Travel News

We’re planning four airports’ concession for 30 years – FG - PUNCH

JUNE 03, 2021

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim

The Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports will be on concession for a minimum of 20 to 30 years, the Federal Government said on Wednesday.

It provided the explanation in a document on frequently asked questions about airport concession released by the Federal Ministry of Aviation in Abuja.

In a document on the status of the road map/public private partnership projects concession of airports, made available to our correspondent, the government named the airports/parts that were up for concession.

They include the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos: international and cargo terminals; and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja: international, domestic and cargo terminals.

Others include the Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt: international, domestic and cargo terminals; and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano: international, domestic and cargo terminals.

Providing additional explanation on the duration of the concession in a separate document, it said, “Infrastructure concessions of this nature come with a significant financial obligation which any responsible concessionaire will no doubt be keen to recoup.

“To this end we envisage a minimum of 20) to 30 years for the programme, which may be extended depending on performance and Nigeria’s best interests.

“That said, the duration is not set in stone and will be subject to negotiation and then final approval by the Federal Executive Council.”

The aviation ministry stated that although the airports had huge potential, they were currently operating at a sub-optimal level.

It said the government was starting with the most strategic assets because successful delivery of this concession programme would give all stakeholders the confidence required to consider other possibilities in the sector.

The ministry said the concession applied to the non-aeronautic assets of the airports located in the passenger and cargo terminals.

It said these comprised the assets from the entry door of the airport to the point of embarking and disembarking from an aircraft to the exit doors.

The ministry explained that this space commonly referred to as the passenger terminal comprised of retail spaces, waiting and seating areas, airport and airline lounges, baggage collection, check-in counters as well as administrative offices.

It added that the cargo terminals were comprised of the facilities between the point of entry and up to loading and off-loading points, including administrative offices within said facilities.

EU plans digital ID wallet for bloc's post-pandemic life - THE CANADIAN PRESS

JUNE 03, 2021

LONDON (AP) — The European Union unveiled plans Thursday for a digital ID wallet that residents could use to access services across the 27-nation bloc, part of a post-pandemic recovery strategy that involves accelerating the shift to an online world.

The European Digital Identity Wallet proposed by the EU's executive commission is a smartphone app that would let users store electronic forms of identification and other official documents, such as driver's licenses, prescriptions and school diplomas.

The bloc's 450 million residents would be able to use the wallet to access public or private services both online and offline while maintaining control of their personal data.

Officials envision the wallet allowing a customer renting a car at an airport, for example, to complete the necessary ID checks and documents digitally and thereby skip the usual wait at an agency counter. Nightclub-goers could show the app to security guards at the door to prove their ages.

Other potential uses include opening bank accounts, signing apartment leases and enrolling in universities outside an individual's home country.

The digital wallet “will enable us to do in any member state as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission's executive vice president for digital, said. "And do this in a way that is secure and transparent.”

All EU residents would be entitled to an e-wallet, but they won’t be mandatory, according to the EU Commission.

But dominant online platforms would be required to accept the wallet, a provision that aligns with the commission's goal of reining in big tech companies and their control of personal data.

Vestager said people would be able to use their EU digital wallets to access Google or Facebook instead of their “platform-specific” accounts.

“Because of that, you can decide how much data you want to share - only enough to identify yourself,” the commissioner said from Brussels during a virtual media briefing.

Digital is a key part of the EU's post-COVID 19 recovery package: A 750 billion-euro ($915 billion) stimulus fund includes benchmarks for member countries to spend one-fifth of the money on digital projects such as digitizing public administration.

Some EU countries already have their own national digital ID systems, and the wallet Brussels is developing would work with them.

The commission plans to discuss the wallet with the EU's 27 member countries and aims to get them to agree on technical details by fall 2022 so pilot projects can begin.

Qatar Resumes Phuket Flights - THISDAY

JUNE 04, 2021

Qatar Airways marked a significant milestone in the rebound of international leisure travel with the resumption of four weekly flights to the famed holiday destination of Phuket, Thailand, starting 1 July.

The airline said in addition to its 12 weekly Bangkok flights, the airline will operate a total of 16 weekly flights to Thailand, providing seamless connectivity for its passengers travelling from Europe, the Middle East and United States. As Thailand reopens to holidaymakers from around the world, fully vaccinated travellers will soon be able to visit once again whilst also enjoying the award-winning hospitality and service available on Qatar Airways and at its hub, Hamad International Airport, the first and only 5-Star COVID-19 Safety Rated Airport in the Middle East.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “With the resumption of flights to Phuket, Qatar Airways marks a significant milestone in the recovery of international tourism. We are proud to have lead the industry, setting the benchmark for safety, innovation and customer service throughout the pandemic.

“We know many of our customers are eager to get back flying and return to some of their favourite holiday destinations, such as Phuket. Famed for its many exotic beaches, family friendly atmosphere, turquoise waters and delicious local cuisine, Phuket is an ideal destination for a summer getaway. We look forward to working with our partners in Thailand to support the recovery of their tourism sector.”

Passengers Suffer Check-in Delays as SITA Withdraws Service - THISDAY

JUNE 04, 2021

By Chinedu Eze

Check-in for hundreds of international air travellers to various destinations was on Tuesday delayed for several hours when the airlines reverted to manual system for passenger facilitation.

This was because on May 31, 2021, Societe International Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA), which provides Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), withdrew its services and the company, Arlington Securities Nigeria Services, which was supposed to replace SITA, was yet to install its own equipment to migrate airlines to the new system.

CUTE is IT solution that enables multiple airlines to use existing airport facility to check in passengers.

THISDAY learnt that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) rejected SITA after it provided the agency service for over 10 years and chose Arlington, but as at the time SITA withdrew its services as was agreed with FAAN, Arlington was not ready to provide unobstructed succession, thus forcing airlines to revert to manual check in that is fraught with delays.

