Travel News

FAAN commences investigations into theft of runway lighting components - BUSINESSDAY

JULY 11, 2023

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) has commenced into the theft of the runway lighting system on the runway which recently took place at domestic runway, Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos.

Funtua Yakubu, the new Director Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at FAAN told BusinessDay that FAAN has commenced investigations into the issue and assured that the authority will do its best to get those behind the criminal act and get them to face the law.

“Once the investigations are concluded, we will let the public know,” he said.

Yakubu said the allegations making rounds that FAAN staff connived with outsiders to carry out the theft are still speculations and can only be proven after the investigations are completed.

He also hinted that the investigations would help FAAN find out the lapses that must be addressed so that such incident doesn’t occur again.

Barely Nine months after FAAN installed the multi-million Naira airfield lighting systems at the domestic runway 18 Runway/36Left of the Murtala Muhamed Airport, BusinessDay’s findings show that the entire lighting system on the runway were carted away by thieves.

The thieves were able to carry out the operations by taking advantage of the closure of the runway for over three months.

A source close at FAAN said that the airfield lighting components were carted away by some workers at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in connivance with some outsiders who have access to the runway site.

The sad development has led to the suspension of some heads of relevant departments at the organisation on the directives of Emmanuel Meribole, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, after inspecting the site.

For 15 years the Lagos airport domestic runway 18Left was shut down to night operations due to the absence of airfield lightings which put the domestic airlines through financial stress as they were forced to make use of the runway 19 at the international airport which consumes more aviation fuel because of the longer distance.

With the Airfield Lighting installed, the unnecessary 10-20 minutes spent and fuel burnt when an aircraft lands on the international runway before taxiing to the domestic, stopped. It also made for aircraft usage maximisation.

Seychelles places ban on Nigerian passport holders - THE GUARDIAN

JULY 11, 2023

Seychelles has placed a ban on Nigerian passport holders applying for short-term visa or holiday purposes. A travel content creator, @munafromtravelletters, raised the alarm on Saturday evening with a screenshot of a rejection email.

The screenshot read: “We regret to inform you that your application has been denied, as per immigration regulation. For now, we are not accepting any Nigerian passport holder for holiday purposes. Kindly contact http://www.ics.gov.sc/ (Seychelles Immigration) or call 248 4 293 636 for more information.”

The ban came just six months after Nigeria signed a pact for direct flights between the two countries. Before the restriction, Nigeria had a long-standing visa-free agreement with Seychelles, which allows Nigerian citizens free entry without a visa for 30 days.

The country’s border security confirmed the development yesterday. Speaking through its customer support service, the Seychelles government corroborated the travel content creator’s screenshot without giving reasons for the ban.

“Yes, but no further information is available at this time,” the border security said. In December 2022, Nigeria and Seychelles signed a pact that would enable direct flights between both countries.

Hadi Sirika, then minister of aviation, and Anthony Derjacques, the Seychelles’ minister of transport, both agreed that the pact would promote the African Union agenda 2063, while enhancing business and promoting tourism.

The restriction has elicited mixed reactions from social media users, with many lamenting increase in foreign bans against Nigerian passport holders.

Naira devaluation: Nigerian students face tough times in UK, tuition soars by 60% - PUNCH

JULY 12, 2023

BY  Temitayo Jaiyeola, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Sami Olatunji and Funmilayo Fabunmi

Many Nigerian students are facing tough times in the United Kingdom after the naira equivalent of their tuition fees increased by over 60 per cent following the recent move by the Central Bank of Nigeria to unify the nation’s foreign exchange rates.

About two weeks after President Bola Tinubu promised to unify the nation’s multiple exchange rates, the apex bank decided to float the naira at the Investors and Exporters’ Window of the foreign exchange market. Since then, the naira has fallen from N471/dollar to N750/dollar and N589.4/pound to N957.2/pound.

This has led to about 60 per cent increase in tuition fees for students in the UK.

This rise in exchange rate has put more pressure on many Nigerians that are schooling in the UK and beyond.

The UK is one of the destinations of choice for many Nigerians as 128,770 Nigerian students enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom between 2015 and 2022 according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the UK.

According to the CBN, study-related foreign exchange outflow to the UK rose to $2.5bn in 2022. Nigerian students and their dependants in the United Kingdom contribute about £1.9bn annually to the UK economy, according to an analysis by SBM Intelligence.

