Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy Revives Airline After 23 Years - BLOOMBERG
Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, is set to launch a flag-carrier airline almost a quarter of a century after the previous one ceased operations in the country formerly known as Swaziland.
Eswatini Air will fly from national capital Mbabane to cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town in neighboring South Africa starting later this year, Qiniso Dhlamini, chief executive officer of holding company Royal Eswatini National Airways Corp., said in a statement.
The state-owned company has bought two Embraer SA 145 regional jets to kickstart services, which are being painted in a livery including a logo featuring a bateleur eagle.
Eswatini Air will boost connectivity in the region after the grounding of South Africa’s Mango, which is in bankruptcy protection and awaiting government funds. The capacity shortage was exposed last month when Comair Ltd., operator of low-cost Kulula and local British Airways flights, was idled for five days amid safety concerns, leading to rocketing prices and chaos at airports.
The new carrier succeeds Royal Swazi National Airways, which ceased flying in 1999. Flights to Mbabane have since been operated by a joint venture between the government and South Africa’s Airlink, a partnership that has now been disbanded.
Airlink will continue to operate the Johannesburg-Mbabane route independently, CEO Rodger Foster said in a statement. The carrier will also offer to rehire workers for the partnership, which was called Eswatini Airlink.
FG reopens Idiroko, three other land borders - PUNCH
BY Tunde Ajaja
The Federal Government on Friday approved the reopening of four additional land borders shut in August 2019 as part of efforts to curtail smuggling and boost local production of rice.
A circular released by the Nigeria Customs Service, signed by Deputy Comptroller-General E. I. Edorhe, on behalf of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, listed the borders as Idiroko border post in Ogun State, Jibiya border post in Katsina State, Kamba border post in Kebbi State and Ikom border post in Cross River State.
The circular titled, ‘Re-opening of four additional Nigerian border posts’ sighted by Saturday PUNCH read, “Sequel to the Presidential directive dated December 16, 2020, granting approval for phased reopening of land borders namely; Mfum, Seme, Illela and Maigatari borders across the country, I am directed to inform you that four additional borders listed below have been approved for re-opening.
“Idiroko border post, Ogun State (South-West Zone); Jibiya border post, Katsina State (North-West Zone); Kamba border post, Kebbi State (North-West Zone); and Ikom border post, Cross River State (South-South Zone)
“Consequently, all Customs formations and Joint Border Patrol Teams are to take note and ensure that proper manning takes place in compliance with extant operational guidelines.”
The circular, which copied all Assistant Comptrollers-General/Zonal Coordinators, Area Controllers, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit & Marine Commands, Comptroller, Customs Intelligent Unit, JBPT Sector Coordinators, Strike Force Commanders and Heads of Units, added, “Above is forwarded for your information and compliance.”
U.K. Plans to Reopen Embassy in Kyiv Next Week, Johnson Says - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. will reopen its embassy in Kyiv next week for the first time since it was closed in February in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday.
“We will very shortly -- next week -- reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city,” Johnson said at a press conference in Delhi, where he is visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He attributed the reopening to “the extraordinary fortitude and the success of President Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv.”
Airlines Substitute Buses for Planes as Pilot Shortage Persists - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. airlines are facing a pilot shortage that’s complicating efforts to ramp up flights, forcing them to step up training programs, recruit foreign pilots and even replace planes with buses.
The industry needs to hire an average of 14,500 new pilots each year until 2030, according to federal labor statistics. But carriers say there’s no way they can bring on that many due to long lag times for credentialing. Worse, experts say the staffing bottleneck is unlikely to end anytime soon.
“The pilot shortage for the industry is real and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” Scott Kirby, chief executive officer of United Airlines Holdings Inc. said earlier this week on a conference call. That will likely force United to keep 150 regional planes parked despite increased domestic travel demand, he said.
The issue isn’t new -- airlines already faced difficulty finding and retaining pilots before the pandemic -- but a purging of employees at the start of the downturn in 2020 has left the industry ill-prepared for a rebound. Thousands of pilots accepted buyouts or retired early when federal aid to avoid furloughs failed to cover all the airlines’ labor costs, especially for veteran pilots earning six-figure salaries.
Two years on, airlines are unable to find enough qualified crews to fully reinstate route maps.
“This is going to be one of the biggest constraints for the industry going forward,” Alaska Air Group Inc. Chief Executive Ben Minicucci said on an April 21 call.
Airlines have scaled back plans for a rapid resumption of pre-pandemic flight schedules. United expects flying this quarter to be down 13% from 2019, while Delta Air Lines Inc. projects a 16% decline, American Airlines Group Inc. as much as 8% and Alaska Air, about 9%. JetBlue Airways Corp. is trimming 10% of its planned summer flights.
Regional Carrier Crunch
The problem is most acute at regional airlines, where pilot ranks have been depleted by hiring at larger carriers. A beggar-thy-neighbor strategy has left smaller aircraft idle and cut flights dedicated to shorter routes.
