Biden to host naturalization event, push path to citizenship - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Joe Biden will hold a naturalization ceremony Friday at the White House in which 21 immigrants will become citizens as the administration pushes for more pathways to citizenship.
An administration official said Biden would use the moment to call for the option of citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, for foreign-born people who have temporary protected status due to strife in their birth countries and for farm workers. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the upcoming ceremony and insisted on anonymity.
Immigration has been a political flashpoint as Biden has sought to renew visa and refugee programs that were cut or suspended during the Trump administration.
In February, Biden and congressional Democrats proposed a major immigration overhaul that included an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people living in the United States illegally. Republican lawmakers blocked the effort and have criticized the administration for the rise in people attempting to cross the southern border without visas.
The immigration debate involves fundamental issues of national security and economic growth. Republican lawmakers seeking to limit immigration say it will help keep the U.S. safe and protect jobs for native-born citizens. But economists — many associated with Democrats — say increased immigration would boost economic growth that is currently weighed down by falling fertility rates.
On Friday, the president will also recognize Sandra Lindsay as an “Outstanding American by Choice,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program that recognizes citizens who have been naturalized. Lindsay is believed to be the first American to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial. She works as director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York.
Josh Boak, The Associated Press
Paris airport workers block terminal to protest pay cut - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PARIS (AP) — Paris airport workers protesting pay cuts on Friday blocked a busy terminal at a Charles de Gaulle Airport and skirmished with police, prompting flight delays and causing travel chaos and confusion among passengers.
Police fired pepper spray to try to disperse the protesters at the 2E terminal, primarily used for international travel. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw passengers wiping their stinging eyes and children frightened.
Banging drums and tooting horns, a few hundred union activists blocked the terminal’s passport control area, causing hundreds of passengers to miss their flights. Riot police with helmets and shields fanned out, and passengers were re-routed to a neighboring terminal.
Unions have been negotiating with Paris airport management over pay cuts linked to the collapse in air travel amid the pandemic. Management of the Paris airport network says revenue was down 80% in 2020 and that it is trying to avoid layoffs by trimming pay instead.
Unions announced strikes and protests through Monday, just as many French families leave on summer holidays.
The Associated Press
US plans to make airlines refund fees if bags are delayed - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Transportation Department will propose that airlines be required to refund fees on checked baggage if the bags aren't delivered to passengers quickly enough.
The proposal, if made final after a lengthy regulation-writing process, would also require prompt refunds for fees on extras such as internet access if the airline fails to provide the service during the flight.
A department official said the agency will issue the proposal in the next several days, and it could take effect by next summer.
The proposal will require refunds if airlines fail to deliver a bag within 12 hours of the passenger's U.S. flight touching down or within 25 hours after an international flight.
Current regulations require refunds only if bags are lost, although airlines must compensate passengers for “reasonable” incidental expenses incurred while their bags are delayed. The government does not know how often airlines keep fees even when bags are significantly delayed.
The bag-fee proposal is the first of several airline-consumer regulations coming from the Biden administration, according to a senior Transportation Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a proposal that hasn’t been made public.
Last year, more than 100,000 consumers complained to the government about airline service. Refunds were the biggest gripe, although most claimed airlines refused to give refunds to consumers who canceled trips because of the pandemic. The Transportation Department is seeking a $25.5 million fine against Air Canada, but has not taken action against other carriers over refunds for canceled flights.
In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, passengers paid U.S. airlines $5.76 billion in fees on checked bags, according to the Transportation Department. That dropped to $2.84 billion last year, when travel slumped because of the pandemic. The figures do not include fees for carry-on bags.
For many years, customers could check one or two bags on almost any airline without paying a fee. That began to change during a travel slump caused by the financial crisis of 2008. Now, most U.S. airlines other than Southwest charge even for a single bag, although fees are usually waived for customers who buy high-fare tickets or carry the airline's credit card.
American Airlines generated $2 billion from checked-bag fees over the past two years, followed by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, each around $1.5 billion. Because of their smaller size, discount airlines including Spirit and Frontier reap less money but get a higher percentage of revenue from the fees.
David Koenig can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter
David Koenig, The Associated Press
Air Peace Resumes Warri, Freetown Flights - THISDAY
Air Peace has announced the resumption of Warri and Freetown flight operations from July 9 and 21, 2021, respectively.
Spokesman of the airline, Stanley Olisa, explained in a statement that Warri service from Lagos and Abuja, would operate daily while the Freetown flights would operate on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
According to him, “Air Peace is happy to announce to its teeming customers the resumption of its Warri and Freetown flight services to broaden connectivity. We shall resume more routes and increase frequencies to specific destinations as we take delivery of more brand new E195-E2s and other aircraft on maintenance overseas.”
