This Week in Travel News: Zika Virus & More

ZIKA VIRUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 2 ravel Alert urging pregnant women. at any stage of pregnancy to consider postponing travel to 14 destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean where a virus linked to birth defects is reportedly being transmitted through mosquito bites. The countries impacted by this Level 2 travel notice are Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela. While the virus causes only a mild illness in most people, there is mounting evidence linking it to a birth defect, especially in Brazil. The CDC also advises women who are contemplating or trying to get pregnant to talk to their doctor before traveling to those areas and to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For more information go to: CDC.gov/travel/notices

The New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America.

MORE NEWS

State department Updates Its Travel Warning For Mexico
On 19 January 2016, the U.S. State Department updated its Travel Warning for Mexico, which reads in part as follows: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.

Another Case Of Ebola
On 15 January 2016, the U.K’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Sierra Leone that reads in part as follows: “The World Health Organisation confirmed a new case of Ebola in the Tonkolili District of Sierra Leone on 15 January 2016. Sierra Leone was previously declared Ebola transmission free on 7 November 2015.

Lufthansa Becomes First Airline To Get Airbus A320neo
Lufthansa has taken possession of the Airbus A320neo to be delivered. Airbus claims the A320neo will burn 20% less fuel per seat than currently available aircraft. Turbine engine specialist Pratt & Whitney designed the engine. The noise level on the A320neo is approximately half of what it is on the standard A320. Neo, is short for “New Engine Option.” Lufthansa plans to base the plane in Frankfurt. Its first flight will be to Hamburg on Jan. 24. The plane will also fly to Munich. The new plane can carry 180 passengers.

Southwest Files Appeal Over Delta Victory At Love Field
Southwest still wants to “fully utilize our gates at Love Field” and this morning, sent a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. US District Judge Ed Kinkeade told Delta earlier this month it could keep flying five daily flights to Atlanta using Southwest-controlled gates that used to belong to United. “We are appealing the decision as part of our ongoing efforts to protect our right to fully utilize our gates at Love Field,” said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins via email.

MSC Drops Turkish Ports
MSC Cruises announced yesterday that it had decided to suspend its calls in Turkish ports until further notice. The decision impacts MSC Magnifica’s itinerary as she will be based out of Venice, Italy as of March 26. The weekly calls in the cities of Istanbul and Izmir from March 29, 2016 will, for the time being, will be replaced by calls in Athens and Mykonos. MSC said the decision was made by the company because of growing concerns by guests as a result of the recent tragic events in Istanbul.

Cruise The St. Lawrence Looks Ahead
René Trépanier, director of the Cruise the Saint Lawrence Association, sees his group and region taking its next major step within the next two to three years saying “The destination is still growing, and 2016 bookings are all completed so our focus is really on 2017.” Nine ports participate in the association with Quebec and Montreal anchoring the group and they hope to attract another cruiseline to do round-trip sailings on the river, meeting cabotage laws with a visit to Saint Pierre and Miquelon. In addition, the group has a strong base of smaller brands and European lines that visit the region in its key fall season. ”It’s hard to paint one picture of what Canada/New England is,” Trépanier continued, “and that is something that characterizes us, all the ports are so different.”

American Sued By 3 Muslims And A Sikh
American Airlines is being sued for more than £6 million by four Asian men who were allegedly thrown off a flight to the US because their appearance made the pilot nervous. The men, all US citizens living in New York, were told to get off the flight from Toronto last December. Three of the men, all in their 20s, are Muslim and one is a Sikh. It appeared that two of the men had changed their flight so all four could travel together and the other two paid for upgrades at the last minute. According to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, the men weren’t initially given a reason for being asked to leave the flight. It was only when they arrived back in the terminal that an airline agent allegedly told them the crew and the captain felt uneasy about their presence. They were, however, allowed to travel on the next flight. They are claiming $1 million in compensatory damages each and $5 million in punitive damages from American Airlines for discrimination.

Cause Of Ritz Paris Fire Is ‘A Mystery’
The cause of a fire which swept through the top floor of the Ritz Paris hotel yesterday remains a mystery. Up to 60 firefighters from 15 crews fought for several hours to bring the blaze under control. The hotel was empty when the fire broke out around 7am on Tuesday morning as it had been closed since 2012 for refurbishments. It was due to reopen in March, but it seems possible that it will remain closed for longer due to the damage caused by yesterday’s blaze. The roof was destroyed and all the levels underneath were flooded by water from the fire hoses. A spokesman for the Paris fire service, said the cause of the fire remained a mystery. The hotel located in the Place Vendome is owned by Mohammed el-Fayed and has attracted famous guests since it opened in the late 19th century.

Iran Planning Huge Aircraft Order
Iran plans to buy 114 aircraft from Airbus, now that international sanctions have been lifted. “We have taken the first step in agreeing with Airbus to buy 114 planes” said an official. Iranian and Western industry officials estimate that Iran, a country of 80 million people, will need 400 or more aircraft in the next decade to replace a fleet that has suffered several fatal crashes in recent years.

