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Mount Everest Empties as Covid-19 Strikes Tourism in Nepal

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Just last year, Nepal attracted so many mountain climbers that a human traffic jam of hundreds of hikers in puffy jackets snarled a trail to the top of Mount Everest.

The crowds were proof of how fast — too fast, some have said — Nepal’s alpine tourism industry had grown, becoming a lifeline for the country. Last year tourism brought in more than $2 billion to Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest nations, and employed a million people, from porters to pilots.

The pandemic has stopped all of that.

The trails snaking through the Himalayas are deserted, including those leading up to Everest Base Camp. Fewer than 150 climbers have arrived this fall season, immigration officials said, down from thousands last year.

Countless Sherpas and experienced mountain guides have been put out of work, leaving many to plant barley or graze yaks across the empty slopes to survive.

Many Nepalis fear that the combined effect of the coronavirus and the hammer blow to the economy could set this nation back for years.

“I often think I will die of hunger before corona kills me,” said Upendra Lama, an out-of-work mountain porter who now relies on donations from a small aid organization to feed himself and his children. “How long will this go on?”

Although the whole world is asking similar questions, Nepal has few resources to help people cope. Covid-19 cases are steadily rising, and with around 1,000 intensive-care beds for a population of 30 million, the authorities have instructed people who get sick to stay home unless they slip into critical condition. An unknown number may die out of sight and undetected.

The economic wreckage is easier to see. Hotels and the teahouses clinging to the sides of mountains are boarded up. Restaurants, gear shops and even some of the most popular watering holes in the capital, Kathmandu, have closed for the foreseeable future, including the Tom and Jerry pub, which for decades served as a beacon for backpackers.

“There’s no hope in sight,” said the pub’s owner, Puskar Lal Shrestha.

Remittances from Nepalis working abroad have become another casualty. When times were good, millions sent back money from across Asia, especially from Persian Gulf countries. Last year, total remittances were almost $9 billion. Nepal relies on remittances more than just about any other country.

Many Nepalis held unglamorous jobs, such as security guards or maids. But the money was good, especially for people from a country where the average income is the equivalent of $3 a day.

Now many of them have been laid off. Some have been sent home, while others remain trapped in foreign countries, with no work and the specter of deportation hanging over them.

The pause in remittances has frightened many families. Several people who were interviewed said they had been forced to move to cheaper apartments and to take their children out of private schools and send them instead to government schools they considered inferior.

“If the world does not get a corona vaccine soon, our remittances, which contribute around 30 percent to the national G.D.P., will completely dry up,” said Sujit Kumar Shrestha, the general secretary of Nepal’s Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.

As the economy ails, hospitals are filling up. Doctors say that the wealthy and the politically connected are monopolizing hospital beds, leaving the poor who get sick with nowhere to go.

“Our health system is weak, and the monitoring mechanism is even weaker,” said Dr. Rabindra Pandey, who works for Nepal Arogya Kendra, an independent organization of public health experts. “Well-connected and wealthy people can easily access private hospitals and afford their fees, but many of the poor are dying.”

With winter fast approaching and the Hindu festival season in full swing, public health experts warn that Nepal’s Covid-19 crisis is about to get worse. The country has reported around 175,000 infections, roughly the same rate per capita as India next door. And although its reported deaths remain fewer than 1,000, testing remains low and the consensus among Nepali doctors is that virus infections and deaths are many times higher.

The virus has reached its tentacles into rural areas and remote towns that just a few months ago had few or no reported cases. Government officials have been accused of exploiting the pandemic to make money. A parliamentary committee is looking into accusations that officials close to the prime minister, K.P. Sharma Oli, inflated prices of key medical supplies. The officials have denied the allegations.

In some areas, Covid-19 has cut through entire families.

Dharma Kumar Shrestha, an elderly man who ran a small business importing clothes, checked into a hospital in southern Nepal in late September to seek treatment for asthma, the beginning of a chain of events that killed nearly half his family. He caught Covid-19 in the hospital, family members said. Two of his sons who visited him then got infected.

With the hospitals filling up, and the authorities ordering people to recover at home, the sons went back to their village. They got sicker. When one called for an ambulance, the driver refused, afraid of getting sick himself.

Within two weeks, Mr. Dharma and two sons had died.

“What could be worse news than this?” asked Suman Shrestha, a younger relative. “Let’s pray no one else has to face our fate.”

Health experts say that many of Nepal’s infections have come from Nepali workers traveling back from India. India is now No. 2 in the world in terms of reported Covid-19 infections — around eight million, right behind the United States.

Nepal lives in India’s shadow. Its economy, strategic affairs and overall health are constantly rearranged by what happens in its huge neighbor to the south.

Partly because of the boost from tourism, Nepal’s economy had been growing faster than India’s, at nearly 6 percent in 2019. Usually at this time of year, jet after jet would thread the mountain ranges by Kathmandu’s international airport and disgorge thousands of well-heeled tourists, including many Indians, eager to hike in the Annapurnas or up to Mount Everest base camp.

Last year, more than a million tourists visited. The average spent more than $50 a day.

Tourism officials expect that at least 800,000 people employed in the tourism industry will lose their jobs. Among the first to go, officials said, will be the 50,000 or so high-altitude guides, Sherpas and others in the trekking ecosystem. Some have started protesting on the streets of Kathmandu, urging the government to give them loans to help feed their families and threatening to vandalize the tourism board’s office if they get no relief.

“Guides, once known as the real agents of tourism, have been left in the lurch,” said Prakash Rai, a climbing guide who participated in the recent protests. “We have no means to survive this crisis.”

Not long ago, some people inside and outside the country were saying it grew too fast. Some experienced climbers have complained that Nepal had become so eager to welcome climbers that the Everest scene had become unruly and dangerous. Another problem has been the growing trash heaps on Everest’s slopes.

Despite the rise in Covid-19 cases, other parts of the economy, like manufacturing, are trying to sputter back to life, and some schools have reopened. Travel restrictions imposed this spring and summer have been eased. A mass exodus has begun from the cities to far-flung villages as Nepalis head home to celebrate the Hindu holidays of Dashain and Tihar.

Yet such movement is bypassing tourist areas.

Pokhara, a beautiful lakeside city in the center of the country, has become a ghost town. At this time last year, it teemed with trekkers.

But as Baibob Poudel, a Pokhara hotelier, said, “I haven’t seen a single foreigner here since April.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi.

By: Bhadra Sharma and Jeffrey Gettleman
Title: Mount Everest Empties as Covid-19 Strikes Tourism in Nepal
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/02/world/asia/coronavirus-nepal-tourism-remittances.html
Published Date: Mon, 02 Nov 2020 08:08:54 +0000

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Vacation

What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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