Travel News

Two Years After, Cross River’s Cally Air’s Planes Grounded Over Concession Moves - DAILY TRUST

JUNE 03, 2023

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Aero Contractors and the Cross River State owned Cally Air on the operation of the airline may have hit…

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Aero Contractors and the Cross River State owned Cally Air on the operation of the airline may have hit the rock over aircraft concession move.

The aircraft belonging to the state government, a Boeing 737-300 with the registration number: 5N-BYQ is in the centre of the crisis, which has stalled the operation of the aircraft and left it grounded.

The state government’s plan to concession the aircraft has been challenged by some indigenes with a senior lawyer, Mr. Mba Ukwenu (SAN) suing the government to stop it from going ahead with its plan.

It was learnt that the Cross River State government planned to “concession” the airline to its consultant and assets manager, IRS Airlines Limited.

Also, Aero Contractors, which has been operating and managing the airline since it signed a MoU with the state government on April 30, 2021 for operations and maintenance of the airline until recently, is reluctant to release the aircraft to the state government over an alleged breach of agreement by the government.

Our correspondent gathered that the government owed Aero Contractors over N900 million for services rendered to it on the operations and maintenance of Cally Air for over 24 months.

The MoU was signed among Cross River State government, IRS Airlines Limited and Aero Contractors for the operation, commercial profit and maintenance of two Boeing 737 aircraft.

According to the MoU, the Cross River State government, acquired two airplanes; 5N-BYQ and 5N-GRS, and selected IRS Airlines Limited as its consultant and assets manager, while Aero Contractors was designated as the operator and expected to provide licenses, permits and certificates necessary for the airline to operate a passenger transport aircraft.

The B737-300 with the registration number: 5N-BYQ is still parked at the Aero Contractors hangar, while the other B737-300 with the registration number: 5N-GRS is grounded at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos due to its non-airworthiness.

It was learnt that about two weeks ago, representatives of Cross River State government, led by Jake Ottu Enyia and Mr. Udiba Effiong Udiba, Commissioners for Aviation and Assets Management and Recovery, respectively, held a meeting with the management of Aero Contractors management on the possibility of returning the aircraft for concessioning.

The Aero Contractors management agreed to the deal, but raised concerns over the N900 million debts owed by the government.

A source at Aero who spoke anonymously said, “There are so many agents. I was not there when it was concluded. If I were there, I would have asked for a full dry lease of the two aircraft, which would enable us manage them 100 per cent and pay to the state government but they extended the arrangement to a third party, which they dubbed coordinator. I didn’t understand that. The arrangement is not favourable to Aero.

“I learnt it is also not favourable to the Cross River State government. So, the arrangement is not transparent and sustainable and that’s why we may not operate the aircraft again; unless they are given to us on dry lease, which is an arrangement that is obtainable all over the world.”

Foreign airlines plan meeting with FG over trapped funds - PUNCH

JUNE 05, 2023

BY  Oyetunji Abioye and Lilian Ukagwu

The Switzerland-based global airline body-International Air Transport Association-on Sunday warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds were a threat to airline connectivity in Nigeria and some affected countries.

IATA disclosed that the industry’s blocked funds had increased by 47 per cent to $2.27bon in April 2023 from $1.55bn in April 2022.

 “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets. Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation,” IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said.

 According to the global airline body, the top five countries account for 68 per cent of blocked funds. These comprise Nigeria ($812.2m), Bangladesh ($214.1m), Algeria ($196.3m), Pakistan ($188.2m), and Lebanon ($141.2m).

IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate these funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

Speaking at the 79th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Istanbul on Sunday, the Regional Vice President, Africa and Middle East, IATA, Kamil Alawadhi, had risen to $812m as of April 2023.

He said IATA was making headway with the Nigerian government on the repatriation of blocked funds until December last year when preparations for the general polls stalled the process. This, he said had led to a significant increase in blocked funds in the country.

 He said with the inauguration of the Bola Tinubu-led government, the global airline body will meet with representatives of the new administration with a view to clearing the backlog of blocked funds.

 Alawadhi said he expects the new government to clear 50 per cent of the trapped funds immediately and then put in place machinery to clear the remaining 50 per cent in a couple of months.

According to the IATA VP, airlines blocked funds have led to a negative perception of Nigeria in the global investment community, a situation that has made many investors shun the country.

The sad development, he said, had also led to high ticket prices in Nigeria.

