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Local aviation suffers revenue loss from 35yrs of static ground handling charges - THE GUARDIAN

JULY 07, 2021

Underpricing regime and attendant low tariff foreign airlines currently remit to Nigeria is denying both grand handlers and local aviation huge revenue.

The situation, which is not unconnected with unhealthy rivalry among operators has further dwindled potential earnings for the sector.

Concerned stakeholders said it was time the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had intervened to bring competing parties to a round-table and end the run of pittance remittances in the sector.

The Guardian learnt that the three ground handling companies, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, Nigerian Avia¬tion Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, and AHS Aviation Handling Services, charge the lowest on the continent, despite having better ground support equipment (GSE) than most of their counterparts in Africa.

Though this arm of the aviation sector has since been deregulated, internal rivalry among operators has kept the tariff comparative low since the 1990s.

In Guinea, for instance, a narrow-body like Boeing 737 or turboprops is charged $1,673, while wide-body like Boeing 767 or A330 is charged $4,715. Senegal charges $2,250 and $5,259 in that order. In Cameroon, it is $1,400 and $4,500. Sierra Leone charges $2,250 and $5,250, while Ghana charges $1,500 and $4,150 for passenger flight.

Narrow-body cargo aircraft attract $2,300, $1,750, $2,300, and $2,500 in Senegal, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana, respectively. For wide-body airplanes, ground handlers in those countries charge between $4,450 and $5,250 per flight.

Similar charges in Nigeria, however, range from $1,000 for a narrow-body, while a wide-body aircraft goes for as low as $3,000 for passenger aircraft.

Sometimes, sources said, the $1,000 ground-handling rate could scale as low as $400, depending on the negotiating power by the foreign airline.

Chairman, Board of Trustees of Aviation Ground Handlers Association of Nigeria (AGHAN), Sam Oluwole, confirmed the situation, though regretted that the ground handling companies still charge far less than 1986 rates.

Oluwole noted that ground handlers then charged $1,139 for a B737 aircraft. But despite the free-fall of naira and increase in the cost of equipment, handlers go as low as $300 for the same service in 2021.

“There are three aspects that concern us at the moment: economic, safety and security of the industry. As far back as 1986, ground handlers were charging about $1,139 when a dollar equals 90k. Today, the same dollar is about N500, yet we are charging low.

“Another challenge here is that the Nigerian government is losing considerably a lot of tax revenues because the handling companies pay five per cent annual turnover to the government and it is this money that they use to acquire facilities, upgrade equipment, while the handlers train personnel and pay workers’ welfare pack¬ages and insurance,” Oluwole said.

Former MD of NAHCO, Kayode Oluwasegun-Ojo, said the anomaly had dragged on for too long and was unsustainable for operators as well.

Oluwasegun-Ojo said: “If you charge for a service that is less than cost-reflective, it means you are not getting your cost back and in the long run, it will not be sustainable.

“I think the NCAA has a great role to play here. It should call people together – airlines and the ground handling companies, let’s jaw-jaw. My experience in the banking industry is that you collaborate before you start competing.

“If Ghana is charging about $1,500 to handle narrow-body aircraft and Nigeria is charging this little, then something is wrong with our system. We must do something about helping our country and industry to grow. We have a huge market here and we must do something to boost the sector, starting from the ground handlers,” Oluwasegun-Ojo said.

Vice-Chairman of SAHCO Plc, Chike Ogeah, reckoned that it was imperative for the ground handling companies to come together and work together.

“Because a ground handling company wants to get the bulk of the clients, it gives services below its cost and that is dangerous. The rates are inelastic; it is open-ended. There is a particular amount of clients that everybody is trying to get because aviation is a specialised business, not a foodstuff business. So, by the time you look at passenger and cargo handlings, you will realize that you need to be able to enforce your own prices, which must be standard and must be realistic to ensure that safety is not compromised.

“It is ridiculous for Nigeria to charge as low as what they are charging now. It doesn’t make sense. I think the coming onboard of AGHAN will address that. The only way their survival will be guaranteed is for them to charge right. Mind you, some of the companies are listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and they need to deliver to their shareholders.”

