Airlines face ‘battle to survive’ under UK’s tough new rules

british airways planes runway - Getty
british airways planes runway – Getty

The UK’s airports and airlines are battling to survive in the face of blanket travel restrictions, aviation chiefs have warned – after new, tighter border restrictions were announced by Matt Hancock this afternoon.

The Health Secretary laid out the new legislation for arrivals into England – including £10,000 fines for those trying to evade quarantine, and prison sentences of up to 10 years for anyone trying to conceal their arrival from a red list country. Scotland, meanwhile, plans to make hotel quarantine mandatory for all arriving travellers.

But Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association and Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, are calling for an exit strategy to enable travel to restart when the virus’s grip loosens.

“Whilst public health must come first, this latest measure means all travellers to the UK will need to take three tests in addition to quarantine, they said in a joint statement. “It adds a further barrier to viable air travel and deepens the worsening 2021 outlook for our sector, which has already been largely grounded for a year.

“A two-week review clause is essential to ensure that the current complex, blanket set of measures are rolled-back as soon as it is safe to do so.

“In the meantime, airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands.”

Mr Hancock unveiled a number of significant changes to England’s travel rules this afternoon, including a mandatory ‘triple test’ requirement for travellers arriving in the country, as well as details surrounding the new quarantine hotel scheme.

Scroll down for more updates.

05:37 PM

That’s all for today

Before I go, here’s a re-cap of the main headlines:

  • Travellers who ‘conceal’ where they have been will face 10 years in prison

  • Travellers will pay for hotel quarantine, as Matt Hancock reveals first deals struck

  • Scotland announces ‘managed quarantine’ for all international arrivals from Monday

  • Vaccines kickstart international travel again whilst UK adds triple border tests

  • Government’s lack of clarity is ‘devastating for an industry which is already on its knees’

  • Britons vaccinated against Covid could get QR codes to travel

Join us again tomorrow for more breaking travel updates

05:31 PM

Comment: I never expected to receive travel advice from the Dalai Lama

In 2015 I walked more than 600 miles of the Indian Himalaya with my friend Levison Wood. Lev had spent the previous month walking through Afghanistan and Pakistan, while I had spent the previous month walking between London pubs.

In just my first 72 hours on expedition, we climbed almost 20,000ft, negotiated with three Indian Army patrols, and survived a night in the open after we became “navigationally challenged”. It was quite the introduction, and we didn’t have a proper rest until we reached Dharamsala, two weeks later.

India’s British occupiers had planned on making Dharamsala their summer capital, but after an earthquake in 1905, they chose Shimla instead. Dharamsala would have been forgotten, were it not for the arrival, in 1959, of a certain Buddhist monk.

Read the full article here

Dalai Lama - Getty
Dalai Lama – Getty

05:24 PM

Are these the UK’s first quarantine hotels?

The Government has signed contracts with 16 hotels thus far as it races to secure rooms before Monday 15 January, when mandatory border quarantine for arrivals from 33 countries comes into effect.

Our reporters have been contacting Heathrow hotels for their availability over the next few months.

The Government hasn’t released full details, but one hotel – the Marriott Heathrow/Windsor – has confirmed to Telegraph Travel that it will be part of the scheme.

Furthermore, we were unable to make bookings until at least the end of March in several other hotels, which may be evidence that they have signed up. Novotel London Heathrow Airport T1 T2 and T3; Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4; and Courtyard London Heathrow Airport are among these.

Others cite “technical issues” when trying to book a simple standard room with unlimited Wi-Fi and room service. Will these be the new isolation facilities for arrivals?

05:16 PM

Spain extends ban on flights from Britain until March 2

Spain has extended a ban on arrivals by air from Britain, Brazil and South Africa until March 2 over the new Covid variants.

Only legal residents or nationals of Spain and the neighbouring micro-state of Andorra are currently allowed in on flights from these countries.

This is the fourth time that Spain has extended its restrictions on arrivals from Britain, after they were first imposed at the end of December.

The ban on arrivals from Brazil and South Africa came into effect on February 3.

05:11 PM

Exclusive: The true story of the British skiers quarantined indefinitely in Austria

British instructors, trainees and the Austrian owner of a ski school near Kitzbühel in Austria, have spoken about their treatment by locals over a cluster of coronavirus cases found in the village in January, reports Abigail Butcher.

The students were subjected to harassment by locals and international media following the outbreak and sentenced to an indefinite quarantine as false headlines spread. Lois Reichholf, owner of the ski school Snow Academy Jochberg, received death threats.

