This Week in Travel News

It‘s time for This Week‘s Travel News in Headlines!


France To Introduce Security Checks For Cross-European Trains
France said it would install security gates at the Paris and Lille stations of the high-speed Thalys train, the target of a previous failed attack which police believe may be connected to the deadly Paris assaults. Gates would be installed in Paris and Lille before December 20, and similar measures were planned in Brussels and Amsterdam. Security concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13 have prompted calls for tighter identity checks and airport-style baggage screening at railway stations, especially after it emerged that at least one of the attackers travelled freely from Syria to Europe.

Hilton Worldwide Hit With Malware
Guests of Hilton Worldwide are being advised to check their credit and debit card statements after the hotel chain admitted hackers had breached its security systems. It admitted that malware had got into its point of sale system between November 18 and December 5 last year and between April 21 and July 27 this year. The company has not revealed which hotels might have been affected, but it is urging all customers to check their payment card statements.

Air New Zealand’s ‘Airband’ A World First
Air New Zealand has introduced a world first for children flying unaccompanied, giving parents and guardians the opportunity to follow the steps in their journey. Children travelling alone on Air New Zealand services will now receive an Airband™ at check-in as part of the service. The wristband is embedded with a chip which is scanned at key stages of the journey to trigger text notifications to up to five nominated contacts. The airline’s new service applies to all children aged between five and 11 who’re travelling alone, but those aged up to 16 years can choose to opt in. The new service is being offered on a complimentary basis through until 3 February 2016. Bookings made from this date will incur a fee of $15 per child for each one way domestic journey, or $40 per child for each one way international journey.

Loftleidir Icelandic Participates In Historic Antarctic Landing
Adventure Network International reports that the landing occurred at Union Glacier, near the Antarctic Peninsula. The project was realised with the participation of Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), NAS Corporation Limited and Loftleidir Icelandic. As ALE transports up to 500 visitors to Antarctica each season, they wanted to assess the feasibility of using larger commercial aircraft for these trips. “ALE is researching the potential for utilizing conventional passenger airliners in addition to passenger/cargo combination aircraft,” ALE said. “The Boeing 757-200 ER, fitted with 62 business class seats, will enhance passenger comfort yet maintain the safety of ALE’s activities and aircraft resources.”

American Computer Program Botches Flight Attendant Holiday Schedules
A malfunction by an American Airlines bidding system program provided at least 200 legacy US Airways flight attendants with December schedules, including holiday schedules, they don’t want to fly, provoking an angry outcry on social media. Normally, a preferential bidding system allows flight attendants to bid for the flights they want to fly, with the most senior bidders most likely to be awarded the flights they choose. Some legacy US Airways flight attendants are calling “the glitch that stole Christmas.”

A Freak Wave Hits MSC Divina
The freak wave hit the side of the MSC cruise ship late on Thursday night injuring 2 passengers. There was a small amount of damage to one of the cabins which had a porthole. Guests who were staying in the cabin and in nearby cabins were provided alternative rooms. The wave hit at around 11:40 PM and in a statement the cruise line said “One of two Mexican guests staying in the cabin sustained minor abrasions, while an Argentinean guest in another cabin slightly injured a finger when closing a balcony door.” At the time the wave struck the 139,000 gross ton vessel was sailing from San Juan to Nassau as part of a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise. The cruise departed Miami, Florida on November 21 and arrived back on November 28 on schedule.

Hawaiian Airlines Expands Service To Japan From Honolulu
Hawaiian Airlines announced plans to begin daily nonstop service between Narita International Airport (NRT) and Honolulu International Airport (HNL) starting July 22, 2016. Hawaiian’s new Narita route will complement its existing daily service to Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND), providing two daily flight options to travelers in the Greater Tokyo region. Starting July 22, 2016, Hawaiian’s Flight HA 821 will depart Honolulu daily at 3:30 p.m., cross the international dateline, and arrive at Narita International Airport at 7 p.m. the following day. Beginning July 23, the return Flight HA 822 will depart from Narita at 9 p.m., cross the international dateline, and arrive at Honolulu International Airport at 9:55 a.m. the same day. Narita will be the airline’s 11th international destination and its fourth destination in Japan, after Haneda, Osaka and Sapporo.

Meet Spencer-Amsterdam Airport’s Robot Assistant To Help Lost Travellers
Amsterdam’s Schipol airport is taking a futuristic approach to help holiday travelers navigate terminals during the busiest season of the year. On Monday, the airport unveiled Spencer, a cognitive, mobile robot developed by Sweden’s Örebro University, funded by the European Commission and Dutch airline KLM. According to a press release from the university, Spencer will help guide travelers who have quick connections between gates. The project was developed in part after KLM was examining ways to cut down on costs incurred when passengers missed legs of their trip due to difficulty finding gates. Spencer is programmed with an internal map of Schipol but is also equipped with external camera sensors and a laser scanner to allow for constant surveillance of the surrounding environment, which also enables navigation around moving obstacles. Schipol is testing Spencer for one week and will then use the trial run to make adjustments for a larger test in March.

Iraqi Airways Planning Baghdad-Washington, DC Service Iraqi Airways
Director General Osama Sadr made a surprising announcement that the airline is planning to begin nonstop service between Baghdad and Washington, DC next year. Sadr said talks had already been held between undisclosed ‘administrative’ bodies on either side. However, the launch of any routes to the United States is contingent on Iraq securing a Category 1 rating under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Program. Currently, Iraqi Airways serves thirty-five destinations across nineteen countries in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North Africa. Iraqi currently has to use a B737-800 OM-HEX (msn 30785) wet-leased from Air Explore for its European operations to London Gatwick, Stockholm Arlanda, Copenhagen Kastrup, Frankfurt Int’l, Dusseldorf and Berlin Tegel.

