Travel News

Thousands of flights canceled as German airport staff strike - THE CANADIAN PRESS

FEBRUARY 18, 2023

BERLIN (AP) — Thousands of flights to and from German airports were canceled Friday as workers walked out to press their demands for inflation-busting pay increases.

The strikes at seven German airports, including Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg, affected almost 300,000 passengers and forced airlines to cancel more than 2,300 flights.

Christine Behle of the Verdi labor union told public broadcaster RBB-Inforadio that failure to reach a meaningful deal with employers on pay could result in a “summer of chaos” at German airports.

The union is seeking a 10.5% increase for its members, or at least 500 euros, to make up for high inflation seen in Germany and elsewhere last year due to the knock-on effects Russia's attack on Ukraine has had on global food and energy prices.

Verdi chairman Frank Werneke told weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the willingness among its members to stage strikes was big and future walkouts could reach “another dimension.”

He noted that recent strikes at airports, public transport and childcare facilities could be extended to garbage removal services and hospitals.

The Associated Press

Air France-KLM sees robust bookings after better-than-expected Q4 - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 18, 2023

By Joanna Plucinska

LONDON (Reuters) -Air France-KLM said on Friday its 2023 bookings were almost back to pre-pandemic levels as it reported a better-than expected fourth-quarter operating profit with global travel demand seeing a rebound.

The airline's shares rose more than 6% in early trade, hitting their highest since June and outperforming the broader weak stock market. The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.85% at 0805 GMT.

The carrier reported its highest fourth-quarter revenue at 7.1 billion euros ($7.55 billion), up almost 50% year-on-year.

Operating profit fell 45% to 134 million euros on the back of higher costs including fuel, but it beat estimates.

Last year was a difficult one with the travel industry struggling with pandemic-related restrictions and as prices of jet fuel and other key products soared due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Chief Financial Officer Steven Zaat said.

Air France also lost 170 million euros in revenue last year due to travel disruptions at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport after the airport restricted capacity last year due to staff shortages.

"I'm very happy that we can say now that 2022 Q4 ended better than where we ended in Q4 2019," Zaat added.

The company said it was on track to fully pay back French state aid by April 2023, reporting a net debt of 6.3 billion euros, down 1.9 billion euros from the previous year.

Zaat, however, said staffing shortages at Schiphol airport may not be resolved before end-June.

Royal Schiphol Group said on Friday it was not certain when the airport will return to 2019 levels of traffic, given continuing operational difficulties and a 440,000 per year flight cap imposed by the Dutch government.

"It is improving, so that's very good to see. Of course, we are still impacted by the fact that there are labour shortages everywhere, but also at the airport ... but we see that gradually operations are actually back on track," Zaat said.

Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith also warned that European airlines would have to go head-to-head with Chinese carriers, which are still able to fly over Russian airspace.

"Between Paris and Seoul, it can add up to three hours in flight time," Smith told the Financial Times. "If you've got a Chinese carrier that is flying over Russia, they've got an unfair advantage over us."

($1 = 0.9403 euros)

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Sandra Maler, Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Josephine Mason and Shounak Dasgupta)

Mercedes Cars Become More Elusive After 43% Jump in Prices - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 18, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Driving a shiny new Mercedes-Benz may soon become a distant dream for many but the most affluent. 

The average price of a Mercedes reached some €72,900 ($76,590) last year — a 43% increase over 2019 levels. That chimes with the carmaker’s push even further upmarket by focusing on top-end models like the S-Class sedan to bolster profits. The company has been working through pent-up demand after chip shortages curbed production last year.

Mercedes is hiking the prices even of entry-level models like the A-Class hatchback. Drivers are increasingly only be able to buy versions of the car with bells-and-whistle options as standard.

Mercedes isn’t alone. Around the world, manufacturers are reaping the benefits of selling fewer but more expensive cars. In the US, average monthly payments for a new car nearly doubled from late 2019. And as battery-powered vehicles tend to cost more than the average combustion-engine car, the shift to EVs may make the affordability crisis even worse.

