Travel News

Heathrow Goes From Europe’s Gateway to UK’s Travel Nightmare - BLOOMBERG

JULY 17, 2022

(Bloomberg) --

Less than a decade ago, London’s Heathrow was the undisputed hub airport for Europe, with thousands of daily passengers and an ambitious expansion plan that included a brand new runway. Terminal 5 was still a novelty -- the UK’s largest free-standing building hosted a string of glitzy shops and restaurants, including one founded by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. The airport was associated with aspiration, growth and an outward-looking Britain.

How things change. Today, Heathrow is locked in yet another dispute with airlines after insisting they halt ticket sales during the lucrative school holiday season, a move that could cost as much as $500 million in lost revenue. The airport has been struggling to manage a post-pandemic rush in holidaymakers, with long queues of frustrated fliers becoming a common scene. One airline, Emirates, initially refused to comply with the cap on passengers, describing it as “airmageddon,” before backing down. The UK government has been forced to intervene, demanding a “credible and resilient” recovery plan from the airport.

Any prospect of a third runway remains years away, as critics ask whether Heathrow needs more space if it cannot even cope with its current capacity, regardless of environmental concerns. With Britain’s chronic labor shortage at the heart of the travel chaos, Heathrow’s travails have become emblematic of a nation beset by economic stagnation, political upheaval and an increasingly uncertain place in the world.

Heathrow is not alone, of course. It has been a torrid summer for air travel across Europe. London’s Gatwick, Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Frankfurt are among a number of airports limiting capacity. Nonetheless, the UK has been harder hit than its counterparts on the Continent, given its extremely low number of job-seekers and a limited supply of European labor post-Brexit.

The Emirates row raised the prospect of a rebellion from other airlines reluctant to curb passenger flows following two years of limited foreign travel. Late Friday, the carrier and the airport announced an about-face.

Emirates said it’s “ready and willing to work with the airport to remediate the situation over the next two weeks, to keep demand and capacity in balance and provide passengers with a smooth and reliable journey through Heathrow this summer,” according to a joint statement. “Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp-up, and is working to adjust capacity.”

The airport’s relationship with carriers was already strained after it tried to increase fees by as much as 95% compared with pre-Covid levels, to compensate for the hit from the pandemic. The plan led to Willie Walsh, the former head of British Airways, accusing the airport’s bosses of having “zero commercial nous.” In June, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority limited fees to an average maximum price of £26.31 ($31.17) per passenger in 2026, down from £30.19 today -- a victory for the airlines and a bloody nose for Heathrow.

The tensions are heightened by the effect of Covid, which triggered losses of $180 billion for airlines according to industry group IATA, which is run by Walsh.

“The aviation industry, including the airports, are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place as they had no choice but to slash their workforces at the height of the pandemic, when no revenue was coming in,” said Rob Morris, the global head of consultancy at Ascend by Cirium. “That’s also meant that in rehiring, they’ve jeopardized their return to profitability and growth.”

The UK’s relatively liberal labor laws made it easy for airport operators and airlines to dismiss staff early in the pandemic. However, they subsequently struggled to replace the workers quickly enough when demand rebounded. Some people have found preferable employment in other parts of the economy, rather than returning to their old jobs at airports or on planes.

“Strict security clearance requirements in the sector, and a reduced post-Brexit pool of candidates able to meet clearance criteria, are slowing down hiring processes at UK airports and airlines,” wrote Fitch Ratings analysts this week. “Low unemployment levels in the country also mean that airports and airlines need to increase pay and provide further incentives to hire staff, increasing costs and putting pressure on margins.” 

While the situation is unenviable, airlines accuse Heathrow of failing to foresee a huge jump in demand for foreign vacations once Covid restrictions were scrapped. Heathrow’s Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye played down a surge in bookings in April, saying that a lot of demand came from “people cashing in vouchers or taking postponed journeys.” Last month he said it could take a further 18 months for the sector to get back to full capacity, leading Virgin Airways boss Shai Weiss to label him “lord doom.”

This year’s peak season shows little sign of producing the kind of revenues that could have been possible. And while Heathrow says it is scaling up hiring and will soon have as many people working in security as it did pre-pandemic, there is no guarantee that demand will stay elevated following a winter of record-high energy prices and soaring food costs.

“For Heathrow and the rest of the aviation industry, I think it’s key to focus on getting sorted for summer 2023, although the gloomy economic outlook makes it much harder to forecast demand,” said Cirium’s Morris. 

Holland-Kaye has diverted some of the blame, arguing that airlines don’t have enough workers, “in particular ground handlers, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft.” 

