Following the attack on a tourist bus which had been on an excursion to Taba, and on which three tourists were killed, the Foreign Office is advising that only those who have to go to Egypt on essential business should avoid travelling in the entire Sinai Peninsula, with the exception of the resort confines of Sharm el Sheikh.

The ban means that British and other tourist will be prevented from visiting other Red Sea resorts which have proved a popular attraction in the past. These include Taba, Dahab and Nuweiba. Also out of bounds are other popular attractions such as St Catherine’s Monastery, Petra in Jordan, or anywhere else in the region. The Foreign Office is commenting that other attacks are very likely to take place as the terrorist claim more will follow the attack that took place on Sunday the 9th February.

For tourists who are booked to travel to other resorts within the Sharm area including Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq, as well as the airport, these are exempt from the ban. The Egyptian authorities have put enhanced protection in place at the Sharm airport as well as the Sharm resorts.

The two main operators at the Sharm resorts has cancelled all excursions to the much visited St Catherine’s Monastery, which is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world and from which the bus which was attacked was returning.

Problems in Egypt have been evident since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011following which tourism figures for Egypt have fallen dramatically by a millions, until now the Sharm region has been largely unaffected.

Egypt Flags

Picture: thecoldwhisper


The Forth Railway Bridge has been announced as the latest UK nomination for World Heritage status. The bridge, which links Edinburgh and Fife was constructed in 1883 by over 4,500 workers and was opened in 1890 and was the first major British construction made of steel. It carries trains more than a mile and a half over the Firth of Forth.

Plans to put the Forth Railway Bridge forward for World Heritage status began in 2012, but it is only now that a formal bid has been submitted.

Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael talked about the nominations saying, “The Forth Bridge proudly symbolises Scotland’s place in the world as a pioneer of construction.” Adding, “Achieving this recognition will be a fitting tribute to all of the people who have contributed to the building, maintenance and restoration of the bridge.’’

Scotland currently has five of the 28 UK World Heritage sites including Orkney, New Lanark and Edinburgh. The Forth Railway Bridge will not be considered by the Unesco World Heritage Committee and a final decision will be made before June 2015.

More information about the Forth Railway Bridge can be found here.

Forth Bridge

Picture: Bob White


The troubles that are hitting most airlines today are seen in another airline announcing significant job losses as Flybe has announced plans to cut 500 jobs across the business, despite reporting a return to profit. The cuts are part of an effort to make £40m of savings this year and £45m in 2014-15. These latest cuts follow on from a workforce reduction of 490 in 2012-13, with a further 100 leaving in the first half of 2013-14.

Flybe is a successful regional carrier and operates a good network of internal UK flights as well as some European destinations. The airline has fleet of 96 aircraft with 28 belonging to Flybe Finland, with whom it has a joint venture with Finnish Air called Flybe Nordic and which began operating from 30 October 2011.

The airline is has clearly had problems and although it is a major carrier in Scotland through an agreement with Loganair it is now trying to focus on shoring up its core regional bases in Southampton, Manchester, Birmingham and the Channel Islands, having recently sold its Gatwick Airport runway slots to rival  EasyJet for £20m.

Flybe is vital in the effort to improve growth outside of London; it also plays an essential role offering important flights from regional airports to connect airlines and airports providing long haul destinations.

flybe

Picture: Antony


A new poll conducted by visa application help website IXPVisas.com has revealed the most expensive countries for expats to live compared to the UK. Japan comes top with 72% of expats saying that the cost of living in the Land of the Rising Sun was ‘higher’ or ‘much higher’ than the UK.

Other countries that made the list include France, Switzerland and Hong Kong. As many people who have travelled to Tokyo or Paris will confirm, although some items such as electronics and clothes are cheaper than in the UK, the cost of living, especially food and drink is often more expensive.

Here are the top ten most expensive countries for expats to live:

1.    Japan
2.    Switzerland
3.    Norway
4.    Singapore
5.    Hong Kong
6.    Australia
7.    France
8.    Angola
9.    Russia
10.    Brazil

The study also asked expats ‘Do you find yourself financially comfortable in your life abroad?’ 31% said yes, 46% said that they were reasonably comfortable and 23% said that they were struggling financially.

Although 23% of expats said that they were struggling financially, they also felt that it was expensive everywhere and that the prices were relative to circumstances.

Do you live abroad? Tell us your reaction to the poll and any experiences that you have about living abroad.

