TRAVEL: Is Covid Being Used As An Excuse To Stop Cheap Travel? 

From red list chaos to expensive tests and complicated rules, these new restrictions are unlikely to end when the pandemic does 

Ross Clark | the Telegraph UK

It takes a lot to part us Brits from our overseas breaks. No sooner had France been removed from the “amber plus” list than queues were reported to have formed at St Pancras International station as people sought tickets for the Eurostar.

Under these revised rules, anyone holidaying in France will not have to isolate for 10 days on their return, though a family of four will still have to pay hundreds of pounds for repeated Covid tests – and they do still risk falling foul of sudden changes in rules.       

Forget the assurances from Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, that people can now enjoy a holiday in France “without looking over their shoulders”; ever since Shapps himself was forced to hot-foot it back from a Spanish holiday last summer after his own department changed the rules at short notice, the Government has repeatedly played around with travellers’ plans.

The latest victims are Britons on holiday in Mexico who will be obliged to pay £2,285 each for hotel quarantine on their return – that country having suddenly been added to the red list. 

THERE IS NO END IN SIGHT TO THIS TRAVEL MISERY. Indeed, Shapps seemed to hint yesterday that testing for international travellers could continue indefinitely, even when the pandemic is over. Anyone would think that the Government had a deliberate policy of fobbing off the travel industry by relaxing a few rules while continuing to mess around ordinary travellers so much that they will give up their ambition for a fortnight in the sun and settle for a caravan in Skegness instead.

Turning the clock back 50 years as sharply as that would be quite a manoeuvre. For the past five or more decades, we have become accustomed to our cheap two-week beach breaks in foreign climes. More than a hope, they are an expectation, a civil right – and why not?

Prior to the launch of the first package holiday – London Gatwick to Corsica in 1950, six hours via Lyon – most ordinary folk had a fortnight at a British seaside resort, enduring long car or coach journeys, inadequate service stations and challenging B&Bs.

But once you could buy an entire holiday in a shop on the high street, complete with paper vouchers and luggage labels, the world turned upside down.

Thousands of Britons were soon flying chartered planes to Majorca, the Costa Brava, and Sardinia, courtesy of the first mass travel company Horizon.

Competition came quickly:  Wings, set up in 1955 by the Ramblers’ Association, advertised package holidays to Portugal costing 49 guineas for two weeks – about £1,180 today.

By the 1960s, demand from tourists was boosting airport growth; Luton was one of the first to capitalise on the opportunity. Later, the airport’s role in mass tourism would be immortalised in an award-winning ad for Campari and lemonade, the ultimate package holiday drink.

The annual shiny Lunn Poly or Thomas Cook brochure could be collected from your high street travel agent and pored over at home, en famille. Each year, there were new and ever-more exotic destinations: Corfu Town, Albufeira, Naples, Dubrovnik. The hotels promised in-room TVs, three-star dining, local entertainment and day trips. Package holidays went upmarket with Roman ruins and butterfly farms, while souvenir shops offered cheesecloth dresses and hand-woven bedspreads.

Yet still for most, the main idea was to spend as much time as possible in the sun.  Night times were for fun at the disco, retsina and waterside dining watched by a horde of feral cats.

OVER TIME TWO TIERS OF FLIERS EMERGED: The ones who “travel”, and then everyone else, who “go on holiday”. The former look down on the latter, sneering at the way they buy flight and accommodation as a unit, rather than – the ultimate virtue signalling – booking one’s own flight and calling that charming hotel your best pal told you about, in the sort of exotic destination that requires at least three vaccinations – and this pre-Covid. While no one seems to begrudge this kind of thoughtful traveller – casually offsetting their CO2 via an app, cheerful Costa-mongers are another matter. And have been for quite a while. 

And so Covid may now have become an excuse for doing what some of our elitist leaders have perhaps dreamed of for years: PUTTING AN END TO THE CHEAP PACKAGE HOLIDAY. 

But while the talk now is of the need to keep expensive testing and complicated rules – in place, this undeclared war on cheap travel is unlikely to end with Covid. There will be others looking to stop the bargain-bucket Benidorm crowd for environmental reasons. 

Already, powerful government advisers have mass travel in their sights as they ponder how Britain can meet the government’s legally binding target of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. For them, Covid restrictions have been a dry run for how our lifestyles might be curtailed in future for the good of the planet.  