'Carpocalypse' comes to Canada as vehicle shortage hits car rental industry - THE CANADIAN PRESS

JULY 07, 2021

When James Charles-Roberts booked a vehicle back in May, he and his family were looking forward to a two-week holiday in Southern California.

After several attempts to visit Disneyland were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the November vacation would be a chance for the Victoria, B.C., family to use their theme park tickets before they expire.

However, when Charles-Roberts called in June to move his reservation for a seven passenger Ford Explorer by a day, the cost of the car rental nearly tripled.

“I booked the vehicle for $480 and when I called to make a change the price was $1,286,” he said in an interview. “It was just a minor change so we decided to keep our first reservation.”

The car rental shortage – or “carpocalypse” as its been dubbed in the U.S. – highlights what is expected to be a bumpy economic recovery as supply chain issues throw car rental supply and demand out of whack.

The problem started when nearly all travel was halted at the outset of COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Car rental reservations plummeted, prompting companies to drastically downsize fleets and lay off workers.

“Most if not all car rental operators across the world had to reduce their fleets significantly during the pandemic due to extreme reductions in consumer demand,” said Craig Hirota, vice-president of government relations and member services with the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators.

“Nobody was travelling for vacation and corporate travel was basically non-existent. It left a lot of unused vehicles sitting on lots.”

Now, the situation has reversed. As the economy reopens and demand returns, a global shortage of semiconductors has crippled vehicle production and caused lengthy delays for new cars and trucks.

“The car rental industry has not been able to resupply their fleets,” Hirota said. "They just can’t get vehicles."

Enterprise Holdings, the U.S. parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car, said the chip shortage “has impacted new vehicle availability and deliveries across the industry at a time when demand is already high.”

The company added in an emailed statement that it's "working hard to secure additional vehicles to meet the increasing travel demand and support customers’ broader transportation needs."

In the meantime, car rental operators are jacking up rates amid the tight supply and increasing demand.

"I think there's some price-gouging going on for sure," Charles-Roberts said of his experience trying to change his Los Angeles airport vehicle reservation.

The industry-wide car rental crunch is already in full force in the United States, where stories are emerging of tourists renting U-Haul moving vans or private vehicles from locals to get around.

The problem is expected to worsen in Canada this summer, especially in regions that rely heavily on tourism.

Many airport locations in East Coast cities like Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s are nearly sold out on weekends this summer.

“The impact is being felt everywhere – at least in hot tourism spots across Canada and the U.S.,” Gary Howard, senior vice-president of marketing and communications with CAA Atlantic, said in an email.

“Most of the fleets are leased so during the high point of COVID, fleets were shrinking,” he said. “Now it is coming back but the car rental companies cannot get enough vehicles back in the fleets.”

While the car rental shortage is expected to be felt more acutely in tourism destinations, prices are up across the country.

Hamilton resident Allyson Rowley said she often rents cars for long-distance travel and to visit family.

In 2019, she said she usually paid about $30 a day, an amount that climbed to about $40 in 2020. But Rowley said she just booked a car for two weeks in August, and the price was $61.52 a day.

“The cost has doubled since before the pandemic,” she said. “I’ve made an ethical and financial choice to not own a car as I mostly walk and bike and only rent a car when I need one, but it’s becoming unaffordable.”

For travellers hoping to rent a car this summer, experts say it’s critical to book early, search beyond airport locations and be prepared to pay more than usual.

It may also require alternatives to car rentals such as car sharing or public transportation as they say the shortage isn’t expected to ease up any time soon.

“If you’re planning travel, we encourage you to reserve a vehicle as early as possible,” Enterprise Holdings said. “Providing flexible travel dates and branch pick up locations in your search may help increase your options.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2021.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

Sirika: Air Passengers Entitled to Refunds on Delayed Flights - THISDAY

JULY 09, 2021

*Technical hitch forces Azman Air to make air return

BY  Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Chinedu Eze in Lagos

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika, has disclosed that local air passengers in Nigeria who suffer flight delays at the airport for two hours or more are entitled to a refund of their full ticket value from the airline.

This is coming as Azman Air flight from Lagos to Maiduguri en-route Abuja was yesterday forced to make air return when the aircraft landing gear refused to retract after take-off.

