Travel News

FRSC to impound ‘rickety’ vehicles nationwide - PREMIUM TIMES

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

The FRSC says it will impound rickety vehicles and prosecute their owners or operators.

By Alfred Olufemi

The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, has directed officers of the agency across the country to seize rickety vehicles plying the roads.

According to a statement on Tuesday by FRSC’s spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem, this is to reduce road crashes in the country.

Mr Kazeem said zonal commanding officers and sector commanders have been directed to arrest and prosecute their owners and operators after impounding such vehicles.

“The Corps Marshal stated that the operation which will be conducted nationwide, forms part of the Corps’ commitment towards enhancing the tempo of its operational activities and create a safer motoring environment in the country, premised on the realisation of its 2021 strategic goals of reducing road traffic crashes by 15% and fatalities by 20%.

“While recalling the common sight of poorly maintained vehicles on the nation highways which often break down and result in obstructions of traffic flow, the Corps Marshal enjoined motorists to ensure regular maintenance of their vehicles in view of inherent traffic hazards associated with abandoned broken down vehicles especially at night,” the statement read.

The FRSC boss also highlighted health, safety and economic benefits of regular vehicle maintenance.

He said ”if drivers and vehicle owners carry out constant maintenance of their vehicles, road safety would be enhanced on the over 204,000 km road network in Nigeria”.

Mr Kazeem warned that owners of impounded vehicles would pay fines and undergo compulsory road safety education.

“The public is therefore called to assist the Corps by reporting any rickety vehicle sighted on the road to the spokesperson through the FRSC Toll Free numbers 122 or tune into the National Traffic Radio 107.1FM to report same or any other contravention seen on the road.


FAA orders immediate inspections of some Boeing 777 engines after United failure - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday it was ordering immediate inspections of Boeing 777-200 planes with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines before further flights after an engine failed on a United flight on Saturday.

Operators must conduct a thermal acoustic image inspection of the large titanium fan blades located at the front of each engine, the FAA said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Monday that a cracked fan blade from the United Flight 328 engine that caught fire was consistent with metal fatigue.

“Based on the initial results as we receive them, as well as other data gained from the ongoing investigation, the FAA may revise this directive to set a new interval for this inspection or subsequent ones,” the FAA said.

In March 2019, after a 2018 United engine failure attributed to fan blade fatigue, the FAA ordered inspections every 6,500 cycles. A cycle is one take-off and landing.

South Korea’s transport ministry said on Tuesday it had told its airlines to inspect the fan blades every 1,000 cycles following guidance from Pratt after the latest United incident.

An airline would typically accumulate 1,000 cycles about every 10 months on a 777, according to an industry source familiar with the matter.

The FAA said in 2019 that each inspection was expected to take 22 man-hours and cost $1,850. It did not provide updated estimates on Tuesday.

The engine that failed on the 26-year-old Boeing 777 and shed parts over a Denver suburb on Saturday was a PW4000. The engines are used on 128 planes, or less than 10% of the global fleet of more than 1,600 delivered 777 widebody jets.

Boeing said it supported the FAA’s latest inspection guidance and would work through the process with its customers.

It had earlier recommended that airlines suspend the use of the planes while the FAA identified an appropriate inspection protocol, and Japan imposed a temporary suspension on flights after the Saturday incident.

United, the only U.S. operator, had temporarily grounded its fleet before the FAA announcement.

United has warned of possible disruptions to its cargo flight schedule in March as it juggles its fleet after its decision to ground 24 Boeing 777-200 aircraft, according to a notice sent to cargo customers.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle

Vancouver and Toronto in top 5 most unaffordable for homes globally - YAHOO FINANCE

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

BY  Jessy Bains

Rapidly rising home prices and stagnant wages mean Toronto and Vancouver have the dubious distinction of being among the top 5 least affordable housing markets in the world.

A new report from think tanks Urban Reform Institute and Frontier Centre for Public Policy used something called the median multiple — a measurement of income in relation to housing prices. The higher the number, the less affordable the market. It found Hong Kong was the least affordable for the 11th year with a score of 20.7.

Vancouver was second with a score of 13, which is worse than last year’s 11.9. Although minor, Hong Kong actually improved from 20.8.

Sydney (11.8) and Auckland (10.0) are third and fourth followed by Toronto at 9.9.

Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau didn’t make the top 20 but each has deteriorated to being considered ”severely unaffordable".

The report’s authors say affordability has been deteriorating for decades, but the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.

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“In this year of the global pandemic and lockdowns, it is not surprising that housing affordability given the large influx of new buyers, particularly in suburban and outlying areas — has continued to deteriorate,” read the report.

“As a result many low-income and middle-income households who already have suffered the worst consequences from housing inflation will see their standards of living further decline.”

Even though prices have shot up in many of the country’s markets, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem says he’ll get worried when he starts to see extrapolative expectations.

"When we see people starting to buy houses solely because they think that prices are going up, that is a warning sign to us,” he said at a virtual event hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.

“We are starting to see early signs of excess exuberance but we’re a long way from where we were in 2016/2017 when things were really hot."

Only four markets are rated affordable (score of 3 or less) and all of them are in the U.S. — Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, and St. Louis.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

Travel Industry Sees Glimmers of Recovery in Africa, Antarctica - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

After a year of pandemic, travelers are looking for open spaces, safety, and sunshine—and are ready to put down serious cash to get it.


Early in the global pandemic, travel experts rushed to determine the shape of the recovery. Would it be L-shaped? More like a W? A year later, despite brief upticks and plenty of pent-up demand, the travel rebound has yet to arrive. 

Yet there are glimmers of optimism, both for the industry and for people itching to dust off their suitcases. Travelers are starting to book now for trips they hope to take months or more down the line. A smattering of markets, including Africa and Antarctica, are doing well, their highest-end inventory already selling out for stretches of their upcoming high seasons (in austral winter and summer, respectively). Some spots are even thriving right now.  

Take Miami. Of roughly 15 five-star hotels bookable on Expedia for President’s day week, all but four fully sold out. The ones with availability were limited to the priciest rooms only. At the St. Regis Bal Harbour, just a handful of $3,500-per-night suites went unbooked; the remaining inventory at the 1 Hotel South Beach was mostly restricted to the 4,500-square-foot presidential suite, which, at $50,617 per night, would cost nearly half a million dollars to book out for the entire February break.

Magic City is in demand for numerous reasons. International border closures have left travelers seeking domestic alternatives to far-flung escapes, and Florida’s weather can’t be beat. Mayor Francis Suarez has been luring tech executives to move their already-virtual operations to the tax-friendly state. And Florida's Covid-19 rules are lax, allowing visitors to eat and party almost anywhere they want.

Airlines, in turn, have responded to that demand by increasing flights. Even at the height of the second wave of infections, Miami was seeing up to 90,000 visitors arriving through its international airport on any given day—compared to the average of 105,000 to 115,000 in normal times.

The future of travel in the Covid-19 era

For American travelers, Miami represents the leading edge of a cautious return to tourism, according to an informal survey of more than a dozen travel providers, online booking sites, industry groups, analysts, and consultants. These people said that although sought-after destinations throughout Australia and much of Europe remain effectively locked down, eager travelers are identifying pockets of opportunity around the world. Those are largely dictated by open borders or a perceived sense of safety. But others, eager to get back to their favorite spots, are simply placing early bets, hoping that when the time comes, their destination will be ready to welcome them. 

Among the most popular picks are wide-open, remote places. There are also signs of emerging demand for destinations where vaccine uptake is high. According to research published by the American Hotel and Lodging Association in January, nearly half of consumers see vaccine distribution as key to travel. Of those, a majority say they would feel more at ease knowing that a large share of locals had been vaccinated than by simply having individual protection for themselves.

Read More: 24 Destinations to Travel Intentionally

That explains why Abercrombie & Kent is anticipating a rush of bookings to Israel, where more than 40% of the population has already received at least one vaccine dose. With rare exceptions, travelers can’t visit Israel yet; the country has yet to set a date for when its borders will reopen. Whenever that time comes, its vaccine campaign will have effectively doubled as tourism marketing, intentionally or not. 

The $1.7 trillion global travel industry continues to struggle overall, of course. Hotel occupancies in the U.S. hovered around 40% of throughout January, according to data from industry analyst STR. In the fourth quarter of 2020, both American Airlines and United recorded losses of roughly $2 billion each, contributing to an industry-wide hemorrhage of $118 billion over the course of the year.

As always, the forecast can change on a dime. But the following spots represent some light at the end of a long tunnel for the industry.

