers must scan ‘health QR code’ to use Uber
People in Beijing who want to use ride-hailing services, such as Uber, will be required to have their ‘health QR code’ scanned, amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in nearby Hebei province.
The Chinese government’s app generates a code for the user, ranging from ‘green’ – which means people are free to wander the capital – to ‘red’, which means the user must quarantine.
Drivers will be able to deny services to those who refuse to show and scan their QR codes. According to various news outlets, although the app has become part of everyday life in Beijing it was put in place despite concerns over privacy, as well as and fears that mistakes could result in healthy people being forced to self-isolate.
Are coronavirus restrictions about to get tougher?
Tighter coronavirus restrictions are being considered by ministers, The Telegraph understands, amid concerns the latest lockdown is not being followed strictly enough, write Lucy Fisher and Martin Evans.
Rules banning people from different households who are not in a support bubble from exercising together are under discussion, in a move that would bring the restrictions more closely in line with the first lockdown in March.
The introduction of rules on face coverings in offices is also being mooted in government circles, as some businesses are feared to have become lax.
Boris Johnson held a meeting with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday evening at which they discussed whether the current lockdown rules were working to reduce spiralling coronavirus cases at a sufficient rate.
Indonesia extends ban on foreign arrivals
Indonesia will continue its ban on foreign arrivals for another 14 days in a bid to control the transmission of the coronavirus, its chief economic minister announced this morning.
The Indonesian government has said the reason for the stricter measures against international visitors, which were imposed on January 1, was in an effort to prevent the spread of new Covid variations.
Siberia? No, Spain
Madrid has seen its biggest snowfall for decades, courtesy of Storm Filomena.
Why driving in France is better than in Britain
The French treat motorists as adults – which is liberating, says Anthony Peregrine
Driving in France is a piece of cake. Millions of French people, even quite inept ones, manage it. So do large numbers of British visitors. So do I. Almost all you have to remember is to drive on the right, stick to speed limits and not get plastered.
France has fewer jams, maybe because it’s more than twice the size of the UK for a roughly similar population. (Please. I didn’t say “no jams”. I said “fewer”.) And road manners have improved immeasurably. It’s a long time since I’ve been as roundly abused in France as I was after hesitating at a turning in Morecambe early last year, pre-lockdowns.
Road deaths have plunged, too – from a high of 18,000 in 1972 to 3,239 last year – this during a time when traffic has tripled. Granted, the figure remains almost double the UK total, but the fact that French roads are now six times less likely to kill you than 49 years ago merits at least one gold star. Possibly two.
Read the full piece here.
Heathrow sees enormous drop in passenger numbers
The number of passengers travelling through London’s Heathrow Airport feel by 72.7 per cent in 2020, with 22.1 million people using it.
In December, demand fell by 82.9 per cent to 1.1 million as the new variant of the virus spread in the UK.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport said:
The past year has been incredibly challenging for aviation. While we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.
The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival. We need a road map out of this lockdown and a full waiver of business rates.
This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership in creating a common international standard for pre-departure testing that will allow travel and trade to restart safely so that we can start to deliver the prime minister’s vision of a global Britain.
Paraguay drops ban on UK travellers
Border restrictions in Paraguay have been eased so that travellers who have visited the UK are now allowed to enter.
Since the middle of December, no non-residents of the South American country have been able to travel there, and residents who has been in the UK any time since December 7 have had to gain approval from the Paraguayan government to return home, as well as showing proof of a negative Covid-19 test and quarantine for 10 days. The tough measures were introduced after a new variant of coronavirus was discovered in the south of England last year.
Foreign Office advice was updated over the weekend to state that “entry to Paraguay by non-resident foreign nationals by air is permitted with compliance to health protocols.”
However, The Foreign Office “advises against all but essential travel to the whole of Paraguay based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks”, and non-essential travel is prohibited across the UK.
‘French borders should close’
France should consider closing its borders with the UK and other countries that have a strong presence of the UK variant, a French epidemiologist and government adviser has said.
Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the French government’s scientific council, also said during a television appearance that in order to get the epidemic under control, France needs to vaccinate 10-15 million people by the end of March and 25-30 million people by the end of June.
Before we start with today’s news, here are the weekend’s top travel headlines:
Pre-departure tests must be ‘temporary’ measure, says airport chief
Australia clamps down on testing rules as new strain emerges in Brisbane
Pandemic forces cruise giant Royal Caribbean to shrink its fleet size
Denmark to introduce vaccine passports
Foreign Office advice will have “catastrophic” consequences for cruise industry
Now, on with Monday’s news.