Sirika has also vowed to ensure the recovery of over N37 billion owed aviation parastatals by some airlines and other critical stakeholders in the country while stressing that the aviation ministry in the last six years has released 67 air accident reports which is unprecedented in the nation’s aviation history.

Sirika, who featured yesterday in the weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the State House, Abuja, stated that infringements to the rights of travellers, both local and international, have laid down rules and guidelines that spell rights and punishments out, just as there are punishments for travellers’ violation of good behaviour.

According to him, there are channels of laying complaints at the airports, which would see to it that customer rights and privileges are protected but noted that most travellers fail to take advantage of the provisions because they fail to pay attention to instructions and information hanging around airports.

“On domestic flights, delay beyond one hour; carrier shall provide refreshment, make one phone call or one SMS or email. They should send you an SMS or call you to say ‘I’m sorry you are delayed for one hour. They should also give you water or Fanta. Delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier shall reimburse passengers the full value of the tickets. The delay between 10 pm to 4 am, the carrier shall provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to and from the airport and international, it also says all of the requirements”.

The minister said he will ensure the recovery of over N37 billion owed aviation parastatals by some airlines and other critical stakeholders in the country and listed the aviation parastatals being owed to include Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). “Bi-Courtney is owing FAAN N14 billion as at the last count. The operator has not paid a single dime since the time he started to run the terminal building and we have not ceased giving him electricity, water, fire cover, and so on and so forth. He hasn’t paid a dime for 13 years.”

The minister while commenting on the controversy surrounding the disbursement of the N5 billion COVID-19 palliative approved in 2020 to aviation stakeholders, said the point was made that airlines owing aviation parastatals should not benefit but the suggestion was turned down.

On how the government will resolve the issue with Bi-Courtney, the minister expressed optimism saying: “We’re resolving it and we’re talking with Bi-Courtney, we will ensure that we recover people’s money and also recover the property and put it to use in accordance with the law of the land.”

He attributed the frequent collapse of airlines in the country to poor management capacity, adding that the federal government has therefore decided to establish an Aviation University for the development of all-round capacity in the sector. He also disclosed that the ministry has released a total of 67 final aviation accident reports covering the period of 2007 to 2016 in government’s bid to ensure that the causes of previous airline accidents are known.

On the proposed new national carrier, the minister said his ministry will present the re-worked Outline Business Case (OBC) to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the next one or two weeks for approval. According to him, the plan for the airline is on course, as the government recently launched the airline logo in the United Kingdom for the sake of exposure.

Speaking on the update as regards air travels between Nigeria and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Sirika said there is no timeline for opening up of travels yet, noting that Nigeria feels Dubia was being “discriminatory against our country and it is not acceptable.”

Bi-Courtney Denies Owing FAAN

Meanwhile, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operator of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Terminal Two (MMA2) in a swift response by its Spokesman, Mr. Mikail Mumuni has denied owing the FAAN any amount at all. In a statement issued last night, Mumuni said it is FAAN that owes Bi-Courtney over N200 billion by depriving it of its legitimate earnings over the past 14 years.

This, he said arose by FAAN opening and operating the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), thus competing with BASL with government money in the running of the Domestic Terminal in a flagrant breach of the concession agreement.

“BASL in line with the dispute resolution process contained in the agreement had an arbitration award in its favour. It also got the judgment of a High Court, six Court of Appeal judgments, and a Supreme Court judgment, all in its favour and sustained the monetary award,” he said. Mumuni stressed that the courts ruled that any debt that may be alleged against BASL by FAAN should be deducted from the credit judgment after due verification.

He added that “the N14 billion debt mentioned by the aviation minister is totally inconsistent with the demand by FAAN, the body which has been liaising with BASL. Their last demand was about N1billion, which was promptly responded to by BASL stating categorically that there was no such debt.” Mumuni argued that the minister was not properly briefed by FAAN as the company also pay its electricity bills and provides elaborate security at the terminal.

