Travel agents, squeezed by Covid-19 restrictions, adapt to a changed industry - THE CANADIAN PRESS
In an ordinary year, Toronto travel agent Leila Lavaee would be busy around this time preparing custom itineraries for her customers in far-flung destinations like Jordan, France and the Galapagos.
But now, with growing COVID-19 restrictions and an uptick in cases worldwide limiting international travel, Lavaee says she has had to get creative. Instead of the wonders of ancient Petra, the culture of the Louvre or islands teeming with sea turtles, she is pitching more local experiences to clients this year — such as an RV trip across Canada, a spa getaway and a boating holiday on the Rideau Canal.
â€œIâ€™ve sort of pivoted my business in terms of looking at what can be done locally,â€ Lavaee said.
Other travel agents, with bookings down significantly this year, are digging into their roles as information providers or exploring different, less-travelled destinations in the hopes of drumming up business as the pandemic forces the industry to adapt to a new reality.
Richard Vanderlubbe, the president of Tripcentral.ca, a travel agency with more than two dozen offices across Canada, said he expected bookings to be down around 90 per cent for the winter season, reflecting the scale of the challenges facing Canada's more than 12,000 travel agents.
â€œNormally weâ€™re really busy this time of year,â€ said Vanderlubbe, whose company specializes in leisure travel to sun destinations. â€œNow we have a skeleton crew.â€
Travel agents have already faced tough competition in recent years, as online services like Expedia and Booking.com offer consumers an easy way to save on fees by planning their own trips. But the pandemic has brought with it a new set of business challenges for the industry, with total revenue projected to decline 33 per cent in 2020, according to data from research firm IBISWorld.
Quebec's Office de la protection du consommateur, which is responsible for certifying travel agents in the province, said the number of travel agents in Quebec fell for the first time in 2020, from 12,953 registered in February to 11,339 in December.
With Canadaâ€™s airline sector waiting for aid from the federal government, virtually every business that depends on travel, from taxi drivers to hotels, has found itself squeezed by the lack of demand. Earlier in December, an industry group representing more than 100 airports nationwide asked the federal government for urgent financial support, and some are running out of options to cut costs.
Anticipating poor demand, airlines have slashed capacity by as much as 85 per cent this winter, giving travellers less flexibility on dates and destinations, Vanderlubbe said. Once-popular routes to destinations like Cancun and Montego Bay are operating on a reduced schedule, and flights between Canadian cities and other countries have been cancelled altogether.
Still, with countries enforcing different entry requirements and new airline policies complicating the process of international flight, travel agents say they see an important role for themselves as guides for their customers in a confusing and rapidly changing landscape.
Lavaee has been sharing information about airline policies and travel guidelines in a weekly newsletter she distributes to her network. Some of the materials she has shared with her contacts during the pandemic addressed questions around health care for Canadians abroad and visa issues for people looking to go away for an extended period, she said.
Vacations are taking longer to book, with rapidly changing regulations in different destinations and more issues around insurance and cancellation policies to iron out with customers before departure, Vanderlubbe said.
Some countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, are requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival, and others, like Grenada, are asking travellers to self-quarantine for a period after they land. Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, said staying on top of these regulations can be one of the advantages of hiring a travel agent.
â€œDuring the pandemic, with global travel advisories and policies continuously evolving, travel agents have access to up-to-date information,â€ Paradis said. â€œThey save you hours of research.â€
With the pandemic prompting many consumers to tighten their budgets, however, it remains to be seen whether travellers will value travel agentsâ€™ guidance enough to book through them, rather than online.
Some travel agents are focusing on more remote places in the hopes of selling clients on vacations where they can avoid having much exposure to other people. Rocky Racco, the CEO of Toronto-based travel agency TTI Travel, said his company has concentrated lately on planning trips to destinations like Slovenia, Malta and the Azores, where it is easier for clients to respect social distancing guidelines.
Demand for different types of accommodations, like homes or private villas, surged since the start of the pandemic, Racco said. That trend was reflected in a Nov. 16 report by Expedia, which said that alternative property types, such as private homes, cottages, house boats and treehouses, had increased in popularity over the last year.
But for the majority of people who arenâ€™t willing to take a vacation just yet, travel agents are simply trying to stay in touch through newsletters and other means in the hopes that demand for trips bounces back once pandemic-related restrictions ease.
