Travel News

Naira Scarcity: Nigerian Raises Alarm As German Embassy Denies Visa Appointment - DAILY TRUST

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

A Nigerian who applied for a short stay visitor’s visa in Germany has been denied appointment at the German Consulate in Lagos due to naira…

A Nigerian who applied for a short stay visitor’s visa in Germany has been denied appointment at the German Consulate in Lagos due to naira notes scarcity.

In a chat with Daily Trust, the Nigerian, who doesn’t want name published, said the embassy wanted cash for the visa fee.

The victim said the visa fees was 80 Euro (over N38,000), adding that they insisted that the money must be collected in cash and in the new currency.

Narrating her ordeal, the vcitim said: “I tried to apply for a German Visa, and then I got an appointment online, but going through the application requirements, I saw that the German Embassy wants cash for the visa fee. The visa fee is 80 Euro, and then they put on their website that the money must be received in Nigerian cash and in the new currency, not just even the old one.

“So, I tried calling the German Embassy to ask if they can accept non-cash payments because of the scarcity that we have right now, and I couldn’t get through to any of them. So, I found an email, then I sent a message through the contact information on the website. I got a reply later that evening, insisting that the money must be collected in Nigerian cash, that there was no POS and they wouldn’t accept bank transfers or anything and it had to be in cash.

“I was worried because my appointment is on March 1 and between now and then I don’t see how I can get any cash. I have contacted my account manager at GTBank, and everybody that I know included in my network, just to see how I can get 80 euros in cash and that hasn’t happened.

“The alternative for me is to cancel my appointment and try to rebook it. But anybody who knows the German Embassy knows that I wouldn’t get another appointment till after a month. I’m wondering why Nigerians are being treated in that way. I find that really disturbing.”

The German embassy had not responded to an email seeking its response as of the time of filing this report.

FG orders implementation of new US visa validity policy - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

By Solomon Odeniyi

…orders closure of international borders

The Federal Government has directed the full implementation of a new visa reciprocity policy for citizens of the United States of America with effect from March 1, 2023.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said the directive was issued following approval for the implementation of the new Bilateral Consular Policy Agreements between the two governments.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), launched the new Nigeria Visa Policy in 2020.

He added that the policy amongst other things seeks to promote tourism and boost cultural exchange and business between both nations.

According to a statement by his media adviser, Sola Fasure, on Friday, the minister said the agreements amongst others include the reciprocity of five-year tourist visa validity for American Citizens pursuant to Section 30 of the Immigration Act, 2015; Extension of visa validity to three years for diplomats and government officials between the citizens of Nigeria and the United States of America.

He added that the Minister of Interior had directed the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, to start the implementation of the policy from March 1, 2023.

“As part of the Bilateral Agreement, the United States of America will implement a similar policy for Nigerians wishing to travel on tourist visas to the United States and for our diplomats and officials visiting the country. The United State will thus extend tourist visa validity for Nigerian citizens to five years,” the statement added.

On the elections, he announced that movement across national borders had been restricted.

The statement continued, “Internal movements have been restricted to the polling units. There will also be no movement of persons across national borders.

“Law enforcement agencies are required to use all means necessary in providing security for lives and property at the polling units, in the streets, and at the borders. Every threat must be contained and assurances must be given for lives and property and the success of the elections.”

The minister also enjoined all registered voters in Nigeria to come out on Saturday, February 25, 2023 to exercise their franchise, promising a safe and secure environment before, during, and after the elections.

He admonished Nigerians to be vigilant and report any suspicious persons or activities to the nearest security agency or on the N-Alert application online.

Air Peace suspends flight operations for polls - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

By Lilian Ukagwu

Air Peace on Thursday announced that flight operations will be suspended on February 25 as a result of the general elections.

However flight operations will resume February 26, the local airline assured.

The airline disclosed this in a statement via its official Instagram handle.

The statement reads, “Members of the public are hereby informed that there will be no scheduled flights on February 25, 2023, due to the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.

“Scheduled flight operations resume on Sunday, February 26, 2023.”

16 Years After, Ogun Cargo Airport Records First Aircraft Landings - DAILY TRUST

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

Sixteen years after, the Ogun International Cargo Airport recorded the first aircraft landings even as the state government received the Certificate of Operation from the…

    By Abdullateef Aliyu

Sixteen years after, the Ogun International Cargo Airport recorded the first aircraft landings even as the state government received the Certificate of Operation from the Federal Government. 

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika presented the certificate to Governor Dapo Abiodun at the ceremony attended by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at Iperu Remo in Ikenne Local Government Area of the state.

The airport project was conceptualised 16 years during the administration of the then Governor of the State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel which could not actualise it until the new governor came and took over the project. 

There was controversy over the airport project as the former Governor, Ibikunle Amosun was putting pressure on the Federal Government to approve the airport project he initiated and located at Wasimi, Ewekoro local government in Ogun West. 

But after 16 years of the conceptualization, the airport project is becoming a reality following the completion of the 4km runway and the test flight which was a requirement for the full certification of the airport.

