• British Airways grounds Cairo flights: Key questions and answers
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    The Independent

    British Airways grounds Cairo flights: Key questions and answers

    All British Airways flights between London Heathrow and Cairo have been cancelled for a week because of heightened security concerns.BA made the decision shortly before the Saturday evening departure of its usual daily flight from Heathrow to the Egyptian capital.German airline Lufthansa later followed suit, grounding its Saturday night flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Cairo and the early inbound services on Sunday from Egypt. What was it that prompted British Airways and Lufthansa to ground their planes?The Foreign Office says: “There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK.”British Airways says: “We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment.“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so.Lufthansa suspended services from its two hubs to Cairo on Saturday, with cancellations of early flights from the Egyptian capital to Germany. But after that, flights will resume. A Lufthansa spokesperson said: “We took the decision as a precaution but after assessing the situation will be operating as normal.”Egyptair is continuing to fly twice daily between Heathrow and Cairo.The circumstances indicated there is intelligence available to European governments about a specific threat involving flights departing from Cairo airport; flights to and from Hurghada airport, the main Egyptian gateway from the UK, have continued as normal. Who uses the British Airways flights?Despite the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and a wealth of other attractions, Cairo is no longer a big destination for British tourists. The BA flights are used mainly by passengers with family connections in Egypt, people connecting from other destinations at Heathrow, and by business travellers. Is it unusual for an airline to cancel flights on specific route like this?Yes, highly unusual – especially for a specific timeframe as in this case of exactly one week. No British Airways tickets are available on the route any time up to Saturday 27 July, but flights are on sale again from Sunday.This has to be seen in the context of the tragedy on 31 October 2015, when a Russian passenger jet crashed shortly after take off from Sharm el Sheikh airport in Egypt. It’s thought a bomb placed on board at the airport was responsible for the deaths of 224 people. Shortly afterwards, the Foreign Office imposed a ban on all UK airlines flying from the airport, which serves Egypt’s premier resort.Intelligence reports express similar concerns about a threat to western aircraft at Cairo. What about other UK airlines?Flights are continuing as normal. The main operator is Thomas Cook, which flies daily from Manchester to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, as well as other flights from Birmingham, Gatwick and Newcastle. It also has a link between Birmingham and Marsa Alam. The other significant airline is easyJet, which flies to Hurghada from Gatwick. A spokesperson said: “We will continue our flying programme as planned, but this will be kept under continuous review.“We adhere to any guidance and advice given by the authorities.” What are passengers’ rights if they were booked on British Airways?The airline is offering a choice between a full refund, postponing their journey or being rebooked on other flights – which, if sufficient space is available, will be on Egyptair.But if other European airlines join BA and Lufthansa in cancelling flights, there will be a serious shortage of seats at what’s a very busy time. And what about people who are booked to travel on other flights between the UK and Egypt but now don’t want to fly?Unless the Foreign Office itself grounds planes, as it has done in the case of Sharm el Sheikh, then normal conditions will apply and passengers will not be able to cancel without losing some or all of their money. The same goes for people with package holidays booked to Egypt: they have no legal right to a refund or different destinations, though they may find their holiday company is sympathetic.Thomas Cook is still selling packages for later this month.Travel insurance firms will not refund the cost of holidays for what is termed “disinclination to travel”.

  • Second airline suspends flights to Cairo over ‘security concerns’
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    The Independent

    Second airline suspends flights to Cairo over ‘security concerns’

    German airline Lufthansa has followed British Airways in suspending flights to Cairo, citing security concerns.A Lufthansa spokesman told The Independent two flights to the Egyptian capital had been cancelled.He said the airline’s service to and from the city would resume on Sunday.More follows

  • British Airways suspends flights to Cairo for seven days as security ‘precaution’
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    The Independent

    British Airways suspends flights to Cairo for seven days as security ‘precaution’

    British Airways has suspended all flights to Cairo for seven days as a security precaution.The airline announced on Saturday evening that all flights into the Egyptian capital had been halted to allow for an assessment of security there.“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” a statement said.“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so.”A spokesperson for the airline declined to provide further information about the suspensions, saying the company did not comment on security matters.Three Egyptian airport security sources told the Reuters news agency that British staff were checking security at Cairo airport on Wednesday and Thursday.It is understood British Airways made the Department for Transport aware of its decision ahead of the announcement.A government spokesperson said: “We are aware that British Airways is notifying passengers that it has decided to suspend flights to Cairo temporarily.”Cairo Airport website’s arrivals page listed flight BA155 from London, due to arrive in Terminal 2 at 11.15pm local time, as cancelled.The British Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel by air to and from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, but has not issued similar warnings against air travel to and from Cairo.“An estimated 415,000 British nationals visited Egypt in 2018,” according to the website’s advice page, which was last updated on Friday. “Most visits are trouble free.“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt. Although most attacks occur in North Sinai, there is a risk of terrorist attacks across the country.”Some affected passengers used social media to share pictures which appeared to show a letter handed out by British Airways with a similar message about security.

  • Electric dreams: at last a glimpse of reality
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    The Independent

    Electric dreams: at last a glimpse of reality

    Over a weekend when everyone is gazing back into space, allow me a glance towards the future of aviation.The most exciting technological development for your flying and mine in the coming decades is nothing to do with high speed or ultra-long range. Rather, it is about slow, short but clean hops.Electric cars are easy. Weight is not too much of an issue, extremes of power are unnecessary and when the battery starts running down you can safely and easily pull into one of the increasing number of service stations with fast-charge facilities, buy a cup of tea and read an article like this before you motor on, quietly. My first experience this week of a fully electric vehicle, on the A5 in north Wales this week, made me realise that it is an extremely civilised form of transport. So what is to stop us transforming that to aviation? Physics.While small electric-powered craft have made successful flights, the challenge is to create planes that are big enough and have sufficient range to compete with conventional aircraft.The main issue is that aviation fuel contains a vast amount of energy in each kilogram, and has the added bonus of vanishing once it has done its work – conveniently reducing the weight of the plane, and therefore its fuel burn.The problem for designers of clean planes: boosting the power-to-weight ratio of the batteries. Even the most efficient cells struggle to deliver more than a tiny fraction of hydrocarbon power from the equivalent weight.Wright Electric, which aims “for every short flight to be electric within 20 years”, candidly admits that its plans depend on the weight (and volume) of batteries shrinking while power remains constant: “With present technology, we’d quickly use up all our energy at takeoff and never get anywhere.”Of the many start-ups seeking to revolutionise air travel, Wright was the first to team up with a leading UK airline, easyJet. But the budget airline will be strictly kerosene powered for the foreseeable future.Across at Heathrow, the airport’s boss says the first electric-hybrid aircraft to use Heathrow Airport will escape landing charges for a year – a prize worth up to £1m – and hopes it will be touching down by 2030. Note the “hybrid” – with the punch of hydrocarbons pushing the plane into the sky, before batteries taking care of the cruise.But at the Paris Air Show in June, the tiny US airline Cape Air signed a “letter of intent” for 10 or more nine-seater commuter planes made by Eviation.The name of the plane is Alice. The aircraft manufacturer says: “Alice uses distributed propulsion with one main pusher propeller at the tail and two pusher propellers at the wingtips to reduce drag, create redundancy, and improve efficiency.“We’re bridging distances and opening a range of new destinations accessible for on-demand transportation by enabling emission-free air travel for the price of a train ticket.”Its electric plane, called Alice, will fly up to 650 miles at an impressive 300mph.Cape Air is the perfect customer. It is based in Hyannis on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and mainly flies rich people to and from their homes in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The airline currently uses small Cessna 402 aircraft, with about the same payload. The fare for a Friday evening 91-mile, 48-minute hop between Boston and Nantucket is an impressive $339 (£271), which would help pay the $4m (£3.2m) price tag on those planes.A letter of intent, let me remind you, is a non-binding order; British Airways’ parent company, IAG, signed one with Boeing for 200 737 Max jets at the same French fair.But if commercial electric aviation is to flourish, it will need to start with short hops for wealthy individuals.

