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US suspends flights by Chinese airlines in new spat with Beijing

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Washington on Wednesday ordered the suspension of all flights by Chinese airlines into and out of the United States after Beijing failed to allow American carriers to resume services to China.

The move adds to a growing friction between the world’s two biggest economies amid the coronavirus crisis and in the wake of a two-year trade war that has not been fully resolved.

The US action, which takes effect June 16 but could be implemented sooner if President Donald Trump orders it, applied to seven Chinese civilian carriers, although only four currently are running service to US cities including Air China and China Eastern Airlines, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

“US carriers have asked to resume passenger service, beginning June 1st. The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement,” the department said in a statement.

US air carriers sharply reduced or suspended service to China amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

United and Delta submitted applications at the beginning of May to resume flights but have been unable to receive authorization from Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), the DOT said.

The latest spat between Washington and Beijing centers partially on the CAAC deciding to determine its limit on foreign airlines based on their activity as of March 12.

US carriers had by then suspended all flights due to the pandemic — meaning their cap was calculated to be zero — while Chinese-flagged flights continued.

The “arbitrary ‘baseline’ date… effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to and from China,” the US order says.

The department also said there are indications Chinese airlines are using charter flights to get around the limit of one flight a week to increase their advantage over US carriers.

“Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights,” the order said.

Downgrade for American

In early January 2020, before the pandemic struck, US and Chinese carriers operated approximately 325 weekly flights between the two countries.

Trump has blamed China for the US coronavirus outbreak and blasted the country in a fiery speech last week over a new security law in Hong Kong.

American Airlines has taken steps to cut costs, but it was not enough to prevent a downgrade of its credit rating. PHOTO: AFP/File / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

China for its part has mocked the US stance on Hong Kong in light of civil rights protests across the US following the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man.

“Racism against ethnic minorities in the US is a chronic disease of American society,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier this week.

“The current situation reflects once more the severity of the problems of racism and police violence in the US,” he told reporters in Beijing.

Meanwhile, American Airlines, which is not planning to resume service to mainland China until late October, saw its debt rating cut Wednesday by S&P Global Ratings due to the reduced demand for air travel.

Airlines have been among the hardest hit by the global pandemic, as air transport been virtually shut down, forcing many to announce massive layoffs.

S&P cut American’s debt grade a notch to “B-” saying the cost-savings measures it has taken “will be insufficient to offset the effects of sharply lower demand from the impact of the virus on the company’s credit metrics.”

American is a beneficiary of the government’s Payroll Support Program, under which it will receive $5.8 billion through July 2020, but S&P said the carrier still has a cash shortage.

The fight over air space comes after the US imposed restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei and ordered a probe into the actions of Chinese companies listed on American financial markets.

Reporting and photos: AFP

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Atmosphere Core expands in South Asia with Atmosphere Living ultra-luxury residences

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Atmosphere Core, a globally renowned name in hospitality, has announced the launch of Atmosphere Living as part of its continued expansion in South Asia. Headquartered in India, this new company will offer branded ultra-luxury residences with customised end-to-end amenities and indulgences, including coffee lounges, wine cellars, private transport, and bespoke concierge services.

The global branded residences market has experienced a remarkable 150 percent growth over the past decade, and projections indicate a surge in demand. With the real estate veteran Sandeep Ahuja at the helm as Managing Director, Atmosphere Living is strategically positioned to capitaliSe on this demand.

Atmosphere Living will focus on a conscious design philosophy. All properties will be built in harmony with the environment and will incorporate features such as smart recycling, efficient waste and water management, and green energy solutions.

Sharing his insights on the launch, Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Core, said, “Atmosphere Living will bring a distinctive offering to India, and is a brand to watch out for. It will combine Ahuja’s decades of experience, knowledge, and industry network in real estate with Atmosphere’s hospitality expertise, introducing unparalleled serviced residences in India.”

Positioned in major metropolitan areas, established second-home destinations, and undiscovered scenic locales nationwide, these projects will also present lucrative investment opportunities. Elite homeowners will have the option to lease their residences back to Atmosphere Living, allowing them to be rented out for income generation.

Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, Atmosphere Living, said, “There is currently a gap in the Indian realty landscape for ultra-indulgent serviced homes catering to affluent consumers. We aim to bridge this gap by curating serviced homes that offer indulgences such as entering homes using smart key cards, 24/7 butler services, fine dining, and co-working spaces, among others. Our ultimate desire is to enable our customers to experience a life of true luxury and exclusivity.”