â€œSomething that I promote is, even if youâ€™re not ready to travel right now, start the planning,â€ Lavaee said. â€œBecause all the flexibility, all the great deals and offers that are out there right now may not exist when you decide to do something in the summertime.â€
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2020.
Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
Boeing Max returns to US skies with first passenger flight - THE CANADIAN PRESS
MIAMI — Paying passengers were scheduled to board a Boeing 737 Max in Miami on Tuesday for the first time since safety regulators allowed the plane to fly again after two deadly crashes.
The American Airlines flight is scheduled to land at New Yorkâ€™s LaGuardia Airport with about 100 passengers aboard, according to an airline spokeswoman. The airline will give customers the chance to change flights if they donâ€™t want to fly on the Max.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes that Boeing made to an automated flight-control system implicated in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people in all. In both crashes, the system pushed the nose down repeatedly based on faulty sensor readings, and pilots were unable to regain control.
Regulators in Europe and Brazil have also cleared the way for airlines to resume using the plane if they make certain changes and provide additional training for pilots.
The first passenger flight with a revamped Max took place this month in Brazil. Brazilâ€™s Gol airlines and Aeromexico have operated dozens of Max flights.
The Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019, days after the second crash. Reports by House and Senate committees faulted Boeing and the FAA for failures in the process of certifying the plane.
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, a former military and airline pilot, operated a test flight in September and vouched for the plane's safety, saying he would put his family on it.
American plans to make one round trip a day between Miami and New York with the planes through Jan. 4 before putting the Max on more routes.
The Associated Press
Airlines, travellers face fresh hurdles as new protocols begin today - THE GUARDIAN
â€¢ UK, Sâ€™African passengers to get extra travel permits before boarding to Nigeria
â€¢ NCAA rolls out conditions, $3,500 fine per defaulter
â€¢ Stakeholders, IATA insist on on-arrival rapid testing at airports
Fresh hurdles now await international air travellers from the United Kingdom and South Africa as Federal Governmentâ€™s preventive measures against new strain of COVID-19 take effect this morning.
By the new protocol, all inbound passengers are mandated to seek and get travel permit from Nigeria before boarding flights coming into the country.
To enforce the protocol more than ever before, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) will fine airlines $3,500 for each passenger and may be required to return non-Nigerian defaulting passengers to the point of embarkation for non-compliance.
Stakeholders, though received the new directive with mixed feelings, have urged the Federal Government to also intensify on-arrival rapid COVID-19 testing centres at ports of entry.
While several countries placed a ban on UK travellers over COVID-19 new strain recently detected, the British government has also banned travellers to the country from South Africa, having linked the new variant to the African country.
Nigeria readily has connections with the two countries. While British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VA) operate daily flights in and out of Nigeria, indigenous carrier, Air Peace airlines, now operate twice-weekly flights on Lagos-Johannesburg-Lagos route. The two channels have become a source of worry for the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
Sources at the Port Health Authority that have stations at international airports confirmed that the rate of compliance with COVID-19 guidelines for arriving passengers had been very low with many Nigerian passengers declining to pay N52, 000 for COVID test or present for such screening within seven days of arrival.
â€œThe government is now taking extra measures to safeguard the country,â€ a director said.
In an All Operatorsâ€™ Letter (AOL) issued by the NCAA, obtained by The Guardian yesterday, the apex regulatory body mandated that all indigenous and foreign operators flying into Nigeria must ensure United Kingdom and South Africa passengers present pre-departure permit (besides visa) to fly or quarantine code generated from Nigeria international travel portal and a documentary evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 96 hours of boarding.
The NCAA also stated that all the new travel rules would be applicable to both scheduled and non-scheduled passengers from both countries.
Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, said with the recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the reported transmissible new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom and South Africa, the Nigerian government through Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 reviewed the quarantine protocols.
â€œPassengers must now present the following two documents in order to be allowed to board their flights to Nigeria: (a) Pre-departure permit to fly/ QR code generated from the Nigeria International travel portal (https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng) showing evidence of payment for the post arrival day-seven COVID-19 PCR test and (b) Documentary evidence of a Negative COVID-19 PCR result done within 96 hours (four days) of boarding from verifiable laboratory or health facility.
â€œOn arrival in Nigeria, passengers will be received and processed separately by public health authorities. All passengers will be required to self-isolate for seven days after arrival followed by COVID-19 PCR test. Passengers with a post arrival Negative COVID-19 PCR result can exit self-isolation and further management.