  • Airline KLM accused of sending ‘homophobic’ email about cabin crew ‘approaching’ same-sex couples
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    The Independent

    Airline KLM accused of sending ‘homophobic’ email about cabin crew ‘approaching’ same-sex couples

    Dutch airline KLM has come under fire after a customer published a screenshot of a “homophobic” email allegedly sent to them by a customer service representative.Twitter user @ErinClaireSF posted the correspondence on the social media platform, along with the caption: “Gay brothers and sisters, KLM will approach you and let you know someone has complained about you holding hands on board. The crew will decide the best course of action.”The original message the customer service agent was responding to wasn’t shared, but the alleged KLM response in the screen shot begins by addressing a query about the airline’s breastfeeding policy.“The Twitter post is simply a reminder to mothers breastfeeding on board that they may be told by the cabin staff to cover up in case somebody a passenger for example, tell the cabin crew they are uncomfortable on what they are seeing,” it says.It continues: “Same as with the same-sex relationship that you gave as an example, if needed be the cabin crew can approach the said party and base on the response they were given, then they would act and respond accordingly.> Gay brothers and sisters, @KLM will approach you and let you know someone has complained about you holding hands on board. The crew will decide the best course of action. Cc: @stonewalluk pic.twitter.com/t8dJTBwcsy> > — Erin ‘Normalise It’ Resists (@ErinClaireSF) > > July 18, 2019“This type of concern is on a case to case basis, and should be dealt with based upon the response of the said parties.”The email appears to have been sent from KLM UK Reservations, and is signed off simply “Aaron”.Social media users were shocked by the email, with one Twitter user commenting: “This is just support for homophobia. When someone says ‘those two guys are holding hands, it offends me’ the only proper response is telling them to f*** off back to the 1950s.”A KLM spokesperson told The Independent: “We’re currently investigating this reply as it does not represent our official point of view at all. We understand this reply is offending and we distance ourselves completely from it.”The airline says it is taking the accusation “very seriously”.It is the third time the beleaguered airline has hit the headlines in recent weeks.A mother expressed her shock at being asked to “cover up” while breastfeeding during a recent KLM flight, while an ill-advised tweet from the airline indicating the seats in which passengers are most likely to die on an aircraft also ruffled feathers on the five-year anniversary of the MH17 crash which killed all 298 passengers and crew.

  • Plane security drag man from his seat in shocking video
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    The Independent

    Plane security drag man from his seat in shocking video

    An airline which authorised dragging a passenger from his seat has defended its actions, saying it was just following European safety regulations.In footage filmed onboard a Tarom flight from Bucharest to Cairo, a man is seen being forcibly removed from his seat by three airport security staff.Passenger Viorica Hagagg, who was onboard flight RO0101, filmed the incident and posted the video on Facebook.She said that the man’s wife, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, was asked to leave the aircraft. She couldn’t speak English or Romanian, and therefore couldn’t understand the emergency procedures.The woman refused to leave the plane and security came to forcibly remove her, plus her husband and child, according to Ms Hagagg. The woman also spat at cabin crew, Ms Hagagg claimed.Shocking video shows her husband being dragged out of his seat while fellow passengers are screaming and crying.A plain-clothed security officer is also seen asking Ms Hagagg to stop filming.In a Facebook response, the Romanian flag carrier Tarom said it regretted the incident, but said it had to respect European regulations and that it couldn’t allow a passenger to “endanger the safety and security of other passengers”.

  • Inside Copenhagen’s experimental new restaurant where dishes are political statements
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    The Independent

    Inside Copenhagen’s experimental new restaurant where dishes are political statements

    A blonde girl with a high ponytail, leaning against part of the scenery, takes out a “passport” like the one my friend and I have just been issued with. Around us, we can hear the sounds of New York, pumped through speakers. Close your eyes and you could be on Broadway, open them and you’re in a graffiti version of NYC, the cartoonish Lady Liberty next to yellow taxis and neon street signs.The girl removes a rectangle of paper from the passport, with a quote printed on it, tears a piece off and eats it, gesturing to us to do the same. The second the lime and kuzu starch creation hits my tongue, what I thought was a wall slides open and we’re welcomed into another room. Tables are arranged in front of a window to a room filled with high-tech lab equipment where food is being prepared.We are in Refshaleøen, a watery, ex-industrial edge of Copenhagen, not far from bright, airy Noma. At the end of a stretch of warehouse buildings that used to serve the city’s shipbuilding industry is the city’s, perhaps the world’s, most groundbreaking new restaurant: Alchemist. While the food here is, technically speaking, up there with the world’s best in fine-dining, that’s only half of its appeal. Chef Rasmus Munk has created a gallery-like performance art space – sealed from natural light, like a theatre – where the dining experience is turned completely on its head in the space of around 50 very tiny but beautifully put-together courses. Food becomes a vehicle for making political statements and Munk pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in the kitchen.It gives molecular gastronomy a philosophical reboot for a generation that’s conscious of issues like overconsumption. Case in point: a waiter places two bowls, a pre-dinner snack, in front of us, and says, “this is greed”. Spoonfuls of it dissolve, hints of apple pine and citrus verbena lingering for an infuriatingly fleeting second on the tongue, but really it’s as if we’re barely eating anything at all.Munk, who closed his original 15-seat Alchemist two years ago to make way for this bigger, grander-scale venture, says: “The main idea and ambition for the restaurant is to create a space where you could put the culinary world into a new language and use it as a tool to communicate. It should first be a playground where we could talk about things that we think are important. It needed to be more than just a great meal.”The long list of issues Munk wants to tackle includes immigration – the New York room is designed by Japanese-born Brooklyn-based street artist Lady Aiko – food waste, plastic in the oceans, and how we treat the animals we eat.The main dining room – act three – is a dreamy planetarium-like space with silhouettes of trees on a starry sky projected above and around you. Later, streaks of aurora borealis appear, and eventually the whole thing transforms into an underwater scene of jellyfish floating alongside plastic bags. This is where we eat most of the courses, or ‘impressions’ (among the many experts hired to finesse the experience, Munk says he asked a food philosopher to choose exactly the right words to describe it).Plastic Fantastic is an exquisite morsel of cod jaw, topped with edible plastic made from the cod’s skin, which sticks to your lips as you eat, to highlight plastic getting into the oceans and our food supply. It’s served on a glossy plate made from plastic waste collected from Denmark’s western beaches. Blood Diamond is a small bowl of cold red liquid, containing red tomato, kombucha and tabasco, poured from vials onto diamond-shaped ice cubes. Food for Thought, served inside a waxwork head, is made with organic, ethically produced (not force-fed) foie gras. Offal features heavily, from lamb’s brain to beef tendon, but vegetarian and vegan versions of all the same dishes are also available. In a very New Nordic way, flavours sometimes jar with each other.A lighter (in every sense of the word) dish is a frozen snowball made from fermented tomatoes but perfectly white, which we eat with thick ski gloves. A hibiscus flower is made from kombucha scoby, and a solid, crisp version of a French onion soup plays with a classic culinary format. Dishes can be surreal, too: a strawberry and edible flower dish Munk made to celebrate his friend surviving tongue cancer has to be eaten, or ‘kissed’, off a rubber tongue, while a goat’s milk and dulche de leche dessert is sucked through a rubber udder.Next up is a dark corridor twinkling with rainbow LEDs, meant to symbolise a sense of isolation associated with coming out. Here a dancer wearing the same LEDs hands us a popsicle shaped like a seahorse, chosen as an LGBT+ representative here since it’s one of many animals that engage in same sex relationships. By the time we emerge and finish our final desserts over a cocktail, six hours have passed. Apparently some “hardcore foodies” set the record at just over three hours, but I’d advise taking tactical breaks – it’s intense. In one evening I’ve questioned my meat consumption, and felt what it might be like to ingest plastic. I’ve eaten some technically brilliant food, at peak quality, and with flawless service, yet it’s made me flinch, laugh and consider some of the biggest issues we face in society, right down to our place in the world as humans. And in that way, Alchemist is perfectly anarchic. Travel essentials Getting thereBritish Airways, Ryanair, easyJet, Norwegian and SAS fly to Copenhagen from £20 return. Staying thereMicro-hotel Citizen M offers centrally located, easy luxury with compact-yet-comfortable rooms – that still manage to fit huge beds. Guests have access to buzzy shared spaces with bold art and ultra-fast automated check-in and check-out, as well as weekly yoga and running sessions. Rooms from £85. Visiting thereSee visitdenmark.com for more information.