The feud adds to a sense of frustration around air travel at a time when it was expected to reflect the embrace of pre-Covid freedoms. Instead, the summer holiday season is becoming dominated by pictures of sleeping passengers crowded onto airport terminal floors. 

Ryanair, BA and easyJet strike dates: check if your flight could be cancelled this summer - THE TELEGRAPH

JULY 17, 2022

Holidaymakers face a summer of flight chaos, as easyJet and Ryanair plan strike action through July along with Lufthansa and SAS, over ongoing disputes concerning working conditions and pay.

British Airways had also threatened possible strike action at Heathrow in late July, although developments on July 7 suggest that the airline may have reached an agreement with the unions to sidestep the walkout.

In recent weeks there has been chaos at airports across the continent unrelated to strike action, as airlines and airports struggle with staff shortages following the pandemic. Thousands of flights from the UK have been cancelled in this period, with easyJet one of the worst-affected airlines and Ryanair one of the least impacted.

And the disruption is set to continue as Gatwick plans to cap flight departures through July and August, a move that will lead to thousands of easyJet flight cancellations during the period. Heathrow has also unilaterally cancelled flights due to high passenger numbers (including 61 on July 11 alone), and British Airways will cancel thousands of flights this summer to avoid a repeat of recent disruption.

Below we outline the airline strikes, planned flight cancellations and airport departure capacity limits that have already been announced in the UK and across Europe.

July 1–August 31

Gatwick flights capped

Gatwick Airport has capped the number of flight departures during the peak summer season to 825 daily flights in July and 850 in August. This could lead to the cancellation of as many as 10,000 flights this summer, with easyJet likely to be the most-affected airline. A spokesperson for the airline said: “In response to these caps and in order to build additional resilience, easyJet is proactively consolidating a number of flights across affected airports.”

British Airways flights capped

British Airways has announced it will slash as many as 650 flights through July, affecting up to 100,000 passengers, in an attempt to avoid last-minute delays and cancellations.

July 1–30

Lufthansa cancellations

German flag carrier Lufthansa will cancel up to 1,000 flights on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July, making up around 5 per cent of the airline’s total weekend services. The move is to avoid further disruption due to ongoing staff shortages.

July 12–15

Ryanair strike action across Spain.

Further strike action from the Spanish staff of the Irish low-cost carrier. Madrid, Málaga, Seville, Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Girona Santiago de Compostela, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca are the airports that could be affected by Ryanair strike action.

July 15–17

EasyJet cabin crew strike in Spain

The second proposed dates for a cabin crew walkout in Spain. The first strike dates were between July 1 and July 3. Barcelona, Ibiza, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville and Santiago de Compostela airports could all be affected by the strike action.

July 18–21

Ryanair strike action across Spain.

Madrid, Málaga, Seville, Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Girona Santiago de Compostela, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca are the airports that could be affected by Ryanair strike action.

July 25–28

Ryanair strike action across Spain.

Madrid, Málaga, Seville, Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Girona Santiago de Compostela, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca are the airports that could be affected by Ryanair strike action.

July 29–31

EasyJet cabin crew strike in Spain

The third proposed dates for a cabin crew walkout in Spain. Barcelona, Ibiza, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville and Santiago de Compostela airports could all be affected by the strike action.

Virgin Atlantic to Test Flying Taxis at Its London Heathrow Hub - BLOOMBERG

JULY 18, 2022

BY  Christopher JasperBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. will carry out test flights using a flying taxi model from UK startup Vertical Aerospace Ltd. as the futuristic technology moves closer to becoming a reality.

Virgin will operate one flight from the main airport in Bristol, England, where Vertical is based, to an airfield elsewhere in the southwest, according to a joint statement Monday. A second will link the carrier’s own London Heathrow hub and a so-called vertiport to be built by infrastructure specialist Skyports.

The announcement comes at the start of the Farnborough Airshow southwest of London, where electric vertical takeoff and landing craft, or eVTOLs, are playing a higher profile role as competing designs reach maturity.

The demonstration missions will take place in spring 2024 -- subject to approval by the UK Civil Aviation Authority -- in line with Vertical’s target of receiving type certification for its VX4 craft in time for service entry by 2025.

The program will be supported by £9.5 million ($11.4 million) in UK funding to a group led by engineering firm Atkins and including national air navigation service provider NATS, airports and a number of universities, as well as Vertical, Skyports and Virgin, which has a slew of outline orders for the VX4.

The test flights will evaluate vehicle operation, navigation, ground charging and security provision following development of physical and digital infrastructure, including a vertiport, where ground and aerial trials will begin in about a year.

