Travel News

Lufthansa Joins Peers in Predicting Travel Recovery This Year - BLOOMBERG

MARCH 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG joined major European airline companies in predicting an earnings boost this year as travel demand continues to swing back from the coronavirus pandemic.

The region’s biggest airline group said it expects a “significant improvement” on the €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) adjusted earnings before interest and taxes result it reported for 2022. Summer vacations to Mediterranean countries and travel on North Atlantic routes will be particularly strong, the carrier said.

“Lufthansa is back,” Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said in a statement. “In just one year, we have achieved an unprecedented financial turnaround.”

Lufthansa is the last major European airlines to report earnings for last year, joining Air France-KLM and British Airways parent IAG SA in predicting a recovery approaching pre-pandemic levels in 2023. While European household and company budgets continue to get squeezed by high inflation, demand for business travel and summer getaways in particular has remained robust

Lufthansa rose as much as 48 cents, or 4.9% to €10.34, the highest since early 2020. The stock has gained 32% this year, after advancing 26% in 2022.

The global aviation sector as a whole continues to enjoy a comeback since most countries lifted their coronavirus restrictions. Airbus SE said last month that it’s increasing the rate of production on its largest aircraft to meet rebounding long-haul demand, and budget carriers like Ryanair Holdings Plc have said that summer bookings point to a strong summer season.

Capacity will rise to between 85% to 90% compared with pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, Lufthansa cautioned that persistent bottlenecks in the European aviation system will limit capacity to about 75% in the first quarter.

The airline said it expects to make further progress this year toward hitting its earnings margin target of a minimum of 8% by 2024. Spohr, who had his contract renewed by five years on Thursday, has said the target is required to cut debt Lufthansa incurred during the pandemic, when the airline group was bailed out by the government.

“Lufthansa is coming out of Covid with a better competitive environment on short haul, which we think is sustainable,” Ruxandra Haradau-Doser, an an aviation analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Frankfurt, said before the earnings release. At the same time, two thirds of Lufthansa’s short-haul business is transfer traffic, meaning passengers can easily switch to the likes of British Airways or Air France, increasing pressure on Lufthansa to maintain its standards, she said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday.

The previously high earnings at cargo division, which boomed during the pandemic, are set to fall back in 2023 as air freight rates decline. The division reported a record €1.6 billion in adjusted earnings for 2022.

The German carrier on Thursday said it will buy 22 new widebody aircraft from Airbus and Boeing Co. in an order valued at $7.5 billion at list price, as the carrier aims to meet rising long-term demand for intercontinental travel.

Lufthansa said preparations for a possible partial divestiture of its Lufthansa Technik division are proceeding according to plan, adding talks with select investors have begun. The company also said it remains in exclusive talks with Italian officials about its pursuit of Italy’s ITA Airways.

--With assistance from Alix Steel and Guy Johnson.

(Updates with stock reaction in fifth paragraph.)

UK Braces for Arctic Blast Next Week as Winter Stages a Comeback - BLOOMBERG

MARCH 04, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- The UK is preparing for a late-winter blast, with temperatures dropping to unusually low levels in the coming days and snow expected in parts of the country early next week. 

Snow and ice warnings are in place for Monday and Tuesday in northeastern parts of the UK as below-average temperatures are set to slide even further. The heaviest snowfalls will be in northern Scotland, but areas as far south as Lincolnshire will be impacted, the Met Office said Friday.

“Cold, blustery northerly winds will continue to drive frequent showers of snow and hail into these areas on Tuesday,” the national forecaster said.

A relatively mild winter has helped to keep energy prices in check so far this season, though the weather has been occasionally erratic. A cold snap hit parts of the country in December, and England just experienced its driest February in 30 years.

Temperatures in London are expected to be 6C below the seasonal average on Thursday, while in Manchester they will be 5.6C below normal on Wednesday, forecaster Maxar Technologies Inc. said in a daily note.

The late return of cold weather is partially due to a so-called sudden stratospheric warming, which can cause extreme cold in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the Met Office. Meteorologists saw signs of such warming taking place from late last month and expect its colder impacts to continue.

“There’s the risk of more widespread wintry showers into the beginning of next week across northern and eastern areas,” Atmospheric G2’s Amy Hodgson said.

--With assistance from Celia Bergin and William Mathis.