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A night of celestial wonders, luxury, and cosmic inspiration at Anantara Kihavah SKY Observatory by British astronaut Tim Peake

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Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas celebrated a historic  milestone with the exclusive visit of the renowned British astronaut, Tim Peake. On the evening of November 2, Astronaut Peake hosted an exclusive space talk at SKY Observatory, the finest  overwater observatory in the Indian Ocean, housing the most powerful telescope in the Maldives. 

Perched gracefully over the pristine Maldivian waters, SKY Observatory provided an idyllic setting for  this extraordinary event, complemented by a stunning sunset. The exclusive gathering attracted a full  house of eager guests to a delightful evening that seamlessly blended science, luxury, and natural  beauty. 

The evening commenced with a lovely cocktail reception, where guests were serenaded by the soulful  tunes of a live saxophone band. Attendees savoured exquisite cocktails and canapés as they eagerly  awaited Tim Peake’s presentation. 

Tim Peake’s talk unveiled his personal journey, where he shared his path to becoming an astronaut  and narrated the rigorous training that astronauts undergo. He provided insights into life in space, the  daily challenges faced by astronauts, and the awe-inspiring experiences he encountered during his 

historic mission. He also offered a glimpse into his exciting future projects, leaving the audience both  inspired and spellbound. 

Following Tim’s presentation, an interactive Q&A session allowed guests to engage directly with the  British astronaut. The audience posed thoughtful questions, deepening their understanding of  astronauts’ unique experiences and the intricacies of space exploration. 

The event was further enriched by the presence of the resort’s three SKY gurus, Hammadh Rasheed,  Zunnoon Ahmed, and Ali Arushal, who conducted a stargazing session for the guests afterward. 

The success of the event was evident in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, who  left with a deeper appreciation for space exploration and a memorable evening to cherish. 

The evening marked a significant moment in Anantara Kihavah’s history, showcasing the resort’s  commitment to offering unique and memorable experiences for its guests. The presence of Tim  Peake, a celebrated astronaut and highly accomplished author, added an extraordinary dimension to  the resort’s already spectacular offerings. 

Tim Peake is a renowned British astronaut who made history as the first official British astronaut to  visit the International Space Station (ISS) and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He  also achieved the remarkable feat of running the London Marathon from space. Beyond his  extraordinary space endeavours, Tim is also a bestselling author with his most recent book Space: A thrilling human history published earlier this month. 

An astronomer’s paradise, Baa Atoll in the Maldives, is one of the best places on earth to enjoy  stargazing due to its proximity to the equator. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas promises a voyage of  discovery on a private Indian Ocean Island, with Sky—an overwater observatory and luxury cocktail  bar—providing guests a chance to sip champagne under the stars and explore the Universe.

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Visit Maldives website adds atolls segment to showcase diverse regions

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) has added a new segment to the official Visit Maldives Website specified for atolls showcasing the diversity of the Maldives.

The segment, now live at atolls.visitmaldives.com provides in depth information regarding the different regions of the Maldives, divided by atolls, to refine the traveller’s experience, commencing with an in-depth exploration of Addu Atoll and Fuvahmulah Atoll.

With 26 atolls, the Maldives offers a wide array of unique accommodations and awe-inspiring travel experiences, and this informative section of our website will serve as a gateway to discover the hidden treasures unique to each area. This falls under MMPRC’s initiatives to encourage tourism growth in all regions of the Maldives, broadening exposure to the diverse tourism products available in the Maldives.

The goal is to elevate Visit Maldives’ digital marketing landscape by showcasing the Maldives as more than just a honeymoon destination with various accommodation options. This initiative is driven by a desire to increase awareness about the distinctive offerings within each of the Maldives’ atolls. It aims to positively shape their perception of the Sunny Side of Life brand by curating engaging content that highlights the unique features of the atolls and diverse experiences available in the islands.

Additionally, the initiative will target the affordable luxury market to promote the Maldives as the most appealing option for short holidays and weekend getaways under a unified Maldives brand umbrella.

MMPRC aims to continue exploring other atolls in the Maldives as well, encouraging growth and tourism development in all regions of the Maldives, building on the foundation we have created to promote the destination beyond the traditional paradigms of sun, sand, and sea.

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