The students who were sharing accommodation with qualified ski instructors in three staff houses in Jochberg, a small village within the ski area of Kitzbühel, were quarantining after contracting coronavirus locally, but became trapped after a series of false allegations.

Read the full story here

05:03 PM

Who needs the Grand Canyon? Britain’s answers to the wonders of the world

We cannot escape the country unless it’s “essential”, writes Oliver Smith. If we do break out, we must self-isolate for 10 days when we get back (perhaps in a grim airport hotel). Restrictions might not even be eased in time for summer. It’s a dire situation.

But let’s try to look on the bright side. If we are confined to our shores for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty to see and do on our doorstep. You can admire ancient ruins, climb mountains, bask on white sand beaches, and even, as the photo above demonstrates, see the Northern Lights (albeit not in summer).

Here are some of our answers to the wonders of the world

Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge
hadrian's wall
hadrian’s wall
Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion

04:54 PM

The rise of no-fly cruises: How to avoid flying planes on your next river cruise

Trains and boats – well, ferries anyway – are replacing planes as river cruisers go off flying in the wake of the Covid crisis, says Jane Archer.

River cruise lines have always offered a selection of rail-sail itineraries; for some it’s their bread-and-butter, alongside ferry and coach travel from the UK. But as the virus struck last year, and sentiments turned against flying, several lines cast about for alternatives.

AmaWaterways expanded its portfolio of rail-sail cruises – a move it says has proved very popular. Unusually, Uniworld River Cruises suggests people drive instead of fly. It will cut the price of the holiday accordingly (about £500 per couple) and include parking instead. The option is available on its French river cruises only; Uniworld says almost half of France bookings are now self-drive.

Pairing river cruises in The Netherlands, Belgium, on the Rhine and in France with rail travel is an easy hop, skip and jump from London with Eurostar, and onward national train services if needed. Those who fancy cruising further afield face more of an epic journey.

See Europe’s top flight-free cruise options here

Durnstein, Austria - Getty
Durnstein, Austria – Getty

04:45 PM

Has Hancock signalled the end of foreign holiday hopes for summer 2021?

Rory Boland, Which? Travel believes this to be the case We saw chaos ensue on a weekly basis earlier in the year with countries added to the travel corridor list at short notice, signalling 14 days of quarantine for Britons who could not get home in time.

We could see this situation repeat itself, only with the added jeopardy of a £1,750pp hotel fee.

04:37 PM

‘Give customers the reassurance that they not be incarcerated for browsing holiday ideas online’

Describing the new travel restrictions as ‘draconian’, the director of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, Noel Josephides, has lambasted the Government’s record on border control, and called on ministers to provide some assurances for both holiday firms and customers:

Lockdown occurred immediately post Christmas; it is now many weeks later, February 9, and in the interim – and until these new rules take effect, only on February 15 – the Government has done very little to control entry into the UK. Witness a journalist from South Africa arriving via Qatar this morning without any checks whatsoever – she reported that she simply walked through the airport, looking for someone to whom to report.

The travel industry is reeling from 13 months without any business, no sector-specific support despite being the worst-affected industry in the UK, having lost 90% of its business from February to October this year compared with last year. Urging us to take out loans when we have no income from which to repay them does not score highly on any common sense chart.

All we need is the opportunity to take bookings, and we simply ask the Government to say “It’s OK to book now and to travel later”, to give would-be holidaymakers (who will all be vaccinated in the near future – that is one success story that the Government can rightly claim) the reassurance that they will not be incarcerated for browsing holiday ideas online while they dream of future plans.

04:30 PM

An architect’s guide to London’s most fascinating unknown buildings

Chances are you know London’s most famous architecturally significant buildings, writes Emma Cooke. The Shard, the Gherkin, The Houses of Parliament, the list goes on. But what of the capital’s lesser known structures? They may be hidden in plain sight, with hundreds of us walking past day after day without a second glance, but many are rife with history – and architectural interest.

A champion of these under-represented buildings is architect Andrew Cadey, who illustrates the interesting edifices he spots on walks around the city. He started two-and-a-half years ago, partially as background research for his work – the drawings now function as a ‘glossary’ of architectural styles – and partially to revisit the craft, and now has a spectacular collection of drawings available to viewers on Instagram.

He shares the local architectural treasures you should keep an eye out for on your next lockdown walk in the capital

 Maiden Lane Estate, Camden
Maiden Lane Estate, Camden

04:16 PM

Jet2 suspends holidays until mid-April

Jet2holidays has announced that it is suspending all holiday bookings up to and including April 14 amidst uncertainty over UK travel restrictions.