Looking for Sun

If American travelers were limited to domestic tourism in 2020, given the state of border closures, they now have their sights set further afield, on spots including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Whereas searches through April are still largely domestic in nature, data from TripAdvisor suggests that the majority of hotel searches on its platform taking place from May onwards are for international destinations. Similarly, booking app Hopper says it has seen a significant uptick in international bookings, primarily to warm-weather vacation hot-spots close to the U.S. According to a company spokesperson they include Cancun, Cabo, and Puerta Vallarta in Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Everyone wants sunshine. “Since first week of January, we’ve been booking a lot of summer trips,” says Jack Ezon, co-founder of luxury travel consultancy Embark Beyond. “And I’m not talking small. People are making up for lost time—especially with trips to the Mediterranean, which they see as an annual rite that was taken away last year.”

Brooke Lavery, a partner at travel advisory firm Local Foreigner, has seen the same. “It’s amazing how many people don’t realize that Europe is still closed,” she says. Whereas she previously estimated that her clients would be able to hit the Med by May, she’s now unsure those trips will happen before the end of the summer, with stricter lockdowns sweeping across Europe.

Ezon agrees. “I’m not counting my money before I get it in my pocket,” he says, pointing at the real possibility that these early booking may get cancelled or deferred. 

The Caribbean is a safer bet, says Lavery. With local economies hard hit from years of extensive hurricane-related closures pre-Covid, the region has made a full-throated call to carefully reopen tourism. Of the 27 island nations tracked by Travel Weekly, only five remain closed to U.S. travelers. (These are largely French islands, following European guidelines.)

Resorts across the region have been quick to roll out initiatives for on-site, highly-accurate PCR tests to help American travelers navigate entry and re-entry requirements. Among the success stories so far is the Dominican Republic. Whereas international tourism there was down 90% at certain points last year, now it’s rebounded to just 36% down, year-over-year.

Open Spaces1

With Europe looking dicey for summer travel, Africa may be a bright spot. Go2Africa, a leading provider for tailor-made travel to the continent, says searches on its site had declined by 90% at the height of the pandemic’s first wave. But by January, they were down just 20% year-over-year. “The best lodges are all already full for the summer,” adds Ezon, who has seen similar upticks.

“This is Africa’s moment,” agrees Pamela Lassers, spokesperson for high-end operator Abercrombie & Kent. “Going on safari offers wide open spaces and privacy at the small boutique camps we recommend.” She said that interest extends to Egypt—what she considers “the world’s largest open-air museum.” 

Likewise Antarctica. Online travel aggregator TravelStride has seen a 25% increase in bookings to the southernmost continent compared to last year’s pre-pandemic numbers. On Google, Antarctica has charted the most significant growth in interest from American travelers. White Desert, the company best known for offering air-based trips (rather than cruises) to the continent, has already sold out two trips for late 2021, even with prices hovering around $100,000 per person.

The Maldives is trending upwards, too. The island nation registered more travel-related search queries on Google than any other country from November 2020 to January 2021, and some of its top resorts, like Soneva Fushi, saw revenues rise by as much as 50% in the last months of 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. 

Seeing What Sticks


Peter Bates, president and founder of travel industry consultancy Strategic Vision, holds a cautious outlook on travel’s recovery. He says the latest research his company released was outdated upon its publication in January, having been based on a survey sent out in late November. At that point, travel advisors said Italy, France, Greece and Japan were among their top planned destinations for 2021. By the time their responses were printed, a new wave of lockdowns made those plans seem unlikely at best.

“Everything we looked at in the fourth quarter has changed again,” Bates says. And it’s possible that will repeat itself, imperiling the early success stories mentioned here. “The new word is ‘stickiness,’” he says. “Is it going to stick? Or are we going to have to move this booking?”

An issue for Africa, he says, will be fending off the fears of the potent South Africa variant. “People will take the idea that this is prevalent in South Africa, and expand that across the entire continent—they will generalize—and that has the potential to create problems there,” he says, adding: “Going on safari is a once in a lifetime holiday for a lot of people, so if you’re not completely comfortable, it’s not a good idea.”

That narrative could unfold anywhere. Another uncertainty is the long-term efficacy of vaccines, and what new policies may be in store from health authorities around the world. 