(Updates with latest Met Office forecast in second paragraph)

200 Nigerian Passengers Stranded As Lufthansa Diverts Flight to Cotonou, Malabo - VANGUARD

MARCH 06, 2023

By Prince Okafor

A Lufthansa flight LH566 from Frankfurt to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, was on Friday diverted to Cotonou, Togo and later to Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, by the pilot.

The pilot had announced to the over 200 passengers on board that the Lagos airport was closed.

Vanguard gathered that among the passengers, 15 Malabo-bound passengers were scheduled to arrive Lagos by 5:45pm on March 3, before flying to Equatorial Guinea capital.

But the flight later arrived Lagos at 2a.m. on March 4.

However, findings showed that the Lagos airport was not closed at any time on March 3.

One of the passengers, who preferred to remain anonymous, while narrating the situation said: "We left Frankfurt on March 2, by 12 noon to Lagos and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

"This flight was supposed to be at Lagos by 5.45p.m. On getting to Lagos, the pilot told us that they couldn't land because the Lagos airport was closed.

"He took us to Contonou airport and landed waiting for Lagos airport to open. We were there for almost three hours.

"During this time, relatives waiting for the flight were panicky. Then individuals were now making calls to relatives asking what was happening in the Lagos airport.

"It was then we realised that Lagos airport was not closed. We now demanded that the pilot take us to Lagos.

"After much argument, the pilot told us he was taking us to Malabo, to drop the 15 passengers before coming back to Lagos to drop over 200 passengers.

"This was what the pilot did. We now landed at 2am. When we said we won't come down on arrival at Lagos without the airline making a proper arrangement for us, the pilot threatened us and said he would call the police to evacuate us."

Lufthansa's memo

In response to the development, Lufthansa management issued a notice to the Frankfurt-bound passengers from Lagos.

The circular dated March 3, 2023, stated, "Dear Lufthansa guest, unfortunately, your flight LH569/3 March from Lagos to Frankfurt is delayed due to operational reason.

"The incoming aircraft has been diverted and to land in Cotonou (Benin) and then to Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) before reaching Lagos destination.

"Lufthansa would like to sincerely apologise for this delay and any inconvenience it may have caused to your journey.

"We have now planned an arrival of the aircraft in Lagos around 01:15 (it arrived 2am) and we would do our best to manage quick turnaround."

Meanwhile, the General Manager, Public Affairs, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, in a swift reaction said: "There was never a day/time that MMA was closed.

"I will let you know if there will be any closure in the coming days."

Airlines that arrive between from 4p.m. and 7p.m. to the MMIA everyday include Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, British Airways and others.

BREAKING: Scores injured as train crushes Lagos govt staff bus - PUNCH

MARCH 09, 2023

By Dayo Oyewo

An unspecified number of people have been injured after a passenger train crushed a Lagos State Government staff bus on its way from Ikotun enroute Alausa, the state secretariat, at the PWD area of the state.

The accident happened around past 7am on Thursday.

The spokesperson for the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Taofiq Adebayo, said rescue operation was ongoing.

“The accident recorded many casualties as the bus is fully loaded with Lagos State government staff members going to the office this morning.”

Details later…

Photos from the scene of the accident below:

Details later…

Nigeria’s airport passenger traffic hits three-year high - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 09, 2023

BY  Olamide Ologunagbe

Air passenger traffic in Nigeria
Air passenger traffic in Nigeria

Air passenger traffic in Africa’s biggest economy rose by eight percent to 16.2 million last year, up from 15 million in 2021, according to BusinessDay’s analysis of the air traffic data released by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Despite the surge in passenger numbers, the figures are still well below the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019. A total of 18.1 million passengers passed through Nigerian airports in 2019.

The gradual return to air travel in Nigeria can be attributed to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and the full reopening of the global economy.

However, the country’s aviation industry is still facing challenges, including the rising cost of aviation fuel, high airport charges, and the shortage of skilled personnel that has continued to hinder its full recovery post-pandemic.

“The issue of trapped funds affecting international airlines is what has prompted the hike in air fares, making airfares exorbitant again, unlike four years ago,” said Susan Akporiaye, president of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies.

The data released by the NCAA also showed that there has been a steady increase in passenger traffic since the height of the pandemic in 2020.

In January 2020, a total of 1.5 million passengers travelled by air as countries closed their borders to curtail the spread of the virus.

The figure rose to 15 million in 2021, when countries began reopening their borders, a 900 percent rise in passenger traffic when compared to 1.5 million passengers in 2020.

The talent exodus from the country, popularly known as ‘japa’, boosted the number of outbound international passengers in 2022 to 1.8 million passengers, recording over a 700,000 increase compared to 2021.