The travel firm had previously cancelled all bookings up to mid-March, but had also expressed confidence that it would be able to go ahead with its summer holiday programme this year, and was confident of achieving 80% of its summer 2019 programme.

A statement on the company website read: “We want our customers to be on holiday enjoying themselves and we’re looking forward to resuming our award-winning holidays.

“In the meantime, we’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding.”

04:06 PM

Government’s lack of clarity is ‘devastating for an industry which is already on its knees’

Everyone working in the travel industry has something to say about the new testing and quarantine restrictions announce by Matt Hancock today, and little of it is good.

John Charnock, the founder and CEO of car hire comparison and booking website Stressfreecarrental.com, is one of many to have expressed exasperation with the Government over poor communication and abrupt policy changes.

He said:

The Government’s constant change of direction and lack of planning is devastating for the travel sector. Travel corridors should have been closed sooner and testing should have been in place last March. The lack of clarity is devastating for an industry which is already on its knees and is calling for support to help businesses through the coming months.

These latest restrictions, including the hotel quarantine rules, won’t have a positive impact on the international travel industry. For most people, it would have to be some kind of dire emergency to fork out £1,750 for a quarantined hotel. These restrictions won’t help with consumer confidence in the travel sector.

I think the only travel market for the UK this year will be domestic. I can’t see international travel recovering until late in the year, and into 2022.

03:53 PM

Austria imposes quarantine order on entire state

The Austrian Government has declared the state of Tyrol as a ‘restricted zone’ over growing fears of new variants of Covid-19 in the region, reports Lucy Aspden.

From February 12 anybody wanting to leave Tyrol will have to present a negative test in order to do so and, according to local report, “one of the largest police operations in recent years is underway.”

The region is home to a number of the country’s leading ski resorts including: St Anton, Ischgl, Saalbach, Kitzbühel, Sölden and Mayrhofen. There are already 400 cases of the South African variant of coronavirus confirmed in the region, which borders Italy and Switzerland, where police will now be monitoring travellers.

The new measures, which were reported by local media at lunchtime and will be announced by the Government in a press conference later, will be in place for ten days initially. The news is a major blow to the region, which has been fighting such plans in recent days by presenting alternative measures. Ski resorts in Austria are open to locals only – it’s yet to be confirmed what the new quarantine in the region will mean for resorts there.

03:41 PM

Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?

Julia Lo Bue-Said, the CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, has made the case that new entry restrictions, no matter how comprehensive, will make little difference when international travel is all but halted anyway:

03:30 PM

£1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel – where does your money go?

From Monday, travellers arriving in England from any of the 33 ‘red-listed’ countries will have to fork out as much as £1,750 each for a 10-day sojourn in a quarantine hotel.

At £175 per night, it’s a steep price for what will almost certainly be a small room in a less-than-appealing airport hotel (see Annabel Fenwick-Elliott’s account of one below).

But quarantinees can’t expect much bang for their buck according to Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, who told BBC Radio 4’s World at One today that the rate will cover “kitchens, food and cleaning, reception, processing people through, the delivery of food to the rooms”.

This means a bed, three meals a day, tea and coffee, and not much else. Guests may be able to brighten the experience a little through room service, but this will naturally come at an extra cost.

03:20 PM

‘It’s unbearable that I can’t see my family’ – the human impact of hotel quarantine policies

Hotel quarantine comes into force in the UK on Monday, writes Emma Featherstone. Arrivals from some 33 ‘red-listed’ countries will initially be affected: they will have to book and pay for a package costing £1,750. More destinations are likely to be added to this list as new Covid-19 variants – or fresh cases of newer variants – emerge. There is no clear exit strategy and attempts to dodge this rule will come with harsh penalties, as outlined by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday.

Some, including the Labour Party and SAGE scientists, have called for the policy to apply to all people entering the country. Under lockdown restrictions, international holidays are off the menu. So, if everyone coming into the UK were forced into hotel quarantine it would be citizens living abroad, or those with family overseas, who would be most immediately, and severely, affected. Many in Australia and New Zealand, where similar quarantine rules are in place, attest to this.

hotel quarantine australia - Getty
hotel quarantine australia – Getty

Among those we spoke to, one parent is suffering from panic attacks and lost sleep over being cut off from her daughter and grandson in Australia. Meanwhile, a young Australian in the UK feels her Government’s harsh policies are discriminating against those who live overseas.

Read the full article here

03:12 PM

Government decisions ‘inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country’

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), argues that the new testing and quarantine restrictions announced by Matt Hancock today will bring business to a standstill and place thousands of jobs at risk.