A senior official of FAAN who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that Arlington and SITA bided, but FAAN preferred Arlington, so SITA having known that its services would no longer be renewed allegedly pulled out on May 31, as FAAN had already said Arlington would take over.

“But from all indications, Arlington is not ready and they have not installed their self-check-in machine. Recently there was trial for their equipment but what they brought in did not work. So those airlines like Air France, which did not have back-up equipment resorted to manual services and this caused so much delays,” the official said.

Country manager of a major international airline told THISDAY that globally it is the airport that provides CUTE system for passengers, saying that when SITA was to pull out, FAAN management arranged a meeting with airlines on Tuesday but later cancelled it.

“The major devastating effect of what has happened is the delay in passenger processing and the major reason why airports are necessary is for passenger processing.

“Security came up because airports are seen as targets. What is happening inconveniences passengers. Ideally it should take three minutes to process each passenger, using Advanced Passenger Information Service (APIS).

“You know that when you are travelling from country A to country B, the destination country should get information of the passenger ahead so that countries like the United State’s Transport Security Administration (TSA) will profile the passenger. If he is a security risk you will not get his boarding pass. Manual check in is cumbersome,” he said.

The official suggested to THISDAY that what might be behind the rejection of SITA with its well-known experience globally might not be unconnected to the revenue involved in providing such service.

“The in-coming company has 1999 technology, which is even behind the equipment provided by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), which operated the domestic terminal, MMA2,” he further alleged.

However, when contacted, the General Manager, Corporate Communication of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu said that most of the airlines have migrated to Arlington equipment, stressing that the company is efficient and would provide the needed services.

“Most of the airlines have migrated to the new company and we are going to have a meeting today (Wednesday) with the airlines. So there is no cause for alarm,” she said.

The new company would also provide services to the five international airports in the country, including the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa and Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, but SITA only provided service to Lagos and Abuja only.

As New Airlines Engenders Competition, Fare Reduction - THISDAY

JUNE 04, 2021

Chinedu Eze writes that the new players in the aviation sector may tame current outrageous fares, boost capacity and make domestic market more competitive

What is ironic is that when many airlines in other parts of the world are shutting down and aircraft being rested due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19, Nigeria is witnessing the emergence of new airlines.

It is also at a period when aircraft maintenance facilities overseas are not working at their peak due to the pandemic, forcing aircraft due for maintenance to queue, prompting the call for major maintenance facility in Nigeria.

This is also a period when the naira is under pressure and has depreciated against the dollar, forcing the costs of goods and services up the ceiling, including airfares.

But the coming of new airlines gives hope to air travellers that competition in the air travel market would bring down the fares.

This is one of the benefits identified by aviation experts who said new airlines that are being registered by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) would boost the contribution of the sector to the nation’s GDP, reduce the cost of flight tickets, create more jobs and develop new flight routes and destinations.

According to them, it is surprising that despite the devastating effects of the pandemic on the global economy, including Nigeria, investors are still being attracted to the aviation industry to establish new airlines at the time other parts of the world are scaling down air travel.

New airlines have been emerging in Nigeria since the coming of Ibom Air, which started operations in 2019, United Nigeria Airlines, which started in February 2021, Green Africa which is poised to start operation in June, Chanchangi Airlines, which has staged a comeback when it obtained Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in April, NG Eagle, Binani Air, Obike Airways and Cardinal Airlines, which are in line to join the market.

More Jobs

Experts noted that more airlines joining the domestic market means that there would be more jobs for Nigerians as well as manpower development, adding that contribution of the aviation sector to the nation’s economy would increase.

Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko told THISDAY that establishing new airlines means new investment into Nigeria’s economy, new jobs for Nigerians and development of new routes, which would benefit air travelers.

But, he noted that existing airlines are facing the problem of capacity.

“Most of the airlines are using smaller aircraft, those that have large fleet most of them are not operational so you have an increase number of passengers. The airlines have limited supply of equipment so when the supply is not meeting the demand there is going to be a lot of problems of flight delay, flight cancellation and there will be so many reasons for aircraft on ground.

“Until the Nigerian airlines come back to full health, these problems will remain with us,” he said. On his part, former CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that the emergence of new airlines was good for the nation’s economy. This, he said was made possible by government which created conducive environment by introducing zero tariff for imported aircraft and spares, removal of VAT, which is a huge burden off domestic carriers.

“Government has put a lot of policies in place to enhance new investment in the aviation industry with the introduction of zero duty on imported aircraft and spares and the removal of VAT. We also look forward to improved foreign exchange access,” he said.

He said more airlines joining the market do not mean that they would concentrate on already established routes but many of them would develop the secondary airports, develop new routes and also enhance manpower development.

Aircraft Choice

However, Sanusi noted that the new airlines have chosen short haul aircraft because they already know the routes they want to operate and are acquiring the aircraft type that would suit those routes and disclosed that acquiring these short haul aircraft is possible because currently regional aircraft are available and affordable, as airlines in other parts of the world are resting such aircraft types due to the effect of COVID-19.

So they are available for sale and for lease and in addition, the coming airlines have done their studies and matched the aircraft types to the routes they intend to operate.

“The new airlines are acquiring small body aircraft. These are the airplanes that are available now for lease and for purchase. The airlines that are coming up have carried out studies and have chosen the routes that need smaller aircraft. Some routes have changed over time, some are no more functional so new routes would have to be developed.

“Smaller aircraft are less expensive to run, the cost of operation is lower than bigger aircraft, but the only challenge they will face is the expertise.

“They will have to train new engineers, which means providing more jobs for Nigerians. Nigeria has engineers who have expertise for Boeing 737, ATR, and Bombardier; so they would train more engineers that will specialise in the new aircraft types like Embraer 145, the Airbus A2020. Emergence of new airlines means more jobs, manpower development and better service to the passengers,” Sanusi said.

