Thursday, October 13, 2022

October 13th 2022 Is this the beginning of the end for Cheap travel asks Julian Bray the Aviation Expert?

 Open any newspaper, listen to any blog, in fact whatever you turn its a case of doom, gloom and ever higher prices. And no one is more aware of the current dire financial position than your local travel agent. In a more ordered financially responsible world, I'm not a big fan of what is known as a package holiday. 

But cruelly in the current position, its time to take advantage of possibly the largest number of amazingly attractive holiday offers. But I hear you say how does this work?

Holiday companies almost exclusive deal in US Dollars and in order to put inclusive holiday package ie flights, hotel reservations and transfers together, they have to be secured and paid for well in advance. To do this the firms play the financial markets and 'hedge' their future financial requirements.  

So having fixed a set amount for future finance, the holiday  package elements can be negotiated, paid for and offered to the Public. But like everything else these days, the World is effectively upside down and even the best regulated plans can go wrong, so consider the 30 or so pages of small print making up the booking contract between you and the holiday company...  To be continued....

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Travelling to a Green list country? Now add an extra £200 a head for Covid19 tests!

It might be worthwhile to ask your airline if they are on the IATA Travelpass system where all your documents can be stored. This is not the same as the NHS App which will only be on line when the new travel regulations come into force on May 17. 

 Taking a flight to a Green Country? Julian Bray, aviation expert and broadcaster comments: "Whatever you are currently budgeting, now add another £200 per person to cover a multitude of Covid19 tests. Now sit down in a darkened room as it gets complicated!" 

Essentially 3 tests are currently required (but this could change).  

Pre-departure (within 72 hours) a PCR test is yours for £60.

UK return: current legislation requires an LFD test before leaving your destination to return to UK, around £40.  

in addition, may need to allow for a Day 2 test in the UK. £40.  

Running total so far £140 approx. Per person.

IF you visit an Amber list country then the Day 8 test say £60 needs to be budgeted for. 

Bear in mind that freely available NHS PCR tests may NOT be used for travel. Everyone has to pay says Boris!! 

Trying to find a reliable test supplier is also a bit of a lottery, but here are a couple of websites to try out:   

Monday, May 10, 2021

"Just book a holiday and take off! Don't see what all the fuss is about" says grandee MP.

 There has been some pretty rotten public relations by the travel trade in the last few months and some of it is reflected in the political attitude towards what they term 'leisure travel' which is a few rungs down the ladder after essential and business travel. 

Its the same with the cruise industry, the welcome mat is put down only to be pulled away before you can board the ship of dreams, reports Julian Bray Aviation Expert and Broadcaster.

So what is going on? The travel trade really need some hard cash,  and quickly, revenue to secure the deals not for this year but next year. The deposits you pay help fund pre- season marketing and pay the staff plus overhead and a variety of backroom operational charges which roll on month by month even if there are few customers beating a path to the shop door. 

So you can imagine that after the big political build up to the introduction of the greenlist that in reality it comes down to just a couple of destinations Gibraltar and Portugal!  

Oh yes, a committee was formed of the great and good, that in turn duly reported into No 10. Hence the multi coloured list of good, bad and in between countries! Sadly, the science has directed hearts and minds in order to come up with a modelled representation of what is safe for us British citizens.

So the scientists, medics, Home Office plus a host of other Whitehall entities, are setting the agenda but in a silo far removed from the operational side of the travel and aviation industries. For a start all aviation deals are struck in US Dollars, not UK Sterling. Hoteliers want their bills paid in local currency and so on. 

All this attracts exchange and other costs at each stage of the deal. so that is OK if all other factors are constant and financial projections can be produced. But wait the Prime Minister has decreed the coloured list system could be subject to change every three weeks! Spain could suddenly claim Greenlist status and Portugal slide the other way....

But you dear reader, have already set your sights on say Portugal and the Algarve but your family always wanted to go to Spain, and demands you change the booking to reflect the new destination....