Olisa, who said customers can now book the resumed Warri and Freetown flights on the airline’s website- flyairpeace.com or its mobile app, reiterated Air Peace’s commitment to providing best-in-class flight services while observing the highest standards of safety.
Air Peace currently services 16 domestic routes, five regional routes and two international destinations, including Johannesburg while it boasts of a varied fleet of 28 aircraft, the latest being three brand new 124-seat capacity E195-E2 jets.
U.S. to Require Airlines to Refund Passengers for Delayed Bags - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation is moving to require airlines to refund fees to passengers for checked bags if the luggage is significantly delayed to the destination, according to a person familiar with the measure.
The proposal will also require airlines to promptly make refunds for other services air passengers pay for and don’t receive -- including advance seat selection, Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment, according to the person, who asked not to be named to discuss the plan before it’s made public.
The rulemaking plans are expected to be included in a forthcoming executive order on competition that will be signed by President Joe Biden and sent to Transportation officials.
Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Friday that the fee refunds for checked airline bags “will be part of a broader effort the president will release shortly around driving greater competition in the economy in service of lower prices for American families and higher wages for American workers.”
Under the proposal, airlines will be required to issue refunds for checked bag fees if the luggage is not delivered to the passenger or the person’s agent within 12 hours of arrival at their final destination for domestic travel, and within 25 hours of arrival for international itineraries.
The proposals are an attempt to reinstate some of the more pro-consumer policies that the agency had sought to impose in the closing months of President Barack Obama’s administration. In 2019, airlines collected $5.8 billion in bag fees and another $2.8 billion in charges for flight changes or cancellations.
The transportation agency under former President Donald Trump blocked a set of pro-consumer regulations in March 2017, only weeks after taking office. Airlines had applauded the Trump action, saying additional regulations were “not warranted.”
Because the Obama administration didn’t finalize its regulations until Dec. 2, 2016, and they weren’t scheduled to take effect until 2019, Trump’s DOT was able to block them.
FG’s new travel restrictions, sanctions take effect today - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade
*Govt extends ban on travellers from Brazil, Turkey, India and S’Africa
In lieu of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government has reviewed in-country safety protocol, with restrictions of passengers from some countries taking effect from July 2 (today).
The ‘provisional quarantine protocol for travellers arriving Nigeria’, dated June 30, 2021, prohibits travellers from the quartet of Brazil, Turkey, India and South Africa.
Contrary to airlines and some countries’ advocacy for vaccination and antigen test as entry requirements, the Federal Government has stuck to mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, quarantine and self-isolation for all arriving passengers.
While evaders of any of these conditions shall be prosecuted, defaulting airlines are liable to fines in excess of $3,500 per illegal entrant or default.
Amid the apprehension of the fourth wave of coronavirus, driven by the Delta variant that began in India, countries are beginning to take fresh safety measures.
The local protocol, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, stated that non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents, who visited Brazil, India, Turkey or South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria, shall be denied entry into Nigeria.
“This regulation, however, does not apply to passengers who transit through these countries. The following measures shall apply to airlines and passengers who fail to comply with the above: airlines shall mandatorily pay a penalty of $3,500 for each defaulting passenger. Non-Nigerians will be denied entry and returned to the country of embarkation at a cost to the Airline. Nigerians and those with permanent resident permits, who visited Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria shall be made to undergo seven days of mandatory quarantine in a government-approved facility at the point-of-entry city and at a cost to the passenger.
“The following conditions shall apply to such passengers: within 24 hours of arrival shall take a COVID-19 PCR test; if positive, the passenger shall be admitted within a government-approved treatment centre, in line with national treatment protocols; and if Negative, the passenger shall continue to remain in quarantine and made to undergo a repeat PCR test on day seven of their quarantine.
“Passengers who provided false or misleading contact information will be liable to prosecution; and persons who willfully disregard or refuse to comply with directions of Port-Health staff, security agencies or evade quarantine shall be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” the advisory stated in part.
Passengers departing for Nigeria are mandated to perform a COVID-19 PCR test not more than three days or 72 hours before boarding. PCR test done more than 72 hours before departure is not valid and the person will not be allowed to board.
“Rapid antigen or antibody tests are not acceptable; only PCR tests can be used for this purpose. Test validity commences from the time of sample collection. For passengers with multiple connections before arrival in Nigeria, the PCR test must be valid within 72 hours of boarding from the first point of departure.
“Passengers must bring along an electronic or hard copy of their COVID-19 PCR test for presentation at the departure airport and upon arrival in Nigeria.”
Prior to boarding for Nigeria, passengers are mandated to present two documents at their point of departure to be allowed to board: A negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within 72 hours of departure and a Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code – generated from the Nigeria International Travel Portal on completion of a health questionnaire, uploading of a negative COVID-19 PCR.