He said some airlines might build their major operations on new airports like the ones in Kebbi, Asaba, Osubi and others and build a very good network, like flying from Yola directly to Calabar, from Owerri to Kano without a stop in Abuja, noting that the short haul aircraft can deliver high load factor with about 40 passengers.

Industry analyst and the publicity secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Olu Ohunayo, said it was the best decision for emerging airlines to choose small body aircraft because they are appropriate for the market.

He said it enables airlines to increase their frequency, as it carries relatively fewer persons on every flight and enables airlines to break even with 50 per cent load factor.

“It will attract more customers because it is the right aircraft that fits the domestic and regional market, but what the airlines should ensure is that there is reliability, passenger satisfaction and safety.

“It costs less to maintain, especially at this time of low forex access. What the airlines with smaller aircraft need is to build maintenance facility in Nigeria so that it will cost less to maintain their aircraft,” Ohunayo said.

Low Capacity

In his contribution, the President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria and Managing Director/CEO of Smile Air, Alex Nwuba said the new airlines would provide the needed capacity and this would help to reduce the cost of airfares, noting that existing airlines have not been able to meet the needs of the market.

“Existing airlines capacity to meet the market needs has been significantly degraded so artificial demand is created which results rather in the opportunity for carriers to increase prices. The problem however is that a new entrant may push a disruptive price strategy and reduce prices to capture market share which results in reaction from other carriers which will lead to losses and industry failure.

“However this is how free markets should operate except when a national carrier is introduced, which is meant to live off on special incentives and anticompetitive practices with dire consequences for a thin margin industry like aviation.

“With respect to employment more airlines should create additional jobs, which will initially absorb the large numbers of professionals out of work. If the market grows it will have long-term benefits but a disruption will have further dire consequence.

“Oxford economics reports that aviation contributes only 0.4 per cent to the Nigerian economy, this should grow under the right circumstances with the emerging airlines,” Nwuba said.

More Alternatives

To the Managing Director, Flight and Logistics Solutions, Amos Akpan, emerging operators mean more airlines with more aircraft have come to provide services for air travelers, so existing customers will have choices from these new services.

“Operators will become innovative in the services they offer. They will create services to attract more customers. Nigerians need more air travel options. We have to increase flight frequencies to most secondary airports: Kebbi, Bauchi, Akure, Osubi, Asaba, Eket, Ibadan, Makurdi, Minna, Kaduna, Jos, Ilorin, Calabar, Sokoto need increased flight frequency.

“Travel by road is no longer the preferred choice and won’t be for a long time in Nigeria. What the new and incoming operators need is to design operational module to suit the environment. Choice of aircraft type, route network and size of operations is key to viability.

“One may cultivate the business class traveller, another may cultivate traders and economy travelers, another may choose to cultivate the mixed market, some may synchronise their schedule to distribute international passengers from the hub airports (Lagos/Abuja/Kano/Port Harcourt). Each operator will chose how to present her Service with the aircraft cabin outlay, the aircraft type, and the route,” Akpan said. He also noted that there are also various business ventures for new airlines to pursue, especially in the general aviation sector.

“The entrance of new airlines will create employment in the sector, it will generate training needs which will improve skilled manpower. We need to stress on business modules that will make the new airlines sustainable.

“Cooperation amongst the operators will eliminate excess capacity on specific routes at certain times. Hub and spoke is good using modern propeller aircraft.

“There are also various business ventures for new airlines to pursue especially in the general aviation sector. The entrance of new airlines will create employment in the sector; it will generate training needs, which will improve skilled manpower.

“We need to stress on business modules that will make the new airlines sustainable. Cooperation amongst the operators will eliminate excess capacity on specific routes at certain times. Hub and spoke is good using modern propeller. Yes! Nigerian aviation industry can take up to 50 operators and more if the business opportunities in general aviation is exploited,” Akpan added.


On whether the emerging airlines would drive down fares, the Chief Operating Officer and Accountable Manager of Dana Air, Obi Mbanuzuo warned that it is economic parameters, not having more airlines that determine airfares.

He said that airfares are dependent on cost of operation and noted that no airline would sell ticket that would keep it unprofitable.

“To be honest with you, we have to look at more of the input into, because the fare is dependent on the cost of the operation. No airline will sell a ticket that keeps them unprofitable.

“So, a lot of the input in the airline business in Nigeria is dependent on foreign maintenance of its aircraft for the input, let me give you an example, two of our aircraft is in Europe now for maintenance.

“So, 99 per cent of all the maintenance is done abroad. Yes we have MRO (maintenance facility) locally but the level of service it can offer is limited and there is a lot of aircraft parked here and there, queuing for checks.

“The situation is not always ideal. Maintenance is largely done overseas, all the spare parts are acquired in foreign currency; so the question of when people will have affordable fares is a function of the economy of the country. If the foreign currency is rising day by day; then I am afraid I cannot give you any hope that things will get better until the general economic situation gets better. “Unfortunately the operating environment is not conducive. And apart from the input, we always talk about leasing, purchasing aircraft, when those things are sourced from abroad in foreign currency, I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel soon,” he said.

Where you'll likely need a vaccine passport, where you won't - YAHOO NEWS

JUNE 04, 2021

From sporting events to international travel, it may become more common for businesses and countries to start asking people to show proof of vaccination. Find out where you'll need a vaccine passport here.

AMA DAETZ: This week, as part of our efforts to build a better Bay Area, we're focusing on Bay Area tourism, how it's changed through the pandemic and how it's bouncing back this summer. An index-sized card that more than half of you have right now could be your key to a hassle-free experience.

DAN ASHLEY: Yeah, we're talking about your vaccine card, your vaccine passport. "7 On Your Side's" Michael Finney looks at how it might come in handy.

MICHAEL FINNEY: I hope everybody hung onto their card. You're going to need it. And if you've received at least one COVID shot, a medical professional likely handed you your vaccine passport. Now, here's where you'll need it and where you likely won't.