Technical Hitch Forces Azman Air to Make Air Return

Meanwhile, Azman Air flight from Lagos to Maiduguri en-route Abuja was yesterday forced to make air return when the aircraft landing gear refused to retract after take-off. THISDAY learnt that the pilot explained to passengers that the gear pin was not removed before the aircraft took off to enable the landing gear to retract so he had to return to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos so that the pin would be removed.

The 10:30 flight, which took off promptly returned to base after 10 minutes and was recertified to take-off again three hours later after the gear pin was removed.

But some of the passengers who were petrified by the incident decided to suspend their trip. Eyewitness told THISDAY, “Azman Air to Maiduguri en-route Abuja made an air return to Lagos 10 minutes into the flight. The pilot explained that the nose gear did not return. Upon landing in Lagos, the engineer was called in. The pilot explained that a pin was not removed, causing the nose gear not to retract. He said the issue had, however, been resolved. But some passengers felt psychologically unable to continue with the flight and insisted on disembarking.”

A pilot type-rated on Boeing 737, the aircraft type operated by Azman Air, explained to THISDAY that what happened was that when the aircraft is on ground the gear pin is inserted on the landing gear, also known as nose wheel, so that it would not collapse but this is done most often when the aircraft is on over night parking; not when it is on a turnaround.

He said that it was due to negligence that the engineer who certified the aircraft for flight and the pilot who ought to carry out a final inspection before operating the aircraft, did not notice that the gear pin was not removed. He also explained that there is usually a red flag placed on the aircraft to indicate that the gear pin has not been removed but this seemed to have been ignored by the pilot who took off without removing the pin. “The maintenance personnel should have removed the pin. The pilot in command of the flight should have checked the red flag. The pilot ought to have seen it. I think this is a problem with the airline. This is an underlying safety issue with the airline’s maintenance.

“Accident, you know, is a chain reaction, which follows series of incidents. And this is happening after the airline came back from suspension. So, there is a systemic problem with the airline,” the pilot told THISDAY. The General Manager, Public Affairs, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Sam Adurogboye confirmed the incident to THISDAY but said that he would not speak on it because it was air return but assured that the regulatory authority would investigate the incident.

“We always investigate incidents but we don’t speak to the media about air return but we carry out investigation on any incident in order to be on the side of caution and safety,” he said. In March this year NCAA had temporarily suspended Azman Air due to series of incidents that regulatory authority said threatened safety.

But following the execution of safety recommendations by the airline, the satisfied regulatory authority lifted the suspension of the domestic carrier.

Why We Extended Passport Re-Issuance to 3 Weeks - Immigration - DAILY TRUST

JULY 09, 2021


The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, has explained that the service moved the timeline of re-issuance of passport documentation from 74 hours to three weeks to reduce interface between officers and passport seekers.

While inaugurating the NIS renovated and equipped long room project in the Ikoyi passport office in Lagos, the CGI stated that the extension would enable the service to carry out perfect tracing to ensure only true Nigerians get the document.

He stated that the new passport regime would reduce corruption and improve the efficiency of officers.

He said: "The waiting period was 74 hours but the minister wanted a waiting phase before the passports were issued.

"Let me give you one of the reforms carried out, we used to have a home address when the passports were issued but now we have added a permanent home address, this will help us identify true Nigerians.

"I work in Abuja and stay there, it is not my permanent address, most of us are not Lagosians, we are either in Lagos to do business or work for a company.

"In that situation, we can apply for a passport at Ikoyi or Alausa in Lagos. That does not show you as a true Nigerian.

"That is why we decided that apart from your home address, in addition, you add your permanent address so your family can be traced. We want to use that to trace applicants.

He added that the new passport regime being championed by the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, would "reduce contact between officers and customers."

"Why are we doing this? In order to discourage corruption. One of the ways to achieve this is to have a timeline.

"There are issues when people come to the passport office and request a passport immediately as express service but the money does not go into immigration coffers, it goes into private pockets, now we say if you want to fast track you have to pay.

"Secondly, we had to change the way payment can be made. Payment can be made to our website directly.

"Before, it was difficult to make payment to our website but now you can easily make payment, you can print your receipt and come.

"We have made it much easier that not everybody should come to the passport office so we don't have a crowd," he said.