Two aircraft- a commercial plane CRJ900 with tail number 5N-BXS and another smaller jet, 5N-PDA.

The state governor said despite the many opposition and distraction to the project, it has finally become a reality, recalling that the construction started in September 2021.

He said the test-flight was a prerequisite to the final certification of the airport, disclosing that the project would be commissioned in a couple of weeks.

According to him, the airport is strategic in supporting the promotion of exports of goods which Nigeria is pursuing. He said it would serve as an alternative to the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.

“This project is part of an integrated development programme aimed at unleashing the full potentials of this great state.

“The choice of this location allows for easy access from different parts of the state including Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. The Eastern and Northern regions of Nigeria can also easily access this location,” he said.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said the airport would transform the entire South-West as a key economic zone and agricultural processing zone for the country even as the Kajola Dry Port would also be operational in a few months.

Nigeria Air: Ethiopian Insists On Taking MD Role - DAILY TRUST

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

Apart from the legal tussle that has stalled the take-off of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, there is a new hurdle to be crossed as…

    By Abdullateef Aliyu

Apart from the legal tussle that has stalled the take-off of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, there is a new hurdle to be crossed as Ethiopian Airlines is insisting on having an Ethiopian as the pioneer Managing Director of the airline.

The Federal Government of Nigeria already appointed Capt. Dapo Olumide as Interim Managing Director.

Daily Trust reports that the fresh condition has complicated the issues surrounding the take-off of the national carrier with a pending suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) yet to be resolved. The domestic airline operators challenged the equity structure of the airline which cedes 49 per cent stake to Ethiopian Airlines with FG having only 5% while the remaining 46% is for Nigerian investors.

Recently, the Ethiopian Airlines told the visiting President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the legal tussle over the airline.

“But as I am talking to you, the demand by Ethiopian Airlines to appoint the MD is another fresh hurdle for the government to cross,” a source privy to the controversy surrounding the take-off of the national carrier said.

The source said the demand by Ethiopian Airlines to appoint an Ethiopian is in line with its practice with some other national airlines where it has shares in line with its strategic plan to help African countries establish their national airlines.

Daily Trust reports that, for instance, Ethiopians are the Managing Directors of Asky Airlines and Malawi Airlines, two of the African airlines where it has a stake.

When contacted, Dr. James Odaudu, a media aide to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika declined to comment on the issue.

Local airlines sink lower in schedule reliability despite high fares, 13% growth - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 25, 2023

By Wole Oyebade

•Record more delays in 2022 as punctuality drops to 41>#br###•Regulator, operators have no template to solve problem, stakeholders say

One of those criteria by which commercial airlines are assessed globally is schedule reliability – that is, turnaround time and attendant on-time departure. But for most local airlines in Nigeria, the punctuality standard rule is obeyed more in breaches than in compliance.

By the new industry record, about two in every three local flights are now delayed in Nigeria with the entire industry schedule reliability dropping to 41 per cent in 2022.

The implication is more dissatisfied customers and huge loss of revenue despite more people relying on air travel in 2022, and paying between 100 to 200 per cent more for airfares.

Indeed, the local sector is not new to flight delays and cancellations. The malaise, however, reached a new low in 2022. A summary of 2022 industry performance by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on the overall, showed a market rebound with over 16.17 million passengers recorded on both the domestic (12.7 million) and international (3.5 million) market segments. The 2022 total traffic figure showed a 13 per cent increase when compared with 2021 figures (14.2 million), and the highest passenger traffic since the COVID-19 post-pandemic era.

However, 11 domestic airlines operated 80,328 flights out of which 47,144 were delayed and 795 flights cancelled. A total of 26 airlines operated 13,003 international flights with 4,628 of the flights delayed in 82 cancellations.

The free-fall in schedule reliability, from one in every three the previous year, is also coming in a year airfares ballooned from N35,000 to between N70,000 to N95,000 for less than an hour Economy-class seat, following the spike in the cost of aviation fuel.

Airline operators, though regretting the dismal record, said it boiled down to the same old issues operators had complained about. The airlines, in an earlier push back to National Assembly’s complaints against the carriers’ four to nine hours delays, exactly last year, had blamed airport poor infrastructure and other 15 items for delays.

Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) said blaming airlines for factors outside their control was inciting and uncharitable. They said, at least, 80 per cent of flight delays would be eradicated if concerned authorities fix poor airport infrastructure, decongest aprons, expand airport operating hours, tackle fuel scarcity and its rising cost, and reduce Customs’ bottlenecks.

Other factors fingered as causes are: changes in weather, inadequate aircraft parking space due to congested aprons, too many sunset airports that operate between 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. only, flight delays due to VIP movements, bird strikes and foreign object damage to aircraft and scarcity and rising cost of aviation fuel.

The list also has: unavailability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, Customs allegedly delaying clearance of safety critical spare parts, poor air traffic flow, inadequate check-in counters, inadequate screening and exit points at departure, unserviceable baggage claim machines, inadequate and unreliable ground services equipment for boarding and disembarkation of passengers, unruly passengers, lack of runway lights and unforeseen circumstances due to component failures and ground accidents.

