Our Holiday Hero reveals the hacks to maximise airline loyalty schemes

Make your air miles go even further! The hacks to maximise airline loyalty schemes

  • Neil Simpson puts airline loyalty schemes under the microscope
  • He says along with flying, air miles can also be used to pay for car rental 
  • With Virgin, 30,000 miles gets customers a trip in a hot-air balloon

Neil Simpson For The Mail On Sunday

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week he puts airline loyalty schemes under the microscope.

Collect enough frequent flyer points and you can fly for free – that’s what airlines promise in their adverts. 

But travellers say free seats are difficult to find and often carry ‘hidden’ fees. Here are six ways to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of your air miles.

City of light: The magnificent Notre Dame illuminated at night. In June, BA miles can be used to stay at more than 1,300 hotels on a Saturday night in Paris

City of light: The magnificent Notre Dame illuminated at night. In June, BA miles can be used to stay at more than 1,300 hotels on a Saturday night in Paris

Hack one: Always collect. Most loyalty schemes are free to join and you should sign up as soon as you book a flight. Don’t hold back because you may not fly with that airline again. Most schemes let you collect on a variety of carriers. With Virgin, you can also earn miles when you use Delta, South African or Air New Zealand. BA’s family includes American and Qantas.

Hack two: Turbocharge your miles. Serious collectors pick up more miles on the ground than in the air. Most airlines have credit cards where you earn miles or points for every pound spent. The most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use.

Use your airline like a cashback site to get more miles. Shop at MS or Next through BA’s e-store to get an extra three points (called Avios) per pound. Collect with Emirates and get miles when you use booking.com.

Hack three: Book early. Finding free flight availability is a challenge, and as most flights are offered about a year in advance, the sooner you search the better. But prepare for extra costs. A ‘free’ BA economy flight from London to Los Angeles next January costs about £370 in taxes and fees. If you can’t get a free flight, most schemes let you use miles to cut the cost of standard tickets. Emirates offers £75 off economy fares for 10,000 miles.

Holiday Hero Neil Simpson says the most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use

Holiday Hero Neil Simpson says the most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use

Hack four: Get a room. If you can’t fly for free, you can at least pay for hotels with miles when you arrive. Virgin miles can get you free nights at Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western and other chains. BA miles can be used even more widely. In June, it offers more than 1,300 hotels for a Saturday night in Paris – ranging from three-star establishments for 6,000 miles to a night at the Ritz for 212,000 miles.

Hack five: Forget flying. Air miles can also be used to pay for car rental. Find deals on the ‘spend miles’ section of your loyalty scheme’s website. Travel experts like car deals as there’s almost always availability and rentals include insurance.

Hack six: Have fun. Collect miles with Lufthansa or Etihad and you can shop in their Amazon-style catalogues. Bose headphones worth about £280 cost 98,000 Lufthansa miles, while Fossil aviator sunglasses (about £60) cost 21,300 Etihad miles. BA offers occasions such as an eight-hour chauffeured shopping day in London from 11,000 miles.

If you’re determined to use air miles to fly, then 30,000 Virgin miles get you a trip in a hot-air balloon.


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Innside Prague Old Town takes brand into Czech Republic for first time

Meliá Hotels International has unveiled Innside Prague Old Town, its first hotel in the Czech capital.

Opening in next month, the property marks a new era for the Innside by Meliá portfolio, fitting into the brand’s evolution of design-led lifestyle and resort hotels, to give guests more freedom to relax and explore, whether they are travelling for work or leisure.

This year, Innside is evolving to provide spaces for travellers looking to combine work and pleasure, while focusing on sustainability.

Innside Prague Old Town Hotel will provide 90 modern rooms, all featuring the attributes of Meliá brand.

This includes in-room amenities, such as bathrobes, slippers and flip flops, a luxurious coffee machine, complimentary minibar, with fresh juices and local beer and Smeg fridges packed full of healthy treats, drinks and snacks.

Superior+ rooms will also have high-end sound systems, complimentary streaming services and complimentary bike rental to encourage guests to explore the local area.

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Ideal for both business and leisure travellers, the hotel is within easy access to Vaclav Havel International Airport, only 15 kilometres away, and metro, bus and train stations all just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.

