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Face masks, health checks and long check-ins: the future of flying



Cabin crew in protective suits, health certifications for passengers, mandatory face masks, and longer check-in times.

This is the new reality of mass air travel.

As people dream of taking to the skies once more, they face the prospect that changes to curb the spread of coronavirus will be even more challenging than those brought in after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

In addition to the strict security measures commonplace around the world since then, passengers will now encounter a barrage of checks for COVID-19.

“Before the pandemic, we were told to arrive two hours before the flight. This time we had to be at the airport at least four hours before flying,” said Indonesian Suyanto after taking a domestic route in late May.

There were multiple queues and screenings before he could even check in at the airport, he added.

Passengers in the country must declare a reason for flying, provide documentation proving they are virus-free, undergo multiple screenings, and offer details of their movements on arrival.

“It was more tiring and expensive. With these kinds of strict rules, I think people will think twice before travelling,” said the 40-year-old, who had to pay double the usual fare for his short flight as some seats were left empty for social distancing.

As the aviation industry attempts to find a way forward, experts warn the impact of the pandemic will be far-reaching.

“9/11 created a new environment for the entire travel industry in terms of security,” explained Shukor Yusof from Malaysia-based Endau Analytics.

While the fallout from the 2001 attacks could be used as an “indicator” of what to expect, the COVID-19 challenge was a “far more serious… global event”, he said.

Defiant passengers

The United Nations’ civil aviation agency has drawn up a set of guidelines for safe flying in the wake of the pandemic, from mandatory wearing of masks to the disinfection of areas people come in contact with.

In addition, industry body the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has suggested governments collect passenger data — including health information — ahead of travel, and that access to airports be restricted to staff and same-day travellers.

Other measures outlined in their guidelines include the redesign of gate areas to reduce congestion, faster and smoother boarding and baggage collection procedures, and even “prohibiting queues for the washrooms” to limit passenger interaction.

Passengers face the prospect of even stricter security measures than those put in place after the September 11 attacks in 2001. PHOTO: AFP / ADEK BERRY

“The COVID-19 crisis is the biggest disruption in the history of the aviation industry. The recovery is going to be long and slow,” Albert Tjoeng, regional spokesman for IATA, told AFP.

Implementing new regulations is already proving challenging — and chaotic.

While some US airlines require masks be worn in-flight, it has proven difficult to enforce this rule if passengers are defiant.

In India, which resumed domestic flights last week, some cabin crew wore protective suits with masks, plastic visors and blue rubber gloves, but, according to media reports, had no idea if they were supposed to quarantine post-flight.

Mumbai airport put in place social distancing rules but these quickly fell apart when angry travellers harangued staff after flights were cancelled last-minute.

The most hotly debated measure in the industry has been whether to leave middle seats empty.

Japan Airlines and Delta are among carriers doing so but Michael O’Leary, the boss of Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, has said the idea is “idiotic” and would stop his firm making money.

‘Travel bubbles’

The emergence of COVID-19, which was first reported in China last year and has since infected more than seven million people worldwide, brought air travel to an almost complete halt with entire fleets grounded and mass layoffs.

IATA forecasts international carriers are in line to make a combined net loss of more than $84 billion this year.

“We don’t know exactly how the trajectory of this recovery will look,” Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong said, after the carrier reported the first full-year loss in its 48-year history.

There are some signs of recovery as major economies ease lockdowns — with IATA pointing to a growth in flight numbers from April to May — but flying looks set to struggle to return to pre-virus levels.

While there are signs of a recovery as lockdowns are eased, flying looks set to struggle to return to pre-virus levels. PHOTO: AFP/File / Hector RETAMAL

A confusing patchwork of rules imposed by countries at different stages in tackling their outbreaks makes it tricky for consumers to plan holidays or visit family abroad.

Some nations are maintaining bans on travellers from hard-hit nations or requiring people to enter quarantine on arrival, typically for a 14-day period.

Countries that have kept the virus in check are looking at creating “travel bubbles”, or reciprocal agreements with other places on similar outbreak curves, but these can have onerous requirements.

A “fast lane” for essential business and official travel between some parts of China and Singapore has been launched, but travellers need sponsorship and have to take a virus test before departure and on arrival.

Many who previously flew frequently may simply choose not to for the time being.

Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of Singapore-based Islamic travel specialist HalalTrip, told AFP: “If I have to go through all the hassle, I might as well not travel unless I really have to.”

Reporting and photos: AFP

An Insider

Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry



In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.

Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.

After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.

Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.

In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.

As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.

Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.

Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.

As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.

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Fan Club

A remarkable tale of wanderlust: Naito Takashi’s 103rd journey to the Maldives



The azure waters of the Maldives have long been a magnet for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. Among these wanderers, one name stands out – Naito Takashi, a Japanese tourist whose boundless enthusiasm for the Maldives has led him to visit this tropical haven a staggering 103 times. His unwavering love for this island nation, coupled with its mesmerizing beauty, has turned his visits into a remarkable testament to the allure of the Maldives.

