Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views: June 25 Edition

Colosseum at sunset in Rome, Italy

Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield travels from Uluru to Rome via York, Albany and Oman (!) as he traverses the world of travel


As you read this, Casey, my faithful suitcase, is pretty excited. I am filling him with smart summer Euro clothes — we board the inaugural Qantas direct flight from Perth to Rome this evening. Sure, we’ve just been overseas to Dubai, and last weekend he was at Uluru, but Rome . . . now that really is Casey’s cup of espresso.

(We’ll bring you the full story on the Rome flight next Saturday, of course.)


+ Qantas has scrapped its mask mandate on some flights, including the direct Perth to Rome route. On Tuesday, Qantas lifted the requirement for passengers to wear masks on outbound flights when the destination does not require them. That includes the UK, some European countries and the US.

+ Casey and I were in Uluru on charter flight direct from Albany — a partnered project between us at West Travel Club and our friends at NT Now. And when we returned on Sunday night, the world had changed. As of Friday, June 17, masks are no longer required at Australian airports, though passengers on domestic flights still have to wear them.


Many of the world’s leading airlines, and top aircraft engineers and designers, think planes will have no windows in future. There will just be “virtual windows” — big, high-resolution LED screens showing the world outside as seen through fibre-optic cameras. Window fittings are relatively weighty, and having no windows would also reduce production costs. Windows increase drag — being windowless would reduce that drag and decrease fuel consumption. Some calculate that for every one per cent reduction of an aircraft’s weight, fuel saving is about 0.75 per cent (which actually adds up to a lot of fuel). Some engineers think being windowless would also help to increase the fuselage’s durability. It would certainly solve that thorny issue of “closing the blinds” throughout the cabin in daytime, which some don’t like, so that passengers can watch movies or sleep.


We had the blinds open on our West Travel Club Albany to Uluru flights, returning on Sunday from the red centre to the beautiful grey granite of the south coast. And we’ll be back there on July 16 for our Albany Maritime Gala Dinner. One of the moments of greatest relief in my life are when I have “written the evening” for our live performance dinners. And just before leaving for Uluru (right on deadline, of course), I completed all the stories for the dinner in Albany, recorded them to a teleprompter and emailed the sound files to composer Steve Richter, who is now working on the original music. We perform before each of guest chef Costa Simatos’ locally produced courses. There are just a few tickets left.


And just before Albany, Will Yeoman and I will be in York, WA’s oldest inland town, for an afternoon tea performance and fireside chat at York’s historic Hope Farm Guesthouse. Will and I have been presenting spoken word and guitar performances for many years, most notably at Perth Festival, Fringe World and New Norcia. We’ll take our guests around the world in words and music, and offer an insight into the work we do as travel writers. Just perfect for winter.

+ It is on Sunday, July 10, from 2 to 4pm, at Hope Farm Guesthouse, 15 Carter Road, York. Tickets are $40 (including performance, conversation and afternoon tea) — There are also a limited number of accommodation packages available: call Jo on 0411 287 944.


Getting permits to walk Tasmania’s Overland Track is a bit like winning lotto. The walk is 65km, about six days, one way. Less than 60 permits a day are available during the summer season — 34 of them for independent walkers. A permit is $200 per adult. Booking opens at 7am (WST) on July 1 for next season, October 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023. The booking system is for independent walkers, in groups of up to eight. But bookings are only for a departure date. Huts cannot be booked and walkers need to carry a tent for use on platforms if huts are full.


At Uluru, I saw the 50,000 spheres illuminate the desert, and Sydney’s Vivid light festival has just received plenty of attention. But Vivid is no longer the only player in the “light festival game”. Illuminate Adelaide is a city-wide spectacle of art, light, sound and imagination from July 1 to 31. There are free and ticketed events by local, national and international artists and companies.


The inaugural Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 has been launched, detailing 69 restaurants covering 21 cuisine types. Nine receive a Michelin star, and two of them get two Michelin stars. Dubai is the latest addition to Michelin’s 35 culinary destinations guides. There are thousands of restaurants, from fine dining to street food, with cuisines of more than 200 nationalities living in the city.


Just as the pandemic kicked in, I was leading a West Travel Club tour of Oman — a comfortable and interesting place in the Middle East. We’d spent time in Muscat, driven down the coast to the old dhow building town of Sur, travelled through and stayed in luxury in Al Hajar Mountains, and slept on a dhow off the Musandam Peninsula. The usual way of getting there it to fly just over an hour east from Dubai, or bit more from Doha. But Oman Air, based in Muscat, has just announced that it is joining the Oneworld Alliance, of which Malaysia Airlines is also a member, giving the option of connecting in Kuala Lumpur.


Europe has been sweltering in blistering June heat. Forecast for Rome tomorrow, a top of 37C. I can’t wait …

(and Casey’s very happy to be staying at Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, on the doorstep of Villa Borghese. It’s just his sort of thing.)