He said:

The BTA recognises the need to prioritise public health at this critical stage in our fight against Covid-19. Today’s announcement of details around quarantine hotels and increased testing will bring business travel to a standstill, preventing thousands from doing their jobs.

The Health Secretary recognised the work of ports across England but has singularly failed to see the impact of these decisions on their supply chain. The Government’s latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country.

It is critical that the Government finally looks to the future. It must offer targeted support to our industry and lead the way in agreeing International Standards of entry.

We risk being cut-off from the world if we do not start mapping out the route to safe travel from this latest lowest point.

03:07 PM

Three climbers missing on K2

A matter of weeks after Nimsdai ‘Nims’ Purja and a team of nine other Nepalease climbers became the first in history to summit the world’s second tallest mountain in winter, three other mountaineers are missing on the Savage mountain, reports Lucy Aspden.

John Snorri from Iceland, Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile and Muhammad Ali Sadpara from Pakistan, were attempting to reach the 8,611m summit on Friday when they lost connection with base camp.

Sadpara’s son Sajid, who was part of the expedition with his father, was the last person to see the trio at midday, when he was forced to turn around because of a fault with his oxygen mask. He left them at the Bottleneck, renowned as being the most difficult part of the climb, 300m short of the summit.

A rescue operation, including the Pakistan army, has been in operation since Friday but Sajid has acknowledged the chances of anybody surviving two or three days above 8,000m in winter conditions “are next to none.”

Nimsdai who spoke to The Telegraph for his first British newspaper interview after making history last month has contributed to the tributes to the climbers now flooding in from the international mountaineering community.

k2 mountain - Getty
k2 mountain – Getty

02:59 PM

Scotland announces ‘managed quarantine’ for all international arrivals from Monday

Michael Matheson, the Scottish transport secretary, has announced that from Monday all international arrivals into Scotland will have to enter “managed” quarantine.

Mr Matheson said it was “vital” to stop new virus variants from entering the country, adding “we need a comprehensive approach to restricting international travel.”

Few details have been given, though it is thought that empty hotels will be likely venues for isolating travellers.

The measures will go further than in England, where only arrivals from 33 “red list” countries will be subject to the government-run quarantine system.

02:38 PM

Vaccines kickstart international travel again whilst UK adds triple border tests

Singapore could soon relax its strict border controls and allow foreign tourists with vaccine certification, a government minister has revealed.

In the latest move towards ‘vaccine passports’, the Singaporean Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung, said that set standards for proof of inoculation would help the city-state reopen travel links with the rest of the world.

“That is really the light at the end of the long tunnel. With vaccination and vaccination certification, we can start to relax some border measures to allow some travel to start happening within the course of this year,” Mr Ong told Bloomberg News.

Meanwhile, Greece and Israel have agreed to open a two-way travel corridor for vaccinated tourists in a bid to regenerate their struggling economies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced yesterday that travellers carrying valid vaccination certificates would be permitted to move between the two countries “without any limitations, no self-isolation, nothing.”

Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen described the agreement as “a beacon of hope, at a time when the skies are closed and holidays are still far away.”

“Tourism has always been a two-way street. Any agreement must be reciprocal, allowing the citizens of both countries to have equal positive experiences that travel and holidays can offer,” she added.

02:30 PM

Twitter reaction to new travel restrictions

As expected, social media users had plenty to say following Matt Hancock’s announcement. Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland questions whether enough hotel rooms have been secured, while Piers Morgan again criticises the Government’s pandemic response.

02:14 PM

Small, dark and depressing – the grim reality of a UK ‘quarantine hotel room’

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott spent the night at a Best Western hotel close to Heathrow Airport to get an idea of what’s in store for quarantining travellers. Read her full review here.

01:58 PM

Matt Hancock: Border controls will be replaced ‘over time’ with new ‘safe and free’ travel system

Matt Hancock remains vague on how long new restrictions will last, but says border controls will be replaced “over time with a system of safe and free international travel”.

Mark Harper, former chief whip and chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, asked when the policy would end “if ever”, noting that “the virus continues to mutate, surely the risk is going to be there forever.”

The Health Secretary said variants “absolutely can and will be managed through the evolution of vaccines” adding that controls are “not measures that can be in place permanently”.

He added: “We need to replace them over time with a system of safe and free international travel. That’s where we need to get to.

“The first task is to vaccinate the population. If we get good news on the vaccination impact on hospitalisations and deaths from people who have new mutations, then we will be in a better place. If we do not get such good news, then we will need to use the updated vaccines to protect against the variants of concerns.”

