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Europe reopens borders, but virus looms large elsewhere



A raft of EU nations reopened their borders to fellow Europeans Monday, but a new coronavirus outbreak in China and surging death tolls in the Americas underlined the bleak struggles still ahead in the pandemic.

More than eight million people have now been infected with the virus worldwide since it emerged in China late last year, and more than 435,000 have died, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

The virus is surging in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the death toll passed 80,000 — the majority in Brazil, which has the second-highest number of infections and deaths in the world, after the United States.

Iran, India and Saudi Arabia have also reported worrying increases in deaths and infections, adding to concern the world still faces a long fight against COVID-19.

‘It’s been five months’

Caseloads have declined recently across many parts of Europe, and governments are keen to ease lockdowns that have saved lives but devastated economies and taken a psychological and emotional toll.

Belgium, France, Germany and Greece were among the countries that lifted border restrictions Monday. In Spain, a planeload of German tourists flew to the Balearic islands in an experimental pilot project.

A planeload of German tourists flew to Spain’s Mallorca island, taking part in a test of plans to reopen the popular destination as the country emerges from its coronavirus lockdown. PHOTO: AFP / JAIME REINA

The European Union launched an app, “Re-open EU” — available in 24 languages — to help travellers find out which EU countries they can enter.

At Brussels Zaventem airport, Joy Kamel, a student travelling to join her father in France, waited to board a flight to Marseille.

“It’s been five months since I’ve seen him,” she told AFP. “I’m in the middle of an exam, but since I’m taking them online, I might as well take advantage.”

In England, shops and outdoor attractions welcomed their first customers since March.

Britain, which has the highest virus toll in Europe, is anxious to get back to work after figures last week showed the economy shrank by one-fifth in April.

In Paris, cafes and restaurants were allowed to fully reopen after three months of lockdown, catching up with the rest of France.

“The question now is whether clients will come back,” said Albert Aidan, manager at L’Ami Georges, in the heart of Paris.

Mass testing in Beijing

But fears of a “second wave” remain — fuelled by news from China, which has locked down parts of Beijing to battle a new outbreak.

On Tuesday, Chinese authorities reported another 27 domestically transmitted cases in the capital, bringing the number of infections over the last five days to 106.

COVID-19 deaths. PHOTO: AFP / John SAEKI

The new cluster, linked to a wholesale food market, has led city officials to lock down more than 20 neighbourhoods and test tens of thousands of people.

Americas reeling

The crisis has upended countless lives and ravaged the global economy — and has yet to peak in many places.

In Latin America, the latest epicenter, the grim death toll has been accompanied by devastating economic news.

The Inca site at Machu Picchu, Peru, is to reopen with a reduced number of visitors. PHOTO: AFP / Percy Hurtado

Peru reported its economy shrank by more than 40 percent year-on-year in April.

Chile meanwhile extended its state of emergency by three months, two days after the health minister resigned amid controversy and confusion over the country’s rising death toll.

There was mixed news from the United States, which recorded its lowest daily death toll since March: 385, according to Johns Hopkins University.

It was the second consecutive day the US toll came in below 400. However, the United States remains the hardest-hit country in the world by far, with more than 116,000 deaths.

Some states have seen new flare-ups recently, but President Donald Trump’s administration insists there will be no new economic shutdown even if a second wave arises.

A return to normal still looks distant. Organizers postponed the Oscars by two months, until April 25, and Major League Baseball’s commissioner said he was no longer confident the 2020 season would be played.

Wall Street stocks shook off early weakness and finished higher Monday as fresh Federal Reserve announcements of emergency lending.

The US also withdrew emergency use authorisations for two antimalarial drugs touted by Trump for use against coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine (CQ), over studies that found them ineffective in treating COVID-19.

Morgues overflowing

The rise in infections in India has highlighted the precarious state of the nation’s healthcare system. PHOTO: AFP / Prakash SINGH

Iran, the Middle East’s worst-hit country, warned it might have to reimpose tough measures to ensure social distancing, after reporting more than 100 deaths for a second straight day.

And the total number of deaths in Saudi Arabia topped 1,000 amid a new rise in infections just weeks before the annual hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites.

In India, officials said 15 million people in the city of Chennai and neighbouring districts would go back under lockdown, as cases surged there.

The rise in infections in the country of 1.2 billion people has highlighted the precarious state of its healthcare system. In the capital, Delhi, morgues are overflowing.

Reporting and photos: AFP


Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project



Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.

The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.

Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.

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Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services



Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.

Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.

“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.

“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.

Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”

Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.

“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.

To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.

Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.

Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.

For more information, visit

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Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops



Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.

As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.

Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”

“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”

Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.

All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.

Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at:

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