According to the NCAA, the number of outbound passengers had increased by 54.7 percent in 2021 to 1.1 million from 717,261 passengers in 2020.

Read also: Inbound travellers squeezed on naira scarcity

Akporiaye said there has been an increase in the number of people wanting to leave the country, especially in 2022, which led to a sharp rise in passenger traffic.

“People are travelling more to leave the country and not return due to economic insecurity,” she said.

Inbound international passenger traffic was 1.6 million in 2022, a 45.5 percent increase when compared to 1.1 million passengers in 2021.

Domestic airlines airlifted a total of 12.67 million passengers, made up of 6.31 million inbound travellers and 6.36 million outbound ones.

The data also showed that in 2022, 26 airlines carried out a total of 13,003 international operations to and from Nigeria while 11 airlines operated 80,328 domestic flights.

In 2022, 37 airlines flew over Nigeria, with 26 airlines running 13,003 foreign flights and 11 airlines operating 80,328 domestic flights.

African airlines record 124% passenger traffic growth – IATA - PUNCH

MARCH 09, 2023

By Funmilayo Fabunmi

African airlines have recorded a 124 per cent growth in passenger traffic in the past year, the  International Air Transport Association has said.

The Switzerland-based IATA, which represents international airlines globally, said the recovery in air travel demand was continuing in 2023, based on January traffic results.

It said that in January 2023, African airlines’ passenger traffic rose by 124 per cent.

“African airlines’ traffic rose 124.8 per cent in January 2023 versus a year ago. January capacity was up 82.5 per cent and load factor climbed 13.9 percentage points to 73.7 per cent, the lowest among regions,” IATA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Globally, traffic is now at 84.2 per cent of January 2019 levels with domestic traffic for January 2023 rising up to 32.7 per cent compared to the prior year, according to the airline body.

It said the growth was aided by the lifting of the zero-COVID policy in China. Total January 2023 domestic traffic was at 97.4 per cent of the January 2019 level.

Also, IATA said international traffic climbed by 104.0 per cent versus January 2022 with all markets recording strong growth, led by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. International RPKs reached 77.0 per cent of January 2019 levels.

Airlines Struggle to Find Engines as Travel Comes Roaring Back - BLOOMBERG

MARCH 09, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- This year was supposed to herald air travel’s big comeback, with China reopening, airlines ramping up flight schedules and airports going on a hiring spree to handle the surge. 

But a potential bottleneck to that growth is looming in form of a shortage of aircraft engines and spare parts, particularly on workhorse Airbus SE and Boeing Co. jets. The shortfall is being exacerbated by the fact that more carriers are flying with the latest-generation turbines that — while as much as 20% more fuel efficient — also have been prone to far more frequent maintenance cycles than their more robust predecessors. 

As a result, airlines around the world have been forced to ground hundreds of airplanes just as they gear up for what stands to be a busy summer travel season. Air Baltic Corp AS says 10 of its 39 Airbus A220s are currently out of service due to engine issues. In the US, budget carrier Spirit Airlines Inc. warned it would scale back growth plans due in part to a spate of malfunctioning engines. And India’s IndiGo is seeking compensation for about 30 planes it has had to ground due to parts shortages, some of which are tied to engines. 

Supply-chain constraints were rippling through the industry even before the pandemic, and in its aftermath engine makers have struggled with a lack of skilled mechanics and component shortages. 

The latest engines from Raytheon Technologies Corp. and a General Electric Co.-Safran SA venture feature exotic metal alloys, coatings and composites needed for them to operate at furnace-like temperatures. Airlines say turbine components are wearing more quickly and being sent to the shop earlier than initially expected.

“The engines are running hotter, and the materials used for that are not withstanding the pressure, so there are more engine-related problems than we used face previously,” said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

Turnaround times for engine repairs have tripled as waits for certain parts drag on for more than a year in some instances. Supplies of engine components are further stretched as Airbus and Boeing clamor for higher output of new engines as they strive to pump out their best-selling single-aisle aircraft models in record numbers.

“Right now that’s hotter than hell,” Cliff Collier, a Texas-based aviation consultant, said of the engine sector. “There are parts shortages left and right and it’s impacting MROs badly,” he said referring to maintenance and repair organizations.

The growing pressure on jet-engine makers will be in the spotlight Thursday when GE’s chief executive officer, Larry Culp, lays out the company’s future for investors as a standalone aerospace manufacturer. Its executives also will be pressed about the durability of the Leap turbine made by the GE-Safran venture, called CFM International, for Airbus’s A320neo aircraft family and Boeing’s 737 Max. 