Airlines that board passengers without any of the two documents are liable to sanctions. Passengers, who are non-Nigerians, will be refused entry and returned to the point of embarkation at a cost to the airline, while passengers who are Nigerians or holders of the permanent residence permit will be allowed entry but quarantined.
“In addition, passengers arriving with forged (fake) COVID-19 PCR results shall be referred for prosecution. Airlines shall be fined $3,500 per passenger for failure to comply with any of the pre-boarding requirements. Airlines, who consistently fail to comply with the above requirements, may be banned from coming to Nigeria.
“All passengers arriving in Nigeria will be required to go through the routine Port Health screening and present electronic or print-out evidence of pre-boarding COVID-19 PCR test and the Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code. Present their international passports for clearance through the Nigerian Immigration Service System’s Migrants Identification Data Analysis System (MIDAS). Proceed on mandatory seven days self-isolation/quarantine in their selected in-country destination,” the protocol read in part.
FAAN Awaits FG’s Directive on Enugu Airports’ Reopening for International Flights - THISDAY
BY Chinedu Eze
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has said everything is set for international flight operations to resume at the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu, even as it awaits the federal government’s approval to reopen the airport.
THISDAY learnt that the Airport Council International (ACI) Africa has given health certificate to the airport for meeting Covid-19 protocols requirements. The agency said other logistics and safety issues have been completed, so the airport can now receive international flights.
The Managing Director of FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu told THISDAY that international flight service was supposed to have resumed four weeks ago, but there were minor hitches that must be corrected. These he said the agency had corrected and awaiting report of work from the airport, adding that issues concerning security had been completed.
“Flight operation was supposed to resume just about three or four weeks ago, but have some minor hitches but they are very critical hitches. And we are expecting a report this week. If we get the report within a day or within 48 hours we can work on it.
“The hitches are not on security but on the facility. We have our standards. There are some things you can look at the airport and think they are working fine or you don’t need to improve but based on our own regulations and standards, we know we have to take them up to that standard, but the passengers might not really understand. We have to make sure those critical facilities are top standard,” he said.
The FAAN boss also explained that earlier in June the agency had completed issues relating to Covid-19 protocols and had gone far in completing the requirement for fire cover for international operations. According to him, there was a need to close the airport in order to work on safety-critical facilities and put them to standard before reopening it.
“We have done with protocol issues; fire cover issue is the one we are dealing with and we have already gone very far in resolving it. That is why I said we are just waiting for a report. “We don’t want to say that despite the pressure on us we are just going to commence operation, it is a technical reason which has to do with safety of operations. Those were what caused the delay in reopening the airport,” he said. Yadudu also noted that the airport has to be put in good standard, including regards to safety, which was the major reason for the delay.
“We have the responsibility to ensure that we expedite work to ensure that safety parameters are met before opening. Closing the airport till now is not something we are happy about, but we have to do so in the interest of all stakeholders, all Nigerians, and FAAN itself,” Yadudu said.
However, THISDAY learnt on Wednesday that every work at the airport has been completed, but awaiting the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to give a go ahead for resumption of international flight operations at the airport.
“I am sure the airport will be re-opened. All necessary things are in place now. We have received ACI health certification for the airport. But are airlines ready to start going there?”a senior official in FAAN asked. THISDAY also learnt that Ethiopian Airlines, which is the only international carrier that operates to Enugu, is ready to resume flights to the airport, once government orders for the reopening of flights.
“Airlines are waiting for opportunities to start operation and Ethiopian Airlines is ready. Once the airport is reopened the airline will resume flights. Let them declare the airport open,” official close to the airline told THISDAY.
In August last year, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu was reopened after rehabilitation work on the runway was completed, but the international operations to the airport was closed along with that of the airports in Kano, Port Harcourt due to Covid-19 pandemic, but in May the other airports resumed international services, but that of Enugu was delayed for the aforementioned upgrade of critical facilities.
Air travellers who use the airport have expressed worry that it remained the only international airport that was yet to be reopened but now that FAAN had acknowledged that work has been completed, it is hoped that the Minister would approve resumption of international flights from the airport.
FAAN automates Lagos airport cargo terminal - PUNCH
BY Juliana Ajayi
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has announced the automation of Hajj/Cargo terminal in Lagos airport.
It announced this in a statement titled ‘FAAN set to go live on Hajj/Cargo Terminal Park automation’.
According to the FAAN, the terminal users willing to drive into designated car parks within the terminal would have to enter through the newly built automated gate.
“The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria hereby informs the general public that the parking process at the Hajj/Cargo terminal, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos has been automated,” it said.
It also noted that in preparation for the actual Go Live, which had been slated for Monday, July 5, the authority had deployed a modern car park solution with a distinct entry gate and an exit gate.