Viking Star Expands North America/Caribbean Cruises

  • Following its North American debut in fall of 2016 in Newfoundland, Viking Ocean Cruises will sail in Canada/New England and along the Eastern Seaboard before introducing its first Caribbean cruises, from San Juan. Those 11-day voyages will visit Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
  • Viking Star will reposition from Europe on a Viking-themed crossing from Bergen, Norway, to Montréal, first touching the Americas at L’Anse aux Meadows, where Viking explorer Leif Eriksson established the earliest known European settlement in the New World. The 15-day itinerary includes the Shetland and Faroe Islands, the Saguenay region and Québec City.
  • From Montréal, the ship will sail to New York on a 13-day cruise that includes Québec City, Prince Edward Island, Halifax, and overnight in Boston and a rare crossing of the Cape Cod Canal.
  • From New York, Viking Star will head down the Eastern Seaboard to the Caribbean on a 15-day cruise with destinations including Newport, Baltimore, Norfolk and Port Everglades (overnight), the Turks & Caicos, Antigua and St. Thomas, before arriving at San Juan.
  • San Juan  will be Viking Star’s base for its Caribbean cruises that visit the British, French and Dutch cultures of the Lesser Antilles. Departures begin Oct. 28.
  • On Feb. 25, 2017, the ship will sail from San Juan back to Europe on an 18-day crossing to Barcelona. Ports include St. Maarten, Madeira, Casablanca, Cádiz and Valencia.

Why Hurricane Season Is Getting Longer
El Niño has helped set records in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans this year but to varying degrees. While the overall number of hurricanes has dropped in recent years, the 2015 season started earlier and will finish later. Hurricane season in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans is generally said to run from June 1 to Nov. 30. Yet hurricane Ana touched down on the shores of South Carolina in early May, preceding the start of the traditional hurricane season by nearly a month. It may be too early to tell if this year signifies a change in the unofficial hurricane season, but a NOAA researcher, said data collected since 2008 may show it may be increasing slightly. The El Niño warming in the Pacific has been a factor on the number of hurricanes overall. While the Atlantic Ocean has seen a decrease in hurricanes this year, more occurred in the Pacific. In the Pacific, 24 tropical storms and 15 hurricanes were documented, while hurricane Patricia broke records with winds of 200 m.p.h. In August, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center indicated the number of Atlantic hurricanes in 2015 was below normal. Coastal regions in the US have not seen a major hurricane touch down since 2012 while the pattern has decreased overall since 2005.

Royal Air Maroc To Fly To Washington Dulles
Royal Air Maroc will launch service between Washington Dulles and Casablanca, Morocco, on Sept. 8. Flights are already on sale. The Casablanca-Washington service will be offered three times a week. Royal Air Maroc will use a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner for the flights. Washington will join New York, Austin, Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tampa as a Royal Air Maroc gateway in the US.

Engine Fire On Grand Princess Near Hilo
Cruiselawnews reports that there was an engine fire on the Grand Princess about 5:30 am local time yesterday morning as the ship approached Hilo. The ship lost propulsion and had limited lighting. The fire was extinguished in 20 minutes and no crew or passengers were injured. Power has since been restored and all hotel and guest services are in operation. Grand Princess was 20 miles off the coast of Hilo at the time of the incident. Grand Princess is carrying 2,592 passengers and 1,095 crew. The ship is on a 15-day Hawaii cruise that departed San Francisco on November 25. There have been a number of cruise ship fires this year and Fairplay recently published an article about the “continuing string of cruise ship engine room fires” in the article Cruise Engine Room Fire Risk Persists. The following cruise ships have faced fires over the course of the last year: NCL’s Norwegian Pearl in Caribbean; Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas (October) while sailing to Greece; Carnival Liberty (September) while at dock in St Thomas; Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas; before it arrived in Falmouth, Jamaica; P&O’s Oriana (April) after leaving Miami, Florida; Fred Olsen’s Boudicca (January) Casablanca, Morocco; Oceania Cruises’ Insignia St. Lucia (December).

MSC To Add A Second Ship In Cuba
MSC will further strengthen its presence in Cuba by homeporting a second ship in Havana from the winter 2016-17 season. MSC Armonia will join MSC Opera in Havana, from November 2016, for the entire winter season. MSC Armonia will sail two separate eight-day (seven-night) itineraries, adding an enhanced choice of Central American and Caribbean destinations to the cruise lines’ portfolio. Following two days and one night in the Cuban capital, the first itinerary will take guests from Havana to Isla de Roatan before heading for Belize, Costa Maya and a beach experience on Isla de la Juventud (Cuba), before returning to Havana. The second will start with two and half days and two nights in Havana, then set sail for Montego Bay, Georgetown and Cozumel, before circling back to the Cuban capital. MSC Armonia’s presence in Cuba will also offer MSC guests the chance to combine both itineraries into one 14-night cruise. In addition, the position of Havana’s cruise terminal at the foot of the Ciudad Vieja, or Old Havana, a UNESCO-listed heritage site, allows for easy walking access from the ship to the local sights. To cater for fly-cruise passengers joining ships in Cuba this season, MSC says it is doubling its flight offer from key European cities and introducing new flights from Canada and South America.

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