Pandemic travel news: Asia-Pacific vacations on the horizon

CNN  — 

The UK introduced a new system for international travel, relaxing testing requirements for many fully vaccinated travelers and designating destinations either “red” or “green.”

Here’s what we learned in pandemic travel this week.

From October 11, England is set to remove 47 countries from its red list, leaving only seven red destinations: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

1. You might be able to start planning that Asian-Pacific vacation

Tourists on the observation deck at Kuala Lumpur Tower in Malaysia on October 1.

Several nations in the Asia-Pacific region are moving away from zero-Covid strategies toward living with the virus – and thus loosening up their borders.

On October 10, Singapore added eight new countries, including the US and the UK, to its vaccinated and quarantine-free travel lanes.

The next day, its Southeast Asian neighbor Malaysia ended its domestic and international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated residents after reaching its target of full inoculation for 90% of the adult population.

Next up were the Indonesian islands of Bali and Riau – they reopened on October 14 to visitors from 19 countries. Those lucky 19 are China, India, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Norway.

Over in Australia, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet announced on October 15 that the state – including Sydney – will end its Covid-19 quarantine for fully vaccinated international travelers starting November 1.

Thailand moved a little closer to fully reopening to tourism by allowing fully vaccinated visitors from a handful of approved countries to bypass quarantine starting November 1. The 10 countries to make the cut include Singapore, Germany, China, the US and the UK. More will be added to the list on December 1.

Finally, the South Pacific island of Fiji, which has been closed to international visitors since the start of the pandemic, has announced that it will officially reopen on December 1 with the resumption of scheduled tourism flights.

2. Spain joined France and Portugal on the CDC’s ‘less risky’ list

Spain -- Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca is pictured -- has had a drop in Covid cases.

It’s a small win – it still means up to 500 cases per 100,000 people in the past 28 days – but Spain has moved down to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s “Level 3: Covid-19 High” category on its regularly updated travel advisory.

It joins other popular European tourist destinations on the Level 3 list, including France, Germany, Italy and Portugal.

Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Cyprus and the UK are still up in the highest-risk Level 4 category, where all nonessential travel is not advised. Meanwhile, Hungary and the Madeira Islands are the only European destinations down on Level 2 (“Moderate”).

3. Fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be able to start entering the US from November 8

The US-Mexico border wall in Otay Mesa, California, on August 13, 2021.

The confusing patchwork of bans covering inbound travel to the United States through its air and land borders has started to get simpler.

Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary, tweeted on October 15: “The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8. This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel.”

Earlier in the week, the White House announced it was planning to ease restrictions on travel for fully jabbed visitors from Canada and Mexico starting in early November.

The first phase will allow fully vaccinated visitors traveling for nonessential reasons, such as visiting friends or for tourism, to cross US land borders. The second phase, beginning January 2022, will allow entry to all fully vaccinated inbound foreign travelers.

4. The EU is providing free rail passes to 60,000 young people

The EU Commission is giving away free travel rail passes to 60,000 European citizens form ages 18 to 20.

Youngsters who’ve been cooped up during the pandemic will be able to stretch their wings by taking off on rail adventures between March 2022 and February 2023 for up to 30 days. Applications for this round are open until October 26.

CNN Travel’s global editor Barry Neild traveled overland across Europe and down to Morocco in the 1990s, with a starting budget of barely $100. You can read his story here.

5. There was more chaos and cancellations on a US airline

Passengers wait in line at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on October 11.

Back in August, there were days of mass cancellations on US airlines Spirit and American. This week, it was the turn of Southwest.

The world’s largest low-cost carrier canceled more than 2,000 flights over three days, blaming the crisis on air traffic control problems and limited staffing in Florida as well as bad weather.

A Chicago bride who got married in Las Vegas was even left with no family at her wedding when her relatives’ flights all got canceled.

6. The Dominican Republic had its best tourism month ever

60 second vacation dominican republic spc_00002714.jpg
60-Second Vacation: Dominican Republic
00:59 - Source: CNN

David Collado, the Dominican Republic’s tourism minister, has tweeted that in September the country enjoyed its biggest visitor numbers ever.

It’s welcomed 3.3 million visitors so far this year – more than in the pre-pandemic days of 2019 – of which more than 365,000 were in September, reports the Caribbean Journal.

The Dominican Republic is at “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” on the CDC’s travel advisory list.

7. Dubai had the world’s busiest international airport

Dubai (DXB) has overtaken Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) as the world’s busiest international airport, according to the latest report by travel data provider OAG.

Calculated using total airline capacity, there are more than 2.7 million seats on flights scheduled at the airport this month. A good chunk of that will be to do with the opening in October of Dubai Expo 2020, which was delayed by the pandemic. The six-month extravaganza will run through March 31, 2022.

8. An American woman was the only tourist allowed in Bhutan

Monks at Punakha Dzong in Bhutan.

American Fran Bak, a 70-year-old widow who got into gong meditation after her husband passed away in 2018, was granted the first tourist visa to Bhutan since the country closed in March 2020.

“Bhutan is a gift of perfect offerings,” Bak told CNN from the apartment in Thimphu where she was spending a few weeks before heading on the road to do gong workshops in rural villages.

9. New Zealand is letting people get vaccinated on a plane (but it doesn’t fly them anywhere)

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 04: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving during the the post-Cabinet press conference with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament on October 4, 2021 in Wellington. New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern explains why New Zealand is ending zero-Covid strategy
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October 16 is being billed as Super Saturday in New Zealand, where the government is urging eligible unvaccinated New Zealanders to get their shots.

A few lucky people will be able to get their Pfizer vaccine on board an Air New Zealand 787 aircraft at Auckland Airport. They’ll also get a tour of Air New Zealand’s hangar, complimentary snacks and drinks served by Air New Zealand crew members and a commemorative boarding pass.

10. Airbus A380s are returning to the skies

TOPSHOT - A view of the Airbus A380 assembly site in Blagnac, southern France, on March 21, 2018. (Photo by Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)
What happened to the world's biggest passenger plane?
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Thanks to Covid-19, most of the world’s Airbus A380s were grounded. Airbus had already announced plans to cease production of the superjumbos back in 2019 and their steep operational costs had no place in the pandemic’s minimal, cost-efficient international flight schedules.

While their days are still numbered, some airlines – including Singapore Airlines and British Airways – have announced plans to get the aircraft back in the air.

Here’s the lowdown on where they’re flying.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Marnie Hunter, Masrur Jamaluddin, Betsy Klein, Ramishah Maruf, Lilit Marcus, Rhea Mogul, Kocha Olarn and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.