Olympics will ban spectators after Japan declares state of emergency - CNBC

JULY 09, 2021

KEY POINTS

  • Olympics organizers will ban spectators from the games in Tokyo, after Japan declared a state of emergency amid rising Covid-19 cases in the country.
  • The decision presents a new challenge for the games, which were already delayed a year due to the pandemic.

Olympics organizers are banning all spectators from the games this year after Japan declared a state of emergency that’s meant to curb a wave of new Covid-19 infections.

It’s the latest setback for the Summer Olympics that have already been delayed for a year and racked up high costs for postponement. The state of emergency will begin Monday and run through Aug. 22, while the games are scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Organizers had already banned international spectators from attending and set a cap on domestic crowds at 50% of capacity, or up to 10,000 people.

There’s immense pressure to curb the spread of the virus at the games, protecting both athletes and neighboring regions. More than 11,000 competitors are expected to travel to Japan to compete, along with thousands of officials and staff also set to attend.

Nationwide, Japan has reported about 811,000 coronavirus cases and more than 14,800 deaths, according to data from the World Health Organization. However, the nation has faced a relatively slow rollout of vaccines. Only about a quarter of the population has had at least one COVID-19 shot, according to Reuters.

Adjusting to no fans

NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC, plans to show more than 7,000 hours of content from the Tokyo Olympics across its networks and streaming platforms. Now NBC will have to grapple with whether viewers notice the difference without spectators.

Sports properties around the world adjusted during the pandemic with no fans, and often used digital seats to display some form of attendance. U.S. pro leagues including the National Football League and Major League Baseball also incorporated artificial sound in broadcasts to mimic crowd noise.

It’s challenging to keep viewers engaged in sports broadcasts without spectators, so NBC could use the technology to enhance production. In 2014, the media giant and the International Olympic Committee agreed to a $7.75 billion media rights deal to extend their partnership. The current agreement runs through 2032.

Still, an Olympics without fans will destroy ticket revenue for the IOC. More than 6 million tickets were sold for 2016 Rio Games, bringing in roughly $1.2 billion, according to an IOC annual report.

Because of the delays, the games’ budget has already jumped to an estimated $15.4 billion, according to Reuters, and ticket revenue of about $815 million will likely fall to near zero.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

Fraudsters Rip Off Travellers through Fake Airline Booking Accounts - THISDAY

JULY 09, 2021

BY  Chinedu Eze

Many Nigerians have inadvertently booked and paid for flights on fraudulent airline sites, which are either cloned or copied to look like that of the airlines by fraudsters.

In fact, it is projected that air travellers may have lost about N2 billion on such fake sites in the last five years, but as airlines strive to inform travellers about such possible sites, some continue to fall victims, especially now Internet fraud is on the increase.

Spokesman of Air Peace, Stanley Olisa told THISDAY that there was a time some fraudsters manipulated the airline’s website and travellers were making payments into it.

He explained that the fraudsters created fake Air Peace account so that when passengers book their flights they pay into the fake accounts.

Under the fraudulent platforms they created their own accounts and people were going to the page to book flights and making payments.

But when the airline was notified its IT team successfully blocked the fake account. The airline also notified travellers, using all media platforms about the fraudulent account.

“That fake site has been halted. We have our standard media platforms. We are on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and we have our website. We also have travel agents we partner with and in addition to those, we also have mobile app.

“Besides these platforms, any other one is a sham. Such platforms should not be patronised. Travellers wishing to buy our tickets can also go to airports. We have telephone numbers on the website and email, so you can place a call to us,” Olisa explained.

Also Azman Air booking website had been cloned in the past and travellers booked, bought tickets and paid to the wrong accounts and in the process lost millions of naira.

A source from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) consumer protection directorate then explained that some crooks opened a fake website named azmanair, whereas the real Azman Air airline website was airazman. So they used the website to defraud people and rip them off of millions of naira.

“So if by any chance you go to the website and entered the crooks site and go ahead and make payment you will find out that you are not billed for any flight,” the official explained then.

“We called Azman and told them they have to warn people and they placed advert on the pages of newspapers and other media. Then we made serious efforts to block the website, which we have now succeeded in doing,” the source also said.

