We’ve done all the hard work, so you don’t have to! Read on for the top ten travel stories you need to know today.

1. Watch Virgin Blue melt away, literally

It was a great name to launch what is now one of Australia’s most successful airlines, but as of this week Virgin Blue is officially gone for good.

Marking the end of the airline’s four-year transformation from Virgin Blue to Virgin Australia, the final aircraft sporting the old logo and livery has officially been repainted with Virgin Australia’s white and silver livery.

The Boeing 737-800, named after Ocean Grove Beach in regional Victoria, is the last of 56 aircraft to be repainted after Virgin Australia rebranded in 2011 from a low cost carrier into a contemporary airline for all Australians, as part of its Game Change Program strategy.

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2. A million new cruisers for you to book

cruise ship generic

You know how you’re constantly being told that the cruise industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in travel? Prepare to hear why it’s true.

This year, around 23 million passengers are expected to set sail. 23 million – that’s the entire population of Australia.

According to Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) latest figures, that is also one million more than the 2014 forecast of 21.7 million cruisers.

But that’s not even the coolest part.

Read on


3. How to get an upgrade – bid for it

Qantas 747

Qantas is giving its frequent flyers a new way to request an upgrade – by bidding for it.

The airline is rolling out a new online invitation-only bidding system called ‘Bid Now Upgrades’ that allows its loyalty members booked in economy and premium economy to make an offer for a business upgrade using a combination of money and Qantas Points.

Upgrades will be allocated after all Classic Upgrade Rewards (which are points-only upgrade) have been processed.

The new system ranks below Classic Upgrade Rewards in terms of priority and value, but gives members the flexibility to supplement points with a cash payment.

Qantas Loyalty’s boss said Bid Now Upgrades provides passengers with greater opportunity to travel in premium cabins

“This is designed for Frequent Flyers who don’t have a balance high enough to request an upgrade using points alone.”

Lesley Grant, Qantas Loyalty chief executive

While many other airlines offer similar upgrade bidding processes, Qantas says Bid Now Upgrades is unique because it is the only system to offer customers an upgrade option using a combination of points and money.


 4. INCENTIVE: Win gift cards & more

Acacia Adventures

Acacia Africa and Venture Holidays are offering travel agents an incentive for new bookings made in the month of February.

The incentive marks the new GSA partnership, which sees Acacia brochures and sales in Australia distributed through Venture Holidays.

Receive a $100 Coles Group and Myer gift card for every new booking made on any Acacia Overland, Accommodated Overland or Small Group tour.

To be eligible, simply book and deposit by 28 February 2015.

For incentive conditions contact Venture Holidays on 1300 414 151 or email [email protected]


5. Aussie author appointed Scenic godmother

Scenic's godmother

What does Australian author Kathy Lette have in common with Mariah Carey, Kate Middleton and Kristin Chenoweth?

She’s joined the fairy ranks of godmother to a cruise vessel.

Scenic Tours has announced the ‘Puberty Blues’ writer will be godmother to the river cruise line’s forthcoming ship Scenic Jasper.

Kathy will christen the 169-passenger river cruise ship in Vienna in April before it commences a full season sailing the Rhine, Main, Danube.

“I am thrilled to be smashing the champers over the bow of this luxurious Aussie vessel and to be unveiling my leopard mini-skirted figure head. Yes, now I can finally say that I have prowess!”

Kathy Lette, author & Scenic Jasper’s godmother

Scenic Jasper and its sister ship, Scenic Opal, join the Scenic ‘Space-Ship’ fleet as the next generation of river cruisers and bring the fleet total to 11.

Both new ships will boast the largest suites on the rivers with the ultimate in private balcony accommodation – the Royal Panorama Suites. The 44m2 luxury suites feature a separate bedroom, and the popular state-of-the-art Scenic ‘Sun Lounge’.

They also feature a new vitality pool for guests to enjoy on the Sun Deck.


6. Japan AIMEs for more MICE

Japan MICE

Japan will have more to showcase at this year’s two-day AIME conference after actively developing new infrastructure and securing major world events.

There will be six Japanese co-exhibitors at AIME this year, including Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, JTB Global Marketing & Travel, Nippon Travel Agency, Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, THE J TEAM – Japan DMC and Osaka Government Tourism Bureau.

Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) will also host a special Happy Hour with Sushi event on 24 February from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

Among the biggest developments AIME attendees will learn is the introduction of new air and rail links, giving business travellers increased access to the destination.

Several airlines have introduced new direct routes to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, while Haneda now offers daily direct connections to major European, North American and Asian cities allowing travellers to reach downtown Tokyo or Yokohama in only 30 minutes.  There will also be new Qantas flights from Sydney to Haneda and Brisbane to Narita commencing in August 2015.