The operators said: “AON invites the public to note that if these ‘fixable’ issues were to be solved today by the concerned authorities, the frequent delays passengers experience in the domestic system would immediately reduce by 80 per cent. Industry stakeholder, Babatunde Adeniji, said the report card showed that “we failed as an industry to even make the pass grade”.

“Domestic airlines as a whole were only punctual for 41 per cent of operated flights, with Ibom Air and Green Africa and Value Jet being the outliers among the 11 operators,” he observed.

In a sharp contrast to the yearlong free-fall locally, Adeniji said, a South African-based low-cost carrier, SAFAIR, ended the year as the second most punctual airline in the world (scoring 95.3 per cent) – according to the OAG global report on airline punctuality.

“The NCAA executive summary report lacked the rigour and details of the OAG report. It failed to show correlations or causes for the delays. It was silent on contributory factors/ agencies for controllable delays and sadly limited the report’s usefulness as a tool for conducting root cause analysis or drive improvement.

“The quality of this very important report needs to improve this year and should include commissioned studies on the causes and cost of delays to airlines, passengers, lost demand and indirect economic costs,” he said.

Adeniji drew attention to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) consideration that airlines are part of an interdependent aviation system, which has to work like clockwork to get passengers to their destinations safely and on-time.

“It takes the position that, any approach to address delays, should involve everyone in the picture – airlines, airports, air traffic management, governments and passengers themselves – so that, together, we can improve on-time performance, and when delays do happen, ensure that passengers are properly cared for.” Unfortunately, nothing has been achieved in terms of such crucial collaboration locally, Adeniji said.

Hong Kong May Scrap Mask Mandate By Early March, Report Says - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 27, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong might scrap its mask mandate as soon as early March, according to people familiar with the matter, a major step as one of the world’s last Covid holdouts works to reclaim its status as a global business hub.  

An announcement may come as soon as Tuesday, the people said.

Indoor and outdoor mask requirements may be removed at the same time, though face coverings will still need to be worn at high-risk places including hospitals, they said, asking not to be identified as they’re not authorized to speak publicly.

When asked for comment, the health bureau referred Bloomberg to recent remarks from health secretary Lo Chung-mau.

Lo said in a Commercial Radio program on Saturday that authorities are examining data and plan to relax the mask mandate at a suitable time.

Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post both reported earlier that the mandates would be lifted next month, though there was no consensus on exactly when. 

Hong Kong to Give Away 500,000 Air Tickets to Revive Tourism  

Hong Kong last week extended mask regulations by two weeks to March 8, even as it kicked off its pricey “Hello Hong Kong” campaign aimed at luring back visitors. The city is working to bolster its global footing again, giving away air tickets to tourists and again hosting VIP events including Art Basel — but masks have remained a deterrent and undermined the idea that everything is back to normal. 

The measures began almost three years ago as the city fought to keep the virus at bay, and have remained in place even as most of the world drops pandemic-era restrictions. They’re Hong Kong’s last pandemic restrictions, after the city eased most virus curbs and reopened to the world in December following China’s pivot away from Covid Zero. 

Neighboring casino hub Macau eased its own outdoor mask policy starting Monday, saying its Covid situation was stable. 

Hong Kong leader John Lee has repeatedly said he hopes to remove the rule after the winter surge ends, but hasn’t given further specifics. 

--With assistance from Sarah Zheng.

(Updates with expected announcement timing in second paragraph.)

New York City Sees Biggest Snowfall of Season, Grounding Flights - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 28, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- New York City and the Northeast had a slushy start Tuesday as a storm brought the first significant snowfall of the season to the region, grounding hundreds of flights.

Manhattan’s Central Park got 1.8 inches (5 centimeters) overnight, with precipitation likely switching over to rain for the rest of the day, said Rob Carolan, Bloomberg Radio meteorologist and owner of Hometown Forecast Services. 

While a modest accumulation historically for New York, it’s the biggest so far this winter. Snow has been nearly non-existent this season, with the city breaking a 50-year-old record in January for the longest stretch without measurable snow. That’s in part thanks to a La Nina in the Pacific Ocean and a kink in the jet stream that’s pushing storms in the US Northeast away from the coast. 

About 5 inches fell in The Bronx. Queens got 2.5 inches. Areas to the north and west of the city could get upwards to 8 inches, as well as parts of southern New England, according to the National Weather Service. 

Across the US, more than 450 flights were canceled as of 9:15 a.m. New York time, with almost 300 of them going in or out of New York area airports, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. Boston also had 84 flights scrubbed and Toronto reported 52 halted.

More snow is possible later this week, but exact amounts aren’t clear yet. 

While it’s the deepest snow of the season, “it’s still not much,” said Bryan Ramsey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in New York. “Anything else we see, at least in New York City, will be liquid.”

(Adds snow totals in the fourth paragraph.)


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