“We don’t have the regional aircraft flying the summer right now [that] we would like,” American’s chief executive officer, Robert Isom, told CNBC Thursday. “This is a fantastic opportunity for people that want to come in and fly planes. They can make a lot of money.”
Regional airlines play a critical role in ferrying passengers from smaller markets to hub airports where they board flights operated by larger partners. These work horses of the industry have capacity purchase agreements binding them to one or more primary airlines such as American or Delta, which control scheduling, pricing and ticketing.
“This is the pivotal point,” Faye Malarkey Black, chief executive of the Regional Airline Association, said in an interview. “We have not seen this level of service loss since right after 9-11, when that crisis changed the fly-drive equation. I expect this bad situation to get worse before it gets better, no matter what we do.”
In lieu of puddle-jumper flights, some airlines are linking up with charter bus services. United and American have contracted with Landline Co., a Fort Collins, Colorado-based startup, to ferry passengers and their bags by motorcoach on some shorter routes, allowing them to sell destinations where they don’t fly.
Others are casting a wide net to find staff. Discount carrier Breeze Airways and SkyWest Inc. are both recruiting foreign pilots from Australia.
The industry is hiking pay to attract and retain pilots. But the rapid escalation in labor costs could undermine the business models of deep-discount airlines by limiting their ability to grow and eroding their core cost advantages.
That’s a risk to Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Group Holdings Inc. Those two carriers “require an abundance of pilots willing to work for less than what large airlines pay,” said Jamie Baker, a JPMorgan analyst. “The sustainability of that model should logically be questioned in the current environment.”
Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China - CNBC
- Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.
- Pony.ai said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.
Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday. Pony.ai handout
BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.
The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.
The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.
Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.
The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California.
Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.
— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.
SOME OF THE MOST POPULOUS CITIES IN AFRICA - THE GUARDIAN LIFE
Africa, home to about 1.3 billion people, is the world’s second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. Now, half of the world’s population currently live in cities, and Africa has its fair share.
Let’s take a look at some of Africa’s most populous cities, shall we?!
Think of a commercial hub and think “Lagos.” Nigeria’s largest city, it is listed in the top ten of the world’s fastest-growing cities with a population of roughly 24 million and has the fourth-highest GDP in Africa. It also serves as the nation’s economic capital. Need we forget, it is where you can find one of the largest tech communities in Africa. Lagos is one of the largest and busiest seaports on the continent of Africa. A money yielding city, the popular slogan, “if you can make it in Lagos, you can make it anywhere”, is true in one of Africa’s financial centres.
Cairo is the City of a Thousand Minarets. It is not only the largest city in Egypt but the second-largest city in Africa with a population of 21.3million people. It is also the largest metropolitan area in the Middle East and the 15th largest globally. Moreso, the Egyptian capital has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab world.
Congo. Photo iStock
Kinshasa, DR Congo
Kinshasa is Africa’s third-largest city estimated to have between 13 million to 14.9 million after Cairo and Lagos. Incredibly, it is the world’s largest French-speaking city in the world.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Welcome to the wealthiest city in Africa and one of the 50 largest urban areas worldwide. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, with an estimated population of 10 million. It is considered the economic hub of the African continent. Little wonder it is the first choice of destination by job seekers across the continent.
Cape Town, South Africa
As the second-most populous city in South Africa with an estimated 4.7million people, it takes pride in its harbour, natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, and landmarks such as the magnificent Table Mountain and Cape Point.
Nairobi is Kenya’s largest city (9.6 million people) by population and the fifth largest metropolitan city in Africa. Over time, it has grown to become a vital commercial regional hub. It serves as the home to the regional headquarters of various major international companies and organisations.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The capital city of Ethiopia, it is the largest metropolitan city in the country. Its 5million people make it the 14th most populated city in Africa. Addis Ababa is the hub of the nation’s transportation network and this is why several roads connect it to other major cities.
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Set To Introduce Park ‘N’ Pay For Motorists - INDEPENDENT
By CHIDI UGWU
Preparations are in the advanced stage to introduce the park and pay for motorists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Speaking to the Executive members of the Abuja Transportation and Aviation Correspondents Association (ATACA) the airport manager/Regional general manager of North Central, Kabir Mohammed said this is aimed at bringing sanity to the airport.
Mohammed, who was deployed to head the Abuja Airport on March 10, 2022, further said the introduction of the park and pay at the airport will address the problems of touts, who go about harassing and extorting innocent drivers who bring in passengers at the airport.
He also said as part of the ongoing reorganisations at the airport, the rowdy taxi drivers and the illegal businesses going on at the front of the departure hall at the airport will be addressed.
Also, in order to curb, the issue of the traffic jam at the toll gate of the airport, which affected staff, airport users and passengers, the airport manager has commissioned a task force which constitutes of himself and the head of the department to supervise the toll gate on a daily basis with the sole aim of managing the inflow of traffic into the airport.