Tokyo Skyline

Tokyo, voted most expensive place to live by expats

Picture: Timo Nurmi


Richard Branson has always been one for “bucking the trend” but opening high street travel shops in the face of a trend of booking holidays online could be a bridge too far even for the entrepreneur. The company has announced that it plans to open 30 new concessions in top line shopping locations and malls across the UK next year.

The news is surprising when it has been shown by ABTA that 49% or nearly half of people used online booking for their holiday abroad last year. Although that has been somewhat countered by the fact that a large number around 62% said they had visited a travel agent or tour operator to book an overseas holiday in the last 12 months, it seems to contradict, but today many people take two or more holidays each year.

Young people prefer to use the services on the high street travel agent; 16-24 year olds booked at least one overseas holiday citing expertise and time saving as well as easy booking as reasons.

Recent research focussed on 500 town centres across Britain, it found that travel agents were among the hardest hit. Others that are suffering include jewellers, health food shops, sports goods shops, banks, computer games and clothing stores.

Virgin Holidays


It may surprise some people but you should not wait until the last minute to either renew or obtain a passport for the first time, you cannot just slip into a post office and get one it has to go through the passport office in your region and it can take time for it to be processed. There is a fast track service for emergencies, but it will add up to £55 extra on top of the charge of £75.50 you can for £103 to get a passport in a week or £128 to get it rushed through in under 24 hours.

To give some idea of the number of applications and why it is important to apply early, your passport does not have to be out of date as up to nine unused months will be added onto the new one, in December there were 175,174 applications, but this July there are expected to be more than 560,000! Passport applications can be made in a number of ways, it can be done by filling in the papers online, calling the Passport Advice Line and asking them to send a form and submitting it through the Royal Mail, or you can still do it through the Post Office and use their checking service, they will send it on if it is in order, however it will cost you £8.75 for this service.

passport

Picture: Christopher Elison


When you think of alternative uses for cooking oil, using it to fill up the tank of air jet might not be your first thought, however Thomson Airways have used it to fly customers from Birmingham to Arrecife.

The airline used a mixture of waste fat and jet fuel to create a supposedly more eco-friendly service in a time where air travel is taking a hammering from environmental campaigners. Thomson’s current tests had been hampered by delay over the testing progress, it was originally meant to take place last July however the fuel only recently passed safety clearance. According to Thomson claims, the eco-friendly biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80 per cent in the future and the company aims to use biofuel across their whole fleet within the next three years.

Thomson Airways managing director Chris Browne said: “Sustainable biofuels offer us the opportunity to improve our own individual environmental performance as well as contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction target.”

Aviation minister Theresa Villiers echoes his sentiment, he said: “The British government believes that sustainable biofuels have a role to play in efforts to tackle climate change, particularly in sectors where no other viable low carbon energy source has been identified – as is the case with aviation.”

Biofuel costs a lot more than regular jet fuel, it’s made up of on a 50-50 mix of Jet A1 fuel and Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) fuel made from used cooking oil. This could impact prices and maybe why take-up of using this alternative fuel has been poor. Thomson owners Tui Travel hope it will help them to reduce carbon emissions by 6 per cent from 2008 to 2014.

Although Thomson state production of biofuel will create jobs in developing countries, some environmental campaigners worry that it could have an adverse effect and state the only way to cut down on aviation pollution is to cut flights, stop airport expansion and improve rail travel rather than use alternative fuels.

 

Thomson Aircraft

Thomson Aircraft

Picture courtesy of Deanster1983

 


The number of flights to the Caribbean will be cut by British Airways due to the rise of Air Passenger Duty tax. They will however be adding extra flights to Florida which although is not far away geographically does have 20 per cent lower APD.

British Airways have called for the government to scrap this unfair tax which sees UK travellers paying more than anywhere else and they say it’s a ‘destructive tax juggernaut’ and says the UK tourism industry suffers from the ‘heaviest tax burden in global aviation’.

Because of the way the tax system works BA have reduced the flights to the Caribbean because its expected that with higher charges less people will be travelling there. For example; a family of four of flying in economy class from the UK to the Caribbean pay £300 in APD whilst the same to Florida would only cost £240 in APD.

According to BA the amount paid in the UK is more than double what a family from Germany would pay and those travelling from France would only have to pay just £15. 22 of the EU countries don’t even charge travellers aviation tax so it’s not like legislation imposed by EU that is causing these high prices.