Read more: Car Prices Hit Record High as Automakers Limit Output

--With assistance from Chris Bryant.

We have 400 uncollected Nigerian passports – New York Consulate - BUSINESSDAY

FEBRUARY 20, 2023

The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija, has said that 400 Nigerian passports remained uncollected at the Consulate, urging the applicants to come forward and claim them.

Egopija disclosed this at the virtual 8th Town Hall Meeting with the Nigerian Community in New York Jurisdiction.

“Right now, we have so many uncollected passports as at the last count, we have 400 uncollected passports that were produced within the last two years,” he said.

“We have posted the names of the original owners of the documents on our website and also on our community platform, the WhatsApp group,” he added.

“We have also asked Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), New Jersey Chapter, and other relevant groups, to bring it to the notice of their members,” he said.

“Please, while you get this, circulate and bring to the notice of your members, let them send self-addressed envelopes to us and we would post these documents to them,’’ he said.

According to him, some passports were earlier posted to the addresses provided but they were returned to the Consulate.

He urged those that would like to renew their passports to do so before they expire, saying, “if you begin on time, you’ll certainly get your passports renewed before the expiration date or your intended travel date.

The envoy explained that the call for early renewal of passports was because the Consulate does not have printing machines to produce passports in New York.

“We have been exploring a kind of model where we go to Washington DC once in a month to produce the passports, pending the time when the machine will be installed in New York,’’ he said.

According to him, there are three categories of the new Enhanced e-passport, listing them as the 32-page passport validity, five years, 64-page and 10 years 64-page passport.

He advised applicants to indicate the passport category in their forms, noting that all the categories of passport will require National Identification Number (NIN).’’

Egopija said that the nationals could look up the updated information of NIN centres on its website.

The Consul General said the updated information on NIN had been sent to the WhatsApp platform for the community leaders to pass the information to their members.

He assured that any applicant that meets the requirement would get his or her passport between six and eight weeks, noting that passport timeline for collection is usually in two or three months.

In addition, he assured that the Consulate would continue to be responsive to the yearning of its nationals, adding that the mission has started to recalibrate or change its telephone system.

“We have started to recalibrate or change our phone system whereby we will hear less of complaint that we have called and have not received or our calls have not been picked,” he said.

“We are returning to the old system where all the phone lines will go to the operator who will receive the calls and now send it to the relevant officers,” he said.

He urged the association and group leaders to inform the Consulate about their activities for the year so that the Consulate can participate and factor them in its programmes.

He said that the Mission would be relating with its nationals more this year by visiting them and attending their events, saying, we are open to attending your events if you inform us in time.

“You should let us know when you intend to host or have your National Days and the Flag Raising ceremony, we will come and support you,’’ he assured.

Portugal Wants to Force Owners of Vacant Homes to Find Tenants - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 20, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Portugal’s government wants to force owners of vacant homes across the country to make them available to long-term renters. The move, a bid to increase housing supply in a strained real estate market that’s unaffordable to many locals, has been attacked by property owners as a violation of the constitution. 

The decision is part of a package of measures approved last week at a cabinet meeting. The “More Housing” plan also includes limits on rent increases, initiatives to speed up new building permits, a ban on new short-term rentals in cities and an end to the so-called golden visa program. 

Homeowners and investors say that obliging people to rent out their houses goes against the constitutional right to private property. The government has yet to provide details on how exactly it plans to execute this new policy.

Read More: Runaway Property Costs Push Portugal to End Golden Era of Visas

“It’s clearly unconstitutional,” Luis Menezes Leitao, president of the Lisbon Property Owners’ Association, said in an interview on Monday. Menezes Leitao, who is also a law professor, said that the government should leave private homeowners alone and instead focus on building more affordable homes.