  • Crossrail delays: MPs berate top executives for ‘staggering’ over-optimism and soaring costs
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    The Independent

    Crossrail delays: MPs berate top executives for ‘staggering’ over-optimism and soaring costs

    MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have lambasted the former top executives at Crossrail for their “staggering” over-optimism about when the troubled project would be completed.The Elizabeth Line, as it will be known once services begin, will link Reading and Heathrow airport, west of the capital, with Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in southeast London.Trains are planned to run every 2.5 minutes each way through a central core between Paddington and Whitechapel, with intermediate stops at Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and Liverpool Street.It is intended to boost rail capacity in the capital by 10 per cent, cut journey times and relieve congestion on the existing infrastructure – particularly the Central Line of the London Underground. The line will also boost revenue for Transport for London (TfL).The body responsible for delivering it is Crossrail Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL.But the project is running about two years late. Tottenham Court Road is the most of advanced of the 10 new stations, but will not be completed until August or September 2019, while Bond Street may not be finished before spring 2021.The latest Public Accounts Committee report is scathing about the management of the project, saying: “Given the scale and complexity of the remaining work, it is staggering that Crossrail Ltd continued to believe until as late as July 2018 that the central section of the railway would open in December 2018.“This over-optimism which was prevalent throughout has proved hugely damaging to the programme. “Given the amount of work still to be done, it is clear that Crossrail Ltd did not have a full appreciation of the scale and complexity of the outstanding work until recently, particularly the work to bring together all the infrastructure and systems required for the railway to begin operations.“Commuters have been let down by a programme that is well behind schedule and has seen costs escalate far beyond what was originally planned.”The current budget is £17.6bn, 19 per cent more than originally estimated, with no certainty about the final bill.The committee points out that Crossrail Ltd continued to pay its executives bonuses, even as the programme was going off track. The former chief executive, Andrew Wolstenholme, was paid a bonus of £481,000 for performance in 2015-16 and £160,000 for 2016-17.Mr Wolstenholme has been replaced as chief executive by Mark Wild, while the former chair, Sir Terry Morgan, has been replaced by Tony Meggs.Crossrail Ltd said: “Following a detailed audit of the programme, including what went wrong in the past, the new team has produced a robust and realistic plan to put Europe’s most ambitious and complex infrastructure project back on track.“As many risks and uncertainties remain in the development and testing of the train and signalling systems, Crossrail Ltd has identified a six-month delivery window with a midpoint at the end of 2020. Crossrail will be making every effort to deliver the service as early as possible.“The central section of the Elizabeth line will open between Paddington and Abbey Wood and link the West End, the City of London, Canary Wharf and southeast London with initially 12 trains per hour during the peak.“It is expected that all stations on the route will open except for Bond Street which is delayed because of design and delivery challenges.”The PAC also takes the Department for Transport (DfT) to task, saying: “We have witnessed cost increases and delays on major rail projects several times over the past few years and the department still does not appear to have got a grip on the problem.“Until the department properly embeds the lessons learned from the programme, we remain sceptical about its ability to oversee major rail projects.”A DfT spokesperson said: “The department consistently challenged the leadership of Crossrail Ltd on the delivery of the project.“When problems became clear the Department acted swiftly and effectively, changing the leadership of the board and strengthening governance structures. “The new Crossrail Ltd management team has now produced a new plan to open the railway, and the Department and TfL will continue to scrutinise progress to ensure this happens as soon as possible.”

  • Dubai tourists can now buy alcohol from shops
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    The Independent

    Dubai tourists can now buy alcohol from shops

    Tourists in Dubai are able to buy alcohol from shops for the first time, thanks to new measures introduced to make the city more visitor-friendly.Holidaymakers could previously only purchase and consume drinks at licensed venues like hotels and restaurants.It’s now possible for non-Muslim visitors over the age of 21 to buy alcohol from any Mercantile and Marketing International (MMI) or African and Eastern liquor store in the city.Visitors will need a licence to purchase alcohol from these shops, but it’s free of charge and can be obtained by applying on arrival in Dubai at any participating store.The process requires tourists to supply their passport, fill out a short form and sign an official declaration stating that they are not a UAE resident and agreeing to abide by the UAE’s rules on alcohol purchase and consumption.The shop takes copies of the applicant’s passport and entry stamp, plus provides them with guidelines on responsible drinking in Dubai.The license is valid for 30 days and can be renewed if tourists choose to extend their stay.Although this represents a relaxation of the rules on buying booze, the United Arab Emirates still has strict laws when it comes to alcohol consumption.The Foreign Office advice states: “You should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. “British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.”It adds: “Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.”The British consulate issued a warning on its Facebook page last year, stating that British travellers are at risk of arrest if they are found with alcohol in their blood when transiting through the United Arab Emirates. It followed the case of Dr Ellie Holman, who was detained in Dubai with her daughter in August 2018 for allegedly drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London.After landing in the UAE, the 44-year-old says she was questioned about her visa and asked if she had consumed alcohol, before being taken into custody. She was released a month later.

  • London Underground to get 4G mobile phone internet from March 2020, TfL announces
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    The Independent

    London Underground to get 4G mobile phone internet from March 2020, TfL announces

    Tube passengers will be able to use their phones to make calls and access internet across the entire London Underground network by the mid-2020s, it has been announced.Transport for London (TfL) said mobile connectivity with 4G signal would first come to the eastern half of the Jubilee line on platforms and in tunnels from March next year.The trial section, which will cover stations between Westminster and Canning Town, means commuters will be able to check travel information, use social media, stream music and video, and read emails uninterrupted during their journey.Ticket halls and corridors will also be covered within stations, with the exception of London Bridge and Waterloo stations, which are expected to be added later in 2020.Free wifi network is already available at 260 Tube stations and on TfL rail services , but not in tunnels.Mark Bulle, TfL’s head of infrastructure transformation, told The Guardian that the service should be fast enough to allow uninterrupted video streaming, meaning passengers could watch live sports while underground.The Underground has long been one of the few major public places in the UK without phone reception, in contrast with subway systems around the world where mobile phone coverage is common.As the world’s oldest subway network, the Underground is not well-suited to providing phone signal in its tunnels.Many of its lines are built in narrow tunnels, which have little space to install mobile connectivity equipment, while twists on the lines also make it difficult for signals to pass through them. “The London Underground network is an incredibly challenging environment in which to deliver technological improvements, but we are now well on the path to delivering mobile connectivity within our stations and tunnels,” Shashi Verma, chief technology officer at TfL, said.Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said the announcement was an “important step for the millions of people who use the Tube each year”.The upgraded network is expected to require 2,000km of cabling, with engineers working week-night shifts to minimise disruption for passengers.TfL will cover the cost for the initial trial on the Jubilee line, according to the Guardian, before awarding a contract to a private operator to install 4G equipment within all tunnels by the mid-2020s.