The Caribbean is worst hit because of the way the system works, countries are placed into band for the taxation and this is based on how far away the capital is from the UK. So travelling to the US to places like Florida or Hawaii is cheap even though further away, because Washington is closer to the UK passengers are charged less.

During the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) annual conference in St Maarten British Airways CEO Keith Williams told delegates that the strict tax regime was ‘jeopardising routes to the Caribbean’.

He said: “The Caribbean is a very important destination for us and we have a long and proud heritage of serving the region. However, we can’t deny the reality that demand is not as high as it has been. Taxation is most certainly a factor in this and sadly, a factor in our decision to reduce our frequency to the Caribbean next summer. It is no coincidence that our reduction in the number of services to the Caribbean is accompanied by a rise in services to Florida – another desirable holiday destination for UK sun-seekers, and a destination that is taxed at a rate 20 per cent less than the Caribbean.”

At the moment the government is conducting a review on APD with the results coming out in November however no one in the industry is sure there will be any reduction.


We know people struggle on flights when they can’t use their mobile phone and a lot of people struggle if they miss an all-important football match or the Wimbledon final when up in the air. However just been stuck with the boring inflight movie or TV show may be a thing of the past after a new development of in-flight WiFi.

Travellers will soon be able to keep up with breaking news or sporting events whilst they are up in the air, thanks to new Wi-Fi technology.  The first airline to use this technology will be America’s Southwest Airlines, they will offer customers the chance to watch BBC World News, Bloomberg Television, Fox News, CNBC, MSNBC and VERSUS on their phones or laptops.

An agreement has been reached between WiFi provider Row44, which serves several commercial airlines including Southwest and the news and sport channels about on-board entertainment so new technology will allow live programming to be supplied via satellite link from a network of stations on the ground.

In recent years using Wi-Fi on airlines has increased in popularity and accessibility, more and more airlines are providing the service on selected flights. It looks like early next year American airline Delta will be introducing WiFi service to all of its regional jets, including shuttles between New York-LaGuardia and Boston and Chicago-O’Hare and Washington, DC.

However over the sky’s of Europe and of course the UK we seem to be sadly lacking in the use of this technology, with on-board WiFi connectivity in Europe is scattered and less accessible. Back in January 2003 Lufthansa became the first airline to run a scheduled flight with broadband internet access, they are now looking to equip their entire long-haul fleet with internet access by the end of this year. However they do not provide the service on shorter flights.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic have also been looking into WiFi technology and providing it on their aircraft however at the moment there is no time frame for this to happen.


A travel alert has been issued by the US State Department warning Americans living and travelling abroad to remain vigilant ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Although the US State Department haven’t found any specific threats that may occur over the remembrance period they have warned that Al Qaeda had ‘demonstrated the intent and capability to carry out attacks’ against the US and US interests. It also stated: “In the past, terrorist organisations have on occasion planned their attacks to coincide with significant dates on the calendar.”

The warning issued does not specify any particular area and covers the entire globe, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said: “We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, and security measures are in place to detect and prevent plots against the United States should they emerge. While threats remain, our nation is stronger than it was on 9/11, more prepared to confront evolving threats, and more resilient than ever before.”

The alert issued by the US State Department will not expire until January 2nd 2012.

Since the tragic events of September 11th 2001 many passengers have had to deal with tighter security measures at airports and when flying. As well as the attempts since by terrorists wanting to emulate the same destruction by the Al Qaeda September 2001 plot has also added to extra security measure being put in place to ensure passenger safety.

David Learmount, operations and security editor of aerospace publisher Flight Global said: “One thing is certain. Tight security is here to stay. The hope is that the checks, although remaining stringent, will become less invasive.”

Some of the latest security checks to be implemented include the introduction of body scanners and a ban on liquids being brought into the airport by travellers and items such as razors and nail scissors are no longer able to be brought on board in your hand luggage. Extra baggage checks were made more stringent in the US even for internal flights. The US has also introduced armed Air Marshalls onto their flights plus many cockpit doors now come re-enforced and are locked during flights.

Mr Learmount said: It’s certainly getting harder for terrorists to breach airport security. But the would-be bombers are persistent and security experts have to try to anticipate their next move. It’s a game of cat and mouse. What the International Air Transport Association and the equipment manufacturers would ideally like to see is a situation where passengers walk through an airport security area and as they do so they are scanned, their bags are scanned, their biometric passport is scanned and the whole process is relatively painless and queue-free. The checks will continue. It’s the way they are done that will change.”