â€œA dedicated register of arriving passengers from the United Kingdom and South Africa will be opened and enhanced for surveillance and active enforcement of these protocols,â€ the protocols stated in part.
On non-compliance, the NCAA stated that, â€œpunitive measures shall be taken against airlines who fail to comply with this All Operators Letters. The punitive measures shall include but not limited to the following.
â€œAirlines shall be fined $3,500 for each defaulting passenger. Airlines may be required to return non-Nigerian defaulting passengers to the point of embarkation. Repeated non-compliance by any airline will lead to the suspension of the airlineâ€™s approval/permit to fly into the country.â€
PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had said that effective, Monday, December 28, 2020, all passengers coming into the country from the UK and South Africa on direct flights, must use the Nigerian International Travel Portal to register, fill in the health questionnaire and must upload a negative COVID-19 PCR result with a validity of not more than five days and must pay for a COVID PCR test at day seven of arrival in country without which they will not be allowed to board the flights.â€
Aliyu said the country was concerned about the emergence of the new variant coronavirus in the UK and additional mutate that was described as coming from South Africa noted that Nigeriaâ€™s system for travels in terms of ensuring the safety of citizens and preventing the importation of cases is one of the strictest.
â€œIf you do not present a travel permit, the airlines are being directed not to board you. So, if you are coming into Nigeria from the UK and South Africa, it is in your best interest to familiarise yourself with the Nigerian International Travel Portal.
â€œWe had a lot of debates as to if we should institute mandatory quarantine when the people arrive. We have decided that when you arrive, we will open a special register for all passengers arriving from these two countries. We will have an enhanced surveillance where these passengers will be contacted after they have arrived home, we will be checking on them to see if they are having any symptoms,â€ Aliyu said.
TRAVEL specialist and Chairman of the Airlines Joint Passenger Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Bankole Bernard, said the extra measures were expected to check the lawlessness among the Nigerian elites and lapses in the preventive measures.
Bernard said despite the number of Nigerians killed by COVID-19, a lot of persons have still not learnt to abide by the protocols, â€œbehaving as if they are immune from the virusâ€.
He urged the travellers to abide by the rules, even as the government begins to do more in terms of awareness and mandatory compliance to the safety rules.
Following warnings from the UK government that the new variant of the virus seemed to be spreading much faster than previous kinds, more than 40 countries have banned travel arrivals from the UK.
India, Pakistan, Russia, Jordan and Hong Kong joined European countries in suspending travel from Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman also closed their borders completely.
Aviation Security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said Nigeria had been on this path at the onset of the pandemic. â€œOften, we take a knee jerk or copycat approach without making an effort to take initiatives that are original to us. Why not behave the way the South Koreans and Chinese had done? Be original.
â€œWe may restrict other nationals, but can we refuse our nationals from returning home especially during a national celebrating season as Christmas or any of the Eids? My suggestions modified from what I said earlier in March; redistribute all the foreign airlines to the four or five international airports and none of them must go to more than one in the four or five, except those from the same country like the BA and VA.
â€œWe have about 30 foreign airlines coming to Nigeria, it therefore means each of the international airports would be having six foreign airlines flights. The aim is to be able to effectively and efficiently test, trace and track any infected passenger. Each airport must have testing centres and adequate skilled manpower in sufficient numbers to do the testing 24 hours at the airports for the arriving Nigerian nationals,â€ Ojikutu said.
EU Will Shut Door to U.K. Travelers at End of Brexit Transition - BNN BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. is set to join the U.S., Canada and most other countries whose residents are unwelcome visitors to the European Union because they havenâ€™t sufficiently contained the coronavirus outbreak.
EU governments are making no changes to their common travel â€œwhite listâ€ in the immediate run-up to Britainâ€™s scheduled departure from the European single market on Friday, according to an official familiar with the matter.
Thatâ€™s when the post-Brexit transition ends and the U.K. starts to be treated by the EU as any other country outside the bloc.
The EU currently recommends member states allow residents from just eight nations to visit without constraint. Getting on the list requires a decision by the blocâ€™s governments and is based on virus trends, which have been rising in the U.K. The eight are: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
While EU states set their own entry requirements, the 27-member group has sought a coordinated approach to limit external access while keeping internal borders open. The U.K., which left the EU on Jan. 31, has effectively been treated as a member during the Brexit transition period.