Many of these students may now struggle to pay the balance of their tuition due to the sharp decline in the value of the naira.

UK universities are currently on break.

Students lament hike

A Nigerian student resident in Manchester, Adejoro Deborah, who sounded stressed told The PUNCH, “This policy is affecting those of us here and even intending students. My sibling has had to forfeit her admission because of this policy.

“Many students have fallen victim to online scammers just because they want to buy pounds, a friend of mine, for example, was a victim of third-party purchase as the banks at home are not dependable.”

Another Nigerian student studying in Leeds explained that the major challenge was that many kept their tuition fees in their naira account at the former rate.

The student said, “Now they have to start looking for more money because the rate has gone up. If the official rate is not different from street rate, so what’s the essence of waiting for several weeks for your bank when you can just get it from third-party platform. It has only put more pressure on the students to look for more money.”

The student added, “If you put N5m in your account in March when the rate was around N560/£, that means it will pay around £9k tuition fee, but by July, the N5m will only be able to pay around £5k since the rate is now around 1k/£, so that’s where the real problem is. You need to start looking for an additional £4k. That’s the challenges many students are facing.”

Another Nigerian, who is currently studying at Liverpool John Moores University, has become stranded after the school withdrew his access to the school portal.

His access to the university’s portal was withdrawn by the school following his failure to pay his tuition. The Nigerian (name withheld) could not raise the required 4,800 pounds to complete his tuition.

Narrating his ordeal to The PUNCH, he said, “The school has withdrawn my access to its platform. As a result, I can’t check the results of my last exam. Everything is done via the platform. I cannot also access my official email given by the school. I can’t attend both online and in-person classes again. It is very frustrating, I am completely shut out.”

The depressed student, who is allowed to work for 20 hours a week as a student, said he could not get a better job because prospective employers were demanding proof that he is allowed to work as a student.

He added, “In fairness to the school, I was given several deadlines which I missed. I could not pay because I was unable to raise enough funds to buy foreign exchange. The exchange rate is very high.”

Another student (name withheld) of the school, said he was on the verge of losing his studentship before he managed to borrow money from friends in Nigeria to pay his tuition.

He shared a copy of a letter that had been addressed to him giving him a final deadline to pay the outstanding tuition.

The letter read in part, “According to our records there is an outstanding balance of £4800 on your university tuition fee account. LJMU has advised you of this situation via emails to both your LJMU and personal email addresses.

“Despite this correspondence, the debt remains outstanding and accordingly, we are now arranging for you to be withdrawn as a student of the University. If this happens, UK Visas and Immigration will be informed that you are no longer a student at LJMU.”

The letter was sent by the Head of Registry Services of the school.

A student, studying IT Project Management at Teesside University, lamented to The PUNCH that many Nigerian students are still in shock.

She said, “Some people are not totally stable because they used to convert their naira to pounds for school fees payment.”

She explained that while she did not benefit from the official rate initially, she still has to pay more now. She said “When I got in initially, I converted at the rate of N920-935 thereabout. But after the CBN reforms, it has been a nightmare. The highest I did a while ago was N990. But today, it is about N1008, if not more.”

Another Nigerian student (name withheld), who is studying at Strathclyde University, explained that the new exchange rate might cause him to drop out of school.

He said, “This new reality has called for a review of the whole plan entirely. Everything has to reset at the end of the year.

“My year is ending in October/November but I now have to review everything. I am running a Ph.D. programme and the cost is 20,000 pounds a year. When we were using Form A and the official rate was about N600, it was about N11m.”

He noted that his budget when he started was between N33m –N35m for the entire programme. He stated, “Now, I will be looking at N20m for the second year and N40m in total for my remaining two years.

“This is causing me to rethink my plans, because I can’t spend that type of money on this. N40m is a lot, especially on those at home that are sponsoring this, it doesn’t sound reasonable. This will impact how I will continue with my course.”

Speaking on the matter, a student currently studying in the UK, who simply identified herself as Shalewa said, “When I started schooling in London in 2017, pounds was about N300 or less. I am still in school and now I had to pay N1,000 for one pound. 19,500 pounds to naira means that my mum will be coughing out millions that she should be using for retirement.”

An international multimedia journalist and student based in the UK, Michael Orodare, noted that the suffering of many Nigerian students is an open secret.

He said while many people had tried to use Form A to pay their tuition fee balance, earlier, banks had delayed with excuses, including issues around tax clearance.