Vertical Aerospace is one of a number of companies competing to be first to bring eVTOLs to market. The UK startup has a backlog of 1,400 commitments for the VX4, with American Airlines Group Inc. saying Friday it was ready to make down payments to reserve delivery slots.

Aero Contractors suspends operations over economic crisis - PUNCH

JULY 19, 2022

Nigeria’s oldest airline, Aero Contractors, has temporarily suspended operations over economic crisis.

The PUNCH reports that airlines in Nigeria have been lamenting the skyrocketing price and scarcity of aviation fuel, Jet A1, with many of them threatening to shut down.

In the statement announcing the suspension, the airline said the suspension of operation would take effect on July 20.

However, the statement said the temporary halting of operations “does not in any way affect the maintenance activities of the Approved Maintenance Organisation otherwise known as AeroMRO, the Approved Training Organisation also known as Aero Training School, the Helicopter and Charter Services operations.”

“This decision was carefully considered and taken due to the fact that most of our aircrafts are currently undergoing Maintenance, resulting in our inability to offer a seamless and efficient service to our esteemed customers.”

“We are working to bring these aircrafts back to service in the next few weeks, so we can continue to offer our passengers the safe, efficient, and reliable services that Aero Contractors is known for, which is the hallmark of Aero Contractors Company of Nig. Ltd.

“The past few months have been very challenging for the Aviation Industry and the airline operators in particular. With the high cost of maintenance, skyrocketing fuel prices, inflation, and forex scarcity resulting in high foreign exchange rates. These are among the major components of airline operations.

“In the meantime, we are working assiduously to return to service as quickly as possible, and do assure our esteemed customers and stakeholders of our determination, that our short absence will not create any major void in the market, as we are coordinating with our business partners to ensure minimum discomfort to ticket holders.

“As members of Spring Alliance (a commercial alliance with member airlines providing mutual support in the area of operations), we are liaising with our partner airlines to minimise the impact on our esteemed customers.

“Our customer service team will be working to help affected esteemed customers reach their destinations.

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our esteemed customers and promise to return to service as soon as possible. “We thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding at this time.”

This announcement comes just over a month after the Airline Operators of Nigeria recently asserted that three of its members may cease operations due to the unavailable and high prices of Jet A1 among other challenges airlines have had to face so far in the new year.

UK high streets deserted as heatwave hits - YAHOO FINANCE

JULY 19, 2022

The current heatwave is having a dampening effect on the high street in the capital and across the country, with retail footfall in London registering a 18.1% drop on Monday morning.

Figures from Springboard’s “Back to the Office” benchmark showed that across UK high streets, footfall was down 7.3%. High streets in coastal towns saw a surge of footfall by 9%.

“The extreme heat occurring today and tomorrow was already impacting footfall in UK retail destinations over the period up to 11am on Monday morning. Typically when the weather is hot and sunny, shoppers gravitate to outdoor locations, and so footfall in high streets tends to increase while decreasing in shopping centres,” Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said.

In city centres across the UK footfall was 11.5% lower than last week and 16.1% lower in Central London.

The Met Office issued a red extreme heat warning on Monday and Tuesday for parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England.

“People are clearly working at home today as advised, as Springboard's Central London "Back to the Office" benchmark which tracks footfall in areas of Central London that are in close proximity to offices was down by -18.1%," Wehrle said.

"In sharp contrast, footfall in coastal towns across the UK was up by +9% from last Monday.”

“The only parts of the UK where high street footfall rose from last Monday were Scotland (0.6%), Northern Ireland (0.6%) and Wales (3.2%) where temperatures, whilst still hot, are lower than in England.

“As the day progresses and the heat increases, we are anticipating that the gap between footfall in high streets and shopping centres will widen further.”

The UK Health Security Agency issued a level four warning for England, reminding people to take precautions, including staying indoors and drinking plenty of water.

UK temperature exceeds 40C for the first time - Met Office - REUTERS

JULY 19, 2022

  • LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) - A temperature of more than 40C (104F) was provisionally recorded on Tuesday for the first time ever in Britain, the Met Office said.

    The Met Office said the temperature of 40.2C was recorded at London Heathrow at 11:50 GMT.

    Nigeria state suspends chief after bandit is made a royal - AP

    JULY 19, 2022

    Kano – Authorities in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state have suspended a traditional chief after he conferred a royal title on a notorious gang leader wanted for deadly raids and kidnappings.

    Parts of Nigeria’s northwest and central regions have been hit by heavily armed criminal gangs known as bandits, who loot villages and abduct and kill residents.