The EU recommended on July 1 that member states allow foreign visitors from 15 countries as part of a move to loosen coronavirus-triggered restrictions imposed in mid-March on non-essential travel to the bloc.
Since then, Serbia, Montenegro, Algeria, Morocco, Canada, Tunisia, Georgia and Uruguay have been delisted and Singapore has been added. The EU normally reviews its list about every two weeks, with the most recent change being the removal of Uruguay in mid-December.
Yemen airport blasts kill 26 as government plane arrives - THE GUARDIAN
At least 26 people were killed Wednesday as explosions rocked Yemenâ€™s Aden airport moments after a new unity government flew in, in what some officials charged was a â€œcowardlyâ€ attack by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
Although all government ministers were reported to be unharmed, more than 50 people were wounded, medical and government sources told AFP in the southern city, with the casualty toll feared likely to rise.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was preparing a â€œmass casualty medical response planâ€.
As smoke billowed out of the airport terminal from an initial blast, with debris strewn across the area and people rushing to tend to the wounded, a second explosion took place.
Video footage shot by AFP appears to show missile-like ordnance striking the airport apron — that moment before had been packed with crowds — and exploding into a ball of intense flames.
It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.
Sporadic gunfire was heard soon after.
Yemenâ€™s internationally recognised government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18, forging a joint front against the Huthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and much of the north.
Both Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani and Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik Saeed said that all the members of the government were safe.
â€œWe assure our great people that members of the government are fine, and we assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-supported Huthi militia will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty,â€ Eryani said on Twitter.
â€˜Unacceptable act of violenceâ€™ Saeed tweeted that the â€œterrorist attack… was part of the war waged against Yemen and its peopleâ€, but stopped short of accusing the Huthi insurgents.
Yemenâ€™s government spokesman Rajih Badi called for an international investigation into the â€œterroristâ€ attack he said targeted â€œall members of the cabinetâ€.
â€œIt is too soon to accuse any party before an investigation reveals who executed the attack, including (accusing) the Huthis,â€ he told AFP, adding those injured included civilians, security guards and local officials.
Meanwhile, UN envoy Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it an â€œunacceptable act of violenceâ€.
â€œI wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead,â€ he said. â€œThis unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.â€
Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, also condemned the blasts.
â€œA despicable attempt to cause carnage and chaos and bring suffering when Yemenis had chosen to move forward together,â€ he said.
The cabinet members arrived in Aden days after being sworn in by Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the insurgents.
Hadi fled to the Saudi-capital Riyadh after Sanaa fell to the Huthis in 2014.
Humanitarian crisis Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemenâ€™s grinding five-year war, which has triggered what the United Nations has called the worldâ€™s worst humanitarian disaster.
The new government includes ministers loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), as well as other parties.
While all oppose Huthi rebels, deep divisions have grown between the forces and the Riyadh-sponsored push to form the unity government was designed to mend rifts.
Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the unity government to quell the â€œwar within a civil warâ€ and to bolster the coalition against the Huthis, who are poised to seize the key town of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north.
In recent months, the rebels have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia — including its critical oil infrastructure — in retaliation for the Riyadh-led military campaign.
Yemen also still hosts a significant jihadist presence, including Al-Qaeda and militants loyal to the Islamic State group, despite two decades of air and drone strikes by the United States.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US considers the terror groupâ€™s most dangerous branch, has thrived in the chaos of Yemenâ€™s civil war between pro-government forces and the Huthi rebels.
It has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces.
The unity government formation comes a month before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who was critical of Saudi Arabia during his campaign amid the humanitarian disaster in Yemen since Riyadhâ€™s intervention in the conflict in 2015.
Brexit: Air France reintroduces transit visa for Nigerians travelling to UK - PUNCH
BY Sodiq Oyeleke
Air France-KLM has reintroduced an Airport Transit Visa for citizens of some countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, travelling to the United Kingdom after Brexit.
The airline said this in a statement titled, â€˜Travel on Air France or KLM to and from the United Kingdom after Brexit â€“ January 1, 2020â€™.
According to the statement, it is compulsory for citizens of some African and Asian countries to have ATV before they pass through France or the Netherlands.
It also noted that citizens of the affected countries with British Visa, long-stay visa or British residence permit citizens must still have ATV to pass through France to the United Kingdom.
â€œAs of January 1, 2021, citizens of the following countries who are holders of a British visa, long-stay visa or a residence permit issued by the British authorities will need to be in possession of an airport transit visa (ATV) if they transit through France and or the Netherlands,â€ part of the statement read.