“It’s worrying that they’re thinking about even a booster shot, that everyone would have to go through a third injection,” says Bates. Questions about how long protection might last may jeopardize the reliability of immunity passports, he adds.

“There are so many questions that any traveler has these days,” Bates says. But in a weird way, he says, that might not be bad for the travel providers that are among his clients. “A travel advisor has to be a real advisor now—they will be more important than ever,” he says. “In fact they’re the ones who will do quite well as soon as people are actually able to travel again.”

Emirates operates first fully vaccinated team flight - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

BY  Joseph Olaoluwa

Emirates Airlines has operated its first flight with fully vaccinated frontline teams servicing customers at every touchpoint of the travel journey.

The EK215 was operated on Sunday. It departed Dubai at 8.30am for Los Angeles and was safely supported by check-in, security, pilots and cabin crew who made the choice to be fully vaccinated.

Also supporting the flight’s operations were special handling teams from dnata as well as SkyCargo teams working on the cargo and logistics requirements for EK215, according to the statement by the airline titled ‘Emirates’ first flight by fully vaccinated frontline teams’.

Chief Operating Officer, Emirates Airlines, Adel Al Redha, said, “Our operational workforce is at the aviation frontline, helping people get to where they need to be, and moving essential goods to global communities.

“Protecting our people with vaccinations is important – for them, for our community, for the smooth running of our operations, and also for our customers as it introduces an additional layer of protection when they travel with us.

“We have seen a very positive response with high demand and take-up of the COVID-19 vaccine from our colleagues at the operational frontline, and there is continued momentum in the rate of vaccinations across the business.

“We would like to thank the United Arab Emirates’ leadership for making three types of vaccines available in the country, and for their proactive commitment to championing an extensive National Vaccination Programme.”

According to the statement received on Tuesday, nearly 5,000 cabin and flight deck crew have opted to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It added that more Emirates Group employees in other roles have taken their COVID-19 vaccine through the company’s clinics and vaccination centres, while others have opted to take their vaccine at one of the many vaccination centres across the UAE.

The COO in the statement noted that more of the airline flights would be operating fully vaccinated frontline employees, combined with strong safety measures in place, as the carrier looked forward to the easing of border entry guidelines for many countries.

Is your journey legal? Government gets even tougher on international travellers - INDEPENDENT

FEBRUARY 24, 2021

BY Simon Calder 

While the government has said it may open up international travel from 17 May, in the near term those going abroad for essential reasons will find their journeys even more complicated.

At present all holidays within and beyond the UK are illegal. But international flights, trains and ferry are still operating for those who are exempt from the ban – whether for professional or personal reasons.

Soon, though, any UK resident leaving the country will have to complete a form before being allowed to depart.

Buried deep in the roadmap set out by the government for unlocking travel from England is a line that sets out another hurdle: “From 8 March, outbound travellers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel on the Declaration to Travel form.”

This procedure was originally promised to Parliament by the home secretary, Priti Patel, on 27 January. It appears likely to be delivered 40 days later.

Transport operators will be told to check whether or not the traveller has a valid reason to travel. Airlines, train companies and ferry firms face fines if they allow a passenger to leave the country without proof of their entitlement.

The Independent has asked the government for more details of what the Declaration to Travel will involve, but has been told it is a “work in progress”.

Transport firms contacted have not been briefed on the new requirement, which comes into effect in less than two weeks.

At the time it was announced, the Home Office warned: “There will be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay-at-home regulations.

“Anyone who does not have a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home and may face a fine.”

In addition to the Declaration to Travel, outbound passengers will need to meet the testing and quarantine requirements of their destination country – and to do the same when returning to the UK.

Foundation raises awareness on trafficking, forced migration - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 25, 2021

Worried by the increasing number of trafficked women and girls out of Nigeria, community leaders and residents of Alimosho and Igando-Ikotun local councils have tasked government on the need to create employment for youths to solve the problem of trafficking and forced migration in Nigeria.

They made the call during a town hall meeting and community awareness programme on trafficking of women and girls in Ikotun organised by CLEEN Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Women Nigeria and the Government of Italy, as part of efforts to seek community-based solutions to address the trend in the country.


According to the chairman of Community Development Committee (CDC), Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area, Mr. Ademola Osibelowo, government should create jobs for the youths to stop the problem of human trafficking.