Clearly no one has thought this through and you might say why should politicians be concerned with the inner workings of the leisure travel business?  Simply HM Treasury has a keen interest in our holiday arrangements. Its the not so small matter of £3.6Billion which until the global pandemic was a regular annual APD (air passenger duty) contribution. But during the pandemic this bounty collapsed to just £582million for the twelve months April 2020 - 2021.

Simply the travel, cruise and aviation businesses rely on a constant flow of revenues and/or bank facilities to keep it all going. 

Any fluctuation in risk such as the change in safe country status,  immediately has a knock on effect right  through the core business, and thousands of other firms throughout the supply chain and destinations. Just one cog out of place and the whole chain collapses and quickly.

So what can be done? Politicians need to fully understand the nuances of world business and work in co-operation with these businesses. Only then can business operate and produce the duty and tax required to keep it all going. 

As IATAs new boss Willie Walsh said: "Greenlist? Its not even worth commenting on." Prove him wrong, Prime Minister that is all we ask.....

Julian Bray 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

8 to 12 hour waiting time to clear Borderforce security check for returning to UK air passengers feared.

 Travel corridors are set and UK citizens can travel to a small selection of carefully selected destinations on the Green channel. Observing all applicable Covid 19 regulations and testing, departure should be longer than usual but depart you will. The problem is returning passengers, families with babies, elderly and infirm relatives, writes broadcaster and aviation expert Julian Bray.

Simply, the Government has decreed that every person arriving back in the UK must be individually screened, documents and locator forms examined, passports and visas checked and on site testing and #covid19 negative test validation completed. Those who have pre-booked and prepaid quarantine hotels also need to be escorted. As do those who fail to provide the mandatory documents, fines and any penalties completed. 

So it will not come as a surprise if arrival queues at major airports start to back up, planes - passengers still on board  - held at remote areas rather than arrival gates until such time they are free to accept laden aircraft. So this my friends is where the nightmare begins. Normally Borderforce officers at immigration desks will take just a few minutes to process an entry, examine passports, flag up 'hostiles' and examine any orther documents. 

With the current traffic light system, every individual arriving back in the UK will require a formal interview on top of all other requirements. All well and good, if all entry gates are in operation but with front facing desking only every other desk can be used.  Couple this with chronic under staffing, and irregular  availability of trained Borderforce entry officers, matters can only get worse.

In reality, the Home Office is fully aware of the situation, only admitted a few days ago that each individual module of the new arrival process will take additional time to complete. But still insisting that 100% of arrival must be processed. No short cuts or waivers.  The Borderforce 'Director General' no less will only cough to say a 10 hour delay. TEN HOUR DELAY. We are talking about at least a 10 hour delay possibly much, much longer. 14 hours has been modelled, those involved in the process, as government servants sworn to silence, but leaks do happen...

Pressed Borderforce will maintain their staffing is up to strength but in reality they are understaffed due to stressed out staff throwing 'sikkies'. In addition, there is the question of staff safety, some are saying not enough protective plastic screens are in place, and they have to be of military grade in case of 'incidents'.

The thinking was simply that social distancing by now would have been dropped and screens a thing of the past.  Clearly we are all going stir crazy and have to get away. Increasingly next year is looking far more attractive than the horrors of travel in mid panademic. If anyone asks, this isn't going away and jabs will become an annual event. Sigh.

Monday, November 23, 2020

New Coronavirus testing option to reduce mandatory two weeks self-isolation period by two thirds could add some £500 to the package holiday bill for a family of four

 Julian Bray, the aviation expert writes:

  • Testing option for passengers arriving into England to be introduced from 15 December
  • 14-day self-isolation period is only reduced by up to two thirds on receipt of a  negative COVID-19 test which has to be paid for by each traveller from a private provider after five days of isolation.
  • Penalties for those breaching the self-isolation rules when arriving from non-exempt countries have increased from £1,000 for first offences up to £10,000 for subsequent offences, mirrors penalties for anyone breaching self-isolation following a positive COVID test or contact from Test & Trace.
  • All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show proof of a completed passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.