But Head of Communication, Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, told THISDAY that whereas the airline has not experienced its website being cloned, it was job scam that it had experienced, whereby people use the name of the airline to advertise fake job vacancies and they would invite prospective candidates to Abuja for interview and ask them to pay for flight ticket.

“Once you pay for flight ticket they take the money and disappear because you pay into their private account,” he said.

Ezenwa explained that Dana Air has fortified website that once it is opened Dana Air advert would appear, which confirms the genuineness of the site.

IT expert and Editor of Techeconomy.ng, Mr. Peter Oruka, said internet fraudsters succeed in creating fake airlines website because people do not know the original URL of those sites so the inadvertently book and pay for tickets in fake accounts.

He explained that the fake ones usually look more attractive and when they open it. “So airlines should be able to tell people their original websites. It is the passengers that lose money, not the airlines. The fraudsters are interested in the credit card numbers of their victims, which they use to access their accounts.

“They should buy domain names around their own site like if an airline’s website is azmanair.com, for example, it should also buy domain names like airazman.com, flyazman air etc. That way it would be difficult to create a site close to the name of the airline,” he explained.

Oruka also said sometimes fraudsters do not even clone the sites, but introduce ransomware, which they use to scan your system and collect account numbers.

He advised that before opening a site one should look at the URL and the address, hpps/, noting that the ‘s’ means security, so if the ‘s’ is not in the address it means that it is not a secure site.

UK scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated Britons in boost for airlines - REUTERS

JULY 09, 2021

  • Vaccinated avoid quarantine from some countries from July 19
  • Those returning from amber list countries must still take tests
  • Children exempt from self-isolation but must test
  • Fully vaccinated non-Britons must still quarantine

LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) - Fully-vaccinated Britons returning from medium-risk amber list countries will no longer have to quarantine when they arrive home from July 19, transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday.

The rule change will be a huge boost to airlines and the travel industry which have been brought to their knees by 15 months of restrictions. In Britain, 65% of adults have been fully vaccinated, opening up travel for millions.

"I can confirm today that from the 19th of July, UK residents who are fully vaccinated through the UK vaccine rollout will no longer have to self-isolate when they return to England," Shapps said.

The need to quarantine on return had prevented a travel recovery. Under previous rules, those returning to Britain from its top destinations, Spain, France, the United States and Italy, all had to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG (ICAG.L) and easyJet (EZJ.L) both traded up 2% immediately after the news, which will also be welcomed by Southern European countries eager for UK tourist revenues.

EasyJet said holiday bookings to amber countries surged 440% after the government announcement compared to the previous week.

"We have been delighted with the customer response to the removal of Amber list quarantine for the fully vaccinated, so Europe has now turned Green for the double jabbed," easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement. "This means that millions will finally be able to reunite with family and loved ones abroad or take that long-awaited trip this summer."

The rule change only applies to amber list countries. For countries on the UK's high-risk red list, fully-vaccinated Britons will still be required to self-isolate in a hotel.

TIGHTENING RULES

While Britain opens up, worries over the spread of the Delta variant from the U.K. could still derail a travel recovery. Italy, Portugal and Spain have all recently tightened entry requirements for Britons, with Italy requiring five days of quarantine.

Shapps said that Britons returning from amber list destinations would still have to take a COVID-19 test before they arrive home and then a second test on or before day two. Children under the age of 18 will not have to self-isolate but will need to take tests.

Bookings for the crucial peak late July and August holiday season, when the industry makes most of its profit, are expected to soar following the rule change.

Airlines and holiday companies like TUI and Jet2 (JET2.L) have repeatedly called for an end to quarantine but it will however remain in place for non-Britons for now, said Shapps, disappointing the industry.

"We're working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations, later this summer, such as the United States and the EU," he said.

He said he would provide an update in due course.

British Airways said that while it was pleased with Shapps's announcement, it wanted to see progress on scrapping quarantine for non-Britons.

"The government needs to quickly extend this to all vaccinated travellers, agree a reciprocal deal with the US, add more countries to the 'green' list and reduce the need for unnecessary, expensive tests," BA chief executive Sean Doyle said.

