Another week in travel, another chance to catch up on what's happened and what's coming up, with Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield
OUR FRENCH CONNECTION
We’ve come up with two more cabins on our trip to France in August. We will join Viking’s Longship Heimal and visit Arles, Avignon, Viviers, Tournon and Lyon. The package is 10 days, from August 7 to 16, starting with two nights in Nice (including a welcome dinner), before we board the ship in Avignon, for seven nights cruising the Rhone river to Lyon.
It’s a compact, one-country trip for those wanting to do something special on two weeks leave from work. It can be extended, for those with more time. And there’s a neat extension, taking the TGV train to Paris and staying there. Others might continue to travel in Europe or head to the UK. It is from $5995 per person, twin share. Phone 0434 704 194 or email email@example.com
We have included COVID insurance in that price — but the queries keep coming on it. I’d start with NIB (nibtravelinsurance.com.au). In NIB’s own words: “Cover for cruising is automatically included in our international policies. If you get sick aboard a cruise, we can offer overseas medical cover on board, including if you contract coronavirus during the trip.”
SERIOUSLY ‘ON HOLD’
On the subject of reader inquiries, I’ve heard a lot from folk stuck on the phone for hours on end to the Qantas call centre, needing to make alterations to flights. And I’m talking HOURS.
The Australian Services Union waded into the issue on Wednesday, saying: “The ongoing Qantas call centre crisis urgently needed a resolution with customer wait times stretching to four to five hours already this week and expected to blow out further.” Assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske claims: “These problems started with Qantas offshoring local jobs and cutting in-airport customer service last year under the cover of the pandemic. That puts huge extra pressure on call centres and Qantas didn’t add any new call centre staff. Now that we’re seeing the industry recover, and customers return to Qantas, they must repay Australian taxpayers and employ local staff. Qantas received over a billion dollars of taxpayer money during the pandemic.” At a Victorian Chamber event this week, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce apologised for the lengthy wait times.
CELEBRATIONS IN THE AIR
On Tuesday, Singapore Airlines celebrated its 55th anniversary of flying in to Perth. For, on April 5, 1967, under the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines brand, Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flight, using a Boeing 707-320, landed here before continuing to Sydney. Perth Airport chief executive Kevin Brown points out that, over the past two years, despite grounding 96 per cent of its global capacity, Singapore Airlines continued to fly weekly services to Perth to bring Australians home and carry export and import freight. He says: “These actions show the airline’s strong commitment to WA.”
Jetstar flew its first direct flight from Perth to Bali yesterday. There are daily flights with more than 1200 seats a week, and they go twice-daily from June.
UPS AND DOWNS
There are still ups...
Portugal’s tourism economy has rebounded strongly after the lifting of international travel restrictions. Visitor numbers for February were up more than 500 per cent year-on-year, with accommodation facilities reporting 1.2 million guests that month alone. Spain is predicting it will reach 80 per cent of pre-pandemic visitor levels over the Easter holidays.
...and there are still downs...
Rail Charter Services, the company operating tourist trips on the iconic Settle-Carlisle railway in northern England, has suspended the runs until next year, citing “ever-rising costs” coupled with reduced demand as “people tighten their belts” due to the cost of living.
PASSING THE TEST
And, of course, a big “up” for us comes on April 17, when we no longer need to provide evidence of a pre-departure COVID-19 test before coming home from overseas to WA.
BAG WITH UV-C
With our cases in WA still high, and the Easter holidays almost here, anyone concerned about being out and about might be interested in the Somatik Labs ultraviolet sterilisation bag. Put stuff in the bag, and the ultraviolet UV-C sterilisation light in there kills just about all germs, bacteria and viruses. (Somatik claims 99.9 per cent.) The bag is at BIG W for $119 and good for cleaning mobile devices, keys, wallets, other personal items and baby bottles. bigw.com.au
A WA Government media release this week was headed: “History made as direct flights between Busselton and Melbourne take off”. It’s not exactly the Wright brothers, credited with inventing, building and flying the world’s first successful motor-operated aircraft; or navigator Sir Francis Chichester becoming the first person to fly solo across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia, which he did in a de Havilland Gypsy Moth aircraft fitted with floats in 1931; or Amelia Earhart, who the following year became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean ... but Jetstar did, indeed, manage to fly an A320 the 2690km from Tullamarine Airport to Busselton on Wednesday. History was made.