01:41 PM

Matt Hancock dodges question about when quarantine measures will lift

Conservative MP Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, asked if the controls were “to last until we’ve vaccinated 99 per cent of the mortality risk, which should be by May, or is it until we tweak the vaccination – in which case this could really, really have an impact on the aviation industry?”

The Health Secretary said: “We want to exit from this into a system of safe international travel as soon as practicable and as soon as is safe.”

He added: “We will need to vaccinate with a further booster jab in the autumn, which we’re working with the vaccine industry.

“These are the uncertainties within which we are operating and hence, for now, my judgment is the package we’ve announced today is the right one.”

01:27 PM

Comment: The vaccine was supposed to unlock travel, so why is our government fencing us in?

Our travel policy seems to be vaccinate everyone and seal the borders, writes Oliver Smith.

We've been told to steer clear of "elaborate" holiday plans - Getty
We’ve been told to steer clear of “elaborate” holiday plans – Getty

Last summer was fantastic. Sandwiched between seven nights in Cornwall and a long weekend in Norfolk, my wife and I soaked up a week of sunshine in the Italian Lakes, doing our best to consume our body weight in pasta and Aperol spritz, before I embarked on a last-minute whistlestop tour of Sweden, visiting three cities in four days. At no point was I required to shove a PCR swab up my nose. At no point was I forced to quarantine, at home or otherwise. Beyond my burgundy passport, I didn’t need to flash any papers to overzealous border guards.

Had I known this three-month blast of liberty would represent the final throes of travel freedom for British subjects, I might have squeezed in a few more holidays – or relocated to Stockholm permanently.

The vaccine was supposed to herald a return to the wonderful old normal. When it comes to travel, the opposite seems to be happening. Our government is in the process of fencing us in.

Find the full story here.

01:19 PM

Borders can’t stop Covid, warns infectious diseases expert

As Matt Hancock announces tighter border controls, some have questioned the effectiveness of the measures.

David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that strict border controls cannot totally halt the spread of the virus.

He said: “We know that borders cannot stop infectious diseases. No matter how rigid your controls are, there will always be some that comes through.”

Professor Heymann also questioned the long-term strategy of countries who have completely shut their borders. “We’ve seen that countries that have closed their borders, such as New Zealand, have kept the virus out, but now their problem is what do they do when they begin to open their borders?

“So I think the best way forward is to live with the understanding that viruses and bacteria, any infection, can cross borders and we have to have the defences in our own countries to deal with them.”

12:50 PM

Travellers who ‘conceal’ where they have been will face 10 years in prison

Matt Hancock has announced tough new enforcement for international travel, including a custodial sentence for those who lie about where they are coming from.

There will be a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, a £2,000 penalty to any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test aa £5,000 Fixed Penalty Notice, rising to £10,000, for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.

“Anyone who lies on a passenger locator form, and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on our red list in the ten days before arrival here, will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years,” Mr Hancock added.

“These measures will be put into law this week, and I have been working with the Home Secretary, the Border Force, and the Police to ensure necessary resources are put into their effective enforcement.

“I make no apologies for these strong measures, because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health we’ve faced as a nation.”

12:49 PM

Travellers will pay for hotel quarantine, as Matt Hancock reveals first deals struck

Travellers will have to “book and pay for a quarantine package, costing £1,750” before they begin to travel to the UK, Matt Hancock has said.

The package includes hotels, transport and testing, through an online platform and will last for 10 days or longer.

People will only be able to enter the UK through a small number of locations and be escorted to a designated hotel, which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining.

Mr Hancock revealed that the Government has signed a contract with 16 hotels, for an initial 5,600 rooms.

12:47 PM

UK gets tough with hotel quarantine, testing and enforcement

The UK is further strengthening its border controls through “hotel quarantines, testing and enforcement”, Matt Hancock has confirmed.

From Monday, the UK will “strengthen our defences even further”, on the back of advice from the Health Secretary’s Australian counterparts, he said.

Thanking ports and border officials, he said: “We’re putting in place a new end-to-end system for international arrivals.” That includes hotel quarantine, testing and enforcement.

12:35 PM

Watch live: Matt Hancock gives travel update on testing

12:32 PM

Can I go on holiday? Latest advice as travel restrictions tighten (again)

After a flurry of vaccine optimism at the start of 2021, our holidays have never felt further away, writes Greg Dickinson.

