Travel news latest: Ski holidays under threat as Italy tightens rules

Italy has today tightened its Covid-19 restrictions, affecting ski holidays for British families this winter.

The ‘super green pass’ requirement has been extended to a range of additional venues and locations, including hotels. The tightened pass is also a requirement to access ski lifts and ski resorts.

You can only obtain the super green pass with evidence of full vaccination or recent recovery, meaning a negative test result is no longer sufficient for unvaccinated people to ski in Italy. Austria has similarly tight vaccination requirements to access the slopes, and there are reports France could soon do the same.

British teenagers aged 12 and over can now receive a second dose of the vaccine, although uptake has been slow. Approximately one in two 12- to 15-year-olds have not yet received a first dose, and only 50 per cent of 16- to 17 year-olds have received a second jab. 

Italy is seeing a seven-day Covid-19 case rate of 1,833 cases per 100,000, slightly higher than the UK’s 1,814 cases per 100,000. That number is 2,853 in France and 1,740 in Switzerland. In Austria, there are 598 cases per 100,000.

The super green pass is a requirement to board public transport, to enter hotels and to visit bars or restaurants (including outdoor areas), along with museums, cultural spaces and festivals.

Scroll down for more updates.

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Lufthansa makes 18,000 empty flights to keep routes

Lufthansa Group has confirmed that 18,000 flights have been flown empty this winter, according to a report in The Bulletin.

EU rules say that airlines must operate a certain percentage of scheduled flights in order to keep their slots at airports. 

Under these regulations, prior to the pandemic airlines had to hit 80% of their schedule. This was lowered to 50% during the pandemic, but some carriers are struggling to hit these numbers.

Lufthansa Group, which comprises Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings, plus Brussels Airlines, has axed 33,000 flights in January and February due to the omicron outbreak and travel restrictions.

London’s worst tourist attraction closes after six months

The Marble Arch Mound, a £6m project standing 25m tall and much-mocked for resembling a turf-covered piece of scaffolding, will close this weekend.

The Mound

Credit:
Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The Mound promised mature trees and greenery on a busy corner of Hyde Park, with views across London and Oxford Street, but soon after opening visitors gave unhappy reviews of the experience.

The attraction was originally priced at £3.3m, but eventually came to £6m.

Have you booked a holiday since New Year’s Day?

Holiday bookings are up after the UK Government eased travel testing rules.

Have you booked a holiday since January 1? Comment at the bottom of this article to let us know your plans.

No roaming charges on O2 and Virgin Media

Customers on O2 and Virgin Media will not face EU roaming charges this year.

Two of the UK’s top four networks – EE and Vodafone – have reintroduced roaming charges  for customers visiting the EU from this month.

Gareth Turpin, of Virgin Media O2, said:

“We’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe for customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile.  

“Unlike all the other major mobile networks who are bringing back roaming fees, we will not be following suit.  

“With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about.”  

Singapore to reopen borders even as omicron spreads

Singapore’s transport minister S Iswaran today expressed a commitment to reopening the country’s borders and to set up more quarantine-free travel agreements.

“Our goal is to restore quarantine-free travel with more countries and regions as allowed for by the public health assessment,” he said. “We remain confident of the long-term potential of air travel and are resolutely committed to working with Changi Airport Group and airline partners to rebuild and reclaim Singapore’s status as an international air hub.”   

Changi Airport is often voted the world’s best airport 

Credit:
Getty

In 2021, Changi Airport saw a traffic uptick after Singapore established vaccination ‘travel lanes‘ with two dozen countries. These allowed tourists and business travellers into the city state without the need to quarantine.

Travel lane ticket sales have been put on hold since December 23, as the country deals with a surge of omicron cases. Border rules are expected to relax later this month.

Booking surge over the weekend

On ‘Sunshine Saturday‘ thousands of British holidaymakers booked their big holiday for the year ahead.

Scott Dunn has reported booking numbers equal to pre-pandemic sales in January 2020, while Mercury Holidays has seen bookings rise by 100%. Sri Lanka, Malta and Mauritius are the company’s top holiday destinations.

Spanish PM suggests tracking pandemic differently as Covid lethality has fallen

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday it may be time to track the pandemic differently as Covid-19’s lethality has fallen, confirming a report from El Pais newspaper that the government was mulling alternative monitoring methods.

“We have the conditions to gradually, with precaution, open the debate at a technical level and European level, to start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,” Sanchez said in an interview with radio station Cadena SER.