Yes, that would mean turning the clock back to the era when travel was so complicated and expensive that only the most dedicated and economically blessed among us would consider getting away. And as the numbers of putative passengers to Spain, say, fell, then there would be fewer flights, and those would be offered at higher prices. Throw in testing that costs as much as the holiday itself and suddenly, the sort of ordinary Brit who has come to depend on their annual dose of vitamin D wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.

Keeping the masses off planes would delight well-off travellers – the sort who assuage their own guilt by buying carbon offsets and who shudder at the fly-and-flop crowd at the boarding gate.

Among those who see Covid as a dry run for restricting our freedom to travel is Dr Susan Michie, member of the Sage committee and director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL.

In a Channel 5 News interview in June, she said: “We need to think about the way we plan our cities, our transport, our lifestyles – instead of going back to huge long commutes, we have more local hubs where people don’t have to travel so much – good not only for health but for the environment – the environmental crisis is the next one down the road.” 

In other words, now we have conditioned the public to expect lockdowns and other restrictions, let’s use them to cut carbon emissions. 

Sir David King, the former chief Scientific Adviser who set up the shadow “independent Sage” committee and the similar Climate Change Advisory Group, is another who might not want to let the opportunity slip.

Last September, he wrote in The Washington Post: “The pandemic ought to make fighting climate change easier, serving as a model for responding to the climate crisis. While it did so at a huge cost to the economy, it has proved that large swaths of the population could change their behaviour and lower the trajectory of emissions — not over decades but in a matter of weeks.” 

HIS ARGUMENT SOMEWHAT IGNORES AN IMPORTANT POINT: The public supported restrictions on the basis it was a brief response to a disease threatening to kill large numbers of people in a short time. 

However much you dress up the dangers of climate change, it isn’t going to be solved with restrictive measures over weeks or months. If a government was going to try to cut carbon emissions by announcing a ban on, say, holiday flights, IT WOULD HAVE TO STAY INDEFINITELY, or until some alternative technology was invented. 

The public might be a little less keen to accept that. Except, perhaps, if they can be either put off going away – the cost, the effort – or frightened into changing behaviour – disease, global warming – forever.

So, the culture war over travel has begun.  Government ministers from Johnson and Sunak down are already modelling the responsible, patriotic and green style of holiday: A sodden staycation in wellies and a coat. It’s one that would suit the World Economic Forum (WEF), which carries on its website a piece by Arthur Wyns, former climate adviser to the World Health Organisation, saying: “The global health crisis we find ourselves in has forced us to dramatically change our behaviour in order to protect ourselves and those around us, to a degree most of us have never experienced before. This temporary shift of gears could lead to a long-term shift in old behaviours and assumptions, which could lead to a public drive for collective action and effective risk management.”

Can we take that as a promise that the WEF will no longer be inviting the great and good to fly to Davos in their private jets? I fear not. You can be sure the wealthy will carry on travelling, while lecturing the rest of us on climate change. I don’t doubt that, given half a chance, the PM will be jetting off to some borrowed villa in the Caribbean once again.

Covid will be used to justify interference in the lifestyles of ordinary people – by a global elite which, to judge from the fact that G7, COP26 and other beanfeasts are carrying on regardless, are immune to changing behaviour.

Life is returning to normal for those important people, who get swept through empty airports without being imprisoned for 10 days at the Holiday Inn. But for the rest of us, the byzantine rules on travel and the cost of complying with them are a foretaste of what is to come. 

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/09/2021 at 1:02 am

    5 Minute Forecast: Essential Insights. On Time

    August 06, 2021

    “Flying used to be costly,” Byron King says, “in many respects a luxury.” Which conjures a bygone era when passengers actually dressed up for their flights. It was an event…

    But by the early ’90s, air travel fully opened to the masses — sure, sometimes unwashed masses — particularly with the advent of “up-and-coming, low-cost airlines with no frills but cheap tickets,” Byron notes. “Think Spirit in the U.S., Ryanair in Europe or Lion Air in Indonesia.

    “Behind it all… one thing has been critical to opening up travel to the masses,” he says. “Affordable jet fuel. In essence, kerosene.

    “Absent relatively cheap kerosene (aka jet fuel), much of the airline industry business model fails, definitely the ‘low cost’ part of it.