Separately, the Portuguese Association of Real Estate Developers and Investors issued a statement describing the forced rentals as “an attack” on private property.

Housing Minister Marina Goncalves has defended the policy as a way to ease the housing crunch that has helped drive property and rental prices to record highs, especially in Lisbon. Holiday homes, she said, will not be targeted. Her government estimates that about 730,000 homes in Portugal are empty. 

“An empty house … must be used for the purpose it was created for,” Goncalves said in an interview with Portuguese television station SIC. Although the policy still needs to be fine-tuned, she acknowledged, the measure is legal. 

The right to property “is never called into question,” she said. “The state does not enter and occupy people’s homes and then say, ‘Now I’m here.’ We have steps that will be taken.”

The government housing proposals will be up for public discussion until March 16, when the cabinet will vote on their final approval. Some of these measures also need to be passed by parliament, where the ruling Socialist government holds a majority.

In 2021, an estimated 78% of people in Portugal lived in a home they owned, while the rest lived in rental units, according to the latest Eurostat data available. The average wage in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe. 

Nigeria Air: Ethiopian Airlines Asks Nigeria To Resolve Legal Obstacles - DAILY TRUST

FEBRUARY 21, 2023

President Muhammadu Buhari met with Girma Wake, Ethiopian Airlines board chairman, during which they exchanged views on the operationalisation of Nigeria Air. The Senior Special…

    By Muideen Olaniyi 

President Muhammadu Buhari met with Girma Wake, Ethiopian Airlines board chairman, during which they exchanged views on the operationalisation of Nigeria Air.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement issued on Monday, said Wake had at the meeting on Sunday in Addis Ababa requested a resolution of the legal obstacle halting Nigeria Air, which Ethiopian Airlines has 49% stake, from commencing operations.

He had also requested the repatriation of the airline funds trapped in the country over foreign exchange challenges.

On Nigeria Air, President Buhari told the board chairman that it was a ‘weighty decision’ by the Nigerian government to re-launch a national carrier, expressing confidence that ‘‘things will be alright.’’

Wake, who met with President Buhari on the margins of the 36th AU Summit, said the airline had been treated very well in Nigeria since it started operations 60 years ago in the country.

‘‘Nigeria is not just a market but a hub for aviation in Africa. Nigeria is a special country and nobody travels more around the globe than Nigerians,’’ he said.

The aviation chief, who was accompanied on the visit by Mesfin Tasswe, Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, and Daniel Abebe, Group Vice President Strategic Planning and Alliances, hinted that the airline had plans to expand operations in the country, with additional daily flight services to Lagos from Addis Ababa, as well as Abuja-Addis Ababa.

He said the airline and its partners are ready to commence operations on Nigeria Air as soon as all the court matters are resolved.

Kenya's tourism earnings surge in 2022 as travel curbs ease - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 22, 2023

NAIROBI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Kenya's tourism industry, one of the East African nation's top sources of hard currency, surged 83% in 2022 to 268 billion shillings ($2.13 billion) as COVID curbs eased, the government said on Wednesday.

Visitors rebounded to 72% of their pre-pandemic level in 2019, Tourism Minister Peninah Malonza told reporters, outpacing the rest of the continent which stands at 65% of the pre-pandemic level.

Kenya offers beach holidays along its Indian Ocean coastline and wildlife safaris inland. The Unites States was the main source of visitors during the year, Malonza said, followed by Uganda, Britain and Tanzania.

China, which had been a growing source market before the pandemic struck, started to ease travel restrictions this year.

Kenyan authorities will focus their marketing efforts on emerging markets like Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, Malonza said.

Tourism earnings are projected to rise to 425 billion shillings ($3.37 billion) this year, said David Gitonga, chief executive of the state Tourism Research Institute, before increasing to 540 billion shillings in 2027.

But the sector is also facing serious challenges, said Kareke Mbiuki, chairman of parliament's tourism and wildlife committee, citing cuts for infrastructure required by the sector, part of a broader austerity drive by the government.