  • Thomas Cook, Tui and First Choice named worst package holiday providers in Which? survey
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    The Independent

    Thomas Cook, Tui and First Choice named worst package holiday providers in Which? survey

    Thomas Cook and Tui, two of the UK’s biggest tour operators, have been ranked the worst package holiday providers in a new survey. The Which? Travel report asked more than 4,000 consumers to score 11 of the country’s leading providers on a range of criteria: average price per day, customer service, accommodation, description matching reality, organisation of holiday and value for money.Thomas Cook, the UK’s third biggest tour operator, placed last, with a quarter of the 289 respondents who had holidayed with the company saying they had experienced a problem during their trip.Issues often related to holiday reps, with holidaymakers complaining that they were unhelpful or impossible to track down.“We never saw a rep the whole time we were there,” reported one customer. “All there was, was a number on a noticeboard.”The holiday company received a customer score of 69 per cent and three-star ratings for accommodation, customer service and value for money, while holiday reps received just two stars.A Thomas Cook spokeswoman told The Independent: “Many millions of loyal customers come back to Thomas Cook year after year. It seems they are not represented by the sample of fewer than 300 of our customers which was used for this Which? report.“We take the views of our customers very seriously. Our own customer satisfaction scores – which incorporate the feedback of tens of thousands of customers – are significantly higher than those reported by Which? and this year, satisfaction is up in all areas, including our rep service and quality of hotels.“This weekend is set to be the busiest for travel as the schools break up and our 600-strong team of reps in destinations across the world are ready to make sure all our customers have an incredible holiday.”Tui, the country’s biggest tour operator, and Tui-owned First Choice placed 10th and ninth respectively, despite being package holiday specialists.Although they received slightly higher ratings of three and four stars across the board, some Tui customers complained about poor customer service, unprofessional holiday reps and disappointing accommodation facilities.“We are disappointed in the results as our customers are at the heart of everything we do,” a Tui UK spokesperson told The Independent. “We offer great flexibility, a wide choice of destinations and holiday types and will continue to do all we can to ensure our customers have the very best experiences when they are on holiday with us. We recognise the importance of great customer service and must do even more in the future.” At the other end of the spectrum, Trailfinders claimed the top spot, with an overall score of 91 per cent and five-star ratings for customer service and holiday organisation.One Trailfinders customer said “Everything ran smoothly. I was able to personalise my holiday to my taste, and the hotel was stunning.”The company specialises in tailor-made trips all over the world.Jet2 Holidays, the UK’s second biggest tour operator, also performed well, garnering a score of 87 per cent and four-star ratings across the board. Holidaymakers were impressed with the company’s customer service and luggage allowance, which offers a free 22kg bag for every passenger.“Jet2 is well-managed and consistently excellent on all fronts,” said one happy customer. “Take note Thomas Cook, Tui and others.”

  • Pilots blamed and botched rescue exposed in Chuuk plane crash
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    The Independent

    Pilots blamed and botched rescue exposed in Chuuk plane crash

    The pilots of a Boeing 737 that crashed on the Micronesian island of Chuuk have been blamed for a crash that cost the life of one passenger.On 28 September 2018, the Air Niugini aircraft crashed in a lagoon as it tried to land for an intermediate stop on its journey from Pohnpei to Port Moresby.The flight had 35 passengers and 12 crew onboard. Initially it was believed that all the passengers and crew aboard had survived. But when a second search of the half-submerged cabin was carried out three days later by Japanese divers, a body was discovered.The report by the Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission says that the plane landed 1,500 feet short of the runway threshold.The captain and first officer ignored a total of 17 audible warnings that they were flying too low. The report says: “The crew seemed to have disregarded and talked over all the caution annunciations. The crew had experienced those type of cautions on previous flights and perceived them as nuisance alerts with no resultant consequence.”On their previous flight the day before, the two men had done exactly the same: “The flight crew did not take corrective action to bring the aircraft back onto the required flightpath.“The flight crew disregarded and continuously talked over the aural alerts.”As the plane approached Chuuk on the day of the crash, “Both pilots were not situationally aware and did not recognise the developing significant unsafe condition during the approach”.The 52-year-old captain was from Papua New Guinea and had 20,000 hours of experience. He was at the controls and, according to the report, prepared for the landing at an “excessively high rate of descent and the aircraft increasingly being flown below the glideslope in an unstabilised manner”.The Australian first officer, 35, failed to take control from the captain when it became apparent the plane was in danger. The co-pilot’s final words before impact were: “Too low! We’re too low! We’re too low! We’re too low!”An engineer was also on the flight deck, and filmed the whole descent on his phone.The passenger who perished, Eko Cahyanto Singgih, was not wearing his seat belt – “which allowed his body to become a projectile sustaining traumatic head and facial injuries,” the report concludes.Immediately after the crash, there was confusion over what to do: “The cabin crew stated during their interviews that during the evacuation they shouted the word ‘evacuate’, but it appeared that some of the passengers did not understand what it meant."They then shouted the phrase ‘get out’ repeatedly which the passengers seemed to understand and followed.”Several passengers took their cabin baggage with them, against instructions, and one member of cabin crew retrieved her handbag before exiting the aircraft. A loadmaster employed by Air Niugini who was travelling on the flight “carried a backpack, a clipboard and shoes off the aircraft”.Astonishingly, the US Navy divers who were helping with the rescue allowed a passenger to re-enter the aircraft and move forward to retrieve his shoes.Some cabin crew acted with conspicuous courage to rescue passengers. One found a seriously injured passenger under water in the aisle and lifted him above water level, and with the assistance of another member of cabin crew hauled him to the over-wing exit. Another passenger was found still strapped in his seat, and was dragged to the same exit.The report also says the Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Safety Authority “did not meet the high standard of evidence-based assessment required for safety assurance, resulting in numerous deficiencies and errors”.“Unless safety action is taken to address the identified safety deficiencies, death or injury might result in a future accident,” the report concludes.The Foreign Office travel advice for Papua New Guinea says: “Since 2000 over 20 aircraft accidents have happened in Papua New Guinea."The worst recent crash was on 13 April 2016 when a Sunbird Aviation PNG Britten-Norman Islander aircraft crashed at Kinuga Airport, killing all 12 people onboard.”The plane involved in the Chuuk accident, registration P2-PXE, was involved in a ground collision at Jacksons International Airport in 2017. It was owned by Icelandair.

