Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

European Officials Uphold France’s Ban on Select Flights Where Trains Compete

2 days ago

The European Union has upheld France’s landmark climate law that bans select flights on routes where trains are time competitive.

The decision, from European Commissioner of Transport Adina-Ioana Valean on December 1, finds that France can ban domestic flights where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less. The law, which aims to cut carbon emissions and promote use of the country’s high-speed rail system, is the first of its kind globally.

The law codified a condition in the state aid package provided to Air France. To date, it has forced the airline to suspend only three routes: Paris’ Orly airport to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes. Flights on the routes from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport are still allowed for connecting travelers, and because train trip times from the airport’s rail station are longer than the 2.5-hour cap.

A TGV train at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport in April 2022. (Edward Russell/Skift)

“We’re never going to go back — we’re not going to go back to the [pre-crisis] levels,” Air France-KLM Chief Financial Officer Steven Zaat said on domestic France capacity in July 2021 following implementation of the law.

The EU noted that flights on three more air routes in France could be barred if rail services improve. Charles de Gaulle to Lyon and Rennes, and Lyon to Marseille currently offer competitive high-speed rail services but have not been suspended due to limited schedules and trip times that are not always under 2.5 hours.

Separate from the climate law, Air France and French state rail-operator SNCF are working to expand their “Train + Air” partnership. These connections allow travelers to book both a flight and train on a single itinerary and, in theory, seamlessly check-in and connect between the two modes at certain airports, including Charles de Gaulle. In practice, the connections are not as seamless as they could be, including limited airport wayfinding and technology disconnects.

Online Travel

Trip.com Group Taps $1.5 Billion Loan Tied to Green Targets

3 days ago

Trip.com Group said on Friday it had tapped a $1.5 billion sustainability-linked loan facility, meaning that the financing terms link the debt’s interest rates to the Chinese online travel giant’s performance against specific environmental targets.

The Shanghai-based company will use three-year dual-tranche term loan facility to refinance some of its debt, and the rest for general corporate purposes.

The move appeared to be the first time a major online travel player adopted green finance. Last year, a shareholder initiative prodded Booking Holdings to do a climate change report. The report came out this year. In October, the company said its Booking.com brand would add emissions estimates to bookings soon. Trip.com-owned Skyscanner has estimated flight emissions for consumers for a few years.

Climate-related risk is on investors’ minds as they look at their portfolios. For travel in general, the sustainability-linked bond may provide more flexibility for investors worried about this issue, said Leslie Samuelrich, president of Boston-based Green Century Capital Management. Sustainability-linked bonds are different from green bonds. They set macro targets for a company, while green bonds commit to specific projects.

The investment concept is growing fast, Samuelrich said. Last year, lenders issued $103 billion in sustainability-linked bonds to companies across various industries. The year before that, it was about $12 billion.

In April, Ascott Residence Trust issued a sustainability-linked bond — apparently the first in the hotel sector — worth about $143 million ($200 million Singaporean). Ascott Residence Trust has committed to a sustainability performance target of greening half of its total portfolio by 2025, and its interest rates would essentially rise on the loan facility if it fails to meet the target.

The process remains murky and slow burn, though. There’s a debate about measuring the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the climate emergency. IFRS Foundation, the international accounting standards-setting body, has this year been working on setting standards for emissions-focused reporting. Their work, and the work of other organizations, will adjust how investors evaluate climate risk — a knotty task inviting skepticism from some critics.

Side note: Trip.com’s chief commercial officer Schubert Lou will talk about the international division of Trip.com Group at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on Dec. 14.

Tourism

Movie Star Ed Norton Is Launching a Luxury Eco-Camp in Kenya With Former Six Senses President

6 days ago

Movie actor Ed Norton is working with the former president of Six Senses on developing a new eco-resort in Kenya.

“There’s going to be an announcement in the spring, about a new, global luxury brand,” he revealed on stage at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, held in Saudi Arabia this week.

“A good friend of mine who ran Six Senses from its inception, up to when InterContinental Group bought it, and my friends at the Discovery Land Development Corporation, they have a big announcement in the spring. And we’re working with them to build state-of-the-art sustainable camps in Kenya, that will come over the next couple of years.”

According to reports, Bernhard Bohnenberger, former president of Six Senses and now CEO of Discover Collection, has worked with Norton on selecting three safari lodges and one beach resort.

Norton shared the news while speaking with Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, about which resorts were taking sustainability seriously.