    The central government has declared bandit militias to be terrorists but the gangs continue to defy the security forces with attacks and kidnappings.

    On Saturday, the traditional emir in Zamfara’s Tsafe district sparked controversy by conferring alleged bandit kingpin Adamu Ada Aleru with the title of Sarkin Fulani, meaning a chief of the Fulani people, also called Peuls.

    Nigeria’s traditional chiefs and emirs have no political authority, but are widely respected in their areas as custodians of local tradition and Islam. 

    The ceremony at the emir’s palace came after an apparent peace deal with Aleru, highlighting the struggle rural communities face in bandit-infested regions.

    Hundreds of Aleru’s comrades emerged from their bush hideouts on motorbikes to attend the ceremony, a palace source told AFP. 

    The royal title has sparked outrage.

    “Crowning a murderer is dancing on the corpses of the victims,” Senator Shehu Sani, a rights activist from the northwest, said in a tweet. 

    On Sunday Zamfara state government announced that the emir would be suspended.

    “Zamfara State Government has dissociated itself from the alleged turbaning of a Sarkin Fulani by the Emir of Birnin Yandoto of Tsafe Local Government Area,” the government said in a statement that did not mention Aleru. 

    “State Executive Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle has directed for suspension of the Emir with immediate effect.” 

    But a spokesman for the emir defended his actions, saying it was done in good faith to ensure peace in his region, which had suffered “unimaginable horror” from bandit attacks. 

    “The title conferred on Aleru was to strengthen the existing peace to which he has played a central role,” Magaji Lawwali said.

    “Before the peace agreement, we were under siege and our people were being killed and abducted for ransom on daily basis, but all these have stopped.” 

    – Revered leader –

    Aleru, 45, commands respect among gangs of bandits and controls hundreds of members, say security sources. 

    “He is held in reverence by his men for his ruthlessness and is behind attacks in parts of Zamfara and Katsina state,” one said. 

    In 2019, police in Katsina placed a five-million-naira ($12,000-) bounty on his head. 

    Bandit attacks have continued despite military operations across the vast Rugu forest, which straddles the northwestern states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna as well as central Niger state. 

    Governments in the affected states have resorted to various strategies to try to end the violence, including amnesties, outlawing ransom payments and telecom blackouts to break communications between gangs. 

    Authorities are also concerned about the growing links between bandits and jihadist groups from the northeast who are making inroads in the northwest-central region.

    “People outside have no idea what we are going through and why we support giving Aleru the title,” said Tsafe resident Attahiru Yahaya.

    “We live at the mercy of bandits who are well-armed and ruthless, attacking our communities at will without any intervention from the government.”

    Yahaya said that since the peace agreement a few months ago, Aleru and his men had not conducted any attacks or kidnappings.

    “We will support any move to maintain this,” he said. 

    Dana Air makes emergency landing, aircraft grounded - NAN

    JULY 19, 2022

    Dana Air says its Abuja-bound Boeing 737 aircraft with registration mark 5N DNA had an emergency landing on Tuesday.

    It said that the aircraft had been grounded for immediate attention by engineers.

    The airline’s Communication Manager, Mr Kingsley Ezenwa made these known in a statement issued in Lagos.

    Ezenwa said that the incident was due to an indication on one of its engines.

    He noted that the Pilot-in-command briefed the passengers on the incident and landed the aircraft safely at the Abuja International airport at about 2.52 p.m.

    “All the 100 passengers disembarked safely and the aircraft has been grounded for immediate attention by our team of engineers.

    “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have also been briefed on the incident,” he said.

    Ezenwa apologised to passengers on board the flight and reassured customers that the airline would continue to maintain high safety standards. (NAN)

    Fuel, forex scarcity, runway closure has crippled our operations – Airlines - THE SUN

    JULY 20, 2022

    By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos

    The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has said that the current JetA1, forex scarcity and the closure of the domestic runway (18L) of Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, have crippled their ability to continue operations.

    In a statement from the spokesperson, Obiora Okonkwo, the AON said the continuous rise in the price of aviation fuel and supply is epileptic and unpredictable at several airports across the country, thereby causing flight delays and cancellations.

    The body called on the Federal Government to look critically at the issues raised in the statement as they affect the scarcity and cost of aviation fuel and foreign exchange so as to find ways of ameliorating the problems that are likely to cause a shutdown of the sector.

    “The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) would like to notify the general public that the JetA1 crisis which began in late February and deteriorated further through the months of March to May, has further worsened and currently threatening the ability of airlines to continue operations. The price of JetA1 rose suddenly from N200 in December 2021 to over N400 per litre in February. Today the price has skyrocketed to over N800 per litre.