Visitors wishing to explore the city will find all the main tourist attractions within easy reach.

The Innside by Meliá brand portfolio already has 38 hotels in 20 countries, 20 in operation and 18 in the pipeline.

Gabriel Escarrer, chief executive of Meliá Hotels International, said: “Innside Prague Old Town will be one of the first hotels to offer all of the new attributes and sustainable features of this stunning and fast-growing brand, which adds up to the attractiveness of this amazing city.

“As the leading leisure hotel group worldwide, our brands are also extremely successful in an increasingly leisure-inspired urban market, where the city of Prague stands out.”

Dalançon to lead Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Waldorf Astoria Hotels Resorts has announced the appointment of Etienne Dalançon as general manager of the upcoming Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.

With more than 20 years of experience in various roles within the hospitality industry, Dalançon joined the Hilton team in 2018, and was most recently general manager of opening projects at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

Over the years, he has strengthened his experience across multiple geographies including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, as well as in his native home of France.

Daniel Welk, vice president, luxury and lifestyle, Hilton, Asia Pacific, said: “We are delighted to have Etienne on board, overseeing the team at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi to offer unrivalled service to discerning global travellers.

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“With his immense experience in the industry, his appointment represents our commitment to delivering unforgettable experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time.”

In addition to his experience in hotel management as general manager of Park Hyatt Shanghai, alongside opening hotels such as Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome in 2002, Dalançon also has a strong background in sales and marketing, having previously held senior positions at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

“I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to be a part of such an iconic brand,” said Dalançon.

“Waldorf Astoria has redefined hospitality for the modern-day traveller in landmark locations all around the world, and I am thrilled to be able to play a part in driving this through the forthcoming opening of Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.”

Spanning three islands in the South Male Atoll, a short 30-minute yacht journey away from Malé International Airport, Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi will offer a private escape for couples and families seeking the luxury of space and exclusivity, as well as unique experiences, including a private sandbank available for guests to turn into their own playground paradise.

Will No Deal Brexit mean your passport is out of date? 

Will a No Deal Brexit mean your passport is out of date? Here are the key facts for holidaymakers

  • HM Passport Office has issued a warning for Britons to check their passports
  • The service checks if passports will be valid if Britain leaves the EU with no deal
  • Home Office admits a pre-Brexit rush may trigger delays for passport renewals

Neil Simpson For The Mail On Sunday

Were you one of the thousands of people who received a text message from HM Passport Office last week? Many believed it was a scam but it was, in fact, a Government warning for people to check that their passports will be valid if we crash out of the EU with no deal.

The texts direct people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website. Fail the test and fail to renew your passport in time and you could be turned back at the border of any of the EU’s Schengen Zone countries this summer – including holiday destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

And while most of the focus of the Government’s publicity is on those whose passports expire in the next six months, a little-known rule means you can be affected even if the expiry date comes much later.

Genuine warnings: One of the Passport Office texts

Genuine warnings: One of the Passport Office texts

Key facts holidaymakers MUST know now

1. The alerts are worst-case-scenario warnings that apply if we leave the EU without a deal. If this is the case, it’s likely passports must be at least six months from their expiry date to be valid for travel in the Schengen Zone. At the moment (and if we strike an exit deal before March 29), you can have a week in Europe even if your UK passport expires the following month.

2. The Schengen Zone’s six-month rule will assume that the passport lasts for the standard ten years. But some British passports last for almost 11 years – because in the past the Government added up to nine months to a new passport if you renewed your old one before you needed to. That means a passport issued on April 1, 2009, could have an expiry date of January 1, 2020. But for Schengen entry, it will be treated as if it expires on April 1, 2019. To get a clear picture of how the EU will treat your passport, add nine-and-a-half years to its issue date rather than deducting six months from its expiry date. Or use the official checker at passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport.

The text directed people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website

The text directed people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website

3. The Home Office admits a pre-Brexit rush may trigger delays for passport renewals. If you apply online, it costs £75.50 to get a new adult passport (£49 for under-16s) and in normal times you should receive it, by post, within three weeks. Apply at a post office and it costs £85 for adults and £58.50 for children and the same three-week target is applied. If No Deal looks likely, issue times could double. In a real emergency there’s also a one-week service for £142 (£122 for children) or same-day services from £177. Get official info at gov.uk (search for passports) at post office branches or at postoffice.co.uk/passport-check-send.