Today, Matt Hancock will announce to MPs that all travellers arriving in the UK are to face mandatory Covid tests – paid for by themselves – from next week. The tests will be taken on days two and eight of quarantine, and bring an end to the previous ‘test to release’ policy.

This comes as the Government prepares to roll out strict new border restrictions, meaning anyone travelling from 33 ‘high-risk’ countries must enter a mandatory quarantine in a hotel on arrival from Monday February 15. It is believed that a number of countries, including Spain, could soon be added to the ‘red list’ following the emergence of the South African and Brazilian variants in these countries.

So who can travel overseas, or within the UK, under the latest lockdown?

Here’s a look at what lockdown 3.0 and the new tightened border restrictions mean for our holidays

The Government has once again imposed tighter travel restrictions – what does this mean for your holiday? - Getty
The Government has once again imposed tighter travel restrictions – what does this mean for your holiday? – Getty

12:20 PM

US considers compulsory Covid tests for domestic travel

The US government is working on a proposal that would make it compulsory to present proof of a negative Covid test before embarking on a domestic flight.

Speaking on US television, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said: “There’s an active conversation with the CDC right now.

“What I can tell you is, it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out.”

President Joe Biden’s new administration has only recently enacted a rule requiring international arrivals to test negative for Covid prior to departure, but some critics argue that extending this to domestic flights is a step too far.

In a letter to the White House, the aviation industry association Airlines for America wrote: “Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of Covid-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is very low, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel is unwarranted,” the letter reads.

“Further, public health and economic data indicate that this policy would disproportionately prevent low-income travelers and rural Americans in small communities from travel.”

12:06 PM

Charm and romance: the world’s most romantic ski resorts

With their picturesque villages, spectacular views and cosy mountain restaurants, not to mention glittering snowflakes dancing in the crisp clean air, ski resorts seem designed with romance in mind.

Days sliding the slopes together are interspersed with cosy chats on chairlifts, coffee with a view on sunny terraces or, if the snow is coming down, snuggling up in a mountain restaurant with a fire for the afternoon. And there’s no better backdrop for commemorating a romantic getaway than the world-famous outlines of mountains like the Matterhorn, Eiger or Mont Blanc.

Many ski resorts have a reputation for wild partying après ski, not the worst way to celebrate a relationship, but for those who prefer, there’s always cocktails in sophisticated bars, dancing the night away in a glamorous club, or fine-dining complete with Michelin stars.

However you like it, here’s our pick of the 10 of the best places to be swept off your feet…

Where to go if you're looking for a picture-perfect ski holiday with oodles of charm and romance - Tom Stewart
Where to go if you’re looking for a picture-perfect ski holiday with oodles of charm and romance – Tom Stewart

11:53 AM

Older travellers turn to agents as holiday confidence grows

An increased number of over-50s would use a travel agent ‘to book a holiday that involves more than just a flight or a hotel booking’, according to a new survey.

The poll by Silver Travel Advisor found that 49% of older travellers would book through an agent, up from 36% in January 2020.

Of the 2,300 respondents, 25% said they would prefer to visit an agent in person, compared to just 14% who said the same last year.

The shifting trend has been attributed to problems encountered by holidaymakers over the course of the pandemic, with customers seeking protection from last-minute cancellations and assurances on health and safety.

Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor, said: “Light is beginning to appear at the end of tunnel. Vaccines are seen as the route out of lockdown and back onto the open road, once it’s safe to do so, for three in four older people.

“With its cancellations and challenges over refunds, the past year has highlighted the value of booking through a travel agent. The reassurance of having an agent to act as intermediary if things go wrong, as well as the advice and expertise they offer, is what seems to have driven up the number of people saying they would book with an agent.”

11:37 AM

Full ‘red list’ of countries from which UK arrivals face mandatory hotel quarantine

Three countries – the UAE, Rwanda and Burundi – were added to the UK’s expanding travel “red list” on January 28, taking the total number to 33, writes Oliver Smith.

Under current border restrictions, direct flights from these nations are banned, while anyone who has been in or transited through them in the previous 10 days will be denied entry unless they are British residents.

Britons currently in a red list country can only fly home via a third nation and, as is currently the case for all returning travellers, must adhere to the new ‘triple test’ requirement and self-isolate at home for 10 days.

See the full list of countries here

11:23 AM

Should the Government start testing on arrival?

Testing requirements for arrivals to the UK will soon be expanded, with travellers expected to take a test prior to departure, a second test two days into the 10-day quarantine period, and a third on the eighth day of quarantine.

