Boeing Max makes emergency landing due to engine indicator - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEWARK, N.J. — An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max made an emergency landing Friday afternoon in Newark, New Jersey, after pilots noticed a possible problem with an engine oil pressure indicator.
An airline spokeswoman said the plane from Miami landed safely and taxied to the gate under its own power. She said there were no injuries among the 95 passengers and six crew members.
The Boeing Max was grounded worldwide for nearly two years after two crashes that killed 346 people. Investigators have focused on a flight-control system, not the engines.
Federal regulators approved changes Boeing made changes to the flight system, and American resumed flying its Max jets in late December. Since then, United and Alaska Airlines have put passengers on Max planes, and Southwest Airlines plans to resume flights with the planes next week.
The Associated Press
New York cinemas reopen, brightening outlook for theatres - THE CANADIAN PRESS
NEW YORK — After growing cobwebs for nearly a year, movie theatres in New York City reopen Friday, returning film titles to Manhattan marquees that had for the last 12 months instead read messages like “Wear a mask” and “We’ll be back soon.”
Shortly after noon at the Angelika Film Center on Houston Street, Holly Stillman was already feeling emotional coming out of the first New York showing of Lee Isaac Chung’s tender family drama “Minari.” “My mask is drenched,” she said.
But she was equally overwhelmed by being back in a cinema. Though Stillman feared the experience would be too restrictive because of COVID-19 protocols, she instead found it euphoric.
“It was just you and the movie screen,” said Stillman. “It was wonderful to smell the popcorn as soon as I got into the theatre — even though I don’t eat popcorn.”
Less than half of movie theatres are open nationwide, but reopenings are quickening. Theaters in many other areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but that attempted comeback fizzled. Throughout, theatres remained shut in the five boroughs. For a year almost to the date, one of the world’s foremost movie capitals stayed dark.
For a theatrical business that has been punished by the pandemic, the resumption of moviegoing in New York — is a crucial first step in revival.
“It’s a symbolic moment,” said Michael Barker, co-president of the New York-based Sony Pictures Classics, which on Friday released the Oscar contenders “The Father” and “The Truffle Hunters” in Manhattan theatres . “It says that there is hope for the theatrical world to reactivate itself.”
For some moviegoers who consider the big screen the only way to see a movie, the long-in-coming day had almost religious significance.
“Moviegoing for me is like going to church,” said JM Vargas, who had tickets Friday to “Minari,” “The Last Dragon” and “Chaos Walking.” “I’ve been waiting a year to go back to church.”
Cinemas in the city are currently operating at only 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 per each auditorium. As in other places, mask wearing is mandatory, seats are blocked out and air filters have been upgraded.
Many theatres were caught off guard when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said cinemas could, under those conditions, reopen. Some of the city’s prominent theatres , including the Film Forum, the Alamo Drafthouse, the Metrograph and Regal Cinemas were targeting openings in the coming weeks. Some needed more time to prepare. After sitting dormant all winter, the Cinema Village in Manhattan two weeks earlier burst a pipe, flooding the lobby — one last bit of bad luck in a grueling year.
“This was the worst horror movie. I don’t think any Hollywood director could have dreamed it up,” said Nicolas Nicolaou, owner of the Cinema Village and theatres in Queens and New York. “We didn’t realize we’d be 100% shutdown for this long.”
New York, along with Los Angeles (where theatres are still closed), is one of the top movie markets. For smaller films, it’s a vital epicenter of word-of-mouth. For blockbusters, it’s a lucrative necessity. Without New York or Los Angeles open, Hollywood studios have pushed most of their larger productions until more theatres are open, or they’ve steered films to streaming services.
“The New York opening is very significant to the theatre business in New York, in the nation and in the globe,” says John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners. “We in the movie theatre business live off of movies that play all around the country and all around the world. We keep seeing those movies leave the theatrical release schedule to move to later dates because there just haven’t been enough markets. New York is the most important of those markets.”
Lately, with President Biden’s prediction that every adult can be vaccinated by the end of May, the outlook for theatres has been brightening for the first time in a long time. Last weekend, “Tom & Jerry” overperformed at the box office with $14.1 million in ticket sales, even while it streamed on HBO Max. Though Universal Pictures pushed the “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” from late May to late June, other movies have moved up on the calendar, reversing the postponement tide.
Sony Pictures said it will release “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” in May. Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place II” moved into the May 28 date vacated by “F9.” The Walt Disney Co.’s “Black Widow” currently remains slated for May 7. Adding to the optimism: Southern California theatres are expected to reopen over the next few weeks.