From sporting and other live events to international travel and even some college campuses, having proof of vaccinations, even if not mandatory, will make your life easier.

SCOTT KEYES: What they're saying with the vaccine passport is, essentially, creating not a do not enter sign, but a fast lane for folks who have been vaccinated.

MICHAEL FINNEY: Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights says that vaccine passport means not having to go into quarantine or undergo testing to fly to Hawaii and many other countries. Airlines flying overseas will likely ask for proof of travel eligibility. Sharon Pinkerton is with the trade group Airlines of America.

SHARON PINKERTON: And that means either a vaccine or potentially-- again, only in the context of international travel-- can demonstrate that they've had a negative COVID test.

MICHAEL FINNEY: Trader Joe's and Walmart are among the first retailers to ease the mask mandate for customers in locations where local ordinances will allow it. Mike LeFever is the CEO of the risk management consultancy firm Concentric. He predicts retailers will enforce the new rules much the same way they are enforced at live sporting events.

MIKE LEFEVER: And it's all about, you know, I think, managing risk for the individual or mitigating risk, what they feel comfortable with.

MICHAEL FINNEY: Cruise lines may be the next big industry to require vaccine passports. Stewart Chiron, also known as The Cruise Guy, is a consultant for the cruise industry. Chiron doesn't think cruises will resume out of California until late fall or early winter.

STEWART CHIRON: The cruise lines that are sailing from those ports are requiring all passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated at this point.

MICHAEL FINNEY: Will the use of vaccine passports expand beyond any of this? The airline industry says no.

SHARON PINKERTON: We, essentially, don't believe somebody should be required to have a vaccine in order to travel.

MICHAEL FINNEY: Employers are also unlikely to require proof of vaccination, except in a few limited areas.

MIKE LEFEVER: Again, based on the industry, if it is-- involved, you know, close interaction and social interaction, I foresee that there may be a requirement.

MICHAEL FINNEY: For those who decide they won't get vaccinated, they may have to live with the consequences.

MIKE LEFEVER: Here's a decision that you may have made that these are the impacts, based on your decision.

MICHAEL FINNEY: The US Travel Association encourages everyone to get fully vaccinated.

TORI BARNES: We're actively encouraging folks to get the COVID vaccine as soon as possible. We think that that's the best way to move this country forward.

MICHAEL FINNEY: The first cruise out of a US port will be on Celebrity out of Fort Lauderdale into the Caribbean. It's at the end of this month. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have announced cruises from Seattle to Alaska that will begin in July. Now, our experts say the use of COVID passports could expand further if any COVID variants take hold and we see another surge in the cases. You get a surge, you're going to start using that card more and more. That's what the experts think.

DAN ASHLEY: OK. Let's hope we don't have to use it.


DAN ASHLEY: Michael, thank you.

Covid-19: Portugal queries amber status as UK tightens rules - BBC

JUNE 04, 2021

By Mary O'Connor & Becky Morton

Portugal has questioned the UK's decision to remove it from the travel green list from Tuesday.

The move to the amber list means UK tourists should not visit the country and returnees must isolate for 10 days.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps cited rising cases and a Covid mutation found in Portugal. But the travel firm Tui said 50% of passengers due to travel there in June are still planning to go.

But Portugal said it could not understand the "logic" of the move.

Cristovao Norte, Portuguese MP for the Algarve, said he was "perplexed" by the government's decision to remove the country from the green list.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Portugal was "not expecting the decision", as beyond a spike in the capital, Lisbon, its transmission rate was "more or less" that of the UK's.

"We wear masks, we obey the rules, we maintain social distancing, vaccination is growing steadily. So I'm a little bit perplexed," he said.

In the first review of England's traffic light list for international travel, no new destinations were added to the green list, where travellers must be tested but do not have to quarantine on their return.

Seven countries - Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago - are being added to the red list.

Holidaymakers should not travel to amber or red list countries, according to government guidance.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have confirmed they will adopt the same changes, which come into effect at 04:00 BST on 8 June.

The green list will reviewed again on 28 June.

The travel industry has criticised the change, saying it will threaten jobs and consumer confidence - with the boss of Heathrow Airport warning the sector faces "another lost summer".

The UK government said the decision to move Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, to the amber list followed increased concern about a mutation of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

The Department for Transport said 68 cases of the Delta variant had been identified in Portugal, including cases with an additional, potentially detrimental mutation, being referred to as the Nepal mutation.

Public Health England (PHE) told the BBC the mutation of the variant was present in multiple countries, including a small number of cases in the UK.

It is investigating the mutation to better understand whether it could be more transmissible and less effectively tackled by vaccines.

The number of positive Covid cases in Portugal has also nearly doubled since the last review, the department said, adding the situation "has required swift action to protect the gains made with the [UK] vaccine rollout".

On 2 June, Portugal had 5.4 new cases per 100,000 people per day, which was only a little higher than the UK at 5.1 - but differences in the amount of testing being done make direct comparisons difficult.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government had chosen to adopt a "cautious approach" to protect the "progress" made against the virus in the UK.

He told BBC Breakfast on Friday that while he appreciated it was "difficult" for people, the UK had "made so much progress as a country" as the result of the vaccine rollout, that ministers needed "to adopt a cautious approach to protect the UK from infection from new variants".

He added that it was "right to be careful" while scientists investigated whether the new variant was more transmissible and how effective current vaccines were against it.

At end of April, the transport secretary told Parliament the government was looking at producing a "green watch list" where it could indicate "a couple of weeks in advance" when it was studying a variant which could become a variant of concern - in order to give people time to return to the UK before rule changes.

Mr Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the "watchlist system remains, if it's possible" and that if ministers saw case and positivity rates increasing then "one may be able to use that... to give people and the industry that forward guidance".

But he said the government might need to "act more swiftly" as new variants and mutations emerged.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the decision to move Portugal to the amber list "isn't based on any science or public health" and accused the government of making up policy "as they go along".

