Airbnb hosts listing properties as self-isolation retreats are ‘incredibly irresponsible’, says government

Some Airbnb hosts are advertising their properties in the UK as “self-isolation retreats” during the coronavirus pandemic, a move that has been branded “incredibly irresponsible and dangerous” by the government.

Countryside listings have been calling themselves “Covid-19 retreats” that are “perfect for isolating with family”, according to research conducted by the BBC.

The latest government regulations state that all non-essential travel within the UK is banned, including staycations and people travelling to second homes.

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The only Airbnb stays that are currently permitted are those of key workers who need to self-isolate, but the BBC’s investigation suggested that many hosts are not vetting potential guests.

“Our advice is clear,” said Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston of the findings.

”Essential travel does not include holidays, leisure travel and visits to second homes – and people must remain in their primary residence.

“It is incredibly irresponsible, and dangerous for some property owners to be marketing themselves as ‘isolation retreats’.”

Hosts found to be breaking the rules face fines of up to £960.

Listings that advertised themselves as self-isolation hideouts included a houseboat, cottage and castle.

“We want hosts and guests to follow the rules and we have no tolerance for listings that ignore health or travel advisories,” said an Airbnb spokesperson.

“The government has set out clear guidance on the limited conditions under which necessary travel is permitted and we have taken a number of steps to support these measures.

”Hosts in the UK are also opening their homes to NHS and other healthcare providers as part of a global initiative that has seen more than 100,000 places to stay made available so far.“

In response to the BBC’s research, Airbnb has now disabled its ‘instant book’ function to stop non-key workers from booking properties.

The home sharing site recently announced it is offering NHS workers free accommodation during the coronavirus outbreak.

Hosts on the home rental website have agreed to waive fees associated with stays at their properties to support medical staff on the frontline of the pandemic, with roughly 1,500 places already on offer.

The initiative is a local expansion of Airbnb’s global plans to help house 100,000 healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders working with Covid-19 patients.

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Cuba bans all tourists and imposes draconian rules amid coronavirus pandemic

Cuba is no longer libre (free) for foreign travellers. After decades in which tourists have been able to wander without restrictions, the communist government of the Caribbean’s largest island has imposed draconian new rules in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus.

As the health ministry in Havana announced 36 new cases of Covid-19 across the country, all flights in and out of Cuba have been banned – with the exception of repatriation flights agreed at a governmental level.

All foreign vessels have been ordered to leave Cuban waters.

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Anyone who arrived between 17 and 23 March will be retrospectively tested for coronavirus. This could include some British travellers: the Foreign Office warning against non-essential travel abroad was issued on 17 March after flights had departed.

Overseas tourists are being funnelled into a few “foreigner hotspots”.

Tourists are confined to their hotels. Anyone who is staying in a casa particular – a private house with rooms rented to tourists – must stay inside the dwelling until transport arrives to move them to a government hotel.

While that journey will be free, the tourist will pay the bill for the hotel.

The Foreign Office says: “Tourists who did not leave on the scheduled commercial flights (last one on 1 April 2020) will have to stay in a designated hotel until the government of Cuba reviews the measures.”

But the UK embassy in Havana has told British travellers that they can sign up for a repatriation flight to Rome. Blue Panorama is operating from the Cuban capital to Rome Fiumicino on 5 April 2020.

Cuba has long boasted the best health service in the Caribbean – and arguably the whole of Latin America.

Early on in the Covid-19 crisis, a group of Cuban doctors flew to Italy to help with the medical effort in the worst-affected European country. Health care teams from Cuba are also working in other countries.

Any tourists who fall ill while in Cuba will not be allowed to leave the country until they have settled their medical bills.

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More than 16,000 Australians ignored government advice and travelled abroad

Around 16,000 Australians flouted government advice and travelled overseas during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

On 18 March, the Australian Federal Government changed its advice for all international travel, raising the risk to level 4.

This means all residents should refrain from all non-essential travel abroad.

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However, the Department of Home Affairs has released data indicating that, between 19 and 30 March, 16,000 citizens ignored the rules and flew abroad regardless.

The Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, labelled travellers’ behaviour “grossly irresponsible,” reports SBS News.

Some 3,800 Australians also took flights after 24 March, when the government issued an official ban on overseas travel.

However, passengers needed government exemption after this point (granted for reasons including that the traveller normally lives in another country and is returning home, or is travelling to do essential work abroad).

Australians returning to the country are now are being forced to quarantine in government-mandated accommodation for 14 days before they can go home.

It comes after the UK government announced it would be launching a £75m airlift operation to bring stranded Brits home.

Speaking at the daily 10 Downing Street briefing, Dominic Raab said: “An unprecedented number of British travellers are trying to get home. Critical transit hubs are shutting down or limiting their flights.”

He added: “Where commercial flights are no longer running, the government will provide special charter flights.”

In better news for Australia, the first rescued koalas are starting to be released into the wild.

The marsupials were rescued from their bushfire-ravaged habitats last year, and have been in the care of zoos and animal hospitals ever since.

With the 2019/2020 bushfire season officially over in Australia as of 31 March, rescuers have started releasing these animals back into the wild and, in some cases, even back to the tree where they were found.

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Simon Calder: Travel is built on trust and that matters now more than ever

Britain’s holiday industry began 2020 in great shape.

The damage that Brexit will wreak on travellers and businesses had been postponed until the end of the year. Instead, everyone was talking of growth: more people venturing to more places, enjoying better value and safer journeys than ever before.

Barely three months on, the travel industry is on life support. Lockdowns, flight bans and travellers’ trepidation about coronavirus have combined almost to extinguish the business. Tens of thousands of staff at airlines and holiday firms have been laid off, and some may never return to their old roles.

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In a very competitive field, though, probably the candidates who deserve most sympathy are travel companies that put together overseas package holidays. Rules that were put together with the best of intentions have placed many agents and operators in an impossible position.

At the root of the problem is the special consumer protection in place for travellers.

As you will have spotted, travel is only distantly related to real life (especially at the moment) and normal commerce. You and I pay money weeks or months ahead for a mere aspiration, and take delivery only when we turn up at the airport or cruise terminal.

As millions of people with holidays booked for the Easter holidays will testify, plenty can go awry between handing over hard-earned cash and stepping on board. The Package Travel Regulations are designed for disarray: from the moment it becomes clear the holiday you booked cannot be delivered, the organiser has two weeks in which to return all your cash.

When a single country, such as Tunisia, or a particular resort such as Sharm el Sheikh, joins the Foreign Office’s “no-go” list, the travel industry can generally cope. But we are in the middle of a spell when everywhere beyond Dover, Derry and Dunnet Head is deemed off-limits to package holidaymakers.

Everyone wants their money back, please. And on their side: A law never intended for disruption on this scale. Which puts many travel providers in an impossible position.

They have passed on customers’ money to airlines that are now not flying and hotels that are closed. They are now obliged to refund everyone regardless of the fact that a lot of the actual cash is probably locked in a vault by someone who is surveying their own corporate carnage and is in no rush to refund anyone.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

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Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

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Sidon, Lebanon

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Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

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Sidon, Lebanon

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In response to a cash-flow crisis of absurd proportions, Abta, the travel trade association, is urging customers to ease the pressure on their holiday provider. Accept a “refund credit note,” exchangeable for cash at the end of July, and you give the travel firm a lifeline in the form of an interest-free loan. Your funds are safe, because Atol or Abta protection stays with the money.

If you can afford to take an IOU in lieu of cash, please do – not least out of self-interest. Were the travel company to go out of business, experience from the Thomas Cook collapse shows that you could wait months for an Atol pay-out.

This is a time to understand each other’s predicaments and support decent people trying to do a good job in calamitous circumstances. But in return, travel companies must be honest with their customers.

I have seen dozens of examples of companies pretending that Abta’s recommendations are law, or that the Package Travel Regulations have been suspended. They don’t, and they haven’t, and any firm that seeks to mislead customers is treading on dangerous ground.

