Three to increase pay-as-you-go roaming charges | Mobile phones
The mobile phone operator Three is increasing call and text charges for its pay-as-you-go customers, with some international texts rising from 2p to 35p.
From 16 February, the cost of making a PAYG call will rise to 10p a minute – up from 3p. The cost of sending a text in the UK will jump from 2p to 10p, while the price of using data anywhere rises from 1p to 5p a MB.
While these new prices will apply to calls made in the UK and on Three’s Go Roam service in European countries, the biggest increase will hit those who take their phone outside the continent, where the cost of sending a text will rise from 2p to 35p.
Three says its new rates “remain extremely competitive” and the increases to international roaming rates are to keep prices in line with its new standard rates for using your phone at home, and are not linked to Brexit.
The February increases only affect Three’s PAYG customers who joined the network before March 2020, rather than those on a package/contract.
The fear is that this could be the first of many price rises this year across the industry. Telecoms providers have reported a big loss of revenue over the past 10 months as profitable roaming charges have all but dried up.
A Three spokesperson said: “Our new rates remain extremely competitive in the market, and our customers have access to 5G at no extra cost. Plus, we continue to focus on improving the customer experience through investment in our network, to deliver better connectivity every day for every customer.”
Dan Howdle, a telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, said the price rises, while hefty, would bring Three’s PAYG prices closer to its competitors, such as Vodafone and EE.
“Not many people are still using PAYG sim cards these days, so the impact will not have been as big as it would have been in previous years. Most phone users are now on contracts or bundled deals that they renew each month as this is where the value is,” he said.
UK aviation sector needs urgent support, industry leaders say | Airline industry
Industry leaders have said the UK’s aviation sector urgently needs more government support if it is to survive another lengthy period of travel restrictions, as they warn of a deepening financial crisis over the coming months.
From Monday, international arrivals to the UK will be required to quarantine for 10 days, in an effort to stem the spread of any new coronavirus variants amid a worsening incidence of transmission around the world.
People will also be asked to provide proof of a negative test taken in the previous 72 hours before travelling.
While accepting that the curbs will protect public health, airline chiefs have said they raised the possibility airports may have to temporarily close to save costs, describing the move as “yet another huge blow” for the beleaguered sector.
Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, urged ministers to set out industry-specific plans for how airports will survive financially while the stringent rules are in effect.
“Airports are currently keeping their infrastructure open to support vital and critical services, such as post, freight, emergency services, military and coastguard flights, as well as to help keep the lights in the UK on through supporting flights to offshore oil, gas and wind operations,” she said.
“Airports are doing so while running on empty – there is only so long they can run on fumes before having to close temporarily to preserve their business for the future. Government needs to help cover airports’ operational costs by, for example, urgently providing relief from regulatory, policing, air traffic and business rates costs in the current and the coming tax year.”
Travel corridors were hailed as a lifeline for the aviation industry after being introduced in the summer to permit people to travel to and from certain countries with low Covid-19 case numbers without having to quarantine on their return.
But amid concerns about a new variant identified in Brazil, ministers have sought to calm fears by temporarily suspending them under plans that will be in place until at least 15 February.
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents all UK registered airlines, expressed his hopes that by Easter the restrictions would be lifted and the industry could start to recover as public demand for holidays will likely be high.
“In terms of the volume of flights that airlines are operating, we are talking about lower than 10% based on where we would normally be,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Easter is a date that we have got in mind as to when we can start to have an aviation sector again because if we don’t start to bring in revenue to the sector, we are going to be in a really difficult place indeed because we have now had pretty much 12 months without any revenue coming in, which is just not sustainable and airlines are effectively staying in business by taking on billions of pounds of debt, which will need to be paid back.”
The government has said it is committed to supporting the travel industry, with Robert Courts, the aviation minister, insisting a “very strong” package of measures is in place to protect the public from any new coronavirus variants.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government was “toughening up already tough requirements” to ensure that new variants do not arrive from abroad while the vaccine is rolled out.
Courts said a total ban on travel to the UK would not be the correct approach, and that pre-departure testing, passenger locator forms and the quarantine period would make the system robust.
Calling all billionaires: here’s how to keep your superyacht Covid-free | Coronavirus
It is a problem not many us have to consider: how to ensure your multimillion dollar superyacht remains a coronavirus-free zone despite taking on board crew from around the world.
But for the billionaire owners of floating luxury homes there is now a solution – a very expensive one, naturally. An Australian naval architecture firm is launching a new double-hulled support vessel, in which new crew and guests can isolate while they await coronavirus test results from onboard medical staff.
The catamaran, called ShadowCAT Haven and designed by Sydney-based firm Incat Crowther, is being promoted as offering rich owners a “protective layer between the shore and the vessel”, allowing them to “maintain their bubble of protection” from the real world.
Dan Mace, technical manager at Incat Crowther, said the design of the catamaran allowed crew and goods to be “sanitised” before passing to the “clean side”.
“With its certified helipad and generous guest lounge, the Haven allows guests transiting to the yacht to undergo testing and a brief but luxurious isolation period prior to transfer by tender to the mother vessel,” Mace said.
“The yacht industry, like most industries, has been hit hard by coronavirus, and like others it is looking to see how it can get back to a new normal,” he added. “Both owners and charterers want to get back aboard, but how to do this safely, given the nature of a vessel with crew and mobility.
“This is where Haven is necessary as it allows owners and charterers to enjoy the yacht and maintain their bubble of protection, with Haven being that protective layer between the shore and the vessel – and the gateway through which all guests and crew pass.”
As well as featuring an isolation centre and medical lab, the vessel also has space for jet skis, diving equipment and even a submarine and hydroponic gardens.
Mace said the cost of the Haven support yacht would vary depending on the owners’ specifications, but it would run into tens of millions.
Many of the world’s richest people have attempted to avoid the pandemic and associated global lockdowns by decamping to their superyachts for large parts of the past year.
David Geffen, the billionaire co-founder of Geffen Records and DreamWorks Pictures, sparked outrage last year when he posted photos of himself and friends “avoiding the virus” on his $590m superyacht Rising Sun.
Geffen, who has an estimated $8bn fortune, posted drone footage of his yacht on Instagram with the caption: “Isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus. I’m hoping everybody is staying safe.”
After the outcry Geffen deleted the posts. It was not possible to find out who he was sailing with at the time, but Geffen has regularly hosted celebrities, business executives and politicians on his yacht.
In 2019 he invited Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, former Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein, venture capitalist Joshua Kushner and his supermodel wife, Karlie Kloss, and oil heir Mikey Hess.
On other cruises Geffen hosted Oprah Winfrey, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, business billionaire Henry Kravis, Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Hanks and Bradley Cooper.
BWA Yachting, a superyacht servicing company, has begun offering coronavirus tests to superyacht crews, to allay owners’ fears that workers may bring the virus on board with them. The company said it had so far tested the crews of more than 30 yachts.