All Passengers arriving into England are able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by up to a week or more, as the Government launches its latest set of rules for testing international arrivals.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that from 15 December, all passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the Government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a self-funded test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate. Mr Shapps speaking earlier on the BBC, says the private tests could cost anything between £60 to £120 per person.

They say the complex series of moves which do require careful planning if they are to avoid greatly increased fine or penalty payment of £10,000 if not followed. 

The move will enable passengers to return home to the UK and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test

Those opting in to the scheme are required to book and pay for a COVID-19 test from a private provider on the list, the expensive SERCO operated NHS Test and Trace cannot be used. A Test from a private contractor on the Govt approved list are thought to cost around £120 per person, adding £480 to a package holiday cost for a family of 4. Although this additional cost and the approved Government list of private providers of the test have yet to be announced. 

 The new rules under the test to release for international travel requires all , passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to self-isolate for five days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.

Financial Support for Airports 

The Government is also introducing new financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. The funding will be available to commercial airports in England. The aim is to cover fixed costs and equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8 million per site, and subject to certain conditions. The scheme opens in the New Year.

The Government has considered the evidence which demonstrates that a test after five days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival, as it allows time for the virus, should it be present, to incubate helping reduce the risk of a false negative result.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Ensuring safe travel is possible has been a priority. This test on day five of the 14-day self-isolation period will identify positive coronavirus cases and allow those who test negative to return to work and see their loved ones while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions.

“This will be done at the cost of the traveller to protect the capacity of NHS Test and Trace and ensure that any UK resident who has symptoms is able to get a test.”

Passengers will be able to book a test from a provider on a list before arriving in England. If they choose to book a test, they will need to state this on their passenger locator form prior to arriving and then go straight into self-isolation at home as usual. If they choose to opt in after arrival, they will need to resubmit their passenger locator form.

They can then take a test on or after day five of the isolation period either at home or at a private provider’s testing site, and on receipt of a negative result, can immediately finish self-isolating and return to following domestic rules.  

Those choosing not to take a test when arriving from a non-exempt country must continue to follow the current self-isolation requirements (two weeks).

The testing strategy is one outcome of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce report recently presented to the Prime Minister, which also sets out a pathway to restarting the cruise sector.

The recommendations are based on advice from a consortium of expert representatives from the aviation, maritime, international rail, tourism and hospitality industries to boost international travel for all modes, whilst safeguarding public health in the UK.

The Government will also continue to work with international partners and representatives across the transport industries to further build on the recommendations in the report, including exploring pre-departure testing pilots with partner countries on a bilateral basis.

COVID-19 has profoundly changed the nature of international travel. Travellers should always check the latest advice from the FCDO.

And now the small print: Government has also published the JBC methodology used to help inform Ministerial decisions on additions and removals from the Travel Corridor list. The self-isolation period is being cut by two thirds of the current time, based on the fact that the current system requires people to effectively isolate for 15 days. This is because the isolation period needs to be a full 14 days after a passenger lands, which, including travel time, may mean that the remaining hours of the first day after landing are not included. 

Passengers will be released on day five should the result come back on the same day. The list of private test providers will be available on closer to implementation on 15 December.

If, for any reason, a passenger who has not booked a test changes their mind once they have arrived, they can still book a test as long as they resubmit their passenger locator form.

Using an NHS Test and Trace test will not legally permit anyone to be released from self-isolation.  Since tests will be provided privately the Government cannot guarantee access to private tests – or the price of tests - for this purpose. Government says it will continue to work with the JBC to inform decisions on travel corridors and the process will continue to be reviewed on a weekly basis.

The full list of members of the Global Travel Taskforce is available here -

Penalties for those breaching the self-isolation rules when arriving from non-exempt countries have increased from £1,000 for first offences up to £10,000 for subsequent offences, mirroring penalties for those breaching self-isolation following a positive COVID test or contact from Test & Trace..

All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show proof of a completed passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

UK COVID-19 policy threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs - Michael O'Leary Chief Executive Ryanair Group

Britain risks losing hundreds of thousands of travel and tourism jobs in the coming months, unless the government offers proper supports to workers and relaxes travel restrictions, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said on Thursday.

