This Week in Travel News

First Named Storm Of 2016 Forms In Atlantic Basin

Hurricane Alex has formed in the Atlantic basin. It’s the first tropical or subtropical storm to form in January since 1978, and the fourth known storm to form this early in the year since record-keeping begin 1851. Alex is currently situated over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean, about 1,260 km south-southwest of the Azores. It has maximum sustained winds near 70 mph with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and lasts until November 30.

Opening Date Set For Disney’s Newest Destination
The Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group announced yesterday that Shanghai Disney Resort will host a multi-day, grand opening celebration, culminating in a spectacular welcoming ceremony for the resort’s first official guests on June 16, 2016. The world-class resort, located in the Pudong District of Shanghai, will be Disney’s first destination resort in mainland animated films. Disneytown, an international shopping, dining and entertainment district, adjacent to the entrance of Shanghai Disneyland. Disneytown will include the Walt Disney Grand Theatre, home to the first-ever Mandarin production of the Broadway hit Disney’s THE LION KING.

Gunmen Fire On Tourist Bus In Cairo
Two gunmen reportedly fired on a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids in Cairo last week. The men drew up on a motorcycle and opened fire as tourists boarded a bus last Thursday. Reuters reported the attack took place at a hotel on a road leading to the pyramids. Reuters reported one gunman was arrested at the scene and security forces surrounded the other in another part of Cairo.

Federal Trade Commission Wants Congress to draft New Legislation Re Hidden Hotel Resort Fees
The Chairwoman of the FTC, Edith Ramirez, has called on Congress to draft new legislation to protect consumers from hidden hotel resort fees. The legislation would ostensibly relieve the agency from investigating hotels and resorts on a case-by-case basis, according to the Los Angeles Times. At issue are the resort fees that hotels sometimes charge but do not advertise up front. These so-called “daily resort fees” then show up on the bill upon checkout. Last year, U.S. hotels were projected to make a record $2.47 billion from fees and surcharges, according to a study by New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.

Donald Trump Hit With Aviation Emissions Fine For UK Flights
US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has been fined for the carbon pollution caused by part of his aircraft real estate, joining the Bahrain royal family and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox America in breaching EU emissions trading schemes. Donald Trump faces a £1,610 penalty due to flights to the UK in a plane from DJT Operations I LLC. In an updated list for the first month of 2016, the Environment Agency is enforcing emissions trading schemes (ETS) fines of more than £750,000 to 25 aviation operators and associates for carbon pollution in the UK.

JetBlue And Icelandair Strengthen Codeshare Agreement
JetBlue has announced it has expanded its partnership with Icelandair and now offers the JetBlue ‘B6’ code on flights operated by Icelandair between five JetBlue cities and Reykjavik-Keflavík International Airport (KEF). Today’s milestone expands the partnership between JetBlue and Icelandair which was established in 2011 and offers customers the convenience of one-stop check-in and baggage transfers on a single ticket. Regarding customers traveling between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Icelandair’s base in Reykjavik.

Dutch Masterpieces Head To Sea With HAL’s Rijksmuseum Partnership
Holland America Line is celebrating its Dutch heritage in a new partnership with Rijksmuseum, the most-visited national museum in the Netherlands. Through the collaboration, the “Rijksmuseum at Sea” created by Rijksstudio will be installed on ms Oosterdam during its scheduled dry dock in April 2016 and then move fleetwide over the next several years. The line has also become a new sponsor of the Rijksmuseum. Reproductions of some of the museum’s most famous masterpieces will be showcased throughout the ship and a dedicated space onboard will invite guests to explore their own creativity through guided art workshops.

Two Cruise Ships Wait For Approval From Cuban Government
Haimark Line, which usually deploys its MS Saint Laurent on trips through the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and along the Atlantic Coast, has been advertising 10-day people-to-people tours that begin in Miami and end in Miami. The cruises, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 11 and run through April, include visits to six of Cuba’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Connecticut-based Pearl Sea Cruises, which usually plies the waters of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Panama Canal with its luxury small ship, the 210-passenger Pearl Mist, also has been advertising a 10-night trip that departs from and ends in Miami with stops in Havana, María La Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Alejandro de Humboldt National Park and Holguín.