Travel is built on trust, and that matters now more than ever.

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Nearly half of UK’s major insurers stop selling travel insurance amid coronavirus pandemic

Nearly half of all major UK insurers have now stopped selling travel insurance as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect trips worldwide.

Some 31 of the nation’s 75 leading insurers have pulled their travel insurance offerings, according to Which?.

A further 13 companies have also changed their terms to exclude claims related to Covid-19 for new customers.

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Brands that have suspended the sale of travel insurance include Admiral, Aviva, Churchill and Direct Line.

Existing customers who purchased insurance before the coronavirus outbreak started heavily impacting on travel in mid-March should still be covered in most cases.

For those who have a trip booked post-16 April – which is when the Foreign Office advice against all foreign travel is currently due to expire – but haven’t taken out insurance yet, it may be difficult to purchase cover that includes coronavirus-related travel disruption.

Which? recommends new customers look out for policies that include “travel disruption cover”, which allows travellers to claim for costs associated with delays, missed departures or an unplanned extended stay in a destination for those who can’t get home.

Travel insurers are expected to pay out a minimum of £275m in coronavirus-related claims this year, according to estimates from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

This would be the biggest annual cancellation payout ever, almost double the previous record set in 2010.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the travel insurance market, with dozens of providers amending policies or pulling them altogether,” said Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?.

“This is creating confusion and uncertainty for consumers, who may feel they simply cannot make plans for future trips in the circumstances.

”The government, insurers and the travel industry must work together to tackle the huge challenge posed by coronavirus, to ensure people feel confident enough to travel in the knowledge that they will be covered.“

Firms no longer selling travel insurance

  • AA 
  • Admiral 
  • Alpha Insurance 
  • Asda 
  • Aviva 
  • Boots 
  • Churchill 
  • Clydesdale Bank 
  • The Co-op 
  • CoverMore 
  • Direct Line 
  • Esure 
  • ETA
  • First Direct 
  • Flexicover 
  • Fogg Travel 
  • HSBC 
  • LV 
  • More Than 
  • M&S Bank 
  • Now I Can Travel 
  • Post Office 
  • Puffin Insurance 
  • Sainsbury’s Bank 
  • Santander 
  • Sheilas’ Wheels 
  • Spectrum 
  • TopDog 
  • Virgin Money 
  • Yorkshire Bank 
  • Zurich

Firms that have changed their terms

  • AllClear – no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
  • Axa – no new cover for coronavirus-related cancellation 
  • Allianz Assistance UK – from 12 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims 
  • Columbus Direct – from 13 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims 
  • Debenhams – from 16 March no new cover for coronavirus-related claims 
  • Direct Travel – from 17 March, no new cover from coronavirus-related claims 
  • Ergo is still selling annual policies, but with exclusions regarding any epidemic or pandemic as declared by WHO
  • Holidaysafe is still selling travel insurance, but policies now include a Covid-19 specific exclusion
  • InsureandGo – no new cover for coronavirus-related incidents 
  • Nationwide – from 18 March, new policies won’t cover coronavirus 
  • NFU is still selling annual policies to existing home insurance customers but has stopped the sale of single-trip policies
  • Saga – from 13 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims 
  • Staysure – no travel disruption extension for new customers 

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Ryanair operates ‘ghost flights’ with no passengers

Despite running just a tiny number of rescue flights during the coronavirus lockdown, Ryanair still appears to be flying most of its fleet on a regular basis.

Europe’s biggest budget airline is operating frequent “ghost flights” – empty planes with no passengers – where aircraft take off, circle the airport, and land again.

For most of its fleet of 451 Boeing 737s, this appears to be happening around once every four days.

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The data was collected by Simply Flying, which looked at 47 (just over 10 per cent) of Ryanair’s planes chosen at random. 

Flight tracking data showed that all bar one of the jets had been flown in recent days: 35 had made loops of the airport, while the remaining 11 aircraft had operated a service at least once every four days.

The data sample suggests most of the carrier’s fleet will be operating on a similar basis.