  • ‘Frantic Friday’: More than 5.3 million leisure car journeys to be made today as summer holidays begin
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    The Independent

    ‘Frantic Friday’: More than 5.3 million leisure car journeys to be made today as summer holidays begin

    More than 5.3 million leisure car journeys will be made today as families get away for summer on what has been dubbed “Frantic Friday”.Drivers will take 13.4 million trips this weekend, the highest number in five years and 4 million more than last year, according to a study by the RAC and Inrix.With summer getaways added to normal traffic, today could be the worst day for congestion, added the RAC.Wet weather will only add to the poor driving conditions, especially in the South West, according to Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Mark Sidaway.The roads will continue to be congested over the weekend, as 5 million leisure trips are planned tomorrow, followed by 3.4 million on Sunday.Specialist data from Inrix shows the M1 and the M25 will be the most congested, with jams of up to 90 and 60 minutes respectively.During the weekend, the M40, M5 and M6 will see more congestion.“Traffic jams are pretty much guaranteed from the end of this weekend and while it’s possible to predict where some of these will be, every summer we see extra delays caused by broken-down vehicles blocking lanes, leaving drivers faced with hours of frustration,” said RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous.“With record numbers of travellers hitting the road for the start of summer, drivers must be prepared for delays on popular routes,” added INRIX transportation analyst Trevor Reed.“Although travel times are expected to increase throughout the weekend, Friday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road as commuters mix with holiday travellers.”Meanwhile, eight miles of the M5 has been closed northbound in Somerset following a fuel spill. Highways England confirmed that the stretch between junctions 26 and 24 had been closed.Today is also the busiest day for some UK airports, with a record number of travellers expected to fly off for summer this weekend.

  • Ryanair strike: The flights that could be affected by pilot walkouts this summer
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    The Independent

    Ryanair strike: The flights that could be affected by pilot walkouts this summer

    As Ryanair pilots employed in the UK prepare to ballot on industrial action, The Independent has assessed the possible impact of any strike.Flight crew who work for Europe’s biggest budget airline and belong to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) are to be balloted in a dispute over issues including pensions, allowances and maternity benefits.The union’s general secretary, Brian Strutton said: “We have not been able to come to an agreement with the company in relation to any one of our concerns.“Indeed, the company has not tabled any offers whatsoever.”Pilots will be sent voting forms on 24 July, and the results of the ballot are due to be announced on 7 August.Industrial law requires two weeks’ notice of any strike, so the earliest it could begin is 21 August – just ahead of the August bank holiday weekend in England and Wales.Last August, 450 Ryanair flights were cancelled as pilots in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Sweden are staging coordinated 24-hour strikes. Around 75,000 passengers were affected.The Civil Aviation Authority urged travellers whose flights were cancelled to claim compensation of €250 or more under European air passengers’ rights rules.Ryanair has told The Independent it expects fly an average of 156,000 passengers a day to or from UK airports during the summer.Stansted is by far the airline’s biggest base, with more than 200 Ryanair departures per day – carrying 36,000 passengers.The leading route is from Stansted to Dublin, though some of the flights are operated by pilots employed in Ireland. Flights from many other UK airports could be affected, including Belfast International, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Prestwick and Southend.But the key route between Gatwick and Dublin will not be affected by any strike, as it is crewed from Ireland.Pilots working for British Airways and belonging to Balpa are currently being balloted on industrial action, with the result expected on 22 July. The first possible date for a strike is 5 August.Separately, 4,000 workers at Heathrow airport, including security guards, are set to strike on 26 and 27 July and on a series of dates in August.Around 100 security staff at Gatwick are being balloted on strike action.

  • Cardiff airport slammed as ‘vanity project’ wasting millions of taxpayers' money
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    The Independent

    Cardiff airport slammed as ‘vanity project’ wasting millions of taxpayers' money

    The Welsh government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on Cardiff airport.Darren Millar, a Tory assembly member, told BBC Wales the airport is “over-priced and clearly under-performing”.“It almost looks like a vanity project,” he said.Cardiff airport was bought by the Welsh government in 2013 for £52m.Since then passenger numbers have increased by 60 per cent.But for the financial year 2017-18, the airport’s pre-tax loss was £6.63m – representing over £4 for each of the 1.58 million passengers using the airport. A spokesperson for the economy minister, Ken Skates, told the BBC: “We now have an attractive national airport that is amongst the fastest growing in Europe, with passenger numbers having grown considerably and consistently since we took control in 2013.”Revealing 10 per cent passenger growth between April and May 2019, the chief executive of Cardiff airport, Deb Bowen Rees, said this week: “It’s great to look back over our quarterly results and to see steady passenger growth, during what is a challenging time for the aviation industry, and to continue to work towards our long-term vision to deliver a sustainable airport business for Wales.“Our airline partners have added new routes and continue to add more capacity where there is growing demand.”A Qatar Airways link from Doha to Cardiff opened in 2018, with financial support being paid to the airline.Cardiff is the 20th largest airport in the UK by passenger numbers, with Southend rapidly catching up. It is one-sixth the size of Bristol and one-eighth as big as Birmingham.Cardiff and Bristol take a lot of passengers from South Wales; Bristol airport claims it handles more Welsh people than Cardiff.

  • Boeing to pay airlines $5bn for 737 Max grounding
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    The Independent

    Boeing to pay airlines $5bn for 737 Max grounding

    Payouts to airlines because of the Boeing 737 Max grounding will cost the planemaker $5bn (£4bn) – resulting in the biggest loss in its history.The Chicago-based firm says the figure represents the “potential concessions and other considerations to customers for disruptions related to the 737 Max grounding and associated delivery delays”.It also warns that the costs of the Boeing 737 Max programme will rise by $1.7bn (£1.36bn) due to a reduction in the production rate.The latest variant of the twin-jet plane was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes killed a total of 346 people.In both the Lion Air accident in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019, an anti-stall system known as MCAS was blamed.In response to a faulty instrument, the software tilted the aircraft nose down despite the efforts of the pilots to save the plane.The manufacturer said: “Boeing continues to work with civil aviation authorities to ensure the 737 Max’s safe return to service, and these authorities will determine the timing of return to service.”At present 737s are being produced at a rate of 42 per month. Boeing’s figures assume that the production rate will rise to 57 per month in 2020, and that all the aircraft produced during the grounding will be delivered within “several quarters” following the plane’s return to service.“Any changes to these assumptions could result in additional financial impact,” says Boeing.Dennis Muilenburg, the planemaker’s chairman, president and chief executive, says: “The Max grounding presents significant headwinds and the financial impact recognised this quarter reflects the current challenges and helps to address future financial risks.”The impact will be revealed in full when Boeing publishes its second-quarter financial results on 24 July.Earlier this week Ryanair said it will reduce its rate of growth because of the non-delivery of dozens of Boeing 737 Max aircraft that it was expecting to fly this summer, through next winter and into summer 2020.Europe’s biggest budget airline has 210 Max aircraft on order. It has a unique, high-capacity configuration, the Max 200, which this week appeared to be re-named the 8200.British Airways’ parent company, IAG, has signed a letter of intent – a non-binding order – for 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft for delivery from 2023.