    “On top of the continuous rise in the price of Aviation fuel, supply is at best epileptic and unpredictable at several airports across the country thereby causing flight delays, and even cancellations, as airlines queue for fuel at airports across the country.

    “Added to the already difficult situation, is the high cost and scarcity of foreign exchange. It is pertinent to note that airlines carry out most of their activities in US dollars which today sells for N630 to $1; and is sadly also, in short supply. To say the least, airlines are in a ‘life and death’ struggle to secure the foreign exchange that they urgently need to acquire spare parts to ensure the regular routine and scheduled maintenance of aircraft. This is a major influence on how quickly a grounded aircraft can be fixed and restored for flight operations, which impacts greatly on the reliability of schedules, growth of the industry and economic growth and sustainability,” AON said.

    The body also said the decision taken by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at very short notice to airlines has further crippled their operations by causing unsustainable additional operating costs and severely inconveniencing the airlines and passengers.

    It said the closure of the main domestic runway of MMA automatically adds an additional 10-15% more fuel costs per sector into and out of the domestic airport in Lagos, based on the additional flight and taxi time incurred as a result.

    “The reality of the situation in the industry is exacerbated by the action of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which in a NOTAM of July 5, 2022, announced the closure of the domestic runway (18L) of Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Ikeja, beginning July 8, 2022. The closure is for a period of 90 days.

    “In the face of the heavy burden already inflicted on airlines by the worsening Jet A1 crisis, it is most unfortunate that FAAN chose this period to close the runway. The ill-timed and unfortunate decision taken at very short notice to airlines has further crippled air transport operations by causing unsustainable additional operating costs and severely inconveniencing the airlines and passengers.

    “The closure of the main domestic runway of MMA automatically adds an additional 10-15% more fuel costs per sector into and out of the domestic airport in Lagos, based on the additional flight and taxi time incurred as a result. The airlines have already felt these additional costs within the first week of the closure of the runway. This unnecessary burden is unsustainable for a 3-month period on the airlines; especially for the fact that the JetA1 crisis has worsened significantly and the situation remains unpredictable.

    “Moreover, the additional 30 minutes taxi time to the apron forced on the airlines by the closure of runway 18L impacts negatively on schedule reliability to sunset airports around the country leading to delays and cancellation of late flights to such airports.

    “While we welcome the effort by FAAN to install runway lighting on Runway 18L after being delayed for so long, it is pertinent to state that international best practice for such critical airfield infrastructure projects is for the airport operator to enter into discussions with all affected parties, to arrive at an optimal arrangement that allows the work to be done while limiting the inconvenience, economic impact and safety implications on all concerned.

    “Going forward, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) wish to use the medium to graciously show appreciation to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and leadership of the National Assembly, especially the Committees on Aviation, for their concern, and previous interventions, which led to a mutually beneficial and cost-effective three-month aviation fuel supply window through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). That intervention greatly impacted on the aviation sector and solved what would have been a major national embarrassment.

    “However, the issue is yet to be fully and generously resolved. We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to, once again, look critically at the issues raised in the statement as they affect the scarcity and cost of aviation fuel and foreign exchange so as to find ways of ameliorating the problems that are likely to cause a shutdown of this very nationally essential service sector, which had contributed, and continues to contribute, to national economic development through jobs creation, taxes and increased commercial activities,” AON said.

    Price Pressures Build in Nigeria as Diesel Costs Surge 200% - BLOOMBERG

    JULY 20, 2022


    (Bloomberg) -- The Nigerian central bank’s plan to rein in inflation that’s a at five-and-a-half-year high may prove to be even more difficult after diesel prices tripled in June and show little signs of relenting.

    Average diesel prices increased 203% from a year earlier in June to 733.8 naira ($1.74) a liter, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday. That’s the highest level since at least June 2016, its data shows. Diesel prices have risen further to 780 naira a liter this month. 

    The statistic office does a monthly survey of fuel prices that are deregulated and used to calculate inflation data. 

    The high prices are likely to stoke inflation that the central bank’s monetary policy committee said Tuesday it is focused on quelling as it raised its benchmark interest by 100 basis points. Governor Godwin Emefiele said high levels of price growth has “negative consequences, particularly on the purchasing power of the poor, as well as retarding growth.”

    Diesel prices have surged since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Nigerian businesses and most of its population rely on the fuel because of a shortage of power. Poor maintenance and insufficient investment in the transmission network have resulted in only about a third of the country’s installed capacity being dispatched by the grid daily -- a fraction of what’s needed in a nation of more than 200 million people.


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