He said, “A lot of students are finding it difficult to pay their tuition. What many Nigerian students here are now trying to do is to use the naira in their account to try and buy pounds which is now more than N1000. This is now more expensive and making fee payment very difficult for Nigerian students.”

Intending students worry

The increase in the cost of forex is also affecting many Nigerians intending to study in the UK.

For many of them, Proof of Funds is the most problematic part of their application process now.

According to an education consultant, Oyebode Omolewa, Proof of Funds is a student’s tuition balance plus living expenses. She stated that it is a crucial requirement for students planning to go to the UK as it proves to the UK government that a student has the capacity to take care of themselves while studying.

She noted that the rates are now dependent on when student submit their visa applications. She explained that when the official rate was around N560 – N600, students’ proof of funds was lower.

Omolewa said, “Proof of funds is the student’s tuition balance plus living expenses. For example, if a student’s tuition is about 15,000 pounds, and they pay 5,000 pounds to the university, their proof of funds will be the 10,000 pounds balance plus living expenses.

“If the school is located outside of London, the cost of living is 9,207 pounds, if it is in London, it is 12,006 pounds. Let’s say we have a 10,000 pounds balance, if the school is outside London which is 9,207 pounds, when you add the two together, you will have 19,207 pounds multiplied by the exchange rate on the day you applied for a visa.

“If it was N1000 on the day it was 19,207 pounds multiplied by N1,000 before it used to be about N580 multiplied by 19,207 pounds.”

Omolewa further explained that PoF has been affected a lot, especially for students trying to go with their family members.

She noted that PoFs have almost doubled. She said, “PoF has almost doubled. This is likely to affect the number of people applying for study Visas now because if you were planning N15 million initially and now you need about N6 million extra if you don’t have it, you will just have to wait until you get it.”

Another student, who is planning to leave by August, said the PoFs had increased considerably with many intending students struggling to meet up.

He said, “When you calculate PoF now, the least you will get is about N1,100. It has really affected it, and it is not a good one. If you wanted to do a PoF of 19,000 pounds, before now you would need N16 million in your account. But now, you would have nothing less than N24 million for a 19,000 pounds PoF.”

Another intending UK-bound student, who only gave her name as Titi, stated that when she started her visa processing, PoF was pegged at N600/pound. According to her, she would have fallen victim to the new exchange rate if not that she applied less than a week before the change.

She noted that her PoF which was N9.8 million is now over N16 million. She told The PUNCH, “I am still good on my PoF, it was still less than N9.8 million. The Friday before the 12th of June, someone asked me to apply for my visa.

“Thank God for countries like the UK where your PoF will be determined based on the exchange rate of the day you apply. That was my saving grace. I applied on that Friday, and by the following week, exchange rate had gone up.

“My PoF was a little above N9.5 million. By the following week, it hit N16 million. I was going to be judged according to the exchange rate on the day of my application, but the thing is if I had applied a little later than I did, my PoF would have risen to over N16 million. I am just an average Nigerian, I don’t have one N6 million, N8 million somewhere. I would have needed about N17 million if I was late.”

According to her, she would have deferred her admission if she had applied after the exchange rate went up.

A Nigerian student in the UK, who didn’t want her name in print, explained to The PUNCH that her brother is currently in the process of relocating to the UK through the study route.

She noted that her family is currently looking for an extra N7 million to N8 million because of the new exchange rate.

She said, “We are on the PoF matter for my brother, and we just have to get more money. He has not yet applied as we are just getting his CAS, this new exchange rate is biting.

“Under the old exchange rate, we needed about N6 million to N8 million, but now we need N14 million to N15 million. As of this morning, a pound is N1000+. When it was my turn, all my calculation was at N600, for my brother it is at N1000. There is a N400 difference that is choking everyone. It is financially more demanding and constraining.”

Form A challenge

Form A, which is an application form designed by the CBN to pay for service transactions such as school fees, medical fees, and more, allows customers to purchase funds at the CBN or interbank rate to make payments for these services.

Lamenting on how frustrating the Form A is, an LLM student at the University of Birmingham, who did not want her name disclosed told The PUNCH, “I opened my Form A in April and at the time, I was to pay N1.8m and of course, I was waiting for processing days.

“Now, with the new policy, I need N3.1m. So, even though I have the N1.8m, the money that I require now is twice the amount. So, I can’t have the Form A processed.”

A senior officer of a popular commercial bank who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity noted that despite the floating of the naira which has highly affected the exchange rate, the bank still receives huge requests of FX [Form A].