The reason for operating empty flights that don’t go anywhere is to maintain aircrafts’ operational availability.

Planes that have been grounded for a significant period have to be checked over before they are cleared to fly again, a process that keeps them from flying for even longer and costs the airline money. 

A Ryanair spokesperson told Simply Flying: “In order to ensure our aircraft are serviceable for both passenger repatriation flights and essential flights for the transportation of urgent medical supplies, some of our crew and aircraft must remain available and serviceable in line with Boeing requirements and EASA regulations.”

However, the decision to keep flying planes on a regular basis without passengers will adversely affect the airline’s carbon footprint.

Ryanair’s latest advertising campaign claimed that it is Europe’s “lowest emissions airline“. 

However, the campaign was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which branded the statements “misleading”.

It follows easyJet’s announcement that it has stopped all commercial flights and grounded all its 344 Airbus aircraft across Europe due to the “unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” It may continue to operate some repatriation flights at government request.

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Hull Trains becomes the first UK rail operator to suspend all services amid coronavirus pandemic

Hull Trains has become the first UK rail operator to suspend all services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which is part of First Group, said that from Monday 30 March, it will be temporarily stopping its trains for an indefinite period of time due to ”the current travel restrictions and low passenger numbers”.

In a statement released on its website, the operator said: “As a result of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, passenger numbers across the industry have dropped significantly since national guidance was issued for people to stay at home and stop all non-essential travel. 

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“Hull Trains is an open access operator and does not have a contract with the government, as a result we have not been offered additional financial support which franchised rail operators have in the form of an Emergency Measures Agreement.

“After exploring all possible avenues to keep services running, it is not currently financially viable to run our services.”

Hull Trains currently serves a number of destinations, including Hull, Doncaster, Retford, Stevenage and London.

The company said that other rail operators will be accepting tickets for key workers making essential journeys.

A full refund is available for all other customers, and admin fees will not be applied.

Louise Cheeseman, managing director of Hull Trains, said: “We play a vital role in the regional economy, as recognised by our local MPs, and we fully intend to resume operations as soon as we can.

“It’s been a very difficult week for the business but the reluctant decision to temporarily suspend services is the right one based on the current unprecedented circumstances and I hope our passengers understand this. The move protects the long-term future of Hull Trains and our people’s jobs which is important as it will allow us to reinstate operations quickly when possible.

“We will continue to review the dynamic situation as it unfolds and we plan to return as a resilient train operator for the city of Hull and East Riding as soon as we can.”

It comes as the government announced that rail services across the UK would be cut in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department for Transport (DoT) announced earlier this month that rail services across the UK woud be reduced from Monday 23 March.

There has been a “gradual reduction in train services across the country,” according to a statement, with reductions increasing across the network over the coming days.

Over time, the UK rail network will only operate half of the normal number of services, Reuters reports.

The rail franchising system has also been suspended to give operators greater flexibility in terms of offering refunds to customers.

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Will the coronavirus pandemic cost the travel industry its most loyal customers?


Did coronavirus kill travel loyalty? If you ask someone like Joan Skerritt, the answer is “yes.”

a woman talking on a cell phone: Some frequent travelers say they'll remember how they were treated by airlines, hotels, rental car agencies and other businesses long after the coronavirus pandemic fades.

Last week, she asked United Airlines to refund an award ticket she’d booked for her daughter to Europe next month. The airline demanded a $125 fee to return the miles.

“United is penalizing its most loyal customers,” says Skerritt, a grant writer from Oak Hill, Virginia.

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It’s hardly an isolated complaint. I’ve received a barrage of them from frequent travelers since the coronavirus crisis began. 

True, most companies are pausing their points expirations or reducing requirements for elite status. But these are cynical steps designed to keep you trapped in a loyalty program. There’s little evidence that travel companies are giving their best customers the preferred treatment they’ve always promised them, which at a time like this would be a faster refund or a fee waiver, or something – anything! – to show those customers that they’re valued.