“Every penny counts, airlines have been affected by the pandemic. Airlines need their funds to run their operations smoothly. We will engage the new government in Nigeria to get the blocked funds repatriated as quickly as possible,” he said.

“This situation means that airlines are increasingly unable to repatriate their commercial revenues from the affected markets, thereby making it challenging for them to continue providing the critical connectivity that drives economic activity and job creation worldwide,”

According to Alawadhi, Africa accounts for 18 per cent of the global population, but just 2.1 per cent of air transport. As such, he said IATA was focusing on closing this gap.

IATA intends to achieve this by improving on air safety, aviation infrastructure, air connectivity, finance and distribution, sustainability, and future skills.

Meanwhile, Walsh reiterated the point and urged governments to collaborate with industry players to address this unfolding crisis over trapped funds.

The IATA DG said, “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets. Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”

Nigeria Owes $812.2m Of $2.27bn Airlines’ Blocked Funds – IATA - DAILY TRUST

JUNE 05, 2023

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds constitute a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.…

    By Abdullateef Aliyu

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds constitute a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.

The industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47% to $2.27 billion in April 2023 from $1.55 billion in April 2022.

IATA’s Director General/CEO, Willie Walsh, disclosed this at the 79th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, which kicked off yesterday.

He said, “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets.

“Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”

“IATA, in an emailed statement to our correspondent yesterday, listed the top five countries which account for 68.0% of blocked funds with Nigeria leading with $812.2 million.

Others are Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million) and Lebanon ($141.2 million)

IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

Rishi Sunak Moves to Curb Migration Citing Strain on UK Services - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 05, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak this week will defend his efforts to curb migration, saying the UK government is struggling to cope with the number of arrivals.

The prime minister will appear at an event in Kent in southern England on Monday to draw attention to progress over the last six months, notably 50% increase on raids for those working illegally and 700 new staff to track people crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the government will deploy barges and unused army bases to house people seeking asylum and tell young men four people will have to share one room.

The measures are aimed at making Britain a less-attractive destination to people arriving through informal routes. Ministers are concerned a record 606,000 more people moved to Britain than departed last year despite a promise to reduce immigration.

“We also can’t allow the UK to be perceived to be a soft touch,” Jenrick said on BBC television’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show. “It’s placing serious pressure on public services and our ability to successfully integrate people into the country.”

Immigration has become a lightning rod for the right wing of the ruling Conservative Party after a wave of migrants arrived in small boats this spring and inflows hit a record. 

Sunak has backed away from a manifesto promise to cut migration, but ministers are working on measures to deport 3,000 people a month deemed to have entered the UK though means they deem are illegal. While the vast majority of immigrants arrive legally with visas, it’s the informal routes and especially asylum that are the prime focus. 

The Labour opposition has promised to cut immigration levels and says the Conservatives are to blame for letting numbers get out of control. The issue has added to friction with business lobby groups, which are urging a relaxing of the rules to allow in workers needed to fill vacant jobs and alleviate upward pressures on wages.

“We want businesses to be in the first instance investing in British workers and technology and automation that drives productivity, not just reaching for the easy lever of foreign labor,” Jenrick told the BBC.

Sunak’s office said on Sunday that the prime minister will say the current measures are working but “there is more to be done.” The government already has signed deals with France and Albania aimed at limiting flows and passed in legislation in the House of Commons that ensures that “if you come here illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed,” Downing Street said in a statement released Sunday.

Jenrick said the asylum system needs “fundamental” reform because it’s “riddled with abuse,” notably the government paying too much money to hotel operators for housing people.

The Illegal Migration Bill, due before the House of Lords on Wednesday, will let officials detain migrants who arrive through informal channels. The government wants to return many of them home — or to Rwanda.

“That will create the deterrent we desperately need,” Jenrick said. “It will break the business model of the people smuggling gangs, and it will stop the system from coming under intolerable pressure like it is today.”

The House of Commons on Wednesday is set to approve a bill that will confirm how and when immigrants are considered settled in the UK for citizenship purposes.

Jenrick said it’s reasonable to ask asylum seekers to share rooms, brushing aside concerns of a group that refused to enter a hotel in Pimlico, where the Home Office had asked them to sleep “four people per room.”

The leader of Westminster City Council expressed “deep concern” that some 40 refugees were placed in the borough last week “without appropriate accommodation or support available,” the Press Association reported.

