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TRAVEL NEWS

Spanish airline to fly UK-made helium airships

Spain's Air Nostrum has become the first airline to reserve 100-seat helium airships that emit just one tenth of harmful emissions produced by jet planes, their British manufacturer said Wednesday.

Spanish airline to fly UK-made helium airships
The helium Airlander produces one tenth of harmful emissions pumped out by regular aircraft, according to its manufacturer JUSTIN TALLIS AFP/File

A spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles told AFP that Air Nostrum signed a deal to lease 10 Airlanders scheduled for delivery from 2026 onwards in a transaction worth over $600 million.

The Spanish regional carrier aims to become HAV’s launch customer while also diversifying its domestic fleet, using the Airlander on domestic routes.

The UK group will create 1,800 jobs at its facility in South Yorkshire, northern England, when it starts production later this year.

The hybrid ship — which looks like two blimps stuck together — has a helium-filled hull and will be propelled by a hybrid of electric and fuel-burning engines, with the goal of going all-electric by 2030.

It can stay in the air for five days and travel at maximum speeds of 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour, with a range of more than 7,000 kilometres.

“Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for sustainable aviation services, enable new transport networks and provide rapid growth options for our customers,” said HAV chief executive Tom Grundy in a statement.

“Our partnership with Air Nostrum Group, as the launch Airline for Airlander 10, leads the way towards that future.”

The airline said in a separate statement on Wednesday that the planned aircraft, which has not yet been certified by regulators, will use far less fuel than regular jets.

“We are exploring each and every possible way to reduce our carbon footprint,” added Air Nostrum boss Carlos Bertomeu.

“The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV.”

Delivery will be staggered over a five-year period.

The first prototype, developed with US aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, took flight in 2012 as part of a project with Pentagon, which was cancelled due to technical and budgetary issues.

HAV transferred the 92-metre-long vehicle to Britain in 2013 to turn it into a civilian model, bigger than an A380 jumbo jet.

It was presented to the public for the first time in 2016, but it nosedived while landing on its second test flight, without causing any injuries.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

Those with Spanish citizenship are in luck because their passports are the third most powerful in the world, meaning they can travel to many different countries without the need for a visa.

Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

If you want to go on a last-minute break, it’s really only possible to countries that don’t require you to apply for a visa beforehand or issue you with a visa upon arrival. 

The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and each year it reveals the number of destinations that passport holders from around the world can access without a prior visa.

The index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations and offers all kinds of information on global mobility, ultimately revealing which passports are the most powerful. 

Each country is scored on the total number of destinations that a holder of its passport can access without a visa. For each travel destination, if a visa is not required, they receive a score of one. This also applies if holders are able to obtain a visa on arrival, visitor permit or electronic travel authorisation (ETA) upon entry.

The rankings for 2023 show that Spain, along with Germany, is in joint third place, meaning that Spanish passport holders can visit a total of 191 countries without needing a visa.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is second favourite country for Americans to move to

In joint first place are Japan and Singapore whose passport holders can visit a total of 193 countries without requiring a visa.

They are closely followed by South Korea in second place, whose passport holders can visit a total of 192 countries.

After Spain and Germany, there are several European countries on the list. Those from Finland, Italy and Luxembourg come in fourth place, able to visit 189 destinations, while those from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden come in fifth place able to visit 188 destinations.

These are followed by passports from France, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom in sixth place, allowing them to visit 188 countries without a visa.

According to the rankings, only 17 percent of countries give their passport holders access to more than 80 percent of the world without a visa.

The three countries with the least powerful passports are Afghanistan whose holders can only visit 27 countries without the need for a visa, Iraq with a score of 29 and Syria with a score of 30.

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