“It’s not that we’re going back to record-breaking business this summer,” said Fithian. “We’re going to crawl, then we’re going to walk and then we’re going to run. It’s going to take into 2022 before sustained profitability comes back into the business.”
But at least on Friday, New York’s cinema lobbies were, if not crowded, again bustling. Sold-out signs for the evening adorned box-office windows. Even a little star power returned. Liam Neeson was to stop by the AMC at Lincoln Square to introduce “The Marksman.”
At the IFC Center in Greenwich Village, masked moviegoers flocked to films to play catch up — even if the movies were streaming. IFC is hosting a four-week “What’d We Miss?” series of movies the theatre couldn’t play over the last 12 months, including “First Cow” and “MLK/FBI.”
“We’re used to being present for the birth of these movies for New York audiences when they move into the public realm,” said John Vanco, senior vice-president of the IFC Center. The circumstances, he granted, weren’t ideal. But they were better than nothing. “I don’t look at 25% as being not good enough,” said Vanco. “I look at it as better than 0%.”
At the IFC, Tykon Herman settled in for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and had tickets for a 5 p.m. of “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
“I’m one of the very few that don’t have Netflix,” said Herman, laughing. “I’m just old-fashioned. I’ve loved the theatre experience from the time I saw ‘E.T.’ It’s not going to be the same but sitting down in front of this screen makes me feel like things may be getting back to normal soon.”
California to let Major League Baseball, Disneyland reopen - THE CANDAIAN PRESS
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California on Friday lifted some coronavirus restrictions on outdoor sports and entertainment venues, clearing the way for fans to attend games on Major League Baseball's opening day and for theme parks like Disneyland to reopen for the first time in more than a year.
The rules take effect April 1, but they only apply to people living in California. Baseball teams, event organizers and theme parks are not allowed to sell tickets to anyone living out of state as public health officials try to limit mixing while continuing to roll out coronavirus vaccinations.
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's all announced they will have fans in the stands for opening day on April 1. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants both start their seasons on the road and said they would announce their plans later.
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock did not say when the iconic theme park would reopen, but added “we can’t wait to welcome guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration announced the rules on the same day the governor signed a law aimed at returning public school students to classrooms by April 1. Newsom and state lawmakers have moved quickly in recent days to change the state's coronavirus rules, including allowing indoor youth sports to resume and making it easier for businesses to reopen in most counties.
Newsom also faces a recall threat that has gained steam during the pandemic amid growing opposition to shutdowns.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's top public health official, said the state is acting now because the rates of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are declining while the number of people receiving vaccines is increasing. California reported 4,659 new coronavirus cases on Thursday while just over 3 million people have been fully vaccinated, or about 10% of the population 16 and older.
“Today’s announcement is focused on building in some of the compelling science about how the virus behaves, and how activities when done a certain way can reduce risk,” Ghaly said.
Despite President Joe Biden saying there will be enough vaccine doses for all adults by the end of May, state officials said Friday that they can't estimate when the next group of people will be eligible for shots. Supplies are expected to stay flat for several weeks, said Marta Green, who is with the state agency charged with vaccination delivery.
California divides its counties into four colour -coded tiers based on the spread of the virus. The purple tier is the most restrictive, allowing the fewest activities because of COVID-19 spread, followed by red, orange and yellow. Attendance limits for outdoor sports and other events are based on what tier a county is in.
Outdoor sports will be limited to 100 people in the purple tier. The limits increase to 20% capacity in the red tier, 33% in the orange tier and 67% in the yellow tier.
Teams and event organizers can only sell tickets regionally in the purple tier. In the other tiers, teams and organizers can sell tickets to anyone living in California. No concessions will be allowed in the purple tier, while in others, concession sales will only be available at seats.
Enforcing the rules will be left to venues. Ghaly and Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, said organizers will have to sell tickets in advance and can cross-check to confirm hometowns to help with contact tracing if needed.
Myers acknowledged that some people will try to beat the system, but she said officials hope people will respect the guidelines.
The Oakland A’s announced fans will be seated in pods of two or four seats, and tickets will only be available on the MLB Ballpark app.
Fans can order concessions on their phones and have them delivered to their seats. No tailgating is allowed, and teams will not accept cash inside the stadium. People who don’t have debit cards can purchase one with cash at a limited number of locations inside the venue.
Richard Haick of San Pablo, California, has already bought ticket vouchers for the Oakland A’s return and said he hopes to take his 10-year-old son to a game soon.