4. Pet passports and UK driving licences may also become invalid in Europe after a No Deal Brexit – and drivers are likely to need an International Driving Permit (£5.50 from post offices). Go to gov.uk and search for ‘pets’ or ‘driving licence and Brexit’ for the latest official advice.


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Airlines might have to install secondary security doors between the cabin and cockpit

Airlines may be forced to install secondary security doors between the cabin and cockpit to stop another 9/11-style terror attack

  • US lawmakers have drafted the proposal to push for stronger aviation security
  • Secondary doors allow a pilot to close the cockpit door before opening another 
  • The lightweight, wire-mesh barriers would cost up to $12,000 per aircraft 

Jennifer Newton for MailOnline

and
Reuters

Passenger airlines could be forced to install secondary security doors between the cabins and the cockpit on all aircraft to prevent another 9/11-style terror attack.

Lawmakers in the US are pushing for stronger aviation security and have drafted a bill with the proposal.

Hijackings remain a threat despite improvements in global aviation safety since September 11, 2001, when hijacked planes flew into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, four U.S. representatives – Democrats Andre Carson and Josh Gottheimer and Republicans Brian Fitzpatrick and Peter King – said in a news release.

All passenger airlines may have to install secondary security doors between cabins and the cockpit to prevent another 9/11-style terror attack

All passenger airlines may have to install secondary security doors between cabins and the cockpit to prevent another 9/11-style terror attack

US Congress last year imposed a requirement for secondary barriers, aimed at preventing would-be hijackers from rushing the cockpit when pilots take bathroom breaks or meals, for future, newly manufactured commercial airplanes.

But that legislation did not address existing aircraft.

The new bill, introduced last week, would extend the requirement to all passenger jets.

Secondary barriers would allow a pilot to close the cockpit door before opening another door to the rest of the plane.

Current measures to protect the flight deck include stationing a flight attendant or food cart in front of the cockpit.

A study by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees aviation security, concluded that cockpits are vulnerable when pilots step out and cited secondary doors as the most efficient, cost-effective form of protection, according to the news release.

The lightweight, wire-mesh barriers would cost $5,000 (£3,870) to $12,000 (£9,300) per aircraft, the lawmakers said.

Airlines for America – an industry trade group representing large commercial carriers like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United – said individual carriers should be the ones to decide whether to install such systems.

Lawmakers in the US are pushing for stronger aviation security and have drafted a bill with the proposal for the doors, which would allow a pilot to close the cockpit door before opening another door to the rest of the plane

Lawmakers in the US are pushing for stronger aviation security and have drafted a bill with the proposal for the doors, which would allow a pilot to close the cockpit door before opening another door to the rest of the plane

Association spokesman Vaughn Jennings said the airline industry has worked closely with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement a multilayered security system following 9/11 and noted that some U.S. airlines have determined that secondary cockpit barriers are appropriate on some aircraft.

The pilots union, The Air Line Pilots Association, did not immediately comment on the new bill.

Following the 9/11 attacks, airlines reinforced cockpit doors and the TSA rolled out advanced airport screening equipment.

The TSA also oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service, which deploys armed U.S. air marshals on flights across the world.

But critics have questioned the effectiveness of passenger screening and the air marshal programme.

The new bill for secondary barriers is called the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act after pilot Victor Saracini, who was killed when his plane was hijacked during the 9/11 attacks and flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

His widow, Ellen, has been an advocate of legislation for aviation safety. 


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Brazil invaded by venomous yellow SCORPIONS as climate change pushes them into major cities

I live in São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, home to some 12 million people – 20 million if you count the outskirts, which have been sprawling for three decades.

That makes it a good place to observe the phenomenon I research: complex social problems. 

In academia, this concept refers to problems like corruption, crime and traffic – problems that, in practice, cannot be solved. They must simply be mitigated or managed.

São Paulo is a dense city, with scarce green space and little to no animal life – no squirrels, no raccoons, not even a lot of birds. So I was astonished when, in January, I learned that scorpions had infested my neighborhood.

It turns out, people across the city and São Paulo state were having the same problem with these dangerous, venomous bugs. Statewide, scorpion stings have increased threefold over the last two decades.