"What we don't understand is why the UK, which has been so successful with vaccines, is expecting its vaccinated citizens travelling to Portugal coming back to quarantine," he told BBC Breakfast.

Mr O'Leary said the decision was "more mismanagement of the Covid recovery" and had created "unnecessary disruption and stress for hundreds of thousands of British families"

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Tui said that while half of its passengers booked to go to Portugal in June were still planning to travel, the remaining 50% had amended their dates. The operator is not currently offering cancellations for trips while the Foreign Office is not advising against travel to Portugal.

Tui said it had around 8,000 UK passengers in Portugal at the moment, but that this would reduce to 2,000 after Sunday as many returned at the end of half term.

It said it was not planning to lay on additional flights to get passengers back before the new rules kicked in, but would upgrade the size of its planes.

The change to Portugal's status means holidaymakers face a scramble for flights home before the new rules come into force.

Simon Smith, from Stamford, in Lincolnshire, is currently on holiday in Portugal and trying to get back to the UK. He is worried he may not be able to get coronavirus tests in time to board his return flight on Saturday.

He told the Today programme: "It's been a bit of a scramble. We're trying to get some testing organised but the government released the information yesterday and it was a bank holiday in Portugal, which didn't help.

"We're being told by local doctors that it can be up to three or four days' waiting for tests so that we can fly… so it's a bit of a nightmare."

On the decision to amend the green list, Mr Shapps said the government "simply don't want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock".

On that date, all legal restrictions on social contact in England are due to be lifted - but some scientists have said this should be delayed due to rising cases.

A final decision will be made on whether to proceed with the easing of restrictions by 14 June.

On Thursday, the UK reported 5,274 new cases - the highest figure since 26 March - and another 18 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

PHE believes the Delta variant is now dominant in the UK and that it may be linked to a higher risk of hospital admission.

Prof Neil Ferguson, an expert on the spread of infectious diseases who sits on the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the current "best estimate" was that the Delta variant could be "60% more transmissible" than the previously dominant Kent variant known as Alpha.

Asked about whether the ending of restrictions on 21 June needed to be delayed, he told the Today programme the data was "pointing this week in a more negative direction than it was last week", so it pointed "towards the direction of being cautious".

Travel expert Simon Calder said people should not be under the "misapprehension" that just because a country was on the green list that travel would be as easy as simply showing your passport, and getting into the country.

Speaking from Gibraltar, one of a small number of countries on the green list, he told BBC Breakfast that he has had to fill in forms and book Covid tests before he can board a return flight, making the process already "formidably difficult".

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Meanwhile, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told the BBC's World Tonight programme that there could be a return to the travel situation of last summer, "with people just not wanting to book because of the risk", and that the "feeling within the sector is we are being potentially sacrificed in order to protect the domestic reopening on 21 June".

The Airline Operators Association said the industry would require substantial government support to protect jobs if there was to be "another disastrous summer as a result of a continued overly-cautious approach".

And Labour said downgrading Portugal was "not the answer", calling for the amber list to be scrapped altogether and citing reports that more than 50,000 people were travelling to the UK every day.


'This holiday was everything for us'

Kerry, a photographer from the Wirral, says her family - like many others - have had "the year from hell".

Her partner has been shielding for over a year due to an auto-immune disease, Kerry has had to nurse her mother through Covid-19 and a stroke, and her 18-month old son has hardly known a world without a pandemic.

She was just about to book a trip to Portugal when the rules changed. "This holiday was everything for us - our first with our baby who has had no experiences in his first 18 months on this planet," she says.

But others say they are likely to make the trip despite the list change.

One man told the BBC: "Unless they say, you must not go, you will be fined if you go, we might well still go and just have to bear the additional costs of an extra PCR test and the fact that we have to quarantine."

Why wealthy Nigerians exploring new experience in Rwanda - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 04, 2021

A group of Nigerian golfers at the Falcon Golf and Country Club, Rwanda. PHOTO: TAARIFA.RW

It’s a new dawn in the tourism sector in Rwanda as tourists begin to explore a new form of spending good time in the country and enjoying what it has to offer.

Recently, 23 Golfers from Ikoyi club, Nigeria, visited Rwanda for a 10-day holiday to play golf and experience other tourism attractions around the country.

Out of the 10 days, they decided to spend five of them playing golf at the exquisite Falcon Golf and Country Club, a home to golf in Rwanda since 2019 when the only second golf club in Rwanda, the Kigali Golf Club, was closed for reconstruction. Falcon Golf Club is located at the shores of Lake Muhazi, at Gati peninsula, Rwamagana district.

The Nigerian group leader and a former Captain of Ikoyi Golf club with membership of 10,000 players and 2,800 golf sections, Tayo Babalakin, talked to Taarifa on this memorable visit. “We had a good time indeed,” he said, adding that, “this is our fourth time coming to Rwanda, but we said, let’s play golf this time around.”

On the team was also Jacob Erhabor, former Managing Director of Sonarwa, who was glad to come back to Rwanda.

Golf is a non contact sport, however, like any other sports conducted globally during the existing threat of COVID-19 pandemic, Falcon Golf Club turns into an isolated bubble where no one can access the facility without being tested for COVID-19, and with the help of district medical clinics.

Different institutions, such as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Sports Ministry, and Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) were consulted and provided guidance on how the tourists should enjoy their stay and in a safe environment.

Falcon Golf Club management told Taarifa that RBC provided one staff to assist throughout their stay and that local authorities provided support in terms of security to ensure the Covid bubble is maintained.

Our reporter, Adrien Kubwayo, visited the course to witness this new fond touristic experience. He says visitors when presented with a menu for their lunch after their game, they all went for a delicious Tilapia from Lake Muhazi.

He, however, noted that, more hotels are needed in Rwamagana district because these tourists had to commute daily from Kigali to Falcon Golf club, a situation he said would have made it more comfortable were the tourists able to stay near the golf club.