Airlines complain of even poorer reliability for a rival engine manufactured by Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney division.

Closing the Gap

Pratt’s latest turbofan models are flying an average of about 10,000 hours before they need to be removed for overhauls. That’s only about half the so-called time-on-wing of its predecessor engine, despite multiple fixes and upgrades to boost longevity, Raytheon CEO, Greg Hayes, said at a Barclays conference last month. Closing that gap will be a challenge over the next five years, he said.

CFM said in a statement that its Leap engine’s time-on-wing is “comparable” to that of its predecessor, the CFM56, at the same point in its service life, about six years after its first commercial flight. Engines being sent to repair shops are going in order to address specific issues that can be completed faster than more substantial overhauls, it said.

“We have made significant progress in increasing Leap time-on-wing, and we remain committed to continuing to work with customers to pro-actively plan shop visits,” a CFM spokesperson said.

Around 370 Airbus A320neos and A220s, along with 737 Boeing Max jets, are currently classified as stored, according to data from Cirium. The aviation data and analytics company defines such aircraft as those that are idled for 30 days or more for any of a variety of reasons. 

Airbus said it’s closely monitoring the performance of engines on its aircraft. Boeing had no immediate comment.

Many airlines keep a cache of spares on hand, but there simply aren’t enough replacement engines available to keep pace with repairs. Carriers may be forced to keep older craft longer than anticipated and fly each plane more hours per day. In a pinch, they might even bring planes out of their pilot training fleets and put them into regular flight service. The shortage could crimp industry plans to expand the number of flights offered in 2024 and beyond. 

Production Target Risk

Airbus and Boeing are counting on rising output of turbines to keep their A320 and Max assembly lines humming. The glut of engine repairs looks likely to extend into next year or even 2025, raising the risk of too few power plants to meet planemaker production targets, said Paul Dolan, CEO of Aviation Technical Services, a large US maintenance provider.

Introduced a little over a decade ago, the new engine options for the A320 family and the 737 helped spur an unprecedented surge in demand. Fuel is often among the single largest expenses for airlines, so any reduction in consumption instantly feeds through the bottom line. 

Pratt’s powerplant, which is used on models including Airbus SE’s best-selling A320neo family and the smaller A220, as well as Embraer SA’s E2 regional jet, struggled with teething pains after it was introduced, with multiple carriers reporting inflight shutdowns. Pratt subsequently said it had resolved the issues, but some carriers say they continue to struggle.

The Pratt engine “has experienced diminished service availability, an issue that has been steadily increasing” since mid-2022, Spirit CEO Ted Christie said on an earnings call Feb. 7.  “This is not just a Spirit issue.”

Some A320neos have had engines removed after just 2,000 to 3,000 hours in operation, while A220s have had engines come off after only 1,000 hours, according to Doug Harned, an aerospace analyst with Bernstein. 

Harned calculated that 18% of A220s and 13% of A320neos powered by these engines were out of service as of early March. CFM’s Leap has performed better, although 4% of A320s and 5% of Max jets are grounded — much to the consternation of customers, he wrote in a March 2 report.

A Raytheon spokesperson disputed those estimates for the Pratt-powered planes, saying less than 10% of those jets are parked. The company declined to comment further on the issue.

Frequent Shop Visits

The GE-Safran Leap model also has faced issues. A build-up of carbon around the fuel nozzle has resulted in inspections after 1,000 hours of flight, Harned said. The engine’s high-pressure turbine shroud has been redesigned over the last few years “but is still leading to a degradation in engine performance” and consequently more frequent shop visits, he said.

CFM said it introduced a new configuration of the high-pressure turbine shroud that went into production in 2019 and is retrofitting the remainder of the Leap engine fleet with the change.

Once engines are opened up for repairs, airlines face another costly hassle: Long waits for spare parts. Collier, the aviation consultant, said he’s seen lead times for forged parts stretch out a year or more. 

“What we’re seeing is basically a queue building up due to insufficient maintenance capacity,” said Andy Cronin, the chief executive officer of Avolon Holdings, a major aircraft lessor. “It was simply never intended that the engines would need this much maintenance at this stage in the program.”

The situation underscores how supply chain woes continue to weigh on aerospace manufacturers. Airbus last year cut its target of delivering 700 planes as a result of these issues. But it failed to meet even that reduced goal. 