On the tracks, the shinkansen, Japan’s world-famous bullet train, will soon reach new corners of the country at top speeds, with extensions to Kanazawa opening in March 2015.

The Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, an extension of the Nagano Shinkansen Line, is planned to begin operations in March 2015, linking the cities of Nagano and Kanazawa.

With extra connections comes new facilities. A new convention centre will open in Sendai in spring this year, adding an additional 3,000 square metres of exhibition space and four meeting rooms to Japan’s MICE industry.

In accommodation more international hotel brands are opening properties in Japan, including Aman Tokyo, which commenced operations in December last year.

This year, business travellers can expect to see Hoshinoya Fuji to open in Hakone later this year and Suiran, a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel will open in Kyoto in March.

Click here for all the latest stories and features on Japan.


7. GALTA joins Auckland Pride Festival

Image: NZGMW/Shutterstock

Image: NZGMW/Shutterstock

Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia (GALTA), the lead membership body driving the profile of LGBT travel, is crossing the Tasman this month to drive interest in Australia at the popular Auckland Pride Festival.

Now in its fourth year, the Festival incorporates a host of signature events and GALTA will focus its efforts on the LYC Big Gay Out event, encouraging New Zealanders to connect with LGBT friendly businesses and events when visiting Australia.

A cornerstone of the Festival, the LYC Big Gay Out is a relaxed day of music and performance with over 100 market stalls covering travel, retail, health and wellbeing and food and a dedicated GALTA booth will profile the wide diversity of members, from accommodation and tours to events and dining.

Festival-goers visiting the GALTA booth will also have the opportunity to win two tickets to the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade Party (7 March), including access to the Parade Viewing Area and Sideshow.

Visit Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia at Auckland Pride Festival’s LYC Big Gay Out for more details and the chance to win Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade Party tickets.


8. Jet Asia migrates to Amadeus

Jet Asia

Amadeus and Thai airline, Jet Asia Airways have completed implementation of the full Amadeus Altéa Suite. The project has been the fastest Amadeus migration to date for a carrier in Asia Pacific, spanning only three months.

The implementation of the Altéa Suite will be key to Jet Asia Airways’ ongoing expansion programme, which includes the launch of a new network of scheduled passenger services that connect Thailand with North Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In particular, the Altéa Suite broadens Jet Asia Airways’ distribution channels enabling the airline to successfully enter new international markets and customer segments, such as online sales and bookings via travel agencies.

Amadeus’ technology will additionally enable the airline to efficiently operate its new scheduled network, while still providing flexibility for it to also support its charter operations.


9. HeeYa! Herd of agents gather for Alberta

Alberta feature

Agents took out the cowboy hats and boots to learn about Alberta’s rodeos and ranches.

Around 200 travel agents donned their Calgary Stampede cowboy hats and boots on Saturday night at Travel Alberta’s Experience Alberta travel agents’ event, themed Ranch, Rodeo & Rockies.

Held at the Australian Outback Spectacular on the Gold Coast, the evening saw agents treated to a behind-the-scenes tour to meet the cast and crew of the Australian Outback Spectacular, plus entertainment by Calgary Stampede country western singer Jake Mathews.

Videos of Alberta were played to showcase Ranch, Rodeo and Rockies and there was even a High Country Legends equestrian style horse performance, reminiscent of Alberta’s own mountains, ranches and Calgary Stampede.

It wouldn’t be an industry event without prizes.

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10. Holiday flings, not just for twenty-somethings

older couple

Cruise ships aren’t the only place older travellers are jumping beds, they’re doing it while visiting various destinations too.

Findings released by Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) found one in ten travellers aged 50 and over are finding romance while on holidays.

Eleven percent of those said their holiday lovin’ was with a local while on an overseas trip – that’s the exact same number of younger travellers who said they’d hooked up with a resident from the country they visited.

Read on


Need to Know Extra: 54-year-old missing plane finally found

The wreckage of a plane that went missing over 54 years ago has finally been located by a group of Chilean mountaineers.

Hikers were climbing a mountain 360 kilometres south of Chile’s capital, Santiago when they stumbled upon plane parts at an altitude of around 3,200 metres.

Expedition member Leonardo Albornoz told a Chilean news program that the exact site of the crash is being kept secret to prevent looting.

The Douglas DC-3 went missing in April 1961 with 24 passengers onboard, including eight members of Chile’s top-division soccer team.

Players and staff were returning from an away match to Santiago on two separate planes, but only one reached the Chilean capital.

A search team spent weeks looking for the missing plane but were unable to locate it.

“It was an overwhelming moment and we felt all kinds of sensations. One could feel the energy of the location and breathe in the pain.”

Leonardo Albornoz, expedition member

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