Mr. O'Leary, group chief executive of Europe's largest low-cost carrier, was speaking of new UK COVID-19 support measures and ahead of the launch of a European Union plan to coordinate travel restrictions in Europe.

Failure join the EU plan and provide a proper furlough scheme to pay those whose work has dried up due to COVID-19 "will mean literally hundreds of thousands of job losses this winter," O'Leary told Sky News in an interview.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday announced a replacement for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which supported 8.9 million private-sector jobs at its peak in May, as part of a series of new COVID-19 support measures.

O'Leary said if there was no "proper" replacement, staff not required would be put on unpaid leave. Job losses cannot be ruled out, but Ryanair is "desperately working with our people to prevent them," he said.

O'Leary also called for the scrapping of the United Kingdom's air passenger tax for 12-24 months.

The EU travel scheme, due to be finalised in mid-October, would set out common COVID-19 travel rules across the continent and impose restrictions on regions with high COVID-19 rates rather than countries.

O'Leary, who earlier this month described the winter as a "write-off", said Ryanair's forward bookings for November and December are around 10%, around a quarter of the normal level for this time of year.

He said British airlines in general were likely to fly around 30-40% of their normal capacity this winter and said bookings were now around 20-30% of normal levels.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The light at the end of the tunnel, is the Coronavirus express train coming straight at you says Julian Bray

The new normal? Whichever way you look at it, the aviation, travel and cruise industry is looking into a deep hole with no early prospect of it materially improving. writes Julian Bray, aviation expert, writer and broadcaster.

75 years ago, the second World War in Europe ends. Street parties, celebrations but Britain is still on rationing however children were happy and well fed.

Countless thousands of families have their hard earned holiday cash locked inside the bank accounts of tour operators, and compliant travel agents have just quietly banked the generous commissions and additional bonuses surrounding the holiday product (essentially in some cases holidaymakers sign a 30page small print legally  binding contract) they have managed to unload onto an unsuspecting public.

The travel trade does not like it when I say to people do not part with your money to a travel agent for a promise of a holiday in 2020.....

It's not happening, without the prospect of a mandatory 14 day quarantine or even being turned around at the destination airport and immediately sent home. That is the current reality. And don't even think of NOT taking out travel insurance for you and your family. Expect those insurance premiums to be hiked up by 30percent! But even higher if you have any form of pre-existing medical conditions. Reliance on the EHIC card is no longer sufficient.

If the UK demands a 14 day quarantine for arrivals on the UK then don't be surprised if the Spaniards and Greeks jump up and down if their citizens are treated the same way.

Already with a few flights being enacted. Spain is stopping British Holidaymakers and putting them on the next plane back to the UK. To say the position is confused is an understatement. Simply British Subjects with property in Spain MIGHT be let in, but British Subjects with just an Hotel booked and paid for, might be stopped. Simply Spain is playing hard ball they want the UK ( now out of the EU...) to offer reciprocity for their respective cutizens. But that is unlikely to happen, in the near future.

So the logic is forget an overseas holiday this year, and possibly think about next year.  That is of course if there is no second wave of Covid-19 (coronavirus) ready to hit us this Winter!

The key of course is a viable vaccine, experts say to protect the world, we need 15 billion doses to be administered within the next six months. Clearly that is not going to happen. Already the major drug companies are being signed up on exclusivity deals.

We have to remember we are still only half way through the original #coravirus pandemic. Ideally everything should be locked down and social distancing brutally enfirced. But that gentle reader, is not how the politicians see this.

Degrees of relaxation are being introduced despite the increasingly growing prospect of a second wave. The current thinking in scientific circles is that the second wave currently brewing in Beijing, China will be the driving force behind an upward re-infection rate.

The number of mass participation demos and protests clearly does not help.

October 13th 2022 Is this the beginning of the end for Cheap travel asks Julian Bray the Aviation Expert?

  Open any newspaper, listen to any blog, in fact whatever you turn its a case of doom, gloom and ever higher prices. And no one is more awa...