The officer said, “We still have a long queue and what we do is that we give priorities to our corporate customers. It was expected that the new policy would actually make things better, but it has not. The rates are higher, and people still come in. Some of the Form A requests were even brought in before the new policy was implemented. “

A travel consultant, Samuel Agboola, affirmed to The PUNCH, “Many people who left to study in the UK still don’t have their fees processed by Nigerian banks. The banks deducted the money from their accounts but have yet to do the conversion and pay their schools. Now the exchange rate has changed, and they have to pay more. That is the reality.”

78,679 Nigerians

Meanwhile, no fewer than 78,679 international students from Nigeria are currently studying in the UK, United States of America, Canada, and Ukraine, an analysis by The PUNCH has shown. The figure excludes Nigerians who study in these countries but did not process their admissions from Nigeria.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the United Kingdom, as of December 2022, there were about 44,195 international students from Nigeria in UK institutions with average tuition fees between £11,000 – £32,000.

Findings by our correspondent also revealed that Nigerians are most concentrated in schools like the University of Hertfordshire, University of Salford, University of Leeds, University of Portsmouth, University of Birmingham, and the University of Nottingham remained some of the universities in the UK.

Nigerian parents plead with FG

The National President of the National Parents Teachers Association, Haruna Danjuma in an interview with The PUNCH pleaded with the Federal Government to intervene in the FX crisis.

Danjuma said, “If you ask for my honest opinion, I will say the Federal Government should help all those involved because when you look at it, it is not their fault.

“Also, one of the reasons people even go abroad in the first place is because of the situation of things in our institutions. We need the government to work together with parents and academics to find a way in which we can solve the problems in the education sector.”

Commenting on next steps, he stated, “I will raise the issue with my executives, and we will issue an official position. You know as the national president I can’t just take any position without other members. I will raise the matter.”

While lamenting the effect of the new forex policy, a parent, Akinjagunla Paul, though resident in the United Kingdom begged the President to help out students who applied for Form As before the new FX regime was implemented.

He said, “It is important for the President to be informed that he needs to urgently grant concessions to Nigerian students abroad who initiated their Form A requests for payment of school fees before the new FX regime was introduced, rates have increased from about N550 to N1,000.”

JUST IN: Second Niger bridge vandalised - PUNCH

JULY 12, 2023

By Damilola Aina

Some road fittings installed on the newly inaugurated Second Niger bridge have been stolen by vandals, The PUNCH can exclusively report.

A source in the works ministry confirmed the theft on Wednesday, saying that the expansion joint walkway on axis 330 of the bridge had been stolen.

The source said, “Unfortunately, It’s true. The stolen fitting is an element from the expansion joints of the bridge. Drivers on that road have to be careful as the damaged part can cause discomfort to motorists.”

Another source who spoke to our correspondent corroborated the report adding that supervising engineers are not happy about the incident.

Recall that on May 23, the former president, Muhammadu Buhari, commissioned the N336 billion bridge, via an online platform, Zoom alongside seven other infrastructural projects.

The former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced the completion of the bridge at a briefing in October 2022 after almost five decades of failed promises by successive administrations.

On December 15, 2022, the Federal Government also opened the Second Niger Bridge for use to ease traffic in the South-East during the festive season.

The Second Niger Bridge was first proposed during the 1978/79 political campaign by then-candidate Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria.

Patterned after the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, the 1.6 kilometres long bridge linking Anambra and Delta states is to decongest traffic on the existing Niger Bridge, boost economic activities, and connect the South-East with the rest of the country.

Efforts to reach the ministry spokesperson, Blessing Adams-Lere, for official confirmation, proved abortive, as phone calls were not responded to as of press time.

Details shortly…

Nigeria will become W’Africa’s energy hub, says Vertex - PUNCH

JULY 12, 2023

By Anozie Egole

The Chief Commercial Officer of Vertex group, Shitij Taneja, has said Nigeria will be one of the leading technology hubs in West Africa in the next five years.

In a statement, Taneja, said this recently while speaking at the just concluded 2023 IoT West Africa conference & exhibition in Lagos.

Taneja added that already, a lot of companies had started investing in Nigeria.

He also stressed that with the coming on board of Vertex Group with more manufacturing companies, there would be more employment opportunities and training centers for the youths.

He recommended renewable energy and digitising energy usage as the way forward towards improving electricity in Nigeria.