He revealed that the camps in Kenya would fully electrified and features electric vehicles, while water would be sustainably sourced and only locals would be employed. Norton said he wanted the camps to act as a model for what can be done.

The “Fight Club” actor, who has spent many years as an environmental activist and social entrepreneur, also acts as ambassador to the Kenya Tourism Board.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated the Six Senses founder was involved. This updated version includes a report on Bohnenberger.

Airlines

African Airlines Take New Steps Towards Open Skies Vision

1 week ago

Momentum is building behind the Single African Air Transport Market, or SAATM, a flagship project designed to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, organized by the International Air Transport Association.

New routes should be easier to launch without the need for reciprocal services, and 17 African countries have now agreed to test the initiative, out of a total of 35 country signatories (which represents 80 percent of the existing aviation market in Africa.)

They are: Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Niger and Gabon,

The 17 airlines will now open their air transport markets to each other as part of a new “SAATM Project Implementation Pilot.” According to reports, Kenya Airways will target corporate travel in a new Ghana-Senegal route, starting December 11.

The pilot routes come as more steps are being taken to create a new continental airline following a pact between South African Airways and Kenya Airways. Earlier this month a long-term business proposal was struck, which includes migration policies and trading privileges.

The air transport plan could eventually generate $4.2 billion in additional gross domestic product), 600,000 new jobs, a 27 percent reduction in fares and make a contribution to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, according to reports. For example, currently some routes between neigboring African countries involve connecting flights to nearby major international hubs.

The Single African Air Transport Market was established in 2018, and is considered as a step towards the full liberalization of the continent’s air transport market.

Tour Operators

G Adventures Invests in Restorative Tourism Platform Reforest

2 weeks ago

Adventure travel specialist G Adventures has made a “significant financial investment” in Reforest, a digital platform that connects travelers with local communities that are restoring their ecosystems using reforestation.

Reforest, which is based in Brisbane, Australia, said it enables travelers to give back by having their own trees planted in places where community tourism relies heavily on the preservation of the local environment.

The platform then provides travelers with tangible, visible, scientific data measuring the positive impact of the trees planted on their behalf — including drone-based footage and satellite imagery.

“I’ve never been a fan of carbon-offsetting,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, who recently spoke at Skift Global Forum in New York. “The idea that you can have a negative impact in one place and do something positive somewhere else, and that somehow balances the scale, is not science to me, and most of all it doesn’t change people’s behaviour.”

The stake G Adventures has taken not been disclosed but Daniel Walsh, Reforest’s co-founder, said the investment gave the company the means to improve its technology, and expand its offering by marketing the platform more widely within the global travel industry.

“Together we will also create a showcase example of restorative tourism at work as we build the G Adventures’ tree-planting programme together over the coming month,” he said in a statement.

Airlines

Saudi Arabia’s National Carrier Signs Agreement to Buy 100 Lilium Air Taxis

1 month ago

Saudi Arabia’s national flag carrier Saudia announced on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement with German air taxi startup Lilium to purchase 100 jets.

With this purchase Saudia intends to launch new electric point-to-point connections as well as seamless feeder connections to Saudia’s hubs for business class guests, the airline said in a release.

Saudia also expects to support Lilium with the necessary regulatory approval processes in Saudi Arabia for certification of the Lilium jet.

With this Saudia will be the first airline in the Middle East and North Africa region to develop the all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) network in the region. The agreement will also help Lilium gain a foothold in the region.

The agreement with Lilium will contribute effectively to spurring sustainable tourism in Saudi using zero-emission aviation, said Ibrahim S Koshy, CEO of Saudia.

“Saudia intends to meet a growing demand for regional air mobility and offer guests a superior on-board experience. The potential for such an airborne transit network is limitless,” Koshy said.

While no timeline has been mentioned for the Saudia order, Lilium’s air taxi is scheduled to enter service in 2025, with production beginning as early as next year.

With orders worth approximately $2 billion, Lilium has already signed deals with Brazilian airline Azul, private jet company NetJets, as well as private jet company Globeair.

Business Travel

Large UK Law Firm to Cut Travel Budget When Lawyers Take Unnecessary Flights

1 month ago

Shoosmiths, one of the UK’s largest law firms, said this week it would deduct about $230 (£200) from a team travel budget each time lawyers flew to meetings, The Telegraph reported.