JetBlue And Hawaiian Airlines Expand Codeshare Agreement
JetBlue announced it has expanded its existing partnership with Hawaiian Airlines through a bilateral codeshare agreement. JetBlue is placing its ‘B6’ code on nonstop flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines between JFK and Honolulu. Customers purchasing a codeshare itinerary will benefit from having a single ticket that includes both Hawaiian and JetBlue-operated flights as well as conveniences on their day of travel like one-stop check-in and baggage transfer. Hawaiian and JetBlue also offer members of each carrier’s loyalty program the opportunity to earn and redeem points or miles for travel on either carrier. JetBlue’s TrueBlue members can accrue points on Hawaiian-operated flights, while HawaiianMiles members can earn miles on JetBlue-operated flights. Similarly, frequent fliers can redeem their points or miles for travel on either carrier’s network, creating a long list of destinations for each program’s loyal members.

Holland America’s Eurodam Debuts New Entertainment, Dining And Suite Upgrades
The ship received features such as Billboard Onboard, a sing-along piano/guitar spot playing 50 years of chart-topping hits; Lincoln Center Stage, a venue focusing on classical music with a quintet that combines piano and strings; and the Gallery Bar (previously Northern Lights), a sophisticated watering hole serving up crafted cocktails from a menu created by master mixologist Dale DeGroff. A new Lido Market has replaced the former buffet. Offering both to-go and made-to-order food items, the new venue is comprised of various themed stations, such as Breadboard (fresh-baked breads and pastries), Wild Harvest (salad station) and Distant Lands (exotic bites from around the world). It also will include dessert and coffee stations. Additionally, New York Pizza, which debuted on Nieuw Amsterdam, has replaced Slice.

Watch The Auroras In Comfort With Iceland’s Bubble Hotel
Iceland offers a chance to watch the Aurora Borealis the entire night from indoors, unobscured, from the comfort of your double bed. The “Aurora Bubble” hotel, which opened for its 2016 season earlier this month, is located around a 90 km drive from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, and seems minimalist at first glance. For $280 a night, you get a clear glass bubble located in a forest. Within, you have a comfy double bed, but with no meals included and bathrooms that are located separately. Its designers say the bubble concept is meant to minimize the site’s footprint, as Iceland continues to grow as a tourist destination. You book a full service hotel and have the choice to add the bubble which is the additional $280.

Egypt To Invest Millions In Security At Hurghada And Sharm
Egypt is putting more security staff, sniffer dogs, CCTV cameras and X-ray machines in its Red Sea resorts to improve security for holidaymakers. The country’s government is to spend just over £22 million on the measures in Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada in a bid to win back tourists. Visitor numbers have plummeted since a number of terror attacks, a plane crash in the Sinai, and political instability. Egypt hopes the investment will help reassure holidaymakers and help bring back much needed tourism income. Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said the measures, which will be put into place in the next few weeks, would bring tourist security to another level.

Istanbul Bomb Likely To Lead To Travel Restrictions
Countries are likely to impose further travel restrictions to Turkey following the fatal explosion in the centre of Istanbul’s tourist district. According to reports most of the 10 killed were German tourists and visitors from Norway and other countries were among the 15 injured. A senior analyst at Euromonitor International, said: “The explosion at Istanbul’s most prominent tourist attraction is expected to impact negatively on inbound flow to Turkey on the short-to-medium term. The fact that the explosion occurred in the deep centre of Istanbul and that tourists from Germany and Norway were among the casualties is expected to result in further travel restrictions and flight banned towards the destination in the coming days. Despite major media being blocked at the scene, tourism industry in Turkey is predicted to suffer from the recurrent attacks on tourist spots those past years.

Delta Ends Interline Agreement With Etihad
Delta Air Lines will end its interline ticketing and baggage agreement with Etihad Airways on Jan. 21. Reservations made prior to that date will be honored as issued. Interline agreements allow passengers to book multisegment tickets across the two airlines and rebook passengers on one another’s flights during irregular operations. Delta ended interline agreements with American Airlines, four Chinese airlines and Emirates and last year.

Lufthansa To Offer Less Legroom Than Ryanair
Lufthansa will be taking delivery of over 100 A320 neo family aircraft from Airbus over the next few years. These twin-engined planes will be flying Lufthansa’s most important European routes. Some are expected to be reallocated to other Lufthansa Group carriers. The A320neo aircraft will accommodate 180 passengers or 12 more than the carrier’s existing A320s. Extra seating can be installed thanks to new space-saving layout for the galleys and toilets. Seating is slim-line as with the existing A320s in the Lufthansa fleet. As with British Airways, Lufthansa provides the same 76 cms (29.9 inches) of legroom to all passengers whether seated in business or economy class. This fact has brough a lot of negative reader feedback and now Lufthansa is restoring the comfort difference between business and economy class.

Qatar Air Has Threatened To Leave Oneworld Alliance And American Airlines
The airline said it may seek to form a breakaway group within the Oneworld alliance should American Airlines Group continue to lend its weight to a US push to curb the growth of Gulf rivals. Qatar Air, which joined Oneworld in 2013, said it would not tolerate a situation where “conditions are no longer conducive to a fair business relationship and mutual respect. ‘If American does not want to work fairly with us, we will consult the others and we could form our own mini-alliance if we wanted to.”

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