The Vertex Group COO explained that when energy was digitalised, it could be monitored to be able to know what was happening and where it was happening, adding that it could also help to determine where there was energy leakage.

He said, “We see a lot of startups and investors investing in Nigeria’s technology as startups, and what we are trying to achieve is to position West Africa as the hub for digital energy.

We are bringing Indian industries to Nigeria to help drive the technology because India is known as a technology hub.

We are trying to move the technology solutions that India has to Nigeria because Nigeria already has the capacity as more people are into information technology as a career.”

NAHCON: Airlines to begin airlift of pilgrims to Nigeria Wednesday - THE NATION

JULY 12, 2023

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says all Nigerian licensed carriers would begin to operate their inbound flights and airlift pilgrims to Nigeria on Wednesday.

Mousa Ubandawaki, deputy director of information and publications at NAHCON, announced the development in a statement on Tuesday.

Ubandawaki said the arrangement is expected to ease the agitation by some of the pilgrims who have been anxious to return home after the conclusion of Hajj on June 30.

He said the delay in airlifting pilgrims back home was due to the limited slots given to the airlines by Saudi authorities, adding that only 26 flights were recorded on the inbound airlift operation.


“Beginning from tomorrow Wednesday, 12th July, 2023 all the Nigerian licensed carriers would begin to operate their inbound flight to Nigeria optimally,” the statement reads.

“This was the outcome of the high-level meeting between the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Saudi authorities, General Authority on Civil Aviation (GACA) on the slow pace of the airlift operation.

“With the situation, Max Airline with three aircraft in its fleet will be able to operate all the aircraft to Nigeria everyday, the same with Aero Contractors, Air peace, Azman and Arik Air which is dedicated to the airlift of private tour operators.

“The new development is expected to ease the strain on the agitation of Nigerian pilgrims who have been anxious to return to Nigeria since the conclusion of the Hajj rites on the 30th of June.

“It will also increase the pace of the airlift operation which has been bogged down by the non-availability of slots to the Nigerian licensed carriers, especially by the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority.

“The commission has been disturbed about the situation which solution she had been battling with since the commencement of the second phase of the airlift operation. The GACA has refused to allot slots to Nigerian airlines to speed up the return of pilgrims to the country.

“Several representation, meetings were held. The intervention of the Nigerian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Amb. Dauda Yahaya Lawal achieved little success until the issue was escalated to the highest level of government before the situation was finally resolved.”

Stablecoin Issuers Told to Start Preparing for 2024 EU Rules - BLOOMBERG

JULY 12, 2023

BY Emily NicolleBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Issuers of stablecoins should take immediate measures to comply with new European Union crypto regulations that come into effect a year from now, the European Banking Authority said.

The EBA expects issuers of stablecoins — tokens that are pegged to an asset like the US dollar — to have sound governance and effective risk management in addition to proper arrangements for handling redemptions, among other things, the watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Under the EU’s Markets in Cryptoassets (MiCA) regulation, stablecoin operators will be required to hold a license from a national financial regulator in at least one member state by June 2024. 

Making preparations to comply with the rules ahead of time will help avoid “potentially disruptive and sharp business model adjustments at a later stage,” the EBA said. The watchdog on Wednesday started the first in a series of consultations on its proposed guidelines, which cover areas such as investing in stablecoin issuers.

Read more: How Europe Wants to Impose Some Order on Crypto World: QuickTake

Stablecoins are digital tokens that rely on reserves of assets to maintain a one-to-one redemption value with a less volatile asset like the dollar. Under EU rules, assets like Circle Internet Financial Ltd.’s USDC that use a reserve denominated in a single currency are considered electronic money tokens. Stablecoins based on a basket of different assets — like crypto-backed stablecoin DAI — are referred to as asset-referenced tokens.

Flights Are Getting Cheaper as Summer Travel Season Ramps Up - BLOOMBERG

JULY 12, 2023

BY  Ryan Beene and Mary SchlangensteinBloomberg News

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 01: Travelers line up to enter a security checkpoint at San Francisco International Airport on July 01, 2022 in San Francisco, California. According to AAA, nearly 48 million Americans are expected to hit the road for the Fourth of July holiday weekend and will travel more than 50 miles away from their home. It will be the second busiest July 4 travel weekend since 2000. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 01: Travelers line up to enter a security checkpoint at San Francisco International Airport on July 01, 2022 in San Francisco, California. According to AAA, nearly 48 million Americans are expected to hit the road for the Fourth of July holiday weekend and will travel more than 50 miles away from their home. It will be the second busiest July 4 travel weekend since 2000. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) , Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) -- The cost of a plane ticket plunged in the early days of the summer travel season, continuing a retreat as airlines benefit from lower jet fuel prices.