“When they initiate agricultural loans, it won’t get to the grassroots, it will hang up there. Nobody has been able to access the agricultural loan been created for farmers. All the empowerment they said they are doing, doling out N5,000 and N30,000 will not help the situation. I will also advise the youths not to look for white-collar jobs. I am a farmer by profession, I rear goats and turkey. There is a lot youths can do if supported by government.”

Responding to issues of girl-child trafficking in Alimosho, Progamme Manager, CLEEN Foundation, Ruth Olofin, revealed that the local council has been a source location for traffickers due to its large population and poor socio-economic status of residents.

“We have noticed that Alimosho, being the largest local government, has become a trafficking site. Recruitment is ongoing and it is a source location for traffickers in Nigeria. A lot of people are being trafficked out of Lagos from this area,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Lagos Zonal Commander, Agaran Ganiu Alao, noted that traffickers risk minimum of five years and a maximum of 30 years in prison when convicted.

Delta concessions Asaba Airport for 30 years - THE NATION

FEBRUARY 25, 2021

...Concessnaire to invest N28bn

By Okungbowa Aiwerie, Asaba

The Delta State government, Wednesday, signed a N28 billion concession deal with First Investment/ Menzies (FIDC-MENZIES) Consortium to develop the Asaba Airport for a 30-year period following an initial deposit of N1billion.

Secretary to the State Government, Chiedu Evie and Director-General, Delta State Investment Development Agency signed on behalf of Delta State government.

The event which took place in Asaba, the Delta State Capital attracted aviation experts.

Under the agreement, the investors, Asaba Airport Company, are to invest a N28 billion into the development of Asaba International Airport.

Gov Ifeanyi Okowa, at the occasion, stressed that the development would enhance economic growth and employment.

He explained that the concession would run for an initial period of thirty years after the Delta State Executive Council and the Delta State House of Assembly and the consortium reached terms that will improve the development of the airport.

The approved terms, according to the governor, are; “Naming of the Airport: The name of the Airport shall remain Asaba International Airport. However, the Concessionaire, upon discussion with the State, can include tagline to the existing Airport name for the purpose of branding.

“Competing Airport: There shall not be any publicly or privately-owned new airport, whether greenfield developments or expansions in Delta North Senatorial District of Delta State, during the concession period.

“Employment of Deltans: The Concessionaire shall at all times be under an obligation to maintain an employment ratio of twenty percent (20%) of its staff for the operation of the Airport comprising indigenes of Delta State.

“Mandatory Capital Projects; The Concessionaire shall undertake the development of Mandatory Capital Projects, and they shall be completed within a period of three (3) years from the effective date of the transaction.

“The Mandatory Capital Projects include Airport/Terminal Facility, Cargo Facility, Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) Facility, Tank Farm Facility, Industrial Park and Office Facility, and Hotel and Conference Facility.

“Concessionaire Obligation: The Concessionaire shall be responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of the airport, keeping it in good operating repair and condition throughout the concession period at its own cost and risk, and in accordance with Prudent Industry Practice and the provisions of the Agreement.

“Exemption of Payment of Tax: The Concessionaire shall be exempted from the payment of some specific taxes to the State for a period of five (5) years, to enable it concentrate on the development of the mandatory capital projects as listed above;

“Rights of Inspection of the Airport Facilities: The State and its representatives, with a written notice to the Concessionaire, no less than seven (7) days prior to visit, can undertake the inspection of the airport facilities to ascertain compliance with the terms of agreement.

“Project Delivery Oversight Committee (PDOC): A Project Delivery Oversight Committee comprising representatives of the State and the Concessionaire shall be constituted to ensure the implementation of the terms of the agreement.

“Terms of the Concession: The assets and all infrastructure constructed by the Concessionaire, together with all related investments in, and upgrades to the assets, shall be handed back to the State at the end of the concession period.”

Other terms are; “Insurance Policy: The Concessionaire shall purchase and maintain in full force and effect any and all of the insurances required for the operation of the airport.

“Royalty Fee: The Concessionaire shall pay to the State a royalty fee of 2.5% of the annual Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.

“Annual Fee: The Concessionaire shall pay to the State an annual fee of One hundred-million-naira (N100,000,000.00) each year during the concession period, with 10% escalation every five (5) years of the concession period.

“Upfront Fee: The Concessionaire shall pay to the State an upfront fee of N1b only on or before close of business on the 15th day following the signing of this agreement.