The Managing Director of Falcon Golf Club, Michael Bayingana, who said COVID-19 affected all sectors in the country, but more so sports and entertainment businesses that required many people converging to one place.

On Saturday May 29, 2021, golfers in Rwanda who were cleared after COVID-19 testing, had the opportunity to play a round of golf with the Nigerian visitors, to conclude their trip.

The proprietor of the facility, Innocent Rutamu, who is also a golfer, told Taarifa that Golf Tourism has great potential for Rwanda, if the basics are put in place.

“One of the major conditions is to have a minimum of three golf courses as golf tourists on average spend 10 to 12 days in a country if they have a variety of courses to play,” he said, adding that, “Rwanda has good weather all year round for golf. Other factors such as safety and security are already in place, so we are at an advantage.”

Observers say institutions responsible for tourism should learn a thing or two about golf if they have to give the same support given to cycling or basketball.

Different institutions, such as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Sports Ministry, and Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) were consulted and provided guidance on how the tourists should enjoy their stay and in a safe environment.

Falcon Golf Club management told Taarifa that RBC provided one staff to assist throughout their stay and that local authorities provided support in terms of security to ensure the Covid bubble is maintained.

Our reporter, Adrien Kubwayo, visited the course to witness this new fond touristic experience. He says visitors when presented with a menu for their lunch after their game, they all went for a delicious Tilapia from Lake Muhazi.

He, however, noted that, more hotels are needed in Rwamagana district because these tourists had to commute daily from Kigali to Falcon Golf club, a situation he said would have made it more comfortable were the tourists able to stay near the golf club.

The Managing Director of Falcon Golf Club, Michael Bayingana, who said COVID-19 affected all sectors in the country, but more so sports and entertainment businesses that required many people converging to one place.

On Saturday May 29, 2021, golfers in Rwanda who were cleared after COVID-19 testing, had the opportunity to play a round of golf with the Nigerian visitors, to conclude their trip.

The proprietor of the facility, Innocent Rutamu, who is also a golfer, told Taarifa that Golf Tourism has great potential for Rwanda, if the basics are put in place.

“One of the major conditions is to have a minimum of three golf courses as golf tourists on average spend 10 to 12 days in a country if they have a variety of courses to play,” he said, adding that, “Rwanda has good weather all year round for golf. Other factors such as safety and security are already in place, so we are at an advantage.”

Observers say institutions responsible for tourism should learn a thing or two about golf if they have to give the same support given to cycling or basketball.

Indeed, last week RDB’s CEO, Clare Akamanzi, spoke to The New Times and BBC that Rwanda is keen on replicating experiences such as the just concluded Basketball African League (BAL) to increase and diversify tourism activities.

“The first objective as a country is to become a sports tourism destination…looking at resumption of tourism in our country, and the fact that many tourists have postponed their visits, and some have cancelled their visits, many of the events had to be postponed such as the Commonwealth Forum, many meetings are held online, we have to think about the years ahead, and of the ways we are looking at is to increase the number of sports events,” Akamanzi told BBC mid May 2021.

Meanwhile, Taarifa is privy to information that The Sunshine Tour, the biggest golf tour in Africa, has been trying to put Rwanda on their circuit but received minimal encouragement to do so.

Once the Sun Shine Tour has a country in its circuit, the country receives about 400 highend tourists annually, who come for the event. Kenya and Mauritius, and a few Southern Africa countries are enjoying this benefit, currently.

Another country eying golf tourism is Kenya, and the country seems to be at advanced stage.

In 2018, Kenya recorded two million tourist arrivals, and the country is now laying focus on tapping into the huge potential that exists in golf tourism, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Mr Najib Balala told golfers in February 2019.

Speaking at the prestigious Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Vipingo Ridge Baobab Course, Kilifi County in February 2019, Balala promised to promote Kenya as a wonderful golf tourism destination. “Rwanda wouldn’t want to miss this boat,” Rutamu told Taarifa in 2020 when Falcon Golf Course hosted the Rwanda Summer Golf tournament for the domestic market.

According to a report published by Technavio.com, Global Golf Tourism Market 2017 – 2021, the global golf tourism market in 2016 totalled a huge US$22.92 billion and from their research this market will total $44.6 billion by end of 2021.

The industry thrives when visitors meet local players. For golf to develop in Rwanda, training should start from primary school using football pitches for short range play and then have access to available facilities such as Falcon golf Club or Kigali Golf Course, unfortunately this sport is still treated with stereotypes that it is a sport for the rich and the lazy.

Those who know its potential usually talk not about it. Meet them on the course and at the clubhouse, that’s when the conversations light up, otherwise, they usually keep it to themselves. It is an intimate relationship.

Meanwhile, the Nigerians discovered a gem, and they are planning to return soon for more.

• Culled from taarifa.rw

Amid toxic competition, airlines embrace marriage of convenience - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 04, 2021

By Wole Oyebade

For so long they have operated in silos, with rivalry and unhealthy competition that ruined all. Now, the ‘strange bedfellows’ are learning strategic collaborations to share burden and cut avoidable losses. WOLE OYEBADE writes on enormous gains that lie in the offing.

Competition causes business to thrive. In Nigerian aviation industry, competition, ego and other environmental challenges kill businesses.

Unhealthy rivalry actually thrives in the sector. Operators rarely cooperate. They neither do business together nor find good reasons for one. To some, “it cheapens my brand”. To others, “what does Mr. B know about the aviation business?” “I will show them that I am the biggest”. Soon, ego snowballs into trade war. Predatory or underpricing, de-marketing and route rat-race become the skill-set in the local sector.

A scenario in the sector comes to mind, when on one afternoon at one of the airports, six airplanes, different carriers, all adorned the apron, revving up the engine for the same destination. Only a hundred passengers funneled into the terminal – not even enough to fill one aircraft. But half-a-dozen are waiting.