US airfares in June fell 8.1% from the prior month, the third consecutive decline and the largest drop since last July, according to figures released on Wednesday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The slide was the second-biggest on a monthly basis since April 2020, when airlines saw travel demand evaporate during the onset of the pandemic.

Compared to last year, June airfares plummeted 18.9%.

Read More: Why Flights Might Get Cheaper After a Busy Summer

The declines come amid falling fuel prices, giving carriers a boost as they prepare for a surge of summer travel expected to rival the record traffic of 2019. Jet fuel prices have tumbled 57% this year, based on the rate for immediate purchase in New York harbor. Fuel vies with labor as the two largest expenses for airlines, and fares historically have followed the move in fuel prices.

About 275 million people are expected to travel between May 25 and Sept. 4, according to TD Cowen. That’s 7.4% higher than in 2019 and 19% higher than last year. 

US passenger counts, which had lagged the record 2019 levels since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, have roughly recovered to pre-pandemic levels in recent months, according to Transportation Safety Administration data.

Surging US travel took hold as the pandemic waned in 2021 and hasn’t let up. The industry thus far has seemed impervious to inflation and economic slowing as consumers continue to use pandemic savings for travel. 

Domestic and near-international trips fueled the industry’s early pandemic recovery. More recently, soaring demand for international travel, particularly to Europe, has bolstered the industry as countries have dropped lingering Covid-related restrictions. 

Delta Air Lines Inc. is set to be the first major US carrier to report second-quarter results Thursday and provide an update on demand through the peak summer season. The carrier last month said 55% of its seats offered in the current quarter have already been booked, including 70% for long-haul global flights and 40% on domestic routes.

A group of 11 US carriers are expected to report a record $58 billion in second-quarter revenue, according to Deutsche Bank.

(Adds US passenger, demand data from sixth paragraph)

Airlines’ funds face no delays on FX reforms - BUSINESSDAY

JULY 13, 2023

Some foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have commenced the repatriation of the revenues from their recent ticket sales, following the reform of the foreign exchange market by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

While backlogs of funds from their previous ticket sales remain trapped, BusinessDay’s findings show that some airlines have been able to repatriate funds from recently sold tickets, an indication that the unification of exchange rates is yielding some positive results.

The CBN had last month directed banks to remove the cap on the Investors’ and Exporters’ (I&E) window of the forex market to allow for the free float of the naira.

The country’s currency was floated after years of sticking with a hard peg that spooked investors and drained dollars from the economy. The naira closed at 788.42 per dollar on Tuesday at the I&E window, compared to around 460/$ before the exchange rate unification.

Airlines in Nigeria have had as much as $812.2 million of funds stuck within the country as of April.

Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), told BusinessDay that from ongoing meetings with foreign airlines, some of them revealed that since the unification of exchange rates, they have been repatriating their money from the recent ticket sales.

“So far, it looks good. There is nothing definite yet but at least one thing I take out is that it is a mixture of both sides. For some, the status quo is still the same, while some have better experiences. They say since the unification of the rates, they are beginning to get their funds but it is just the backlog that has remained trapped,” Akporiaye said.

She said the airlines have agreed to release lower inventories (cheaper fares) as a response to the positive development.

She said: “Most of the airlines appealed to the travel community to be a bit patient with them. They said it is looking good and very soon, there may be good news. They all agreed that there is no justification for not releasing the lower inventories.

“I think they just want to see how it goes. Some say they are willing to release inventories but they want to monitor the process and see how the process goes. If the process continues for a month or two, then they will release lower fares.”

Since last year, airlines blocked low ticket inventories, leaving high inventories to be sold in naira only while the low ticket inventories on most airlines’ websites can only be bought with dollar cards only. This was in a bid to cushion the effect of their trapped funds in Nigeria.

Bankole Bernard, chairman of Airlines and Passengers’ Joint Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), had earlier predicted that the introduction of the single rate would reduce the amount of trapped funds in the country.

He said: “What this means is that the market will be even. At this point, a lot of people are going to lose money; some things will become more expensive. The black market man on the street will now go and look for a job because he would no longer have a job to do. Everything will be the same.