The country is also facing a severe drought, Malonza said.

Hilton (HLT.N) closed its 50-year-old hotel in downtown Nairobi at the start of this year, in a further sign of the problems facing the sector that contributes a tenth of Kenya's annual economic output.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie

Kenya Sees a Record $3.4 Billion in Tourism Earnings This Year - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 22, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Kenya forecasts its earnings from tourism, one of the nation’s main sources of foreign currency, will surge to a record this year as the government moves to diversify its attractions.

Earnings are expected to increase by almost 60% to 425.4 billion shillings ($3.37 billion) in the 12 months through December as the number of visitors to the East African country rises by the same measure to 2.35 million arrivals, according to the government’s Tourism Research Institute. 

Kenya, known for iconic safaris featuring animals from wildebeests to elephants and lions as well as sand beaches off the Indian ocean coastline, is looking to promote other attractions such as its cuisine and sport, according to Tourism Secretary Peninah Malonza. Her department will also “focus more on domestic and regional tourism promotion,” she said at a briefing on Wednesday in the capital, Nairobi. 

The government wants to ultimately increase the number of arrivals to about 3 million and earnings to 542 billion shillings.

Kenya’s tourist arrivals increased by 72% to 1.48 million visitors last year as the sector begun to rebound from the impact of the pandemic, compared with a global recovery rate of 63%. The industry accounts for 10.4% of Kenya’s gross domestic product and 5.5% of its formal employment, according to the Tourism Research Institute.

Nigeria, Canada Strengthen Ties to Fight Human Trafficking - ARISE NEWS

FEBRUARY 22, 2023

The Nigerian government and its Canadian counterpart on Tuesday vowed to scale up efforts at stemming the tide of trafficking in persons and migrants smuggling.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persona (NAPTIP) said both  countries through the technical partner; Ark Group, will promote projects to consolidate on the agency’s past achievements, with intended projects being the re-designing and re-development of the NAPTIP iReporter mobile App; community-based sensitization campaigns; Capacity building for NAPTIP officials and deployment of a NAPTIP Learning Hub

The Director General, NAPTIP, Fatima Waziri-Azi, said the project will support the ongoing NAPTIP On the Move weekly television Programme and a radio programme to enhance awareness creation on issues of human trafficking, migrant smuggling and irregular migration especially amongst young people in rural areas and urban poor communities

Waziri-Azi said In 2022, NAPTIP received 1,440 reported cases of trafficking in persons of which 412 were external trafficking cases (28.6%) and 1,028 internal trafficking cases (71.4%).

She noted that 2,743 victims were rescued in collaboration with other sister law enforcement agencies; male children were 233 (8.5%); female children – 688 (25.1%); male adults – 363 (13.2%); and female adults – 1,459 (53.2%)

The DG said: “Victims of inward trafficking were 45, that is victims trafficked into Nigeria; Returned victims from abroad were 251 and Intercepted victims were 1,484, that is, those who were on their way out of Nigeria.

“Most of these victims are trafficked by road through our borders all across the country. We also secured 80 convictions in 2022; 45 males and 35 females.”

Waziri-Azi said there are 17 convictions for 2023 and, cumulatively, the agency has secured 592 convictions since its first conviction in 2004, adding that 262 cases are in various courts across the country.

To keep up with the evolving trend of human trafficking, she said the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement and Administration Act of 2015 is currently undergoing amendment at the National Assembly to incorporate current trends in human trafficking (orphanage trafficking, use of children in brothels) and provide for stiffer penalties.

The representative of the High Commission of  Canada in Nigeria, James Christoff, stated commitment to partnering with NAPTIP to prevent human trafficking and migration by providing funding, training, capacity building, and strategic communication.

Christoff said: “We can only win this fight through collaboration.”