In the spirit of “competition”, they jostled for patronage. An airline had 38. Another flew with 12. One almost had the misfortune of nothing to fill 120 available seats. Yet, it departed. They all lost on account of poor capacity utilisation and sheer operational wastage.

That picture is typical of most afternoon belts and off-peak periods. Over a week, month or year, estimated loss is colossal. And when mandatory maintenance like C-check is due in 18 months’ time, airlines begin to feel the pinch as it coughs out an average of $2 million per aircraft.

Dealing in bad hands Since the aviation sector got liberalised in the 80s, the industry has opened up to free entry and free exit of willing operators. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CARs) also empower airlines to initiate ticket prices for sustainability.

Though a dollarised industry and highly susceptible to vagaries of foreign exchange, local airlines have consistently underpriced the sector given an undercurrent price war.

In 2016 when naira-to-dollar rate spiked by 100 per cent, the cost of aviation fuel, aircraft maintenance, and spare parts all doubled, but not air fares.

A Lagos-Abuja flight, for instance, retained the average price of N25, 000 at N360/$1 – the same price it sold when exchange was N160/$1 in 2015.

Currently, at N485/$1, an airline recently offered ticket fare at N16, 500. “It sounds good and inviting from customers’ perspective, but not for aviation business,” a Chief Executive Officer said.

The CEO, who would not want his name mentioned, observed that even at N30, 000 for a one-hour flight, the airline runs at a loss. At an average cost of N30, 000 per economy class ticket, multiplied by 120 passengers on a B737 aircraft, it gives aboutN3.6 million per flight. At least N1 million of the sum goes to fuel and another N1 million plus goes to sundry charges and taxes. So, the airline is left with about N1 million to cater for maintenance and personnel among other obligations.

“By that estimate even if you have a full capacity, which has become rare lately, there is nothing left for profit. So, I don’t understand how that airline will claim to be in business offering such a ridiculous rate. But that is what we have been seeing in this industry; a subtle attempt to de-market others, run them out of the route, and inflate the price,” he said.

A new thinking in Dana-Ibom Alliance Perhaps two airlines that will not have to “de-market” or try to outpace one another are Dana Airline and Ibom Air, owned and operated by the Akwa Ibom State government.

The Dana-Ibom Air Alliance is the first time indigenous carriers have heeded aviation experts’ advice for competing airlines to codeshare, make the most of available customers, and cut operational wastage.

The significant milestone affords Dana and Ibom a business arrangement whereby both airlines jointly offer flights to common destinations, while operating services to destinations that are not within each airline’s regular routes. By doing so, both airlines expand their market presence and competitive footprint in the interest of the flying public.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Dana Air, Obi Mbanuzuo said the discussion started about a year ago. “This is the first of its kind for domestic airlines in Nigeria and a huge step in the right direction for both Dana Air and Ibom Air,” he said.

COO of Ibom Air, George Uriesi, noted that the alliance would offer increased frequencies into common destinations as well as codeshare flights into destinations each airline does not operate into, providing more options for passengers and business retention for both airlines.

“With the initiation of this business alliance, both airlines have embraced a key global best practice. At Ibom Air, our business model and unwavering commitment remains schedule reliability, on-time departures and excellent service. Hence, we are constantly on the lookout for better and more effective ways to serve our customers,”Uriesi stated.

Aero Contractors, Aero AMO and Cally Air Another landmark that is slowly, though steadily changing the narrative in the local sector, is the Aero Contractor’s metamorphosis and partnership with itself.

Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed (left); Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood; Capt. Akinwale Awojebe, and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, at the maiden flight of Aero Contractors airline to Tafawa Balewa International Airport, Bauchi, on Wednesday.

How? The oldest indigenous commercial airline had a near-fatal disaster in 2016. The Federal Government through the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) took over the airline. Under receivership, the airline divested into Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) and got approval to maintain Boeing 737 Classics locally – a major win for local aviation.

The AMO began C-checks on Aero Contractor’s grounded airplanes, almost halved the huge capital flight that would have gone with overseas maintenance, and helped stabilise the air travel business arm of the company.

Managing Director of the airline, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, on Monday said the AMO, a separate entity, has been instrumental to Aero Contractors’ route expansion, availing fleet capacity to launch Bauchi operations with a B737-400 airplane.

Head of the AMO, James Ominiyi, said besides meeting the critical need of its parent company with five C-checks already done locally, the facility has completed seven checks for Air Peace, three for Max Air, one for Dana Air, and two ongoing for Air Peace airline.

He added that the Aero AMO has lately got the approval rating of DR Congo, Ghana Civil Aviation, with new partnerships with Tunisia, Malta and Mongolia in the offing.

“We are widening our operations to ensure that local airlines do not have to go overseas and spend heavily doing C-checks. Doing it here saves at least $50,000 that would have been spent on fueling, flight charges and crew allowances.

“We are expanding our hangar to accommodate more aircraft at a time. We have reached an agreement to set up a hangar in Abuja. We already have 45 engineers training on E145 and Q400 air planes. We will have to buy equipment and also get approvals from the NCAA. But the journey has begun,” Ominiyi said.

The Guardian learnt that Aero Contractors is also partnering with Cross Rivers’ state government to run its new airline, Cally Air. With two B737 aircraft on ground, Cally Air will benefit from Aero’s technical expertise and avoid pitfalls of startups in a sector that abhor errors.

More alliances, please! It is really not by chance that major global carriers form alliances. No modern airline, no matter how big, survives alone. Through major alliances like Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam, even the legacy carriers pool bloc resources to compete with other airlines and offer competitive bargains to customers.

President of Sabre Network in Nigeria and West African region, Gbenga Olowo, advised local operators on the need to flow with the current; form alliances or merger to emerge stronger and competitive.

Olowo said as much as the challenges of operating in the Nigerian business environment are huge, the airlines could not continue to run one-man, small but weak airlines against one another and hope to survive one day.