But should the extra test be taken on arrival at the airport instead? Which? Travel expert Rory Boland believes so:

11:13 AM

Labour calls on Government to move faster on quarantine hotels

Labour has urged the Government to pick up the pace on implementing mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals from 33 ‘red-listed’ countries.

“We need to quicken this up,” said Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris following the daily coronavirus briefing yesterday.

“The best way to guard against them [new variants] is to have quarantine at the borders. It’s taken weeks and weeks and weeks for it to happen.”

The new policy is set to come into force on Monday 15 February, and will apply only to those travelling from countries which have reported high case rates of Covid-19 variants.

Read more: How will quarantine hotels work and what do new rules mean for holidays?

11:02 AM

In pictures: How Covid has turned travel upside-down

No part of life has been untouched by Covid – but travel in particular has changed beyond all recognition, says Hazel Plush. Quarantine hotels, pre-departure PCR testing, socially-distant sunbathing: not only have the rituals (and regulations) of travel altered unimaginably, but we’ve also got a whole new lexicon to describe them.

And now, the sights that once seemed unthinkably dystopian have become run-of-the-mill. Hazmat suits in airports? Deserted world icons?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg…

south korea airport - Getty
south korea airport – Getty
La Grande-Motte, France, Couchant Beach - Getty
La Grande-Motte, France, Couchant Beach – Getty
Weymouth cruise ships  - Getty
Weymouth cruise ships – Getty

10:49 AM

Greece and Israel travel corridor – the stats

Greece and Israel, two Mediterranean countries with tourism-reliant economies, have agreed to open a two-way travel corridor for those who have received a Covid vaccine. Here’s how the two compare in Covid caseloads and vaccines administered:

Greece

Seven-day case rate: 67.9 per 100,000 people

Vaccine doses: 4.01 per 100 people

Israel

Seven-day case rate: 511.6 per 100,000 people

Vaccine doses: 65.83 per 100 people

10:39 AM

Cruisers race to book a place on £38,000 round-the-world voyage

A new 180-day world cruise set to take place in 2023 has sold out within hours of going on sale thanks to “pent-up” demand from both new and repeat customers.

Berths on Oceania Cruises’ Around the World in 180 Days voyage, starting from £38,059pp, went on sale on January 27, but all were snapped up within the space of a day – a third of them by first-time cruisers.

“The response to our epic 2023 around the world voyage clearly illustrates the enthusiasm that experienced travellers have for immersive and memorable travel experiences,” said president and CEO Bob Binder.

“Despite the challenges the world faces today, travellers are clearly bullish on the future and are embracing these new opportunities to travel the world and create lifelong memories.”

Taking place aboard the 684-capacity ship Insignia, the voyage is scheduled to call at 96 ports in 33 countries, and will incorporate a three-day cruise in Antarctica.

oceania cruises insignia
oceania cruises insignia

10:23 AM

The beauty of crowds – and what we stand to lose without them

Digesting the opinion of Professor Tim Spector – who suggests sizeable social gatherings might not be making a comeback for years – set me thinking about India’s Kumbh Mela, which is occurring right now, writes Mark Stratton.

Kumbh gatherings are held four times during a 12-year cycle. They attract millions of Hindu pilgrims to bathe in the sacred Ganges at one of four holy cities along the river. Distilling this complex festival to a digestible core belief: pilgrims come to cleanse their spirit and further their lifelong path towards obtaining Moksha (heaven) in one enormous top-up of cosmic karma.

Kumbh Mela is the largest mass gathering on the planet  - Getty
Kumbh Mela is the largest mass gathering on the planet – Getty

Even shorn of religious fervour, there is not an unbridgeable difference to more secular festivals and gatherings and what they offer us. This might be Glastonbury with friends feeling the crowd vibe listening to a favourite band (who hasn’t described a memorable gig as a religious experience?), a tribalist euphoria on the terraces when your football team scores, or sensing every semiquaver in your diaphragm at Covent Garden Opera House.

Concerningly, we’re not currently updating these feel-good experiences of being at gatherings and it may harm us both now and down the line, emptying our lockers of recent memories that sustain our sense of optimism for life ahead.

Read the full article

10:15 AM

‘Travel cannot work on the short-term whim of Government’

A leading travel consultant has said the Government must unveil a long-term plan for easing travel restrictions.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, told the Today programme:

It’s quite clear we have entered a much tougher new phase where the Government wants to squeeze border entry and exit completely by adding these layers of complexity.”

Mass traveller testing alone is to be welcomed as it enables Government to stay one step ahead of possible new variants, but adding several layers of complexity to travel will stall any economic recovery.