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

Passengers lament experiences at Lagos airport - BUSINESSDAY

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

BY  Ifeoma Okeke-Korieocha

A number of passengers have expressed their frustration over what they experienced at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos.

Crowded walkways, insufficient security gates that slow passenger movements, unfriendly immigration officers, long queues around strategic areas of the airports, and toilets with offensive odour have been identified as some of the factors that discourage travel and passenger facilitation.

These rising concerns are coming to the fore again at a time when some Nigerians outside the country are travelling back to participate in the general elections, scheduled to start on Saturday.

A passenger with the Twitter handle @markessien narrated his experience at the MMIA.

The tweep described the airport as probably one of the worst run and worst designed.

According to the tweet, passengers have to drop off on a road that is one road away from the airport and there is no walkway to get to the airport, instead passengers have to walk back down the same road, trying to avoid other cars that are trying to drop off other people.

The tweep said: “There are two security gates for every single passenger. Where they scan bags for no reason I can deduce, because they don’t scan your body. You wait about one hour. The entire queue is at the first entrance, because it’s not obvious there is a second entrance behind.

“There are some men who linger around and tell you they will take you to a faster way in exchange for a tip. If you agree, they just take you to the second entrance. Once in, there is no way to know the queue for your plane. All queues merge into each other.

“Arriving is chaos. You get to a health check, and they give you an A4 form to fill. There is no space to fill it! You stand at the head of the queue, filling it while others wait for you. Meanwhile, another form was given in the plane to foreigners only.”

He described the car park as “horrible”. “It can take up to an hour to get out due to the terrible design and lots of people are shouting. It takes almost 20 minutes to pay, and by the time you are out, the ticket has expired,” he said.

Other tweeps also responded to the tweet, lamenting the unpleasant situation at the Lagos airport.

Hanson Nnadi, with the Twitter handle @HansonNnadi, said: “You forgot to mention the air conditioners don’t work in the entire departure section.”

Chidubem, another passenger with the Twitter handle @Dum_Dum, said: “Once you arrive there, you become depressed, and then you will start thinking about airports you passed through to get there.”

“All those guys lingering around obviously have the incentive to make sure there are no signs whatsoever. There is NO space anywhere. Security is also bribed to allow people who are not officials in. Maintenance is zero,” MisterDavid, with the handle @itsmisterdavid said.

John Ojikutu, a member of Aviation Round Table and chief executive of Centurion Securities, told BusinessDay: “There are no clear plans for crowd control at the access and exit gates of the passenger terminals. FAAN hasn’t come out to say any plan on spacing between passengers’ flights departures and arrivals.”

In Nigeria, passengers spend an unduly long time at security screening points because of insufficient number of X-ray machines, forcing them to queue at security screening points, especially at peak hours.

In many other countries, it takes between 30 seconds to two minutes to get screened but in Nigerian airports, it takes between five and 15 minutes to get screened, depending on the number of passengers waiting to be checked.

Ojikutu listed some of the infrastructural gaps that cause flight delays at Lagos airport to include inadequate checking-in-counters, inadequate passengers screening checkpoints and screening machines or unserviceable screening machines resulting in manual screening, inadequate aircraft boarding gates, inadequate aircraft parking areas, inadequate ground handling equipment or facilities, and absence of taxiways or sufficient links from aprons to runways.

The old dilapidated aero bridges at the Lagos airport also compound the troubles of airlines and passengers.

With the absence of the automated bridges, airlines operating in Nigeria spend millions of naira annually just to tow their aircraft into the aerobridge, a point to disembark passengers after landing.

BusinessDay’s findings show that in many countries, airlines taxi their aircraft into the aerobridge, but in Nigeria, airlines pay to taxi their aircraft to the bridges because the aerobridges are old and not automated to align with newer aircraft.

This process has continued to cause unnecessary delays to passengers who are forced to remain in the aircraft for 10 to 20 minutes for the aircraft to be towed after landing.


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