Reporting by Sarah Young, William James and Paul Sandle; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Giles Elgood

Inbound traveller imports COVID-19 Delta variant into Nigeria - PUNCH

JULY 09, 2021

BY  Dayo Ojerinde

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Thursday said it had detected a confirmed case of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2.

The NCDC in a statement said the variant was detected in a traveller to Nigeria, following the routine travel test required of all international travellers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.

The deadly Delta variant is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a variant of concern, given its increased transmissibility.

The variant has been detected in over 90 countries and is expected to spread to more countries, according to the NCDC.

The NCDC Head of Communications, Dr Yahya Disu, in the statement said the variant had been linked to a surge in cases in countries where “it is the dominant strain” in circulation.

“There are ongoing studies to understand the impact of the variant on existing vaccines and therapeutics. As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, NCDC has been working with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, and other laboratories within the national networ, to carry out genomic sequencing.

“This is to enable the detection of variants of concern, and initiate response activities. All data on variants from Nigeria have been published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data. Given the global risk of spread of the Delta variant, positive samples from international travellers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly,” the statement partly reads.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has said the state would not relent to punish international travellers evading isolation.

He said, “Anybody who tries to bypass the Presidential Steering Committee regulations will have their passports deactivated and will face sanctions when they are brought to the attention of the law enforcement agencies.

“We have a number of people that we published in the newspapers who need to present themselves to the Lagos State Government and explain why they have chosen to beat the guidelines. We are in the process of applying sanctions to many people or deactivate their passports.

“We are expecting a large number of children returning to the country from Europe for the summer vacation. We know that the Delta strain is circulating in Europe and, therefore, these sanctions are very important.”

Branson Poised to Take Off on Virgin Galactic Flight to Space - BLOOMBERG

JULY 11, 2021

BY  Justin BachmanBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Richard Branson and five Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. employees are poised to take off on a test flight to space, a milestone for the company he founded in 2004 as it prepares to debut tourism trips next year.

The flight is set to leave from New Mexico at about 8:30 a.m. local time after an overnight delay caused by bad weather. According to the mission plan, the VSS Unity space plane will be hauled aloft by a carrier aircraft and detached at about 45,000 feet (13,700 meters). It will then ignite its rocket engine and ascend to about 290,000 feet or 55 miles (89 kilometers) above the Earth.

The suborbital journey kicks off a landmark month for the future of space tourism, with Branson looking to demonstrate Virgin Galactic’s capabilities nine days before Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos plans to fly on a rocket made by Blue Origin, his space venture. Both companies envision businesses catering to wealthy tourists willing to pay top dollar for a few minutes of weightlessness and an unforgettable view of the Earth and heavens.

Branson, 70, and his fellow crewmembers are expected to experience about four minutes of weightlessness. After reaching its highest altitude, the Unity is designed to pivot in space and glide back to the Spaceport America complex near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Customer Experience

The mission is the spacecraft’s 22nd test flight and first with a large crew. Virgin Galactic has dubbed the flight “Unity 22,” and it’s the first of two tests the company is planning this summer before an astronaut-training mission with Italian Air Force personnel later this year.

Branson is evaluating the customer experience during the flight and in the various preparatory events Virgin Galactic plans around its launches. Also on board:

  • Dave “Mac” Mackay, chief pilot. He is among Virgin Galactic’s earliest hires. He is a former U.K. Royal Air Force test pilot and Boeing 747 aviator at Branson-backed Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. Mackay, who grew up in a rural village in northern Scotland, became the first Scotsman to fly to space.
  • Michael “Sooch” Masucci, pilot. He is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel with more than 10,000 hours experience in the U-2 and F-16 jets, along with dozens of other aircraft types. He joined Virgin in 2013 and first flew to space in 2019.
  • Sirisha Bandla, Virgin’s vice president of government affairs. She will test the “researcher experience” during the flight with a plant experiment from the University of Florida. Born in Guntur, in the Andhra Pradesh province of southern India, she will become the second Indian-American woman to travel in space.
  • Colin Bennett, a Virgin Galactic engineer. He will evaluate cabin procedures during the test flight. Bennett has worked for Virgin Galactic as an operations engineer for six years in California, according to his LinkedIn page. Previously, he was an engineer at Virgin Atlantic.
  • Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor. She is making her second space flight after a trip in February 2019. The flight made Moses the 571st person to travel to space, according to Virgin Galactic. She will be the test director Sunday and the cabin lead. Moses worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for 24 years before joining the company. Her husband, Mike Moses, is Virgin Galactic’s president of space missions and safety.