“We had offered them a safe bed with board and lodgings in a good-quality hotel in central London,” Jenrick said on the BBC. “Yes, some of them had to share with other people. These are single adult males, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

He said the government wants to reduce the cost to taxpayers of housing asylum seekers, saying that putting them in hotels drains “valuable assets for the local business community.”

Read more:

  • Migration to UK Hits Record Despite Sunak’s Clampdown Vow
  • UK Economists See Migration Falling in Election Boost for Sunak
  • UK’s Sunak Planning to Deport 3,000 Asylum Seekers Per Month
  • Sunak Backs Away From Manifesto Pledge to Cut UK Migration

(Updates with details of Sunak’s appearance on Monday in second and 10th paragraphs.)

NIS produced 4.5 million passports in four years – Report - PUNCH

JUNE 05, 2023

A total of 4,591,055 passports have been produced by the Nigeria Immigration Service between August 2019 and May 2023.

Also, there were no fewer than 4,736,075 applications for passports within the period under review.

Our correspondent observed an exponential increase yearly in the number of passports produced by the service.

Data obtained from a document from the Ministry of Interior showed that in 2019, no fewer than  470,363 passports were produced; for the following year,  a total of 780,470 were printed while in 2021, 1, 057,908, passports were manufactured.

Similarly,  in 2022 a total of 1,621,703  passports were produced, and between January and May 2023, a total of 660,611 passports have so far been produced.

Also,  the document contained the number of all classes of visas issued by the service to foreign nationals.

It stated that a total of 342,766 visas were issued within the years under review.

A breakdown showed that 70,582 were issued in 2019; 70,874 in 2020; 94,681 in 2021; 78,282 in 2022, while between January and May 2023, a total of 28,347 visas were issued by the service.

Also,  within this period, visa categories were increased from six to 79.

The total number of international traveller movement into the country between August 2019 and May 2023 was put at 9,433,218.

In 2019, 1,123,754 movements were recorded; 1,579,667 in 2020; 2,750,846 in 2021; 2,998,306 in 2022 and 980,645 in 2023.

Within the period under review, more than 150,000 stolen and lost travel document records have been uploaded into the INTERPOL’s database.

Sunak Vows to Stop Boat Migrants as Time Winds Down on Pledge - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 05, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his government is making progress on cutting the number of people coming to the UK from France on small boats, though he struggled to fend off questions about whether adverse weather is the main reason behind the year-on-year decline this year.

“Our plan is working,” Sunak said at a press conference in Dover, southern England on Monday, citing a 20% decline in crossings between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2022. “But we are not complacent.”

Read More: Sunak Moves to Curb Migration Citing Strain on UK Services

Sunak’s “stop the boats” effort is one of his five flagship promises - alongside halving inflation, growing the UK economy, reducing debt and cutting NHS waiting lists - against which he wants to be judged at a general election expected next year. Facing a double-digit poll deficit against the opposition Labour Party, stubbornly high inflation and recent poor local election results, Sunak is under pressure to show he’s making progress on those pledges. 

Asked whether the decline has been due to particularly poor weather in the Channel in the first half of 2023 - a key determinant of crossings - Sunak pointed to the higher number of migrant arrivals in other parts of Europe as evidence the UK’s plan is working. He said a British deportation deal with Albania and enhanced cooperation with France is bearing fruit.

During the press conference, Sunak was asked whether the fact that no small boats had arrived for several days played a part the timing of his visit to Dover. “There’s many things I can control, the weather is not one of them,” the prime minister replied.

The danger for Sunak is crossings surge again in the summer months, when the majority of journeys typically occur. Sunak declined to specify a figure for what would constitute an acceptable number of crossings under his flagship policy, saying it would be for others to judge.

“I’ve always said this won’t be fixed overnight,” he said. “I will do what is necessary to achieve it.”

Sunak’s government has been trying to make the UK a less attractive destination for people arriving via routes it considers to be illegal, though ministers have faced a barrage of criticism that it means many asylum seekers have no available options for reaching the country.

The Illegal Migration Bill, due before the House of Lords on Wednesday, will let officials detain migrants who arrive through unrecognized channels. The government wants to return many of them home — or to Rwanda.

Ministers are concerned a record 606,000 more people moved to Britain than departed last year despite a promise to reduce immigration.

AfCTFA: Nigeria, others urged to reduce border checks - PUNCH

JUNE 05, 2023

African trade experts have identified difficult border checks, harassment, solicitation from security officials, kickbacks from traders and bad roads as barriers hindering the maximisation of opportunities in Intra-Africa trade.