Four kinds of scorpion live across Brazil, but historically only in rural areas. São Paulo residents are urbanites. We have conquered nature – or so we thought.

Scorpions used to be a rural problem in Brazil, the researcher explains. Now, residents of São Paulo and other urban areas are dealing with an infestation of these poisonous insects

Scorpions used to be a rural problem in Brazil, the researcher explains. Now, residents of São Paulo and other urban areas are dealing with an infestation of these poisonous insects

Brazil’s urban scorpions

Brazil’s scorpion infestation is the perfect example of how unpredictable modern life has become. 

It is a hallmark of what those of us in the complex problems field call a “VUCA” world – a world that’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Some 2.5 billion people worldwide, from Mexico to Russia, live with scorpions, which generally prefer hot and dry habitats.

But Brazil’s cities also provide an excellent habitat for scorpions, experts say. They offer shelter in sewage networks, plenty of water and food in the garbage that goes uncollected, and no natural predators.

Scorpions, like the cockroaches they feast on, are an incredibly adaptable species. 

As the weather in Brazil gets hotter due to climate change, scorpions are spreading across the country – including into its colder southern states that rarely, if ever, had reports of scorpions prior to this millennium.

The number of people stung by scorpions across Brazil has risen from 12,000 in 2000 to 140,000 last year, according to the health ministry.

Most scorpion stings are extremely painful but not fatal. For children, however, they are dangerous and require urgent medical attention. 

São Paulo is Brazil’s biggest city, with 12.2 million residents. It is a dense city, with scarce green space and little to no animal life – no squirrels, no raccoons, not even a lot of birds. But, satewide, scorpion stings have increased threefold over the last two decades

São Paulo is Brazil’s biggest city, with 12.2 million residents. It is a dense city, with scarce green space and little to no animal life – no squirrels, no raccoons, not even a lot of birds. But, satewide, scorpion stings have increased threefold over the last two decades

2018 – 4TH HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD 

NASA has revealed that 2018 was officially the fourth hottest year on record.

Figures reveal 2018 was 1.5°F (0.83°C) warmer than the average temperature measured between 1951 and 1980.

It came in fourth hottest since records began in the 1880s, falling behind only 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York say this makes the past five years the warmest half-decade period on record.

Experts from the World Meteorological organisation (WMO) say the prolonged period of record temperatures is more important than ranking individual years.

Based on Australia’s scorching January and the extreme colds felt in the US in the past month, global warming looks set to continue to break records in 2019 and beyond, scientists claim.

Eighteen of the hottest 19 years have occurred since 2001.

Eighty-eight people died from their wounds in 2017, Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reports, highlighting the lack of adequate medicare care available in small towns. Many of the dead are children.

In Americana, a city with about 200,000 inhabitants in São Paulo state, teams that perform night searches for scorpions captured more than 13,000 last year – that’s the equivalent of one scorpion for every 15 people.

Worse yet, the species terrorizing Brazilians is the highly poisonous yellow scorpion, or tityus serrulatus. 

It reproduces through the miracle of parthenogenesis, meaning a female scorpion simply generates copies of herself twice a year – no male participation required.

Each parthenogenesis can spawn up to 20 to 30 baby scorpions. Though most will die in their first days and weeks of life, ridding Brazilian cities of scorpions would be a herculean, if not downright impossible, task.

Wicked problems in a crazy world

Brazil’s urban scorpion infestation is a classic “wicked problem.”

This term, first used in 1973 by design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, refers to enormous social or cultural problems like poverty and war – problems with no simple or definitive solution, and which arise at the intersection of other problems.

Wicked problems are a symptom of numerous other related problems, both natural and human-made. 

In this case, Brazil’s urban scorpion infestation is the result of poor garbage management, inadequate sanitation, rapid urbanization and a changing climate.

It is likely too late to stop the spread of scorpions across Brazilian cities.

The species terrorizing Brazilians is the highly poisonous yellow scorpion, or tityus serrulatus (shown above)

The species terrorizing Brazilians is the highly poisonous yellow scorpion, or tityus serrulatus (shown above)

In a VUCA world, my academic research and other problem-solving studies show, wicked problems should be identified and confronted as soon as possible, using an array of responses.