DHS Gives Passengers Two-Year Grace Period To Get New IDs
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has delayed by two years the requirement for U.S. flight passengers to have state-issued identification that complies with the REAL ID Act in order to clear security. The law was to have gone into effect this year, but the DHS has announced that passengers can use their existing driver’s licenses, whether the issuing state’s licenses are compliant with the REAL ID Act or not, until Jan. 22, 2018. The delay provides “an ample opportunity to replace their pre-REAL ID licenses with new compliant licenses or to obtain another acceptable form of identification,” according to the DHS. Currently, the DHS lists two noncompliant ID issuers, Minnesota and American Samoa, and 23 compliant states and territories. The rest have been working under extensions to comply.

US State Department Warns Americans Of Travel To Bethlehem
Tourists had been traveling between Israel and the Palestine territory to visit Jesus birthplace Bethlehem without major problems. This has now changed and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem advises U.S. citizens to defer travel to Bethlehem and surrounding communities until further notice due to ongoing clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian residents, and security incidents in and around Bethlehem. The Consulate General recommends US citizens review the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza issued on December 16, 2015 for additional guidance on the security environment.

UK Theme Park To Build World’s First Virtual Reality Rollercoaster
Riders on the rollercoaster, which has been named Galactica, will wear virtual reality (VR) headsets for the duration of the three-minute experience, with the digital images of spaceflight timed to coincide with the ride’s twists and turns.
According to Alton Towers, the Oculus Rift-style virtual reality headsets will allow riders to feel like they are wearing spacesuits as they’re taken on an “exciting space adventure.” The headsets track the motion of users’ heads and translate those movements into images on their built-in screens – allowing users to naturally look around the virtual world while feeling totally immersed. Galactica will be the Staffordshire theme park’s first big new ride since a rollercoaster accident in June seriously injured five people when their car collided with another stationary car. Two of the injured had to have legs amputated as a result of the crash.

Boeing Wants To Turn The Interiors Of Its Planes Into Giant Screens
The use of mood lighting on planes has become popular but what if airlines could take that idea a bit further, actually using LEDs and projected imagery to wholly improve the flying experience? Boeing has a pretty great idea for what a well-lit plane of the future might feel like. A new concept video from Boeing’s product development division shows how lighting can do more than just add chiller vibes, according to Boeing’s Mike Sinnett. “Airlines could use these lighting enhancements on the walls and bulkheads to display information about the destination or to project scenes that get passengers thinking about where they’re going,” he said. “The possibilities are endless about how this technology could be used.” Boeing Wants to Turn the Interiors of Its Planes Into Giant Screens and there’s no reason why airlines shouldn’t be using the ceilings of their cabins like this. A simple projection can make it feel less like you’re crammed in a claustrophobic airborne tube with hundreds of germ-ridden strangers and more like like you’re slicing through the clouds on in a convertible jet. This is already a popular idea gaining traction-check out this concept for the first supersonic private jet.

Norwegian’s Harvest Caye Delayed
Harvest Caye, the major new destination Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is developing in southern Belize, has been delayed another nine months. The grand opening is now planned for November. Norwegian’s western Caribbean cruises will call instead at Belize City through November. The company gave no specifics for the delay.

Istanbul’s Main Tourist District Hit By Explosion
Reuters reports at least 10 people died and 15 were wounded in a explosion in an historic part of Istanbul which is popular with tourists earlier this morning. Several tourists are believed to be among the injured, including three Germans and two from Norway. The blast occured in the city’s Sultanahmet district, close to the world famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, at around 10.20 am local time. An official from a tour company told Reuters news agency that a group of German tourists were in the square at the time of the blast. Ambulances are reported to be at the scene, which has been sealed off by the police. Investigations into the cause of the explosion are underway.

Egypt To Tighten Security Following Attacks At A Hurghada Hotel
Egypt’s tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou said additional security measures would be put in place to protect tourists in the wake of Friday night’s attack on holidaymakers in Hurghada. Suspected militants wounded two Austrian nationals and a Swedish tourist at the Bella Vista Hotel in the Red Sea resort. He said “The welfare of tourists visiting Egypt is of the greatest importance to us and will continue to be so.” One of the attackers was reportedly killed in gunfire with the hotel’s security guards. The other armed men were injured by security forces during the pursuit that followed the attacks. Management at the Bella Vista Hotel said the incident was over in four minutes. The attackers were described as being armed with knives and a fake gun.