Users of the terminal that want to drive into designated car parks within the terminal will now have to enter through the newly built automated gate, from where details of their vehicles would be captured electronically on the parking tickets that will be issued to them.
FAAN said, “The terminal users will take the tickets to any of the three designated payment points for payment whenever they are ready to leave the terminal.
“After payment of the parking fee, they can now drive out of the car park and exit.
“To ensure the seamless facilitation of the process, the authority has put necessary signages in strategic places to guide and direct users of the terminal.”
It also said the FAAN was committed to her core values of safety, security and comfort.
“We are using this opportunity to appeal to users of the terminal to comply with this new change in the interest of safety and security,” it added.
Ryanair passenger numbers soar as Covid vaccine restores travel confidence - THE GUARDIAN UK
Ryanair’s passenger numbers surged in June, with the easing of travel restrictions and successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme prompting a flood of holidaymakers to seek out summer sunshine in Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The no-frills airline, which in June reported the biggest annual loss in its 35-year history, carried 5.3 million passengers on 38,000 flights last month. In June 2020, Ryanair carried only 400,000 passengers.
There has been a steady increase in passengers for Europe’s biggest airline in recent months – in April there were 1 million travellers and 1.8 million in May – as the easing of travel restrictions across parts of the continent fuels a gradual recovery in the hard-hit aviation industry.
Ryanair said the most popular destinations booked by holidaymakers in June were Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The green shoots of recovery are also evident in traffic figures issued by Ryanair’s rival Wizz Air, which carried 1.55 million passengers last month. This is more than triple the 502,000 passengers who flew in the same month last year.
Last month, Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group, the UK’s largest airport group, which also operates Stansted and East Midlands airports, launched a legal challenge calling for transparency in the government’s handling of its contentious traffic light travel system for grading countries safe to visit.
Ryanair and MAG argue that ministers have not been clear about how the government has made decisions regarding the categorisation of countries as red, amber or green, which is undermining consumer confidence to book summer holidays.
Earlier this year the UK’s advertising watchdog banned Ryanair’s controversial “jab and go” holiday TV campaign, with the Advertising Standards Authority saying it encouraged the public to act irresponsibly once they had received a coronavirus vaccination.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the passenger number reports from Ryanair and Wizz Air boosted share prices in the sector on Friday.
“Airline stocks did their best to fly higher following encouraging numbers from the sector. Wizz Air managed to fill nearly two-thirds of its seats on aircraft in service during June, while Ryanair flew nearly three times as many people that month versus May,” Mould said.
“Under the circumstances, these are positive numbers. However, the airline business model is built on filling planes near or at capacity and then scooping up extra fees on top for everything from early boarding to storing bags.
“The sector needs a continuous flow of people through airports and ongoing Covid restrictions imposed by various governments around the world mean the industry is still some way off from operating smoothly.”
When can masks be ditched? UK leader to revamp virus rules - THE CANADIAN PRESS
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson will provide an update Monday on plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in England, amid speculation that he will scrap rules that require people to wear masks in many public settings.
Johnson is scheduled to hold a press conference on the government’s current outlook for “freedom day’’ — the plan to end the remaining coronavirus restrictions on business and social interactions on July 19. A final decision will be announced on July 12 based on a series of tests, including vaccination rates and the risks posed by new virus variants.
The British government, which put into place one of the longest lockdowns in the world, has lifted restrictions in a series of steps that began with reopening schools in March. The fourth and final stage was delayed last month to provide time for more people to be vaccinated amid concerns about the rapid spread of the delta variant, which was first discovered in India.
“Today we will set out how we can restore people’s freedoms when we reach step four,’’ Johnson said in a statement ahead of his news conference. “But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.’’
Some doctors have expressed concerns about easing restrictions further as infection rates continue to rise. But there hasn’t been an equivalent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths, emboldening ministers who believe that Britain must learn to live with the virus and that the time is right to end the remaining restrictions.
The number of confirmed new infections in the U.K. over the past seven days rose 67% from the previous week but the 122 coronavirus-related deaths reported were two fewer than the previous week.
Public health officials attribute the divergence of the figures to the success of Britain’s vaccination program. Almost 86% of U.K. adults have received at least one vaccine dose and 63.4% are fully vaccinated.
The British government is preparing to offer a third dose of vaccine to everyone over 50, as well as vulnerable younger people, to boost their immunity over the winter months, following interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. Final advice is expected in the coming months.
In addition to the rules on wearing face masks, Johnson will lay out plans for easing rules on social distancing and working from home, his office said. He will also discuss the government’s plans for certifying people's vaccination status or their recent COVID-19 test results with what are commonly known as vaccine passports.
“As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from COVID and exercise judgement when going about our lives,” Johnson said.