In a VUCA world, the more resources you throw at problems, the better. That could mean everything from public awareness campaigns that educate Brazilians about scorpions to exterminator task forces working to control their population in urban areas. 

Scientists should be involved. Brazil’s national public health system will need to adapt to this new threat.

Brazil’s government appears to be ill-equipped to tackle the scorpion infestation.

Despite dogged press coverage, federal health officials have barely spoken publicly about Brazil’s urban scorpion problem. 

And, beyond some rather tepid national and state-level efforts to train health officials in scorpion risk, authorities seem to have no plan for fighting the infestation at the epidemic level it is heading towards.

Nor are cities likely to see any federal money dedicated to fighting this scorpion infestation: Brazil has been in a deep recession since 2015, and public health budgets have been slashed.

Venomous yellow scorpions, I fear, have already claimed their place alongside violent crime, brutal traffic and other chronic problems that urbanites in Brazil must cope with daily.

The incredible BA and Virgin Atlantic package deals hidden in plain sight

For anyone who’s not a millionaire, searching for flight prices – especially to big ticket destinations – can be a depressing exercise.

But a frequent flyer who runs a flight-tips website recently pointed out that – hidden in plain sight – there are deals to be had with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that drop the price of flights by 70 per cent. 

And include three nights in a hotel.

A frequent flyer who runs a flight-tips website recently pointed out that - hidden in plain sight - there are deals to be had with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that drop the price of flights by 70 per cent

A frequent flyer who runs a flight-tips website recently pointed out that – hidden in plain sight – there are deals to be had with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that drop the price of flights by 70 per cent

The frequent flyer, London-based Gilbert Ott, who runs www.godsavethepoints.com, described these deals as ‘insane’. 

The trick, he said, was to use the carriers’ ‘flights + hotels’ offers – and reap the rewards. 

The catch? The deals are for two people sharing a room.

MailOnline Travel put the tip to the test.

MailOnline Travel managed to find a 70 per cent discount on a British Airways trip to New York by using the carrier's 'flights + hotels' deal site

MailOnline Travel managed to find a 70 per cent discount on a British Airways trip to New York by using the carrier’s ‘flights + hotels’ deal site

We searched for an economy flight on Google Flights with BA from London to New York’s JFK on February 26, returning on March 1. The price was £1,468 ($1,886).

Then we keyed in the same journey on the same dates on BA’s ‘flights + hotels’ site.

And the price? £414 ($532) per person. With a stay at the Wellington Hotel in Midtown included.

Virgin Atlantic offers similar deals.

We repeated the search using Google Flights and then Virgin Atlantic’s ‘flights + hotels’ site and found that a £1,357 ($1,743) return flight plummeted to £414, with a three-night stay at the Row NYC.

Virgin Atlantic also offers incredible flights plus hotel deals, as MailOnline Travel shows here

Virgin Atlantic also offers incredible flights plus hotel deals, as MailOnline Travel shows here

It’s not the best hotel in New York by any means, with a 3.5 average rating on TripAdvisor, but for that money, it would appear to be a bargain.

Mr Ott told MailOnline Travel that there are lots of deals to be found.

He said: ‘If you play around on the BA website, you’ll see some insane deals.’

And what’s more, BA lets you pay over time.   

Ultra-rare black leopard is photographed for the first time in 100 YEARS in Africa

Slinking through the darkness, these stunning images show an ultra-rare black leopard in action. 

The mythical creature was captured by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, while it was prowling around the plains of Kenya in the dead of night with a full moon looming above.

This is the first time that one has been caught on camera in Africa for 100 years.  

Slinking through the darkness, these stunning images show an ultra-rare black leopard in action. The mythical creature was captured by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, while it was prowling around Laikipia in Kenya in the dead of night

Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its dark coat, which is the result of melanism

Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism.  

This genetic variation, the opposite of albinism, results in an excess of dark pigmentation.

Burrard-Lucas told MailOnline Travel that it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood.   

After learning that several had been spotted in the Laikipia area of Kenya, he decided to investigate further and set up an expedition this January. 

Burrard-Lucas told MailOnline Travel that it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood

Working in collaboration with biologists in the area, Burrard-Lucas went about installing camera traps. These were placed in areas the black leopard was rumoured to frequent.