GE’s engine venture has had to pare back its own production goals. CFM International still aims to boost Leap deliveries this year by 50% to about 1,700 engines, but that’s down from an earlier target of 2,000.

UK gets new High Commissioner to Nigeria - VANGUARD

MARCH 09, 2023

By Victoria Ojeme

The British government has appointed Richard Hugh Montgomery as its new high commissioner to Nigeria.

He takes over from Catriona Laing who had been the high commissioner in the country since 2018.

His appointment was announced in a statement by the United Kingdom government on Tuesday.

Montgomery is expected to begin his new role in April 2023.

According to the statement, Laing will be transferred to another diplomatic service appointment.

The high commissioner is the UK government’s representative in a Commonwealth nation.

They are responsible for the direction and work of the consulate, including political relations, trade, investment, press and cultural relations as well as visa and consular services.

Montgomery served as the counsellor (development) and Head of Office, Department for International Development, DFID, Abuja, from 2009-2013.

He holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, alongside other research-related qualifications from GKW Consult Mannheim and Manchester University.

The diplomat was, most recently the UK Executive Director for the World Bank Group in Washington.

He has also held executive development roles in Zambia, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

UK plans to ease visa policy amid labour shortages - PUNCH

MARCH 09, 2023

Britain on Thursday said that it was planning to ease access to visas to help address labour shortages, which have been partly sparked by its tighter post-Brexit immigration rules.

The government adopted a points-based immigration model following its exit from the European Union in January 2021.

“We work… to ensure our points-based system delivers for the UK and works in the best interests of the economy, by prioritising the skills and talent we need and encouraging long-term investment in the domestic workforce,” a government spokesperson said.

“This includes reviewing the shortage occupation list to ensure it reflects the current labour market.”

The shortage list seeks to relax visa access for professions in short supply.

Many British companies have long called for the government to ease its visa policy.

The hospitality, road haulage and agriculture sectors have been hit particularly hard by European labour shortages sparked by Brexit and exacerbated by Covid fallout.

The UK currently has about one million unfilled jobs, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics.

That figure has been pushed higher by including numbers of Britons choosing to leave the labour market as a result of long-term illness or early retirement.

The ONS published survey data Thursday showing that more than a quarter of UK firms with 10 or more employees were experiencing shortages in late February. That was broadly the same as in late January.

“Many (businesses) will have little option but to increase wages to attract and retain staff,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

“This piles on yet more pressure at a time when higher energy costs and rising prices of goods are still causing headaches.”

The UK government and the Bank of England have urged employers to show restraint, warning that big pay hikes would jeopardise attempts to tame inflation.

Strikes have, however, multiplied in Britain in recent months as workers protest over salaries that have failed to keep pace with decades-high consumer price inflation, worsening a cost-of-living crisis.

New Air Force One will stay blue and white, Biden decid - AP

MARCH 11, 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is sticking with a blue-and-white color scheme for the exterior of the replacement Air Force One aircraft, the first of which is expected to be delivered in four years.

The Air Force said late Friday that the light blue on the new model of the modified 747s that transport the president will be a little bit deeper and more modern in tone than the robin's egg blue on the versions of the aircraft currently in use.

Boeing is modifying two of its 747-800 aircraft that will use the Air Force One call sign when the president is aboard. They will replace the existing fleet of two aging Boeing 747-200 aircraft the president currently uses.

The choice of the plane's exterior colors follows an earlier decision by the administration to scrap a red-white-and-blue design favored by Donald Trump, Biden's immediate predecessor. An Air Force review had suggested the darker colors would increase costs and delay delivery of the new jumbo jets.

In 2018, Trump directed that the new jets shed the iconic Kennedy-era blue-and-white design for a white-and-navy color scheme. The top half of the plane would have been white and the bottom, including the belly, would have been dark blue. A streak of dark red would have run from the cockpit to the tail. The coloring was almost identical to the exterior of Trump's personal plane.

Formally known as the VC-25B, the new aircraft will replace the current fleet, known as VC-25A, which the Air Force said face capability gaps, rising maintenance costs and “parts obsolescence.” Modifications to the successor aircraft will include electrical power upgrades, a medical facility and a self-defense system, the Air Force said.

Delivery of the first of the new airplanes is projected for 2027, followed by the second aircraft in 2028, the Air Force said.

The current generation of planes first carried President George H.W. Bush, who served from 1989-1993.

Darlene Superville, The Associated Press


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