The goal is to encourage the firm’s more than 1,000 employees to consider alternatives to flying as the company aims to reduce its carbon emissions dramatically by 2025. The law firm, which has an estimated revenue of more than $200 million a year, will divert the money into a fund to help with its carbon reduction efforts. The firm will also offer bonuses to employees who reduce their carbon footprints.

Travel Technology

Booking.com to Add Emissions Info to Bookings Through New Partnership

1 month ago

Booking.com said last week that it is working to help travelers choose more environmentally sustainable travel options through a new partnership with climate tech company CHOOOSE.

The Amsterdam-based Booking Holdings (NYSE: BKNG) marketplace helps travelers book lodging and a range of transportation options. 

The software made by Oslo-based CHOOOSE, which shares various pieces of emission-related info about specific bookings, can be integrated into other travel software platforms. Other clients of the company include SAP, Amadeus, Skyscanner, Southwest, Air Canada and more, according to its website. 

The goal of the new global partnership is to increase traveler awareness about the carbon implications of their trips, with the ultimate goal of allowing travelers to choose different carbon offsetting options through Booking.com, the companies said. The partnership will focus first on accommodation and later move to other products and services, including flights. 

Booking.com referenced its 2022 study showing that half of travelers say recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. The company last year announced a program that would provide a badge to partners that have implemented a combination of sustainable practices.

“Together with CHOOOSE, we can provide information in a more transparent manner, and through trusted climate projects, can offer another way for travelers to make more mindful travel decisions,” said Danielle D’Silva, head of sustainability for Booking.com, in a statement. 

Rail

Amtrak Indefinitely Suspends Trains on Busy California Route

2 months ago

Amtrak has indefinitely suspended trains to San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner, the second busiest route in its network after the Northeast Corridor that connects Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The suspension of all trains south of Irvine, Calif., on the line that connects Los Angeles and San Diego was due to “safety concerns to the right-of-way” related to erosion, according to the Pacific Surfliner’s website and twitter feed. The Southern California regional rail operator, Metrolink, that shares the tracks added that “movement to the right of way” in the vicinity of San Clemente, Calif., was at fault for the suspension.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner California
(prayitnophotography/Flickr)

Amtrak’s latest schedule shows 11 daily trains between Los Angeles and San Diego along the corridor impacted by the closure.

The Pacific Surfliner operates on 100-plus year-old tracks that sit on bluffs along the beach in San Clemente. While these offer impressive views to riders, it also presents risks, like erosion, to the right-of-way and the ability to operate large passenger trains.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was enacted last year includes $66 billion in funding to both upgrade and expand the U.S. passenger rail system. Potential uses of those funds include hardening rail infrastructure against climate change, and threats like coastal erosion.

“Amtrak is working to restore limited service between Irvine and San Diego,” a spokesperson for the railroad said.

Business Travel

Former Kayak Exec Jan Valentin Joins Rail Tech Startup Seatfrog

3 months ago

Former Kayak Europe leader and now travel investor Jan Valentin has joined Seatfrog‘s board of directors, as the rail startup looks to move on from the pandemic by tapping into the trend for more sustainable travel.

The app, which lets train travelers upgrade their ticket at a reduced rate on the original cost by bidding, was named a Skift Top Travel Startup to Watch in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and it lost 97 percent of its revenue.

Now the company wants to put coronavirus behind it with the appointment of Valentin, who used to be Kayak’s managing director and senior vice president in Europe. Valentin also runs ennea capital partners, which in 2020 merged with Howzat Partners to create a new $100 million fund to invest in travel startups and other digital businesses.

Howzat also invested in Seatfrog’s $1.2 million seed round, but Skift understands no extra investment accompanied Valentin’s appointment to the board.

Valentin is also a backer of Comtravo, the German corporate travel agency that was recently bought by TripActions.

Seatfrog said in a statement Valentin joins at a perfect time to support the company’s mission to reimagine the rail experience in a category that has been “trundling along without meaningful innovation for decades.”

“Governments are spending $400 billion plus in Europe to drive modal shift to more sustainable train travel, but it remains a massively under-digitized category, and the customer experience is a mess,” he said.

Seatfrog said it had recorded 1,400 percent growth so far this year, and is expanding internationally.

“We’ve delighted millions of passengers, and driven large revenue uplifts for rail companies well beyond the capabilities of the category’s legacy systems,” added Iain Griffin, CEO and co-founder of Seatfrog.

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