Virgin last flew the two-craft system on May 22. The company said the Unity performed well after more than two months of work to minimize electromagnetic interference that had delayed a planned February 2021 test. In a flight in December 2020, the rocket motor failed to ignite and the spacecraft glided back to the spaceport.

The test in May was the company’s first successful powered flight since February 2019. Following the test that took place more than two years ago, flight engineers discovered hull damage on the spacecraft from air pressure that had built up after ventilating holes were accidentally covered, according to “Test Gods,” a book published this year by New Yorker writer Nicholas Schmidle.

The company plans to begin working down its backlog of around 600 confirmed customers in early 2022. Virgin Galactic has said it will resume ticket sales after the summer’s test flights, with executives signaling that fares will be higher than the prior price of $250,000 a seat.

Virgin Galactic’s shares have doubled this year through Friday, valuing the startup at almost $12 billion.

FG plans recovering N37bn debt from airlines, says Emirates ban stays - PUNCH

JULY 11, 2021

BY  Stephen Angbulu



The Federal Government has vowed to recover a total of N37bn from airlines still owing various categories of debts.

This is just as the government stated that the ban on Emirates Airlines would continue.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated these at this week’s ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the presidential villa, Abuja.

Sirika who said airlines owed federal agencies N37bn also explained that Arik owed between N13bn and N14bn.

The minister added that construction firm, Bi-Courtney, owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria about N14bn.

He said the aviation service provider had not repaid any part of that amount in its last 13 years of operations. This, he said, contravened the existing agreement between it and the government.

Sirika stated that the debt was spread across government agencies including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, among others.

Sirika added, “So, this brings us to the question of the money owed to the parastatals. It is about N37bn that they owe them, especially, Arik, the culprit. I know they owe us about N13bn to N14bn.

“If you owe FAAN, you owe the government. Bi-Courtney owes about N14bn as of the last count. It has not paid a single dime since the time he started to run the terminal building.

“And we have not ceased giving him electricity, water, fire cover, and so on and so forth. He hasn’t paid a dime for 13 years.

“If we go to shut his doors, the media, of course, and Nigerian people will say we’re killing businesses but he is killing our services too because we have to have that money to provide for that toilet that you’re seeing in Lagos airport.

“Most of these are living by their IGRs and so, we need the money but we will go after the money.”

Sirika explained that the company flouted government regulations from its inception when it built the Lagos terminal in the wrong location.

He explained, “They did not build in the original location that we gave. They moved to another location. They also annexed what is not part of the agreement, like the car park and the school and so on and started to build a hotel, which is not part of the agreement. But that’s another issue.

“So, they produced a terminal. But when you produce a terminal, you should be paying the agreed money back to the government over time to a point where you will return the terminal building.

“In this case, it was supposed to be 12 years because he didn’t do anything ab initio. After two years of doing nothing, he now quickly built when already two, three, four years had gone from 12 years.”

Sirika added that in those 13 years, the firm had not paid FAAN or any agency a single dime for operating the terminal.

Speaking on the suspension of Emirates Airlines’ operations in Nigeria, the minister said the government took that step because the company was ‘discriminatory against our country and it is not acceptable’.

He added that there was no resumption date yet for the airline.

According to him, Dubai demands that Nigerians cannot fly to UAE except through Emirates airline and if they choose to do so through other airlines like Ethiopia, Qatar, Turkish or other airlines, they must remain in the country of that airline for two weeks if they are Nigerians before they continue to Dubai.

“Nigeria considers this as discriminatory and will not allow that to stand,” Sirika said.

He said with the 200 million travelling population from Nigeria, and the huge foreign exchange from travellers, ‘we cannot afford to be hoodwinked to their own terms and conditions’.

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