“So, this is good news for airlines as more funds will be repatriated. All the issues of not being able to repatriate their money will end. This is because there would be no difference in the rate. The airlines will lose money initially because they already have money that has piled up.”

Last month, IATA disclosed that Nigeria owed $812.2 million out of $2.27 billion trapped funds globally, making it the country with the highest trapped funds.

The top five countries account for 68.0 percent of blocked funds, including Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million) and Lebanon ($141.2 million).

IATA warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds were a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.

Kingsley Nwokeoma, president of Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN), told BusinessDay that the only reason why most airlines are still operating is because there is a new government and they are watching to see if there would be anything that would be different.

He said: “Ticket prices are still high and summer this year is low. Those that managed to travel for summer this year were downgraded. Those that would have travelled using business class downgraded to economy and some of the people that use regular economy had to cancel their travel plans because they cannot pay over one million naira because they are travelling for a six hour flight.

“The exchange rates increased. It is a new administration and we hope that once we have a substantive minister, perhaps things will change. The trapped funds are close to $1 billion and that is a lot of money. Most people travel to Cotonou, Lome and Accra and take two days’ holidays and leave from there to London. If there is a committed paying system, most funds will have been repatriated.”

BusinessDay had earlier reported that the price of an economy class ticket for Lagos-London and Lagos-France has increased to N1.9 million to N2.2 million from around N1.5 million a month ago.

Cost of air fares from Nigeria to various destinations have seen a sharp rise since the exchange rate for ticket pricing hit over N740/$.

Passport, Money, AirTag? Why Luggage Woes Are Back - BLOOMBERG

JULY 14, 2023

BY  Kate Duffy, Anthony Palazzo and Siddharth Vikram PhilipBloomberg News

, Source: YipitData

(Bloomberg) -- After returning to New York from Oslo in late May, Harley Hendrix noticed her suitcase containing a cherished Alexander McQueen dress had been diverted to Copenhagen. 

Also rotting in Denmark: packs of cheese that Hendrix had stuffed into the suitcase to bring back home. While she hadn’t visited Copenhagen, Hendrix knew the bag was there because, like many people these days, she had tucked an AirTag inside. Delta Air Lines Inc. first told her it was at John F. Kennedy International, then Dallas. But the tracker was pinging from Denmark. 

It took a week for Delta and its European partner KLM to find the suitcase and forward it to New York. By then the cheese was spoiled, Hendrix said. The vintage black McQueen, still reeking of rotten Jarlsberg after multiple cleanings, had to be tossed — along with Chanel and Missoni dresses and cashmere sweaters.

“All trash. Some of these items I’ll never be able to exactly replace,” said Hendrix, who curated her wardrobe over the years from sample sales and scouring second-hand sites. “I didn’t actually love the Chanel dress but did love the Alexander McQueen.”

A year after air travel stormed back from pandemic lows, overwhelming the system with airport chaos and luggage pileups, airlines are still struggling to keep up. Just last month, bags stacked up from Newark Liberty to Los Angeles International after storms scrambled airline schedules in the northeast US. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, some 10,000 bags were lost in one day, which KLM Chief Executive Officer Marjan Rintel blamed on the hub’s outdated systems.

Passengers are meanwhile arming themselves with Bluetooth devices in ever greater numbers, exposing a balky bag-handling system that’s often a step behind customers — and putting pressure on the industry to catch up. 

Airlines and baggage-handling firms say they’re better equipped than last year to keep customers’ goods from getting lost. The industry is also working on a plan to incorporate the trackers into existing systems, and seeking assistance from technology firms. One challenge is to create a standard for interoperability between airlines and device manufacturers — a starting point for eventual solutions.

“There is a huge benefit in complementing the airlines’ tracking data with the Bluetooth tracker information,” said Getnet Taye, senior manager of global baggage operations at the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s main lobbying group.

Current bag-handling tech is largely bar-code based, logging items intermittently on their journey but not continuously. The back-end systems of airlines, airports and ground-handling firms can’t always speak to each other, making them vulnerable to breakdowns. 

Hendrix used KLM to take her from Oslo to Amsterdam to connect with a Delta flight to the US. The Dutch airline said it regrets the incident that led to her ruined clothing, and that “every piece of misplaced luggage is one too many.” KLM said it’s closely monitoring technological advancements, though it doesn’t use AirTag technology to track lost luggage because the data can only be shared with the owner of the tracker for privacy reasons.