The Government needs to signal that it is looking to loosen border restrictions again from April, when there will be much less pressure on the NHS and infection/mortality rates will be lower.

What is the exit route out of this? Travel cannot work on the short-term whim of Government.

10:04 AM

UK airports are losing £50 million a week

The chief executives of the UK’s three biggest airport operators have joined together for the first time ever to call for more Government support, warning that current travel restrictions are costing them £50 million a week.

The bosses of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airports Group (which also runs Stansted and East Midlands) have written an open letter pleading for more financial aid in order to stave off thousands of job losses over the coming months.

The letter, published in the Mail on Sunday, read:

“We agree with the shared goal of ending this crisis and resuming normality as soon as it is safe to do so.

“[But] unless the government grasps the true significance of the role we play, it risks giving away our success and our competitive advantage.

“Without action, this government will be levelling down and creating a Little Britain rather than a global one.”

09:46 AM

UK vaccine programme gives Tui hope for summer holidays

Tui has said that it expects foreign holidays to resume this summer thanks to the UK’s vaccine rollout.

Despite Government warnings that borders may not reopen by July, the travel company has already taken 2.8 million bookings for the summer months – half of them made by UK customers – and it is now preparing to relaunch its business in order to catch an expected swell in last-minute sales, with 80% of holidays now on sale compared with 2019.

Tui also revealed that average holiday prices have also risen 20% above their pre-pandemic levels.

Chief executive Fritz Joussen said: “A look at the historically high savings rate in the EU also underlines that the scope for consumer spending is high. The significant increase in spending on booked travel reflects this very clearly. Holidaymakers are catching up and are willing to pay more for their holidays.

“The English market has a special significance for our company. We see an impressive pace and ambitious targets for vaccinations there. Vaccinations and rapid tests make an end to the standstill in tourism possible.

“I am hopeful that after a slow start, more energy is now being put on vaccination and the availability of rapid tests in other countries.”

Tui has already taken 2.8 million bookings for summer 2021 - Getty
Tui has already taken 2.8 million bookings for summer 2021 – Getty

09:27 AM

Britons vaccinated against Covid could get QR codes to travel

People who have received their Covid jabs could be given scannable QR codes allowing them to leave the country in “passport” schemes being funded by the taxpayer, write Ben Riley-Smith and Lucy Fisher.

Details of two ventures developing ways for Britons to confirm they have had vaccines were shared with The Telegraph on Monday.

Logifect, a firm handed £62,000 in grants by the agency InnovateUK, has designed a phone app, due to launch next month, that allows Britons to show confirmation of their vaccinations.

iProov and Mvine, two companies given a £75,000 grant for their joint drive, are working on digital “certificates” that would allow people to prove their immunity when asked.

Executives behind the first drive said they planned to reach out to Government officials in the hope their technologies can help with reopening after the lockdown.

Read the full story

09:17 AM

Quarantine hotel scheme ‘on track’, claims Hancock

Matt Hancock has insisted that plans to introduce new border restrictions for international arrivals from next Monday are “on track”, despite the Government’s admission that no quarantine hotel contracts have yet been signed.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing yesterday evening, the Health Secretary also defended the UK’s current travel measures, citing the relatively low number of South Africa variant cases detected.

Asked to provide a timeline for when travel restrictions will be lifted, Mr Hancock declined to give a definitive answer, adding that it could be months or even years until the borders are fully reopened.

09:06 AM

UK ‘triple test’ spells further misery for airlines

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, writes:

09:00 AM

Hotels rebel over ‘open-ended’ quarantine into summer

Hotels have rebelled over the Government’s demand to use them for an “open-ended” quarantine into the summer as it emerged that not a single firm has yet agreed to sign a contract, reports Charles Hymas.

Ministers want to reserve 28,000 hotel rooms at 10 airports and ports from next Monday to quarantine arrivals from 33 “red list” countries where the south African and Brazilian Covid variants have emerged.

The Government is seeking to requisition the accommodation on an exclusive basis for an initial 45-day period until March 31 but expects the hotels to extend on a rolling basis beyond that point, with the daily rate capped at between £50 and £80 for a room and three meals a day.

Read the full story

08:53 AM

Good morning!

Before we get going, here’s a reminder of what happened yesterday:

  • Italy’s ski resorts are set to reopen next week

  • Australia says it is “highly likely” arrivals will require vaccination certificate

  • Travel curbs bad news for ‘Club Med’ economies

  • 200 people missing after Himalayan glacier smashes into dam

  • Northern Ireland residents face fines for crossing border

  • Holidaymakers face £30 charge for proof of vaccination ​