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Travel News: LEGOLAND & Autism, Earthquake in Turkiye, and U.S. Air Travel

In Travel News for February 7th, 2023 we talk about Autism and LEGOLAND, the Earthquake in Turkiye, and more summer problems for U.S. airlines.

LEGOLAND Resorts Becomes Certified Autism Centers, Providing Inclusive Experience for All Families

LEGOLAND Resorts, a global leader in family-friendly theme parks, has made a big announcement that all of its North American theme parks will be Certified Autism Center (CAC) by spring 2023. The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) has already granted CAC certification to LEGOLAND Florida and LEGOLAND California in 2022, with LEGOLAND New York set to officially become a CAC when it reopens for the 2023 season on March 31st.

This move towards inclusiveness has been praised by many in the travel industry, as LEGOLAND Resorts work to create a welcoming environment for all families, including those with sensory-sensitive children. The three onsite hotels and Peppa Pig Theme Park at LEGOLAND Florida have also received approval to become CACs. IBCCES and LEGOLAND worked together to Train and certify staff in sensory, environmental, and emotional awareness.

Families visiting LEGOLAND Resorts as CACs can expect a variety of accommodations to make their experience as enjoyable as possible, including trained front-line team members, pre-planning resources, sensory guides at every ride, low-sensory areas, quiet rooms, Assisted Access Passes, and earplugs to assist with sound and overstimulation.

LEGOLAND California officials have also announced that its newest attraction, LEGO Ferrari Build & Race, will turn off all sound effects from 1- 2 p.m. local time for a less overwhelming experience. Merlin Entertainments CEO Scott O'Neil stated that LEGOLAND Resorts are designed to inspire creativity amongst children of all abilities, and this certification is just another step in providing families with more opportunities to create and play their way.

Devastating Earthquake strikes Turkiye and Syria, death toll expected to reach 20,000

A massive Earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude struck southeast Turkiye and north Syria on Monday, February 6th, causing widespread destruction and leaving thousands dead. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death toll could reach 20,000. As rescue teams race to find survivors, travellers have been advised to avoid the affected area.

The Earthquake struck the southeastern city of Gaziantep at 4.17am local time and was followed by a second quake with a 7.5 magnitude, and at least 20 aftershocks throughout Monday. The UK foreign office has urged travelers to avoid the vicinity of the incident, which has affected several Turkish provinces including Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Adana, and Malatya. Three Turkish airports have been closed due to runway damage.

UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural agency, has expressed concern about the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria, where the Citadel of Aleppo, a large medieval palace, has been significantly damaged. In Turkiye, several cultural attractions such as the Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens, a world heritage site dating back more than 2,000 years, have collapsed.

Charities and NGOs including the Red Cross, Save the Children, and Islamic Relief are dedicating aid to the response, and companies such as Intrepid Travel have launched emergency appeals and committed funds to the rescue efforts. Online fundraising platforms like GoFundMe have already seen over 1,500 pages set up to help the victims of the disaster.

U.S. Airlines Face Supply Chain, Certification Delays for 5G-Resistant Altimeters

Many airlines are likely to miss the upcoming deadline for retrofitting their airplane altimeters to prevent interference from 5G wireless signals, warns the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world’s largest airline trade body. The IATA represents over 100 airlines that fly to the U.S. and is concerned that this could negatively impact the international travel industry during the peak summer season.

The FAA proposed last month that passenger and cargo aircraft in the U.S. must have radio altimeters that are 5G C-Band-tolerant or approved filters by early 2024. The concerns of 5G interference with airplane altimeters, which are crucial for bad-weather landing, led to some disruptions at U.S. airports involving international carriers last year.

In a letter addressed to the FAA and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and also sent to aerospace manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus, the IATA Director General, Willie Walsh, wrote, "many operators will not make the proposed July 2023 (and in some cases the March 2023) retrofit deadline owing to supply chain issues, certification delays, and unavoidable logistical challenges." The letter added, "It is critical that we acknowledge and accept that fact and move collectively to change our approach to this issue now, before many carriers are unable to continue to serve the U.S. market during the peak summer travel season."

Verizon and AT&T have agreed to delay some C-Band 5G usage until July 1, 2023, to allow air carriers to retrofit their airplanes. However, the FAA and the two companies are now negotiating to reach a new agreement that would extend some voluntary mitigations beyond July 1.

The FAA is also proposing a requirement for airlines to revise their airplane flight manuals to prohibit low-visibility landings after June 30, unless the retrofits have been completed on those airplanes. The estimated cost of the retrofits, according to the FAA, is $26 million and it is estimated that almost 7,000 of the 7,993 airplanes covered by the directive have already been retrofitted or are in the process.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major U.S. airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and others, stated last month that "carriers are working diligently to ensure fleets are equipped with compliant radio altimeters, but global supply chains continue to lag behind current demand. Any government deadline must consider this reality."