The Spanish government is considering changing how it tracks the pandemic’s evolution to instead use a method similar to how it follows the flu, without recording every case and without testing all people presenting symptoms, El Pais reported on Monday.

Watch: Pilot pulled out of crashed plane seconds before train hits it

Police in Los Angeles, California, pulled the pilot from a crash-landed Cessna seconds before the aircraft was hit by a train on Sunday, sending debris flying in all directions.

Dramatic video obtained by Reuters shows several officers freeing the man from the downed plane, which had crashed shortly after takeoff in the Pacoima neighborhood, according to local media. The officers and pilot are just a few feet away from the tracks when the passing train destroys the plane.

“The plane had a failed takeoff and landed on the train tracks at a popular intersection,” said Luis Jimenez, the 21-year-old music composer who filmed the video. “Just seconds before impact police officers saved the pilot, and a piece of debris almost hit me.”

The pilot was treated for cuts and bruises and is in a stable condition, according to local media. No one on the train was injured, local media reported.

Women’s camel beauty contest makes debut in Saudi 

Saudi women, in a first for the conservative kingdom, have paraded their camels in a beauty pageant for the prized “ships of the desert”.

“I hope today to reach a certain social standing, inshallah (God willing),” said Lamia al-Rashidi, 27, who participated at the weekend contest in the Rumah desert north-east of the capital Riyadh.

Saudi cameleers and horsewomen take part in a parade during the sixth edition of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in the Rumah region 

Credit:
Fayez Nureldine/AFP

The event, part of the prestigious King Abdelaziz Festival, was previously a men-only affair.

Read the full report here.

‘EasyJet refused to help my elderly friend find his Covid travel documents, so he missed his flight’ 

One reader writes:

Dear Sally,

An elderly friend called me in distress to say he was stuck at Alicante airport in Spain after being turned away from an easyJet flight to Manchester. He was not allowed to board as he was struggling to bring up the email on his mobile phone showing the QR code for his passenger locator form, which is required for travelling back to the UK.

Airline staff would not help him and because he could not show the form they stopped him from boarding. Can you help him?

CJ, Lancashire

Read Sally’s response here.

‘One of the worst fires in New York’s history’ kills 19

Nineteen people including nine children have been killed in what New York City’s mayor Eric Adams described as one of the worst fires in the city’s history.

Others are reported to be in a critical condition following the fire in a 19-storey block of flats in the Bronx which is understood to have been started by a malfunctioning portable electric heater.

In all 63 people were injured, mainly from smoke inhalation even though the fire itself appeared to have been largely contained in the apartment where it broke out.

At least 200 firefighters rushed to the scene which took place a week after 12 people, including eight children, died in a house fire in Philadelphia.

Read the full story here.

Cancun tightens restrictions

Cancun faces a tightening of restrictions amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

With some hospitals reaching 100% occupancy, Cancun will move from ‘green’ to ‘yellow’ from today until January 16 at the earliest.

Quintana Roo, the state which contains Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, has been designated as ‘green’ for some months now, meaning most businesses have been able to operate at full capacity.

Holidays in Cancun will be affected by the heightened Covid-19 rules

Credit:
Getty

However, the status change will mean hotels, restaurants and other tourist services will be reduced to a 60% capacity. Bars and nightclubs will be unable to open, and vaccination certificates will become mandatory in venues containing more than 150 people.

Tourists are strongly recommended to contact their holiday provider if visiting Cancun in the coming weeks.

The top travel stories from the weekend

Is the end in sight for our Covid-19 travel woes?

The end of the pandemic is “in sight”, the WHO special envoy on Covid-19 has said, as he warned of “bumps ahead”.

Speaking on Sky News, Dr David Nabarro said: “We are moving through the marathon, but there’s no actual way to say that we’re at the end.

“We can see the end in sight, but we’re not there. There’s going to be some bumps before we get there.”

All the venues affected by Italy’s ‘super green pass’

You will have to be fully vaccinated, or have recently recovered from Covid-19, in order to access:

  • Restaurants and bars (including indoor and outdoor)
  • Public transport, including local buses
  • School buses for children aged 12 and over
  • Hotels
  • Ski lifts
  • Indoor and outdoor pools
  • Wellness centres, gyms and sports facilities
  • Spas and thermal baths
  • Museums, exhibitions and cultural spaces
  • Religious celebration events
  • Fairs, festivals, conventions, conferences
  • Theme parks
  • Cultural, social and recreational centres
  • Bingo halls, betting rooms, casinos, games rooms