The countries affected are Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Ghana.
Others are Guinea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Syria, Palestinians, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.
Air France said exception to the ATV requirements are â€œCitizens of the above-named countries holding a visa or residence permit in addition to the UK visa/residence permit from Canada, Japan, the USA or European countries are allowed to transit through France or the Netherlands without an ATV.â€
The PUNCH had reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday signed a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, acclaiming it as the start of a â€œwonderful relationshipâ€ across the Channel.
â€œItâ€™s an excellent deal for this country but also for our friends and partners,â€ he said at the signing in Downing Street, after EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel earlier had themselves ink the 1,246-page Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Ireland returns to full lockdown for at least a month, with prime minister warning of 'extremely serious' situation - SKY NEWS
Ireland "must return to full-scale Level 5 restrictions for a least one month", the prime minister Micheal Martin has said.
Addressing the nation, he described the situation as "extremely serious", saying the new strain is "spreading at a rate that has surpassed the most pessimistic models available to us".
He said: "The numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days.
"With the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth, this is not a time for nuance in our response. We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country."
He went on: "We must return to full-scale Level 5 restrictions for a period of at least one month."
Planning Your First Trip To Ethiopia? This Information Will Help You! - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Ethiopia is an African country with strong, rich cultures and large topography. Planning your trip to Ethiopia is essential, especially if itâ€™s your first time. For you to enjoy your trip and stay in Ethiopia, you will require this information.
Ethiopia may not be your first choice destination for holidays, but it is still a beautiful country for Safari, wildlife conservatives, and lovers. If this is your first time planning a trip to Ethiopia, here are some tips to help you enjoy your trip.
Obtaining a Visa
Obtaining a visa for a tourist visit is much easier with the availability of these two types of visas. You can apply for the Ethiopia Visa on arrival as well as the eVisa, which are the two types of visas available.
You get your Visa on Arrival on your arrival at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The visa on arrival is a travel authorization that you get at the airport on arrival. You donâ€™t have to apply for visas at the embassy or consulate.
The visa is valid for three months, permits only entry, and is open to most countries globally, including Nigeria. You can check out its availability for your country.
It is advisable as a visitor and traveller that you make use of the eVisa. You can avoid the stress of queueing up after a long flight. The application for the eVisa is simple and fast, thereby helping you save time.
Visiting Ethiopia during the raining seasons would not allow you to enjoy your visit. Although the temperature in Ethiopia is consistent all year, the rainy periods are between June to August.
Also, Ethiopia has lots of religious celebrations such as the Ethiopian New Year (September 11), Meskel- celebrating the discovery of the True Cross (September 27), Timkat- the Epiphany celebration (January 19), and Ethiopian Easter.
All of the Ethiopian festivals are usually crowded and colorful. So if you are looking to enjoy the serene environs of Ethiopia, you might want to avoid these periods when visiting.
Ethiopiaâ€™s Cultural Background
As we initially stated, that safaris may not be typical in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known for its unique culture and people. You have the chance to explore ancient structures, carved rocks, and relics from centuries ago. If you desire to enjoy and explore Ethiopia, you should visit remote areas like Omo valley.
There are lots of tourist attractions in Ethiopia, but most are still untapped. One of the most famous places tourists visit is Lalibela, home to about 11 monolithic rock-hewn churches. You could also spend time with the natives and tribes in the valley.
Ethiopia has a large and diverse landscape. You could enjoy the Mountains of Gheralta, the Simien mountainsâ€™ canyons, the Jungle and Mighty river of Omo Valley, and the Fertile Great Rift Valley in the south.
Ethiopia also has someexciting features, such as the Danakil Depression: a lava field known to be the hottest place in the world. It cuts at about 410 feet below sea level.
To enjoy your trip, you could book a tour guide to help make your trip comfortable. Also, ensure to switch to a local sim to stay connected. If you want to enjoy your trip fully, you may have to stay up to three weeks. Lastly, ensure you go without a biased mind. Just enjoy your stay!
COVID-19 second wave: FAAN insists on passing only travellers into airport terminal - DAILY POST
BY DON SILAS
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Thursday reiterated its earlier directive that only passengers will be allowed into airport terminals.
FAAN management disclosed this in a series of tweets on the agencyâ€™s official handle.