Delta, which sold Hendrix her tickets, also apologized. With its RFID-enabled systems, Delta misplaces bags less frequently than other large US global carriers, it said.

A bag can go astray for any number of reasons, from airport Wifi signals to snafus on transfers between airlines. Schedule disruptions can lead to pileups, like during last summer’s disarray or the mass cancellations in December on Southwest Airlines Co. 

For now, Bluetooth systems add to the pressure by providing users of Apple AirTags, Tile or Samsung SmartTags with frequent updates when in range of other enabled devices. While passengers may know where their bags are sooner than airlines, customer-service desks can’t access the same information. 

Airlines’ responses haven’t always been reassuring. Deutsche Lufthansa AG initially tried to ban Bluetooth devices as a safety risk, but quickly reversed itself. And each high-profile misstep drives passengers into the arms of manufacturers like Apple and Tile maker Life360 Inc. 

“AirTag sales really began to ramp in the spring of ’22, which aligns with when the post-Covid travel surge began,” said Nate Harmon, director of research at YipitData.  

It’s too soon to know whether airlines have made a dent in the problems that erupted last summer, when lost baggage was a byproduct of a spike in flight delays and cancellations. Through April, US airlines misplaced about 0.62% of bags checked by passengers on domestic flights this year, little changed from the first four months of 2022, according to statistics published by the Department of Transportation. 

A big contributor to last year’s chaos was a labor shortage after the industry shed workers during the pandemic. Airlines, airports and baggage handlers say they’ve staffed up, have improved working conditions and are more focused on retention. 

Still, pileups persist with unsettling regularity. Shortages of ground-handling staff and equipment were to blame for disruptions in Edinburgh this month, the Scotsman reported.  Workers in the UK, France, Switzerland and Belgium have snarled traffic this summer or threaten to with more strikes.

In Amsterdam, Schiphol said the late-June baggage chaos described by KLM’s Rintel affected transfer flights in particular. All of the misplaced luggage belonging to the Dutch airline’s customers has now been sent to its intended destination, the airport said in a statement.

One of those passengers was Shay Lawson, whose cold-weather clothing was waylaid in Amsterdam while she continued on a visit to the Arctic Circle. The suitcase was finally sent north, but only after Lawson was already headed back to Atlanta. It completed its circuitous journey four days after she did. “The frustration here is that no one told me they had located my bag,’’ she said.   

In the aftermath of last year’s failures, Swissport International AG, one of the largest providers of airport ground services, appointed a baggage “czar” to look at pinch points and ways to improve. It’s also working with customers to improve digital tracking, said Chris Rayner, chief people officer. An AirTag investment would have value, but “has to be a combined effort,” he said.

Tech spending also suffered during the downturn, slowing progress on a 2018 initiative to ensure luggage is logged at least four times on a journey, and to encourage information sharing between participants, according to IATA. 

“Right now the biggest challenge is how airlines and airports share information more transparently,” said Sumesh Patel, who heads the Asia-Pacific region of SITA, the industry-owned provider of widely used aviation technology. “I don’t think there is any shortcoming in terms of technology or solutions, the only problem is collaboration.”

SITA offers a product that centralizes tracing of lost baggage and extends some tools to passengers. There are also companies like Berkshire Hathaway Inc. offering travel insurance, and AirHelp, which provides assistance securing refunds and compensation.

Airlines also want tech firms to better explain to customers that Bluetooth trackers don’t always give up-to-date information — adding to airline costs and creating customer-service headaches, according to IATA’s Taye.

Apple and Life360 had no comment. Samsung said about 11% of users have set their SmartTag devices to luggage-finding mode. The company had no further comment. 

KLM offered Hendrix $109 in compensation for the ruined items, according to a message from the Air France-KLM unit she showed to Bloomberg News. 

The 54-year-old producer of executive events wasn’t expecting much, as she bought the cheese for herself and for gifts with cash, and had long since done away with her receipt for the McQueen, purchased not long after the trailblazing designer died in 2010. Still, she said she was disappointed. 

“I could actually see exactly where my bag was and yet no one would listen or grab it,” Hendrix said. “I have purchased four more AirTags after this.” 

--With assistance from Albertina Torsoli, Mary Schlangenstein, Supriya Singh, Mark Gurman and Sohee Kim.

(Updates with European strikes in 18th paragraph)


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