  • Gatwick called ‘neighbour from hell’ as it confirms plan to use emergency runway for routine flights
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    The Independent

    Gatwick called ‘neighbour from hell’ as it confirms plan to use emergency runway for routine flights

    Gatwick Airport has been accused of planning "a second runway by stealth" after it announced it was pressing ahead with proposals to use its emergency runway for routine flights. Calling it "the neighbour from hell", local campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions said the plan "flies in the face of the Government’s pledge for 'net zero' CO2 emissions by 2050."The UK's second busiest airport announced it will prepare a planning application seeking permission to bring the airstrip into full passenger use, while insisting the measure aligns with the Government's policy of "making best use of existing runways".If the plan is approved it would enable it to accommodate an extra 109,000 flights every year. The West Sussex airport first suggested it could use the emergency runway to increase its capacity last October. A final version of its "master plan" published provided more details of the proposal.The emergency runway could be operational by the mid-2020s and would be used for departures only.Operating as a two-runway airport would enable Gatwick to accommodate up to 109,000 extra flights a year. If the plans are approved, the airport would aim to be serving around 70 million passengers, almost doubling the amount it currently caters for. Gatwick lost out to Heathrow in a bid to obtain Government approval to build an additional runway, amid a need for more airport capacity in the southeast.The centre lines of Gatwick's main and emergency runways are separated by 198 metres. If the plans was improved the emergency runway would be widened by 12 metres to comply with safety regulations.Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said a 12-week public consultation shows there is "strong support for Gatwick and the local area's ambitions".He added: "The plans would deliver additional capacity for Gatwick, which will provide choices for the future - including incrementally growing our airport to meet demand and continuing to provide solid operational performance for passengers and airlines. Gatwick's global connections are needed more than ever but as we take our plans forward, we must do so in the most sustainable and responsible way, and in full partnership with our local councils, communities, passengers and partners."But a spokeswoman for Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions criticised the proposal. “This clearly illustrates Gatwick’s greed comes before everything and must now be seen as the neighbour from hell for all the communities of Sussex that already find aircraft noise unbearable," she told The Argus. “It is totally disingenuous to the residents of Crawley to continue to safeguard land for a third runway when housing demand is high.”In order to gain planning permission to routinely use the stand-by runway, Gatwick must follow the Development Consent Order process that culminates in a final decision by the transport secretary.

  • Airline apologises for charging mother $75 to sit with her toddler
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    The Independent

    Airline apologises for charging mother $75 to sit with her toddler

    An airline has apologised after trying to charge a mother $75 to sit with her young child.The passenger, identified only as Aliss, had booked seats for herself and her toddler next to each other on a flight from Providence, Rhode Island, to San Diego via Minneapolis.She bought the tickets for US domestic carrier Sun Country Airlines using a third party booking site.However, once at the airport, Aliss realised she wasn’t seated next to her son.“I would have never booked a flight where we couldn’t sit together,” she told San Diego TV station KGTV.A representative of the airline at the airport told Aliss she could pay $75 to change seats so that she and her son would be seated together.The woman asked for further options as she couldn’t afford to pay the extra money, and was informed that for $22 she could be assigned a place one seat in front of her toddler – but still in a separate row. “I said that doesn’t help my problem,” said the woman. “He’s still not sitting next to me.”Aliss also claimed the airline charged her the extra fee despite her asking them not to.Once onboard, another woman on the flight agreed to swap seats so that Aliss could sit with her child.To make matters worse, the flight’s departure ended up being delayed by three hours.“This was not the level of service we aim to provide, as it is our policy that children always be seated with an adult on the itinerary at no cost,” Sun Country Airlines told USA Today. “We have followed up with our airport staff to ensure our policy is being carried out correctly.”They added: “We have issued a full refund to the passenger for the fees incurred at the counter related to the seat assignment. “We were also able to ensure two seats were assigned next to one another on her return flight. Our team has resent the $200 vouchers from the flight delay to the email we have on file, and we are adding an additional $100 voucher for the inconvenience.”According to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the seating of children close by their parents or guardians should be the aim of airline seat allocation procedures for family groups.“Young children and infants who are accompanied by adults should ideally be seated in the same seat row as the adult,” the CAA says on its website. “Where this is not possible, children should be separated by no more than one seat row from accompanying adults. “This is because the speed of an emergency evacuation may be affected by adults trying to reach their children.”

  • London to Scotland rail passengers face disruption as great summer getaway begins
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    The Independent

    London to Scotland rail passengers face disruption as great summer getaway begins

    As the peak summer season begins, travellers between London and Glasgow face extended journeys and disruption. A 16-day engineering project starts on Saturday 20 July, closing the West Coast main line between Crewe and Warrington.The Network Rail upgrade project at Acton Grange junction is designed to make it more reliable. But the work will disrupt Virgin Trains’ Anglo-Scottish services between Saturday 20 July and Sunday 4 August.Through trains between London Euston and Glasgow Central will still run, but they will be diverted via Manchester. The usual journey time of under four-and-a-half hours will be extended by around an hour.In addition, rail replacement buses will run nonstop between Crewe and Preston.Virgin Trains services to Blackpool will be cancelled throughout the project.Links from Chester to Manchester will also be disrupted. Caledonian Sleeper services will be diverted via Manchester.Virgin Trains is expecting a very busy day on Friday 19 July, partly as a result of the planned work, and another peak on Monday 5 August when the work ends.Friday 23 August, the day before the bank holiday weekend, will also be extremely busy. Over the August bank holiday itself, work at Milton Keynes will disrupt the West Coast main line, while the East Coast main line hub of London King’s Cross will be closed.The East Coast main line operator LNER says it expects the busiest summer days on its key routes from London King’s Cross to Leeds and Edinburgh to be Friday 26 July, as well as Thursday 22 and Friday 23 August.On the Great Western line from London Paddington to South Wales, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall, the peak days will also be around the bank holiday.A GWR spokesperson said: “Unlike Christmas and Easter, we tend to see demand spread across a much wider period during the summer; with a pick in numbers travelling at the end of the summer holidays, and spikes tying in with key events.“For example the August bank holiday weekend, with the Monday return being the busiest, sees bank holiday travellers alongside those going to and coming home from the Reading Festival.”GWR now has all its new IET trains, with an extra 100 seats compared with the old High Speed Trains.“The fleet change allowed us to provide almost 40 per cent more seats to the Glastonbury Festival this year than previously; we carried 27,000 home over the Sunday and Monday,” said the GWR spokesperson.Eurostar forecasts that Friday 19 July will be its peak day for departures from London St Pancras, with over 21,000 passengers heading for Paris and Brussels.The busiest inbound days are all in August: 1, 2, 26 and 27.Overall, Eurostar expects Monday 29 July and Friday 23 August to be busiest, with around 39,000 passengers.

  • What is Ebola and what is the risk to travellers?
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    The Independent

    What is Ebola and what is the risk to travellers?