This effort has improved the situation to a great extent, making entry into the airport easier.
Mohammed has proposed the relocation of the Mosque to a more comfortable location for easy vehicular movement within the airport and as well as expanding the car park.
Mohammed has proposed the introduction of shuttle buses for staff, stakeholders and airport users, as well as a staff welfare and recreation centre.
Other plans, he said also include the introduction of staff weekly/monthly reporting which has made a positive impact on staff discipline and performance.
Blue rail project 90 per cent ready, says Sanwo-Olu - THE NATION
The Blue line rail project is 90 per cent ready, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said yesterday.
He spoke after inspecting the project and stations at the National Theatre Iganmu, Orile, Suru Alaba, Mile Two, and Marina axis.
After taking a train ride round the project, Sanwo-Olu said the government would complete the Blue and Red Rail lines on schedule.
He said the blue line rail would be running on electric tracks with Electric Motor Vehicle (EMV) and warned citizens to keep off the train lines and ensure they don’t walk on it.
He added that two more sets of four coaches would be brought in from China by September and October, adding that adequate security would be put in place at every station and platforms with the use of CCTV.
Sanwo-Olu said: “This is the first time I am taking you on the blue line to see where we are. The first phase of the Blue line rail project starts from Mile 2 and terminates at Marina. Marina is an elevated station and it stretches out to outer Marina and terminates where the governor’s residence is. At the end of the station, you could see that the track is broken into two bridges. The backtrack is for parking.
“We are happy that the contractors are working seven days a week. The major aspect, apart from the Marina Station, is a sea crossing from Eko Bridge to join the outer Marina. They would finish it in about three months. And by the time we will be coming back in July, the concrete construction should have been completed.”
Sanwo-Olu, while condemning the level of vandalism along the rail corridors, warned perpetrators to desist from such evil acts.
He said the government would go after companies that purchased vandalised rail tracks infrastructure, adding that culprits will be traced and prosecuted.
He also added that there would be advocacies and enlightenment to keep people off the tracks.
The governor issued another three-day ultimatum to traders under the Apogbon Bridge on Lagos Island to vacate or risk demolition of the space by Wednesday.
FAAN To Begin Paid Parking, E-Tags At Abuja Airport - DAILY TRUST
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it will soon begin paid parking and e-tags of vehicles at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja (NAIAA).
The new Airport Manager/Regional General Manager, North Central, Mr Kabir Mohammed, who spoke to aviation correspondents at the weekend, also said the innovations include banning illegal car hire operators, among others to ensure decorum at the airport.
He said the new order at the airport will give a five-star experience to the airport users.
“In the most recent weeks, we are changing the face of the NAIAA. Coming into the airport before now, traffic would scare you but we have improved the traffic flow” he said adding that e-tags will soon be introduced at the toll gate.
“We will discourage that by introducing pay-parking at the airport so that all those littering the airport with cars will stop,” he said.
On illegal car hire operators, Mohammed said: “The practice of coming to the terminal building, harassing passengers must stop from the end of the month,” he said.
“We can’t get it right 100 per cent but let there be some semblance of civility at the airport,” he stated.
Aviation Fuel Sells Above N500 Despite Interventions - DAILY TRUST
By Abdullateef Aliyu
Despite intervention by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the House of Representatives, aviation fuel or Jet A1 has continued to sell above N585 per litre, Daily Trust reports.
The fuel is said to take about 40 per cent of an airline’s operating cost. The lawmakers last month met with stakeholders urging that the product sells for N500 as against N600 in some places while airline operators would be licensed to import Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK).
After that, a meeting between the Executive Director, Distribution Systems, Storage & Retailing Infrastructure of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Mr Ogbugo Ukoha and the Group Executive Director, Downstream of NNPC, Mr Adeyemi Adetunji had worked out pricing template in a series of meeting with airline operators, fuel marketers, among others.
But it was learnt yesterday, from operators that nothing has changed as the jet fuel sells for over N500 per litre.
In a statement last week, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) while listing causes of flight delays said, “Some of the more prevalent causes of delays and cancellations include: unavailability and the rising cost of Jet A1 (which today costs above N585 per litre in Lagos, N607 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N685 in Kano).”
A member of the AON, Barr. Shehu Wada said there was no drop in the price of the fuel. A fuel marketer also confirmed this yesterday as he said the current prices remain due to the rising global price of crude oil.
“If that has not reduced, if forex has not reduced, then the price of aviation fuel cannot come down. What we did in the meeting we had with the airline operators in Abuja was to show them how we arrived at our price and they agreed that we are going to be using an average of platts for one month to calculate the price.
“When we use that to calculate the platts-based price, we now add our own margin. So, if marketer A’s margin is N40 plus platts and marketer B says he can still sell it and make profit at N30, any airline can go and meet market B,” the marketer said.