    “If you’ve looked out the window at an airport terminal,” says Byron, “you’ve probably seen a fuel truck that carries Jet-A.

    “Let’s be honest, unless you’re interested in organic chemistry, you probably don’t know much about the fuel that goes into an airplane’s tank.”

    Without it, you’re grounded…

    Here’s the shorthand version: “Jet fuel is not the same thing as the gasoline you buy at the filling station,” Byron says. “It’s kerosene, a heavier form of hydrocarbon, meaning longer chains of carbon molecules. Longer carbon chains mean more hydrogen bonds — hence more energy to power an aircraft engine.

    “For a long list of reasons, refined kerosene is the best fuel to burn in an axial turbine jet engine,” Byron continues.

    “Scientists and engineers have been working on the chemistry of oil-based jet fuel for about 80 years, and by now they pretty much have it right.

    “Jet fuel must meet certain aviation specs. First, it must have a low freezing point — around -40 to -50 degrees — otherwise, the fuel lines will freeze up at high altitudes,” Byron says.

    [We used to be supplied with jet fuel at minus-70 degrees freezing point]

    “Then there’s the ‘flash point’ — the temperature at which fuel vapors ignite. You want that to be relatively high, for safety reasons.” Umm, yeah…

    “You also need energy to spin those turbines in the engines, and you want high energy density. “Kerosene/jet fuel fits the bill perfectly,” Byron says. “Not to mention, you want your fuel to be affordable. It [can’t cost] too much to produce and store…”

    As for the fairy-tale future of aviation: “airplanes powered by biofuels, batteries or even pure hydrogen,” Byron says. “Nope. Won’t happen.”

    Here’s why…

    • “Biofuels tend to solidify at low temperatures, creating wax in the fuel lines. Mitigating that requires more additives, which currently come from – guess where? other fractions of petroleum,” says Byron. “The production and storage of bio-based ‘jet fuel’ is also more expensive than oil-based. (We saw that a few years back when the U.S. Navy tried to go ‘green’ and blew out its fuel budget)

    • “Battery packs inside airplanes… The problem is weight. Batteries are made of graphite and other metals, which are heavy and dense. Which means short range with novel and still-unproven technology

    • “How about hydrogen? It’s a great energy source in general, but to make it work inside an airplane fuel tank it must be pressurized to around 700 atmospheres,” Byron says. “Handling compressed and/or liquid hydrogen is tough enough on the ground, let alone taking it up in the sky where things can get bumpy and cold, not to mention where bad weather and lightning can create havoc.

    “Hindenburg, anyone?” he asks. Hard pass on hydrogen then…

    Notwithstanding: “There’s a global push against oil in general,” Byron says. “The U.S. GOVERNMENT AND GOVERNMENTS ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE BIASED against internal-combustion engines due to carbon emissions,” he says.
    “And many… are making it hard to produce and refine petroleum as motor fuel, which impacts the future of jet fuel, too.

    “Expect to see fewer refined barrels in general, which means less kerosene/jet fuel,” he claims. “This creates problems for airlines. Namely, scarcer fuel at higher cost.

    “And fewer cheap tickets for passengers…”

    The upshot? “Flying is about to become more expensive,” says Bryon, “and many people will soon find themselves priced out.”

    “We’ll be using oil-based jet fuel for many years to come,” Byron contends.

    “Except that we’re also looking at more expensive oil because of GOVERNMENT BIAS.” Add to that, “all manner of restrictions on refining and emissions, especially carbon dioxide.

    “In the future, you may still be able to fly,” he concedes, “but the rising cost of jet fuel will drive ticket prices up, up and up.”

    Byron attributes this to “DISTORTED… ENERGY POLICY”, he says, “in particular, new policies [which] will inevitably reduce availability and drive up the cost of jet fuel.”

    So we’ll be time traveling to the distant past, he says, to the days when air travel was a luxury. “On the bright side” — heh — “people might get back to dressing better on airplanes,” Byron concludes.

    Amen to that!

    Best regards,

    Emily Clancy
    The 5 Min. Forecast

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/09/2021 at 1:04 am

    Starr wrote:

    Interesting that Byron King dismisses responses to the climate emergency as “government bias” and “distorted energy policy”!

    Yes, by all means, let’s keep air travel cheap while the planet burns!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/10/2021 at 12:14 am

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