    As the World Health Organization (WHO) declares Africa’s latest Ebola outbreak to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC), this is the essential information about the virus and its consequences for travellers. What is the context?In the last Ebola outbreak, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between December 2013 and June 2016, 11,325 people died and 17,000 more fell seriously ill. Almost a year ago, the government of Democratic Congo (DRC) confirmed an outbreak in North Kivu province. As of 16 July, more than 1,600 people have died of the disease in the DRC.On 11 June 2019 the WHO confirmed an outbreak of Ebola across the Rwandan frontier in Kasese District.Now, a confirmed case of Ebola has been reported in the city of Goma on the border with Rwanda. It is home to more than one million people.In response, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the Ebola outbreak to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.But the UN body has warned against travel restrictions being imposed, saying they “would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region”. What is Ebola?A severe viral haemorrhagic illness. It is transmitted initially from wild animals – notably fruit bats – to people.Ebola first appeared in 1976 in simultaneous outbreaks: one in what is now South Sudan, and the other in a village near the Ebola River in DRC, from which the disease takes its name.Symptoms include some or all of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. As Ebola takes hold, it leads to vomiting and diarrhoea, with impaired kidney and liver function, as well as internal and external bleeding.The incubation period from infection to onset of symptoms is between two days and three weeks. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms. There is no treatment other than rehydration, but in the 2013-2016 outbreak 60 per cent of victims survived. How does Ebola spread?Through human-to-human transmission via direct contact through mucous membranes or broken skin with bodily fluids of a person who is ill with, or has died from, Ebola. NGOs say that, within the human population, contagion generally takes place through close personal contact such as hugging or kissing – often after the victim has died.The WHO says: “Burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of the deceased can also contribute in the transmission of Ebola.”The former baseball player and humanitarian, Dikembe Mutombo, has issued advice for his fellow Congolese, saying: “Keep away from fluids of people who are sick with Ebola or who have died from it.“Allow safe and dignified burials for family members who have died. Do not touch, kiss, clean, wash, or wrap the body.”Ebola can also be spread by objects contaminated by infected body fluids, such as medical equipment – “particularly in health care settings that do not have, or do not adhere, to strict appropriate infection control procedures”, says the NHS. Is there a vaccine?The WHO says: “A range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.” Initial results appear positive, especially for the vaccine known as rVSV-ZEBOV-GP. Research in April showed it is over 95 per cent effective.But the world is a long way from having an Ebola vaccine widely available for prospective travellers. How big is the risk to travellers?“Extremely low.” That is the advice from the NHS travel health organisation Fitfortravel. The last epidemic sparked baseless fears among many travellers. When two missionaries died in Madrid after contracting Ebola in West Africa, some prospective visitors to Spain cancelled their plans.The NHS adds, though: “Travellers returning from tropical countries should always seek rapid medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, diarrhoea or general malaise) within three weeks after return, and be reminded to mention to their health care provider that they have recently travelled.” I want to cancel my trip. What are my rights?Were the Foreign Office were to warn against all but essential travel to your intended destination in Africa, then you could claim a full refund. But at present the extremely low risk to British travellers makes such a move unlikely.Airlines and tour operators aim to transport you safely and provide the good holiday experience you have booked. As a result, their refrain is “normal conditions apply”. You won’t be able to cancel, postpone or re-route your trip without losing some or all of your cash.The Foreign Office warns against travel to Goma, but that is because of fears of violence, not Ebola.Travel insurance is unlikely to offer any recompense as long as there is no official warning against travel specifically involving Ebola.

  • Train given rainbow makeover for Brighton Pride
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    The Independent

    Train given rainbow makeover for Brighton Pride

    A train has been given a special rainbow livery in celebration of Brighton and Hove Pride.Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has unveiled the makeover of a 12-carriage train that will form part of its fleet running to and from the city on the south coast from 2 to 4 August.The “trainbow”, as it’s been dubbed, was designed by GTR apprentice Maggie Luckhurst and celebrates the company’s LGBT+ community.“This was a really special project to work on for me,” said Luckhurst. “Whether you’re a member of the LGBT+ community or not, I hope that the train brings joy to everyone who sees it and that it also raises awareness of LGBT+ issues.”The rainbow design will also be used on GTR’s first ever float in the Pride parade, which will carry members of the company’s LGBT+ network, accompanied by the motto: “Our people bring out our best colours." “We are absolutely delighted to see the train out in passenger service,” said GTR’s train services director Stuart Meek, who also chairs the company’s LGBT+ network.“This symbol of support shows how everyone is welcome on our services and celebrates our LGBT+ colleagues.”The operator, which runs Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services out of Brighton, will also be offering an enhanced service during Pride weekend. Extra trains will be running late into the night on Saturday 3 August to transport revellers home following the Pride in the Park concert, this year headlined by Kylie.Pride organisers and partners have worked closely with GTR to create a queueing system to direct passengers leaving the event into the appropriate queue for their train before they get to Brighton station.The company has been planning for the event since January, working closely with the Brighton and Hove Pride organisers, Sussex Police, Brighton and Hove City Council and other local partners.“We are really proud to play our part in making sure travellers can get to and from this year’s Pride, which promises to be another dazzling celebration of inclusivity,” said Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern and Gatwick Express.She added that, although extra services are being provided, passengers are advised to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get home due to the popularity of the event. Other Pride events over the weekend include the Community Parade, which this year celebrates the theme: “Generations of Love – Celebrating 50 years of campaigning with Pride”.

  • The best boutique hotels in Rome
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    The Independent

    The best boutique hotels in Rome

    With its abundance of classical treasures, historic churches and Michelangelo masterpieces, not to mention the designer stores, manic traffic and men dressed as gladiators, Rome isn’t the most relaxing city to visit. With so much to see, it can be easy to fall victim to sightseeing fatigue.This is where boutique hotels come into their own: chic retreats that are small enough to offer a personal service but with the comforts of a much larger hotel. They provide serene spaces where you can unwind and often take advantage of a spa treatment, before returning to the fray. Thankfully, Rome is teeming with such establishments, ranging from restored palaces offering five-star luxury, to friendly, family-run establishments.Here are the best. Best for a Sicilian spa experience: Hotel de la Ville Neighbourhood: Piazza di SpagnaSet in an 18th-century palazzo perched at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Hotel de la Ville has reopened following a major revamp. It’s larger than most boutique hotels, but has both individuality and style – think strong colours, rich fabrics and bold designs in the bedrooms. The superb spa uses organic skincare products from Sicily and offers everything from Kneipp foot baths and a salt inhalation room, to a hydropool and 24-hour gym with Technogym equipment.From €665 (£600) per room including breakfast roccofortehotels.com Best for cosy charm: Boutique Hotel Campo de’ Fiori Neighbourhood: Centro StoricoThere’s a real feel of old Rome at this family-run hideaway, just a few paces from the colourful fruit, flower and vegetable market. It’s an oasis of calm with ivy-clad walls and atmospheric bedrooms with features such as coffered ceilings, frescoes and antiques. After a day’s sightseeing, you can head up to the little roof garden, snuggle up in a comfy chair and watch the sun set over the city. From €307 per room including breakfast hotelcampodefiori.com Best for budget stays: Nerva Boutique Hotel Neighbourhood: MontiFor uncluttered urban chic at a reasonable price, the Nerva takes some beating. Situated across the road from the Forum di Nerva, which was the smallest of the imperial fora, it once housed a temple to Minerva. Rooms are modern and comfortable, decorated in muted shades enlivened with pops of colour, sleek pendant lights and contemporary artworks. If you want to luxuriate like an emperor, go for the master suite, which has a marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi.From €156 per room including breakfast hotelnerva.com Best for flash fashion: Fendi Private Suites Neighbourhood: Piazza di Spagna> View this post on Instagram> > fendiapartmentsromekarllagerfeldsroomrihannasleptinthesamebedbeautifulplacedeluxesuite> > A post shared by Veronika Černá (@vercerka) on Dec 8, 2017 at 9:33am PST

  • BA baggage failure: Hundreds of British Airways passengers flown from Heathrow without their luggage as system crashes
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    The Independent

    BA baggage failure: Hundreds of British Airways passengers flown from Heathrow without their luggage as system crashes

    Hundreds of British Airways passengers will arrive at their destination without their luggage after another failure of the baggage system at BA’s main base, Heathrow Terminal 5.The actor Eddie Izzard tweeted: “Luggage belts down at Heathrow Terminal 5. I hope BA can get this moving soon as passengers have been waiting a long time now.”The airline told The Independent: “We apologise to customers and our teams are working hard to minimise disruption after a baggage system issue slowed down customers dropping off their bags this morning.“A small number of flights left without all customers' baggage loaded.“We're in contact with those customers and their bags will be put on the next available flight to get them back to them as soon as possible.”Dan Maby tweeted: “Watching people frantically re-pack bags into hand luggage and being told by British Airways staff to leave their suitcase but they ‘can't guarantee the luggage will arrive at your destination’.”One passenger, who did not want to be named, reported that he queued for over an hour before his flight to New York. He later said: “The guys at Heathrow have hundreds of cases on the Tarmac with security around them and they are loading them by hand onto the plane.“Fingers crossed everybody will get the luggage.”British Airways, which operates almost all the flights in and out of Terminal 5, says that the problem has been fixed, but at least 25 flights left more than half-an-hour late. The delays could cause problems for the schedules in the afternoon and evening, on what is an extremely busy day.