“My good people of Delta State, with over N28b expected to be pumped into the airport development by the Consortium over the concession period, the benefits to the State in terms of employment generation, economic growth, urban renewal, and tourism potentials are enormous.

“I thank the Project Steering Committee and the Committee that analysed the bids, for a job well done. My deep appreciation also goes to the Transaction Advisers for their patience and commitment to guide us through the entire process. I also express my profound gratitude to the First Investment/Menzes Consortium for believing in this project, which is the first Brownfield Airport Concession in Nigeria, and possibly Africa.”

Qantas posts huge loss, says no international flights until October - AFP

FEBRUARY 25, 2021

Australian carrier Qantas reported on Thursday a US$5.5 billion plunge in revenue during the second half of 2020 and said international passenger flights would not resume until October as the pandemic continued to devastate the industry.

The country's biggest airline said it suffered an underlying pre-tax loss of Aus$1.03 billion (US$814 million) in the six months to December 31, with statutory losses climbing to Aus$1.47 billion.

"These figures are stark, but they won't come as a surprise," said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

"A year ago, none of us knew just how big an impact Covid would have on the world, or on aviation. It's clearly worse than anyone expected," he said.

"Border closures meant we lost virtually 100 percent of our international flying and 70 percent of our domestic flying -- three-quarters of our revenue -– around Aus$7 billion -– went with it."

Joyce noted that the company had already seen revenue fall Aus$4 billion during the first half of 2020, bringing the total impact of the pandemic to Aus$11 billion.

"That is a massive number, probably a bigger number than any other company in Australia is experiencing because of Covid," he told a news conference.

Joyce pushed back the expected resumption of international passenger flights from July to the end of October, but said the cost of keeping those planes on the ground was largely being offset by increased freight operations.

With Australia's successful containment of the pandemic, Qantas flagged a return to 60 percent of pre-Covid domestic capacity by the end of March and 80 percent by the end of June.

Qantas had posted a US$1.9-billion loss for the year ending June 30 as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the global economy.

Joyce said a total of 8,500 staff would lose their jobs due to the crisis, and another 7,500 would remain suspended until the resumption of international flights.

Around 100 planes have also been grounded as part of a Aus$10 billion cost-cutting blitz and restructuring effort that Qantas said would save it Aus$1 billion a year from 2023.


FEBRUARY 25, 2021

Air New Zealand and RwandAir are both trialling Iata’s Travel Pass

BY  Simon Calder

After the UK government said it was pressing ahead with agreeing a “vaccine passport” to smooth international travel in the coronavirus era, one of the leading contenders has announced more support for its plans.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is promoting its Travel Pass initiative – an app-based system that, it claims, offers high security and privacy as well as global acceptability.

Rather than personal information being stored on a central database, the details are shared at the travellers’ discretion, the organisation says. Data is, though, transmitted internationally.

Air New Zealand has announced it will trial the digital app on its Auckland-Sydney route in April, while RwandAir is the first African carrier to sign up for the project.

Jennifer Sepull, chief digital officer of Air New Zealand, said: “Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different, with customers’ health data needing to be verified at check-in.

“This will give customers peace of mind that they meet all travel requirements for the different countries around the world before they even get to the airport.

“Reassuring customers that travel is in fact safe is one of our priorities. By using the app, customers can have confidence that everyone onboard meets the same government health requirements they do.”

RwandAir will begin a three-week trial in April for passengers travelling between its hub in Kigali and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The chief executive, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, said: “RwandAir is proud to be the first African airline to trial IATA Travel Pass, which could reinforce all the health and safety measures and protocols which we have put in place to restore customer confidence to fly once more.”

Earlier, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “There’s clearly an important role for certification for international travel.”

But there is far from global agreement, with airlines adopting a wide range of techniques. Lufthansa has started incorporating Covid test certificates into its digital systems for flights from Frankfurt to Istanbul and from New York Newark to Frankfurt and Munich. “Customers receive confirmation by e-mail in advance that certificates meet entry requirements,” says the German national carrier.

Candidates for a globally accepted app include CommonPass, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project (a Swiss not-for-profit builder of digital platforms for communities); AOKpass, being trialled on Etihad on flights between Abu Dhabi and Paris; and VeriFLY, currently on trial by British Airways on routes from London Heathrow to the US.


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