The agency also urged all travellers and airport users to strictly abide by all laid down travel protocols, adding that a compliance monitoring team has been constituted at the airports to drive total compliance.
The tweet read, â€œAs the world grapples with the second wave of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has stepped up measures to ensure the safety of travelling.
â€œPassengers and other airport users across the nation from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Port Harcourt International Airport, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport and others within its network, the Authority is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure safe and secure facilitation of travellers.
â€œAcross the airports, car parks have been rearranged for seamless pick-up and drop off to avoid congestion. We have also created new drop off zones for passengers with reduced mobility.
â€œOperational and directional signages have also been conspicuously marked at both the airside and landside to make movements easier for airport users and to promote social distancing protocols.
â€œAdditionally, we have intensified the process of disinfecting all baggage before entering the terminals, as well as enhanced temperature screening of all passengers and staff using infrared scanners. We have also separated access entry points for passengers and staff to reduce congestion and improve on facilitation.
â€œThe Authority will like to use this opportunity to advise all travellers and airport users to strictly abide by all laid down travel protocols and also reiterate that only passengers will be allowed into the terminals.
â€œA compliance monitoring team has been constituted for each of our airports to drive total compliance. FAAN…… Committed to her core values of Safety, Security and Comfort.â€
Reduce â€˜discriminatoryâ€™ visa fees - POLITICS UK
Folasade works as a healthcare assistant in the West Midlands. On top of the unimaginable stress of working in the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic, she faces the never-ending fear that she wonâ€™t be able to afford the next round of visa applications.
â€œWhen it is time for you to renew you are looking everywhere for money,â€ she says. â€œYou have no money to save, for school, rent, car insurance. My son is finishing college and I want him to go into further education but that is hard, financially.â€
Folasade works as much as she can to make ends meet, often giving up family time or sick leave: â€œI work six days a week in order for me to pay for everything and itâ€™s still not enough, I still have debt. I donâ€™t have time with my kids because I have to work so much. The other day I had a headache, felt feverish and sweating. I drank some water and took some paracetamol, but I have to carry on working.â€
Since coming to the UK from Nigeria in 2009, Folasade estimates she has spent around Â£15,000 in visa fees and related costs. Next time she renews her visa she will have to pay Â£1,033 â€“ and sheâ€™s worried there could be Â£1,560 on top of that for the Immigration Health Surcharge. Some NHS workers are now exempt from this charge, but itâ€™s not clear if healthcare assistants are included in that.
Her situation isnâ€™t unusual â€“ tens of thousands of people across the UK face these punitive costs every 2.5 years, just to apply for permission to stay in the country that is now their home. Families face particularly outrageous costs, with a family of four forking out at least Â£53,000 over the 10+ years from arriving in the UK to getting citizenship. Thatâ€™s on top of taxes, rent, utilities, food, and so on â€“ all the regular costs of life.
The impacts can be devastating. Parents are faced with the choice between feeding their children and maintaining their right to stay. Others are priced out of legal status entirely. Women are disproportionately affected, especially BAME women.
Given that the fees are significantly higher than the cost to process the application (usually around Â£200-300), they are unfair even in normal times. During a pandemic, when many people have lost their jobs, are on reduced incomes, or face weeks or months of unpaid sick leave, they are indefensible.
Yet the government has done nothing. Theyâ€™ve even defended the fees; earlier this year, a Home Office minister suggested that migrants should be able to rely on investments or savings to pay the application fees. Not only is this frighteningly out of touch, but it reveals the governmentâ€™s continued tendency to prioritise migrants with wealth.
To hear this during the Covid-19 pandemic was particularly shocking. If anything has been underlined by this countryâ€™s new-found appreciation of frontline workers, it is the flaws of valuing people according to their salary. In 2021, we at Migrant Voice will be stepping up our campaign to raise the voices of Folasade and other people like her â€“ and to call for change.
We want to see these discriminatory fees reduced to the cost of processing them, and for childrenâ€™s fees to be abolished. Itâ€™s not a radical ask â€“ currently, visa fees in the UK are far higher than in most European countries, where temporary visas often cost just â‚¬100 â€“ but itâ€™s a logical and a humane one.
We also want to see the government start genuinely listening to people impoverished by these extortionate fees. Thatâ€™s particularly important to Folasade.
â€œI donâ€™t feel heard by the government,â€ she says. â€œThey donâ€™t know what I am going through. We are human too. I want to be heard.â€