This was disclosed in the latest edition of Pathway Africa magazine obtained by our correspondent from the Ministry of Aviation.

The Secretary-General, African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs, Lucia Quachey, was quoted as saying, “Only a few hundred kilometres separate Lagos, Nigeria, from Accra in Ghana but for the thousands of traders who ply this route, the journey through these routes can take a full day. Customs officials and police at roadblocks will make you unload and unpack every little package in order to delay you for hours.”

She further advocated the dismantling of various tariffs and non-tariff barriers and the building of infrastructure to boost trade.

AfCFTA project aims to ease conditions for commerce between Africa’s 55 nations, eliminating barriers and increasing trade, which is projected to have an enormous impact on the continent, its 1.3 billion citizens and an estimated $3.4tn GDP.

Similarly, the Secretary-General, Abuja Memorandum of Understanding, Sunday Umoren, called for active collaboration of private sectors and development partners.

He emphasised the need to engage carriers and vessel owners in delivering on AFCFTA.

“Shipping is the bedrock of globalisation it helps in ensuring that the benefit of trade and commerce are more evenly spread across countries

“All African industrial policymakers should be bold in developing and implementing an extensive range of reforms and trade facilitation measures needed to achieve the substantial rewards and dividends that the agreement offers,” he said.

Umoren urged that nothing should stop the region from having a ship-owning capacity to eliminate the burden and impact of the high freight rate of foreign ships.

 Meanwhile, a financial expert, Jonathan Aremu, has noted that essential domestication of laws and policies is being ironed out, adding the final details will be rectified through assent by the national assembly and relevant ministries.

Speaking in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, the Professor of Economics at Covenant University said, “Economic integration means countries coming together to discuss the type of trade and what we will be doing in common but what is delaying the process is that some essential documentation has to be done. The policies have to be implemented in domestic laws and will be sent to the National Assembly for assent. After this, the signed policies will be sent to different ministries that will participate because you need one approval or the other from these ministries and the relevant laws in those ministries have to be adjusted to accommodate what we have rectified. While the process is ongoing, nobody can say anything but a lot is ongoing on.

“There is pressure on countries involved because they want it to work, a lot of traders want to participate as well but things must be put in place else if there is a mistake, the culprit will be severely punished.”

Qatar Airways Plans for Future Without First Class on Long-Haul - BLOMBERG

JUNE 05, 2023

BY Danny LeeBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s best airline is cooling on the world’s fanciest cabin seat. 

Qatar Airways, which routinely pockets the top prize at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, won’t have first-class berths on its next-generation long-haul aircraft, according to Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker. Al Baker said the investment in the most luxurious seats doesn’t justify the returns, given that Qatar’s business-class offering provides much of the same perks.

“Why should you invest in a subclass of an aeroplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you,” said Al Baker, speaking in an exclusive hour-long interview in Istanbul on Saturday. “I don’t see the necessity.”

Phasing out first class on long-haul routes isn’t without strategic risk. The move runs counter both to Qatar’s five-star image and an industry trend that has seen airlines from Deutsche Lufthansa AG to Qantas Airways Ltd to Air France doubling down on their high-end offerings. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has said more leisure travelers are looking for a special treat, and that the front of his aircraft have never been fuller.

For Al Baker, however, the future lies in business class, which Qatar has branded its “Q-suite” product. That’s why there will be no first class on its future next-generation Boeing Co. 777X aircraft. These jets will become the biggest that the airline operates once it eventually retires all 10 of its Airbus SE A380s, which still contain 8 first class seats.

Read more: Qatar Airways Sees Robust Travel Demand Amid Capacity Squeeze

Cabin classes have become more elastic over the years, with carriers squeezing in premium economy between business and budget seat rows. First class has remained more of a gimmick that corporate clients limit to top executives, or that attracts ordinary passengers splurging on a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.

Read more: First Class Gets Even Fancier as Airlines Take Luxury Up a Level

Supply Chain

The aviation supply chain remains a great source of concern for Qatar Airways, as shortages of parts and snowballing backlogs in the production line hit plane deliveries.

Al Baker, speaking ahead of the annual International Air Transport Association gathering of some 300 airlines, said his airline is about 15 planes short of the 25 it expected to take over of this year — pointing to issues on the Boeing 787, the Airbus 321neo and the A350 jets.

Read more: Boeing CEO Warns Supply Woes Could Last ‘Very Long Time’

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has sought to temper expectations of a quick fix to supply-strain constraints, warning the aerospace industry could face half a decade worth of disruption to all important aircraft deliveries.