He used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes. 

The Brit said he couldn’t believe it when he returned to one of the traps one day and saw a black leopard staring back at the camera lens. 

Recounting the moment via his photography blog, Burrard-Lucas writes: ‘As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension… a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness… a black leopard! 

‘I couldn’t believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream.’  

Working in collaboration with biologists in the area, Burrard-Lucas went about installing camera traps. These were placed in areas the black leopard was rumoured to frequent

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is currently researching leopards at the Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is currently researching leopards at the Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare

Summing up the black leopard in three words, Burrard-Lucas said: ‘They are truly stunning, beautiful and elusive’

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is currently researching leopards at Laikipia’s Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare.

He explained: ‘We had always heard about black leopard living in this region, but the stories were absent of high quality footage that could confirm their existence. 

‘This is what Will’s photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight. 

Burrard-Lucas used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes

Burrard-Lucas used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BLACK LEOPARD AND A BLACK PANTHER 

There isn’t one. The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is not a species but an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat. Black panthers in the Americas would be black jaguars.

‘Collectively these are the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopard.’  

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows. 

Most recorded sightings of black leopards have therefore been in the forests of Asia.

In Africa, however, melanistic leopards are extremely rare.   

Summing up the black leopard in three words, Burrard-Lucas said: ‘They are truly stunning, beautiful and elusive.’

The big cat that he captured was confirmed as a juvenile female, travelling with a larger normally coloured leopard, thought to be its parent.

The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat.

Will No Deal Brexit mean your passport is out of date? 

Will a No Deal Brexit mean your passport is out of date? Here are the key facts for holidaymakers

  • HM Passport Office has issued a warning for Britons to check their passports
  • The service checks if passports will be valid if Britain leaves the EU with no deal
  • Home Office admits a pre-Brexit rush may trigger delays for passport renewals

Neil Simpson For The Mail On Sunday

Were you one of the thousands of people who received a text message from HM Passport Office last week? Many believed it was a scam but it was, in fact, a Government warning for people to check that their passports will be valid if we crash out of the EU with no deal.

The texts direct people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website. Fail the test and fail to renew your passport in time and you could be turned back at the border of any of the EU’s Schengen Zone countries this summer – including holiday destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

And while most of the focus of the Government’s publicity is on those whose passports expire in the next six months, a little-known rule means you can be affected even if the expiry date comes much later.

Genuine warnings: One of the Passport Office texts

Genuine warnings: One of the Passport Office texts

Key facts holidaymakers MUST know now

1. The alerts are worst-case-scenario warnings that apply if we leave the EU without a deal. If this is the case, it’s likely passports must be at least six months from their expiry date to be valid for travel in the Schengen Zone. At the moment (and if we strike an exit deal before March 29), you can have a week in Europe even if your UK passport expires the following month.

2. The Schengen Zone’s six-month rule will assume that the passport lasts for the standard ten years. But some British passports last for almost 11 years – because in the past the Government added up to nine months to a new passport if you renewed your old one before you needed to. That means a passport issued on April 1, 2009, could have an expiry date of January 1, 2020. But for Schengen entry, it will be treated as if it expires on April 1, 2019. To get a clear picture of how the EU will treat your passport, add nine-and-a-half years to its issue date rather than deducting six months from its expiry date. Or use the official checker at passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport.

The text directed people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website

The text directed people to a new ‘passport-checker’ service on the official Gov.uk website

3. The Home Office admits a pre-Brexit rush may trigger delays for passport renewals. If you apply online, it costs £75.50 to get a new adult passport (£49 for under-16s) and in normal times you should receive it, by post, within three weeks. Apply at a post office and it costs £85 for adults and £58.50 for children and the same three-week target is applied. If No Deal looks likely, issue times could double. In a real emergency there’s also a one-week service for £142 (£122 for children) or same-day services from £177. Get official info at gov.uk (search for passports) at post office branches or at postoffice.co.uk/passport-check-send.

4. Pet passports and UK driving licences may also become invalid in Europe after a No Deal Brexit – and drivers are likely to need an International Driving Permit (£5.50 from post offices). Go to gov.uk and search for ‘pets’ or ‘driving licence and Brexit’ for the latest official advice.


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