For the past 24 years, Naito Takashi has visited Maldives between three to five times annually, embarking on a journey that has spanned more than two decades. His tale is one of dedication, passion, and a deep-rooted connection with the captivating landscapes that the Maldives offers. Each visit is not just a vacation; it’s a renewal of his profound relationship with the natural wonders that have captured his heart.

Naito Takashi’s 103rd arrival to the Maldives was met with a warm and heartfelt welcome from none other than the Tourism Minister himself, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. This gesture symbolizes the deep appreciation the Maldivian people have for their loyal and devoted visitors. The ceremony held aboard the M/V Blue of the Fun Azul Fleet was a fitting tribute to a traveler who has become an honorary ambassador of the Maldives.

The M/V Blue, Fun Azul Fleet, holds special significance for Naito Takashi. As an avid diver, he has found his perfect companion in this cruise boat specialized in diving charters. The vessel offers schedules tailored to explore the best dive spots around the Maldives’ islands, making it an ideal partner for a diving enthusiast like Naito Takashi. The crystal-clear waters of the Maldives have witnessed countless underwater escapades orchestrated by this intrepid traveler.

The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism has lauded Naito Takashi’s enduring passion for the nation’s beauty. Their tweet acknowledging his multiple visits serves as a testament to his unique and cherished relationship with the country. He has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of the Maldives, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant marine life, and has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry.

Naito Takashi’s story also reflects the profound impact that travel can have on an individual’s life. His unwavering commitment to exploring the Maldives has not only enriched his own experiences but has also brought attention to the natural wonders of Maldives. It stands as a reminder that the act of traveling is not just about ticking off destinations from a bucket list; it’s about forming connections, fostering appreciation, and creating lasting memories.

As Naito Takashi continues his journey through the Maldives, his story resonates as an inspiration to fellow travelers and a tribute to the unyielding allure of this island paradise. His 103rd visit is not just a numerical milestone; it’s a celebration of an extraordinary bond between a traveler and a destination, a bond that has grown stronger with each passing year and promises to endure for years to come.

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Amari Raaya Maldives opens its gates to paradise



In a grand celebration of luxury and nature’s wonders, Amari Raaya Maldives resort has officially opened its doors, welcoming its first guests to experience a slice of paradise in the Maldives. The exclusive event was attended by the resort’s management team, as well as Atul Chordia, Chairman of Panchshil Realty, the developer behind this magnificent project.

Nestled on a pristine natural island in the heart of the Maldives’ Raa Atoll, Amari Raaya promises to be a sanctuary for travelers seeking an unforgettable escape amidst the archipelago’s breathtaking beauty. From the moment guests arrived via Manta Air seaplane, they were greeted with warm hospitality and a taste of Maldivian culture, as they were presented with traditional cultural items and treated to mesmerizing Maldivian dances.

Atul Chordia, the visionary behind Panchshil Realty, and Yuthachai Charanachitta ONYX Hospitality Group’s CEO marked the official opening of the resort by cutting the ribbon, signifying the culmination of a labor of love and dedication to creating a unique haven for luxury travelers.

With 187 villas offering a variety of luxurious experiences, Amari Raaya ensures that every guest’s stay is truly exceptional. Visitors can choose from an array of accommodation options, including the Beach Villas, Beach Pool Villas, and interconnecting Family Beach Villas, perfect for creating cherished memories with loved ones.

For those seeking unparalleled luxury and seclusion, the Ocean Villas and Ocean Pool Villas provide panoramic views of the azure waters teeming with marine life. Sunset enthusiasts can revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Maldivian dusk from the privacy of their villas, opting for the Sunset Ocean Villas or Sunset Ocean Pool Villas, promising an unforgettable experience.

Amari Raaya Maldives goes beyond offering captivating villas; it has curated an extraordinary culinary journey for its guests. With eight distinct dining options, visitors can embark on a gastronomic adventure that caters to every palate. From the signature Amaya Food Gallery, serving famous street food and hawker delights, to the rooftop bar Ampers&nd, where guests can savor sunset snacks and cocktails, the resort promises to delight all epicureans. Poolside Italian favorites, freshly caught seafood infused with Maldivian and Asian flavors, and the fun and playful experience of enjoying mobile snacks and drinks served from a bus all add to the culinary magic of the resort.

In the evenings, guests can find a sense of community and immerse themselves in the local culture through live music, traditional Boduberu nights, and regular cultural events and festivities, making every moment at Amari Raaya Maldives an enriching and memorable one.

Amari Raaya Maldives is developed by Panchshil Realty, a name synonymous with excellence in luxury real estate in India. The resort is managed by Onyx Hospitality, renowned for its exceptional and personalized hospitality experiences.

With its official opening, Amari Raaya Maldives invites travelers from around the world to discover the allure of the Maldives in unparalleled comfort and style. As guests arrive at this oasis of luxury and natural splendor, they are sure to find themselves enchanted by the timeless beauty of the islands and immersed in an experience that will linger in their hearts forever.

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