“What is happening is a vicious circle and this is the industry’s biggest challenge,” said Al Baker. “Our growth ambitions will have to be capped with the shortage of capacity.”

Qatar Airways said it doesn’t expect its own delivery delays will be resolved before the end of next year.

Australia Expansion

In terms of expansion, the Gulf carrier has its eyes on Australia, Al Baker said. Qatar Airways is bidding to expand flights and also plans to back new partner Virgin Australia against arch-rival Qantas. Al Baker responded with a smile when asked about an investment in Virgin Australia. While no discussions had taken place, he said “it depends, we’ll see”.

The carrier is seeking to add an extra daily service each into Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. It currently operates a daily flight into all cities except Melbourne, which is twice a day.

Qatar Airways is confident the expansion will be viewed favorably, said Al Baker, pointing out that he continued to operate international flights to most countries during the pandemic — whereas many national airlines stopped flying outright. 

“I don’t think is a very big ask to the authorities,” Al Baker said. 

Air-France KLM Shops for Widebody Jets as Long-Haul Travel Grows - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 05, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Air France-KLM is looking to replace a set of aging widebody aircraft, seeking to pick up more fuel-efficient units from Airbus SE and Boeing Co. that can serve surging long-haul travel demand. 

The airline group is shopping for replacements for Airbus A330 jets that average 20 years and a batch of two-decade old Boeing 777s, Chief Executive Officer Ben Smith said in an interview at the IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul. The carrier has already retired its fleet of Boeing 747s and A380s and has added more modern 787 Dreamliners and Airbus’s A350 aircraft. 

Part of the evaluation process includes the new reality of having to circumnavigate Russian airspace following the invasion of Ukraine. That detour can add several hours to a flight and changes the requirements for the aircraft, Smith said. 

“A plane that is optimized at 15 hours and one that’s optimized at 12 is not necessarily the same, so this of course now plays into the evaluation, where a year and a half ago would not have been the case,” Smith said.

Any fleet replacements are likely to happen in or after 2025 because no slots are available any sooner, Smith said. Airlines across the world are snapping up widebody jets as long-haul travel rebounds and stretches out waiting lists for newer, more fuel efficient jets.

Smith reiterated that the airline group remains interested in Portuguese carrier TAP, highlighting the airline’s “interesting geographical positioning” and its close ties with South America and Brazil in particular. 

Still, the group is weighing any move on TAP, for which the Portuguese government has begun evaluating options, “with great caution and no emotion,” Smith said.

“It’s interesting under the right conditions,” Smith said.

--With assistance from Guy Johnson.

British Airways Tells 35,000 Staff Their Data Was Hacked - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 05, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- British Airways, Boots and the BBC told thousands of staff that personal information may have been compromised by a cyberattack on their payroll provider, Zellis.

At British Airways, the hack led to the disclosure of employees’ personal information, including names, surnames, dates of birth as well as potentially banking details, according to a spokesperson for the carrier, which employs around 35,000 people.

Pharmacy chain Boots, with more than 50,000 workers, said employees’ personal details were affected. The server was disabled and staff have been made aware, said a spokesperson for Boots, which is owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. 

The BBC confirmed it had been affected by the attack on Zellis. A spokesperson said it was urgently trying to establish the extent of the data breach.

It’s the latest cyberattack to affect the BBC after outsourcing company Capita Plc, which helps to enforce the licence fee that funds the UK public broadcaster, was targeted in March.

Read More: Capita Fears Some Customer Data Was Stolen in Cyberattack

A spokesperson from the National Cyber Security Centre said it was working to fully understand the impact in the UK from the attack on Zellis.

The most recent incident occurred through the file transfer tool of one of Zellis’s third-party suppliers, called MOVEit.

“Our data protection team is working closely with IAG’s Group Security Operations Centre to ensure the containment of the issue and to mitigate any misuse of information,” British Airways said.

The data theft adds to a string of technology glitches afflicting British Airways. Last month, a computer outage forced IAG SA’s flagship carrier to cancel hundreds of flights. Group Chief Executive Officer Luis Gallego said earlier Monday that IAG’s tech issues are fixable “but it’s going to take time.” 

Read More: British Airways IT Outage Leads to More Canceled Flights

IAG is investing huge amounts in its tech infrastructure, Gallego said at the annual International Air Transport Association general meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

--With assistance from Siddharth Philip and Ryan Gallagher.

(Updates with detail on the BBC throughout.)


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