According to him, it makes a better business strategy to have one or two strong airlines than lots that cannot compete with other African carriers.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is not in the position to force alliances between A and B airlines, but benefits of cooperation among airlines that have common values are sufficient motivation. And as local aviation grows in the number of operators, more will survive with win-win partnerships than in mutually destructive rivalry.

Green Africa attempts ‘Southwest effect’ on air travel in Nigeria - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 05, 2021

BY  Mercy Ayodele

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Green Africa is offering cheap airfares at a time when Nigerians are afraid to travel by road

Its first flight is days away yet Green Africa, the Lagos-based startup budget airline, is edging closer to disrupting the Nigerian airspace forever. It has announced its entrance with cheaper airfares for seven routes including Lagos to Abuja, a strategy that looks well suited to a large country where average incomes are low and rising insecurity is increasingly discouraging road travel.

Green Africa’s strategy is not new, at least not on the global scene. It has a similar playbook to the world’s largest low-cost carrier, Southwest Airlines. Southwest, despite being a low-cost carrier has been able to stay profitable through many decades. It even has an economic term named after it popularly called “the Southwest effect”.

Southwest started out with an idea to make air travel accessible for all. While most carriers in the U.S. focused on wealthy travelers, it set out to disrupt the market by giving more people the opportunity to travel by air at a low cost.

Southwest Airlines focused on four main things: a low-cost structure that stayed low due to fast growth, happy employees who liked their jobs and translated that to customers, being future-minded, and differentiated.

Green Africa, just like Southwest, is coming into the Nigerian aviation sector with a low-cost structure with fares between N16,500 and N23,000, which is about a 50 to 70 percent slash in average fares charged by other airlines. Although, there have been questions as to whether the prices will remain low.

Read Also: Green Africa completes acceptance of 3 ATR 72-600s in preparation for deployment

“I would not say the price they have started with will be permanent, it is an introductory offer but you can be sure that of you pick the first three airline in the country with the lowest fare in two or three months, Green Africa would be one of them” Olumide Ohunayo, a member of the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI) said.

“They have started with a very low-cost aircraft, they are taking a smaller market that fits the Nigerian market and if they build on that and get good maintenance organisations, continue with the same fleet, get better deals with the manufacturer of such aircraft, the maintenance and cost of operation would go lower, their fare will definitely not increase.” Ohunayo said.

Despite the similarity in low fares, differences such as fleet and routes make Green Africa different from Southwest.

Green Africa will use ATR72-600S jetliners, a turboprop, while Southwest operates Boeing 737 jet planes. Turboprops are generally more fuel-efficient than jets whose fuel usage is higher.

A BusinessDay analysis shows that for a one-way trip, a jet aircraft’s flight from Lagos to Abuja consumes nothing less than 8,000 litres and at N220/litre, airlines pay about N1.76 million for fuel alone.

A turboprop consumes about 58-100 gallons of fuel per hour compared to a jet aircraft which consumes about 77-239 gallons of fuel every hour, according to SherapReport. This means on average, turboprop’s fuel consumption is about 155 percent lesser than jet aircraft, which helps Green Africa save costs.

Eight years ago, Southwest expanded its routes to 14 countries outside the US after it gained more domestic passengers than any US airline. For now, Green Africa will fly to seven domestic destinations from Lagos, including Akure, Ilorin, Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Enugu.

Unlike full-service carriers, Southwest has all its activities tailored towards low-cost delivery. No meals are served, no seats assigned, or any premium class service.

The Nigerian market is dominated by full-service carriers; low-cost airlines like Southwest are uncommon. It is this niche Green Africa wants to fill.

“We are crafting a network plan that will afford customers the opportunity to pursue their economic interest or simply spend more time with family and friends,” Babawande Afolabi, the CEO of Green Africa said during the announcement that the airline was commencing operations.

Unsafe roads make Nigerians take to the air

Green Africa is offering cheap airfares at a time when Nigerians are afraid to travel by road given the rise in the number of kidnap cases on road trips.

Rising insecurity on Nigerian roads showed up in data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which reported a decline of 23.75 percent in Road Transport GDP in the first quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter.

PR24 Nigeria Limited, a private security agency released a recent travel advisory report to highlight areas that are currently unsafe and no state in Nigeria was classified as safe.

Of the 36 states, 14 were classified as high-risk regions; 3 (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) were classified as dangerous while 19 were in the medium-risk group.

Owerri and Enugu, two of the routes Green Africa plans to ply, were classified as high-risk regions which means only essential travel should be made to these states. For regions classified as medium risk travel security is advised when traveling to those areas.

Friendly prices for infrequent flyers

Nigerians travel a lot; after food, Nigerians spend the most on transportation.

According to the 2019 consumption expenditure by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the total household expenditure on food and non-food items was N40 trillion.

More than half of this was spent on food while 43.3 percent was spent on non-food items. In the non-food category, 6.4 percent was spent on transportation, followed by health, education and services with 6.1 percent, 6 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.

With the insecurity, air transport has become the preferred travel option for Nigerians, for those who can afford it.

Data from the NBS also show that on average, bus journeys within cities have increased 72 percent to N3,861 in April 2021 compared to N2,237 recorded in April 2020.

Airfare cost also averaged N36,409 in April 2021, this is an 18.43 percent increase compared to N30,743 recorded in the same period last year, according to data from the NBS.

Transportation costs are increasing at a time when 40 percent of the population is classified as poor. This means an average of four out of 10 individuals in Nigeria live below $1.90 (N780) per day.

Nigeria has the second-highest unemployment rate in the world after Namibia at 33.3 percent. With inflation at 18.12 percent and food inflation is also at 22.7 percent, Nigerians are having a hard time affording food and other basic necessities.

Although Green Africa only covers seven domestic destinations for now its promise to charge airfare as low as 16,500, makes air travel attractive for more Nigerians.


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