“During this time of crisis – when it matters the most – customers will remember which brands were there for them and which brands were not,” says Phil Seward, a senior vice president of loyalty strategies at Collinson, a loyalty and benefits company. “How brands conduct business during this crisis will impact their brand perception long after things return to normal.”

How travel companies are letting their best customers down

Many travel companies are either sticking it to travelers or leaving them hanging. Jim Wilson, who works for a law enforcement training company in Grapevine, Texas, is worried about maintaining his loyalty status with American Airlines, Hilton and Hertz. If he can’t travel, his status expires and he goes back to being treated like everyone else – tiny seats, indifferent service, a fee for everything.

He’s asked his preferred companies how they would help loyal travelers like him, post-coronavirus. “They haven’t responded yet,” he says.

If I had to bet, I’d say they’ll eventually get back to him, telling him his status is safe and that his money is still welcome there. But really, is giving your top customers the silent treatment any way to reward their loyalty?

The benefits of loyalty are ‘minimal’

Companies are showing virtually no preferential treatment to their frequent guests, according to loyalty program members. That’s just fine with Dean Kato, a business consultant from Kirkland, Washington. He’s a gold level frequent flier on Alaska Airlines. He says during normal times, the airline lavishes him with perks, such as fee waivers and upgrades. But during the coronavirus crisis, he feels kind of ordinary. 

“They are treating all travelers fairly at this time,” he says. “The preferences shown to frequent flyers today may be minimal.” 

Other frequent travelers say they’ll remember this episode.

“Guests vote with their feet,” says Andy Abramson, a frequent traveler who owns a communication company in Los Angeles. “They’ll walk in the direction of the hotel that treated them right – and away from the one that didn’t let them out of the reservation.”

Maybe the pandemic has exposed loyalty programs as the sophisticated, soulless marketing programs they are. They’re nothing more than an insidious way to coerce frequent travelers to fork over their hard-earned dollars to one company. Loyalty only goes one way. 

Is this the end of travel loyalty programs as we know them?

Experts say we may be witnessing the end of frequent flier and frequent stayer programs as we know them. Loyalty programs had already begun shifting away from collecting points and toward a relationship that “enables a better experience,” says Dave Andreadakis, chief strategy officer at Kobie, a loyalty marketing company. “This crisis, like all crises, will cause us to take inventory of our relationships and determine what we really want out of them.”

That makes a lot of sense. Loyalty – true loyalty – isn’t about how many points you have or the color of your card. It’s about trust. And it’s about a relationship. That relationship has been tested in recent weeks, and too many travel companies are failing the test.

By the way, Skerritt, the woman who was stuck with a fee for redepositing her miles on United, didn’t even need to wave her elite card to fix her problem. The airline canceled her daughter’s flights. That automatically required the airline to refund her miles without a charge, or face the wrath of the Department of Transportation. Even so, it wasn’t easy. 

“After being on hold for 1 hour, 45 minutes, I was able to get all the miles put back on the loyalty accounts for no fee,” she says.

How to leverage what’s left of your loyalty

Offer your future business. When you’re trying to negotiate a refund or credit because of coronavirus, your intentions matter more than the color of your elite card. “Try saying something like, ‘I’m loyal to your brand and would hate to reconsider working with you in the future,'” says Molly Fergus, general manager of TripSavvy, a travel site.

Take a credit instead of a refund. Real loyalty means you will fly on an airline or stay in a hotel soon. Instead of taking a refund, ask for a credit. But make sure you request something in exchange, like a lower rate or an upgrade, if the company doesn’t automatically offer you an additional benefit. Remember, though, that credits expire after a period of time.

Quit while you still can. Many loyalty programs offer status matching, which allows you to transfer your status to a competitor. If a company has done you wrong during the coronavirus crisis, take your business elsewhere. You could also stop playing the loyalty game entirely and start booking airline tickets and hotel rooms that make sense, as opposed to the ones that get you the most points. That is, when we get the “all clear” to resume travel.


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Cunard selling cruise holidays to Australia departing in 12 days despite coronavirus pandemic

“Congratulations! Thank you for choosing Cunard,” reads the message from one of the UK’s leading cruise lines to passengers buying a dream trip to Australia.