FAA Fails To Ensure Pilots’ Manual Flying Skills
Reuters reports the Federal Aviation Administration is failing to ensure that airline pilots maintain their flying skills so they can safely take control of an aircraft from automated systems during an unexpected event, according to a US Transportation Department report released yesterday. The report by the department’s Office of the Inspector General concludes that the FAA cannot determine how often pilots fly manually and has not ensured that airline training programs adequately focus on manual skills. Airline pilots typically fly planes manually on landings and take-offs, leaving the aircraft under the control of automated technology 90%t of the time. While automated systems have generally improved aviation safety, experts say the practice and the growing complexity of automated technology have raised concerns about flying skills.

Australia Has A New ‘All You Can Fly Start-Up Airline
This start-up airline offers member’s only unlimited flights to airports around Australia. Airly has plans to offer members unlimited travel to airports around Australia a lot cheaper than private travel. The start-up’s co-founders Alexander Robinson, Luke Hampshire and Ivan Vysotskiy said the airline will initially offer 54 flights a week, with plans to expand to New Zealand and Asia once the model was working well in Australia. They are following the business plan of Surf Air in California. Passengers will fly on eight-seat Beechcraft King Air 350 private aircraft initially between small airports in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, with plans to expand to Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and the Gold Coast. A membership starts at A$2550 a month and can cost up to $3750 a month. Two months membership must be paid upfront. Seats on flights can be reserved four weeks in advance, and up to 30 minutes before departure. Free Wi-Fi, amenities, snacks and drinks will be provided at the airport lounges.

Master Mixologist Creates Menu Of Unique Libations For HAL
Holland America Line’s has a new partnership with 2015 James Beard Who’s Who Inductee and Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff. He brings an innovative menu of creative cocktails to the cruise line. DeGroff’s creations will debut aboard ms Eurodam this month and will expand fleetwide by springtime. DeGroff, known as “King Cocktail,” and author of two best-selling cocktail books and founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail, has developed a drink menu to showcase artfully prepared signature classics as well as some unique originals. DeGroff’s signature cocktails will be served in the Gallery Bar, introduced on ms Eurodam following a December 2015 drydock, and in other shipboard bars and lounges, including Ocean Bar, Explorer’s Lounge, Crow’s Nest and Tamarind Bar, as well as more casual outlets such as the Lido pool bar. His creations will be served fleetwide by spring 2016. DeGroff’s cocktail menu includes the Gallery Gimlet, Hemingway Daiquiri, Yuzu Margarita, The Ritz Cocktail, Whiskey and Joe, Another Shade of Greyhound, and a “Slightly Less Than Perfect” Perfect Manhattan. Many of these drinks have a storied past. The Hemingway Daiquiri is a unique spin off of Hemingway’s favorite drink, the Papa Doble. The Ritz Cocktail is a dazzling champagne cocktail presented with a burst of flamed orange peel and was one of the most popular drinks at the legendary Rainbow Room where DeGroff created it as a tribute to the Ritz cocktails of Paris and Madrid. In addition to creating exclusive cocktails for all Holland America Line bars, DeGroff also will oversee staff training to ensure his signature cocktails will be crafted to perfection.

United Fined $2.75 Million For Its Treatment Of Disabled Passengers

United Airlines has been fined a total of for two separate offences over treatment of disabled passengers and for violating tarmac delay rules. The US Transportation Department said United did not return wheelchairs to customers in a timely manner or give adequate assistance to disabled travellers at five of its hub airports during 2014. The DOT also found United did not deplane passengers after tarmac delays of more than three hours during severe weather in December 2013 and May 2015. The DOT said $500,000 of the fine imposed will go toward upgrading United’s mobile app to allow customers to make advance requests for disabled assistance at airports.

Airline Ratings Names World’s Safest Airlines

An annual survey of the world’s biggest airlines has seen Qantas named the world’s safest for the third year running. The Australian carrier was praised for its “extraordinary fatality-free record in the jet era. The airline has never had a jet crash. The list was compiled by, an independent plane safety and product rating website. The website provided safety ratings for 407 airlines, awarding them up to seven stars for safety. Along with Qantas, other airlines to make the top 20 include 20 airlines in alphabetical order: Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Scandinavian Airline System, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

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