Travel Unpacked: Middle East flight disruption and Europe's top sustainable destination

The National rounds up the need-to-know tourism news you might have missed

Edinburgh has been named Europe's most sustainable holiday destination in 2024. Photo: K Mitch Hodge / Unsplash
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As tensions in the Middle East simmered, many countries opted to close their airspace following Iran's attack on Israel and this led to hundreds of delayed and cancelled flights across the region and beyond.

In lighter news, Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh has been named Europe's most sustainable destination and Four Seasons is offering out its private jet for charter bookings.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

Ongoing flight disruption in the Middle East

Travellers heading to the Middle East may face delays or disruptions to their journey after several airlines in the region cancelled or diverted flights due to rising tensions between Israel and Iran.

On Saturday, Iran launched a barrage of drones and missiles at Israel. Immediately after, several countries in the region closed their airspace, including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel. This resulted in many airlines grounding flights, and diverting others to avoid Iranian airspace.

By Monday, most airlines had resumed scheduled services but passengers could face delays and disruption over the coming days due to the knock-on effects. Etihad Airways advised passengers that they may face knock-on effects, and Swiss International Air Lines announced it was cancelling all flights to Beirut until Thursday, and to Tel Aviv until further notice. The European carrier is also avoiding Israeli airspace until at least Thursday, meaning some travellers will face longer flight journeys as the airline, and others, take alternative routes.

Instead of flying standard routes through the Middle East, many planes are instead diverting to fly over Saudi Arabia and Egypt – an option that will add extra travel time to passenger journeys.

Australia's flag carrier Qantas previously announced that it will not fly over Middle East airspace while the situation is ongoing, meaning there are currently no direct flights operating from Perth to London.

EasyJet's efforts to make air travel greener

Budget UK airline easyJet took a big stride forward in its efforts to promote more sustainable flying this week, after completing the first successful airside hydrogen refueling trial.

The experiment was the first to take place at any major UK airport, and was intended to show that hydrogen can be safely and reliably used in place of other fuel options, many of which are less sustainable.

Dubbed Project Acorn, the trial saw easyJet use the fuel to power up its baggage tractors – a critical component of the airline's ground services operations.

“It’s without doubt that hydrogen will be an important fuel of the future for short-haul aviation, as demonstrated by the rate of innovation we’re seeing.

“While the technology is advancing at an exciting pace, as hydrogen isn’t used in commercial aviation today, there is currently no regulatory guidance in place on how it can and should be used, and so trials like this are very important in building the safety case,” said David Morgan, chief operating officer at easyJet.

Data and insight gathered from the trial will be used to create the first safety guidance and inform the creation of the regulatory framework.

The project was approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which acted as an independent reviewer of the safety case, and it's hoped that the trial will accelerate the use of hydrogen in aviation and across other industries.

Scotland’s pretty capital is Europe’s most sustainable holiday destination

Travellers looking to make a sustainable choice for summer holiday plans may want to consider booking a trip to Edinburgh, the historic capital of Scotland, after the city was ranked Europe’s greenest destination in a study.

Looking at factors including pollution levels, vegan restaurants, nature spots and percentage of hotels with EV charging stations, the study from Discover Cars found that Edinburgh was Europe’s most sustainable city, with plenty of green spaces for visitors to enjoy, great vegan offerings and low pollution rates. Second in the rankings is Zurich in Switzerland, where travellers can hop on and off electric public transport, and easily find hotels to charge electric vehicles.

France, the world's most visited country can also claim to be one of Europe’s most sustainable destinations as Paris ranked third in the study, after it was lauded for efforts to remove 70,000 parking spaces and replace them with trees, bike spaces and EV charging points.

Rounding out the top five are Barcelona – praised for its vegan and eco-minded restaurants – and Rotterdam, the Netherland’s sustainable waterfront city where eco-friendly electric boats are the ideal way to get around town.

The remaining cities in the top 10 were Hamburg, Ghent, Copenhagen, Turin and Limerick.

Four Seasons Private Jet opens for charter bookings

Four Seasons has announced that its custom-designed private jet is now open for charter bookings for a limited number of dates this year. The sleek aircraft can accommodate up to 48 passengers and comes with luxury lie-flat seats and a private chef on hand to create in-flight gourmet meals.

But the experience doesn't come cheap – the Airbus A321neo-LR costs about $115,000 per day to hire, including flights, onboard services, pilots and crew.

If that hefty price tag isn't out of your holiday budget, the jet is available to charter on dates between August 4 to 26 and from December 20 to 27 only. And when it comes to your destination, the world is your oyster – almost. Limitations include the jet's range, which is limited to nine hours, and restrictions on domestic flights in select countries, including the US.

Travellers can opt to explore existing Four Seasons itineraries, which include A Journey of Discovery that takes in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the ancient Pyramids in Egypt, or the Around the World trip that showcases the buzz of Tokyo, the shores of the Maldives and the plains of the Serengeti. Or enlist the help of Four Seasons team members to create a personalised itinerary, making use of the hotel group's vast network of on-the-ground experts.

Fly direct to France to check out the Summer Olympics and see filming locations from Emily in Paris, before heading to Croatia for sun-soaked beach days and island discoveries. Embrace your inner White Lotus guest with a trip to Maui and then to Taormina, where Four Seasons resorts served as the backdrops in the first two seasons of the hit HBO show. Embrace holiday magic in December with a visit to Europe's best Christmas markets in Prague and Vienna, before taking in the city lights of London and visiting Santa's reindeer in Lapland. All itineraries can include guided tours and exclusive access at many of the world's tourism landmarks.

Updated: April 15, 2024, 1:41 PM