The bargain £2,464 package includes return flights from London to Sydney and a 27-night circumnavigation of Australia aboard Queen Elizabeth.

“Set foot on salt-white beaches, encounter native wildlife and explore world-famous wine regions,” gushes the online brochure.

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But this is not a voyage planned for next year in a hopefully post-coronavirus world. 

Instead, Cunard is selling the trip departing from Heathrow on 10 April 2020 with a flight to Sydney. The cruise is scheduled to begin two days later.

Yet selling package holidays set to depart before 17 April is contrary to Foreign Office advice against non-essential travel abroad.

In addition, the government in Canberra says: “Only Australian citizens and returning permanent residents and their immediate family members are permitted to enter Australia until further notice.”

Anyone who does get in will be required to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine with travellers “transported directly to designated facilities”.

Despite the multiple impediments to the holiday being delivered, Cunard is continuing to sell it.

The Independent successfully made a test purchase for the cruise package, which includes calls at the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland, Margaret River in Western Australia and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Any Australians booked on the cruise who do not happen to live in New South Wales will be unable to join it because they are forbidden from crossing state borders.

Some cruise passengers in Australia have claimed that Cunard plans to cancel the sailing, but is keeping it on sale in a bid to encourage more passengers already booked on it to cancel voluntarily. They would then have to accept future cruise credits rather than cash refunds.

A spokesperson for Cunard said: “We are working through the current restrictions at ports of call around the world and also with guidelines from the relevant authorities regarding destinations and travel by air.

“Clearly there will be changes to itineraries and we will be in touch very shortly with guests booked on this voyage.”

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

The firm has so far announced a “pause” in sailings up to and including 11 April 2020.

The arrival in Sydney on 19 March of a cruise ship belonging to Princess, a sister company of Cunard, caused much consternation.

After Ruby Princess docked close to the city centre, around 2,700 passengers were allowed to disperse – even though coronavirus cases had been identified on board. 

Almost 300 of those on board have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and one passenger has died.

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Martin Lewis issues warning on travel insurance as coronavirus crisis continues

Earlier today, two more Brits tested positive for the coronavirus bringing the total number of cases to 19 in the UK.

Millions of holidays are currently at risk as the coronavirus outbreak has caused numbers of airlines to cancel flights.

So what does that mean for those who have booked holidays in the upcoming weeks?

Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert, appeared on Good Morning Britain yesterday to discuss the importance of travel insurance.

He told ITV viewers: “This is a big warning. I do it every year – I talk about booking travel insurance ASAB – as soon as you book.

“Because if you don’t and something happens in the meantime before you get travel insurance, you’re not covered."

Martin, 47, continued: "Well, anyone who has booked a holiday now for this year – if you have not got travel insurance, if you get the travel insurance and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office then says you can’t go to a country, you’re covered.

“If the Foreign & Commonwealth Office rules out a country in future and you haven’t got travel insurance at that point, you’re not covered. Get your travel insurance now if you’ve booked your holiday.

“Because if for example you have skiing trip and in two weeks time they say ‘you can’t go’ but you haven’t got your travel insurance yet because you are going in four weeks time, you’re not covered.

“But if you get it now, you are covered. ASAB has never been more important for travel insurance. If you booked a holiday, you should have travel insurance in place now, if you don’t go and do it now."

  • Is it safe to travel after coronavirus outbreak? Government advice explained

So what do you do if you have a flight booked?

We’d recommend looking at Foreign Office advice before cancelling your holiday, although there are warnings against certain countries, the government body hasn’t told Brits not to travel.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “People are understandably concerned about how their travel plans will be impacted, and a lack of clear and timely information has left many travellers confused about their options.

“While the government has now updated its advice to cover the Italian locations that have experienced an outbreak, those travelling to nearby cities like Milan or Verona still won’t be able to cancel and claim on travel insurance, nor will those travelling to Tenerife.”

  • Martin Lewis
  • Coronavirus

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