  • Airline apologises for explaining where on a plane you’re most likely to die
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    The Independent

    Airline apologises for explaining where on a plane you’re most likely to die

    KLM has been criticised for a tweet in which it explained where on the plane passengers were least likely to die if the plane crashed.In a now-deleted post, @KLMIndia published information about the likelihood of death based on where passengers were seated. “According to data studies by Time, the fatality rate for the seats in the middle of the plane is the highest," it read.“However, the fatality rate for the seats in the front is marginally lesser and is least for seats at the rear third of a plane." It was followed by the hashtags TuesdayTrivia Aircraft and Facts. An image of a KLM airline seat suspended in clouds accompanied the tweet with the words “Seats at the back of a plane are the safest!” Twitter users were quick to condemn the tweet, which was posted on the fifth anniversary of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014 killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard. The doomed flight also had a KLM flight number – KL4103 – and was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The post was soon replaced with an apology.“We would like to sincerely apologise for a recent update,” it read.“The post was based on a publicly available aviation fact, and isn’t a @KLM opinion. It was never our intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments. The post has since been deleted.” A spokesperson for KLM told The Independent: “The post of our team in India was based on a publicly available aviation fact and isn’t a KLM opinion. KLM apologises for any distress the tweet may have caused. “We will be reviewing our Twitter protocol to better ensure appropriate content. The post has since been deleted.”The blunder came after a KLM spokesperson said that breastfeeding mothers could be asked to "cover up" when feeding their babies during a flight.

  • Summer getaway puts more pressure than ever on Britain’s airports
    Style
    The Independent

    Summer getaway puts more pressure than ever on Britain’s airports

    In the busiest-ever summer for overseas travel, tomorrow Friday 19 July will be the first of several extreme days for Britain’s airport infrastructure with a record number of travellers expected through several of the nation’s airports.The Independent has surveyed a dozen of the UK’s top airports, as well as leading airlines.Both of Scotland's leading airports expect record days on Friday 19 July. At Edinburgh airport, 52,000 passengers are expected to fly in and out. The same number is predicted on two Mondays: 22 July and 12 August.The busiest routes are to and from Dubai, New York and Palma.Glasgow’s busiest day of the year is set to be Friday 19 July, with 33,800 passengers; though Sunday 8 September is expected to top that with 34,100.Friday 19 July is expected to be the busiest at Liverpool John Lennon airport, with an estimated 8,800 departing passengers. The following Friday, as well as Tuesday 13 August, is predicted to be almost as busy.For inbound arrivals, Friday 6 September is likely to have the longest queues at passport control, with 8,900 passengers touching down. That will also be the busiest day in the airport’s history, with an estimated 17,600 travellers in total.Liverpool’s top destinations are both on the island of Ireland, Belfast International and Dublin, with the next three all in Spain: Palma, Malaga and Alicante.Manchester’s busiest day for departures is expected to be Friday 26 July, with 56,653 passengers expected to depart from the UK’s third-biggest airport.For arrivals, 57,825 passengers are predicted on Friday 30 August. The busiest overall day is Friday 23 August, with 112,599 passengers expected to depart and arrive – an average of 1.3 per minute.The top five destinations are Palma, Amsterdam and Dublin.From London Stansted, Monday 29 July will be busiest for outbound travellers, with 49,358 passengers expected.The following Friday, 2 August, will be busiest for arrivals and overall in the summer, with 101,028 passengers expected to depart and arrive. Palma is the top destination, followed by Rome’s Ciampino airport and Faro in Portugal.Across at Luton, Friday 9 August will be busiest for both departures and overall passenger numbers, with a total of 66,000 expected.The two final Fridays in July will see 33,000 departures.Amsterdam, Bucharest, Tel Aviv and Budapest are the top destinations, with Malaga squeezing in at fifth as the leading Spanish choice.At Newcastle, Sunday 21 July will be busiest for departures, with 11,500 passengers leaving. The same number will arrive on Sunday 1 September. The busiest day overall is expected to be Sunday 4 August. Palma, Alicante and Malaga are the top destinations.For Birmingham, Tuesday 23 July is busiest for outbound passengers, with almost 25,000 taking off. The busiest day overall Friday 16 August. The top destinations are Dublin, Palma and Dubai.Nearby East Midlands is expecting its busiest day for arrivals to be much earlier than other airports: Friday 26 July, with 10,906 passengers expected. This is ahead of the busiest day for departures, Monday 29 July with 11,253 passengers expected.Palma once again tops the destination screen, with Alicante and Faro next most popular.For Aberdeen, Tuesday 23 July is predicted to be busiest for inbound services, with 4,800 passengers, while Friday 6 September will be busiest overall at 9,300. The top overseas destinations are out of line with other airports: Amsterdam, Stavanger and Paris.Southampton will be busiest on Monday 22 July, with 6,700 passengers passing through.Belfast International has already had its forecast busiest day of the year, on 31 May, but it is predicting almost as busy a day on 2 September. The busiest domestic routes are to Gatwick, Liverpool and Stansted, and the top three abroad are all to Spain: Alicante, Malaga and Palma.Friday 19 July will be the busiest day ever for easyJet, with 312,000 passengers on 1,970 flights across Europe. More than 100,000 of them will be taking off from UK airports.The airline told The Independent that it will fly a record 9.4 million passengers to and from UK airports this summer between Thursday 18 July and Sunday 8 September. The busiest single day for UK operations for easyJet is expected to be Friday 6 September, with 193,125 passengers flying in and out of British airports. The previous Monday, 2 September, will be almost as busy with 191,883 passengers.The easyJet routes with the highest number of passengers are all to and from Gatwick: to Milan Malpensa, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Malaga and Geneva. Ryanair says it will fly 8.3 million passengers in the same spell – fewer than easyJet because it now has a much smaller UK domestic operation. The peak days in the spell are Saturdays and Mondays, when more than 160,000 passengers a day are predicted.The airline’s busiest routes are all to and from Dublin – from Stansted, Gatwick and Manchester.Thomas Cook says 19-21 July will be the busiest weekend of the year, with 54,000 passengers on 244 outbound flights to 47 destinations.Dalaman and Antalya in Turkey are the most popular locations.Jet2 is planning its busiest-ever summer, with 100 aircraft in operation. Every Saturday from 20 July to 31 August is expected to be busy, with a peak on 24 August.Long-haul, Virgin Atlantic predicts Saturday 20 July to be a peak day, with 9,500 outbound passengers. Inbound, Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September will be busiest, with over 9,600 travellers flying to UK airports.Heathrow-New York JFK is the busiest route, closely followed by Gatwick to Orlando and Manchester to Orlando.Gatwick and Heathrow airports declined to provide the requested information.