“It’s nice to have, even in a reduced capacity, some sense of normal,” said Haick, a 45-year-old photographer.
Theme parks can open in the red tier at 15% capacity and boost attendance limits as virus rates decrease. Again, only people who live in California can buy tickets. Indoor rides at outdoor parks will be allowed because they are typically short and can allow for proper spacing.
Disneyland employees have been furloughed or out of a job for nearly a year. Andrea Zinder, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union that represents Disney workers, said employees are “excited to go back to work and provide Californians with a bit more magic in their lives."
Disney fan Kenny King Jr. said he became an annual Disneyland passholder a decade ago and typically takes his family there five times a year.
King, 38, and his family, who live in Pleasant Hill, last went to Disneyland in February 2020 for his birthday. He's excited to return with his 8-year-old daughter, who had just started enjoying rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, and to take his 2-year-old son, who was mesmerized by the lights and sounds when he visited last year.
“We’ll sit there at the house sometimes and we’ll be like man, I just miss Disneyland,” King said.
He said he's confident Disney will take appropriate safety measures. “They’ve had plenty of time to game plan on that,” he said.
Associated Press writer Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this story.
Adam Beam And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
United, British Air Sound Alarm on Alliance Data Breach - BLOOMBERG
BY Mary Schlangenstein, Justin Bachman and Siddharth Philip
(Bloomberg) -- British Airways, United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. were among carriers affected by a cyberattack that hit the Star and Oneworld alliances, exposing some loyalty-program member information.
SITA Passenger Service System Inc.’s processing services were hit by a “highly sophisticated but limited” breach that targeted personal data stored on servers at its data center in Atlanta, the company confirmed in an emailed statement. The problem was identified on Feb. 24, and the hackers were able to access the data for less than a month, it said. SITA PSS is a unit of SITA Group, a closely held international group of companies based in Geneva.
The breach potentially exposes information belonging to frequent flyers worldwide, with 26 member airlines in the Star Alliance and 13 in Oneworld. SITA is still notifying affected airlines and declined to specify what data was compromised. The extent to which each carrier was affected varies, it said. The information collected by SITA PSS was used to facilitate awards of frequent flyer miles and other privileges recognized by each alliance’s member airlines.
SITA said it “immediately mobilized” experts to address the breach and that “the matter remains under active investigation.”
Read more: Watchdog Warns of Weak Cybersecurity in DOD Weapons Contracts
Exposed information didn’t include financial information or passwords of British Airways customers, and wasn’t a breach of the carrier’s systems, the airline said by email. Executive Club members’ names, membership numbers and some of their preferences, such as seating, may have been accessed, it said. The carrier encouraged members to reset their program password.
American Airlines Group Inc. and United also said that only similar limited data was disclosed and didn’t include financial information or passwords that would allow access to individual loyalty accounts. The carriers said their own information systems weren’t compromised. SITA only had information for United’s premium frequent flyers, meaning that passengers in the general program wouldn’t have been affected, the airline said.
Singapore Airlines told members of its KrisFlyer loyalty program in an email that about 580,000 of them were affected and that exposed data included their plan membership number, tier status and, in some cases, their name. That data is all the carrier shares with other Star Alliance members, and credit card information and travel details weren’t involved, it said. Cathay Pacific Airways told its customers that the breach didn’t involve its systems and said their accounts remain secure.
Star Alliance said it collects minimal data from customers so that member airlines can recognize premium customers of each carrier in the group, while Oneworld said the breach didn’t directly affect its systems. Delta Air Lines Inc., a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, said there was “no indication” its information was exposed.
The cyberattack was reported earlier by the Business Times.
(Updates with American Airlines comments in sixth paragraph)
COVID-19 travel insurance becoming a vacation staple - REUTERS
By Allison Lampert, Noor Zainab Hussain
(Reuters) - COVID-19 insurance policies are increasingly joining passports and sunscreen as vacation staples, creating opportunities for insurers as more countries require mandatory coverage in case visitors fall ill from the coronavirus.
Airline bookings are on the rise in some regions, driving cautious hopes of a revival in summer traffic, but also raising fears among tourist destinations of getting hit with bills should vacationers become stranded by the virus.
More than a dozen countries from Aruba to Thailand require COVID-19 coverage for visitors, with Jordan the latest to consider such protections, organizers of an emergency services plan told Reuters.
The market for all types of COVID-19 travel coverage is estimated to be between $30 billion to $40 billion a year, according to travel insurance consultant Robyn Ingle, with companies like AXA and AIG underwriting protection.
But a surge in demand for COVID-19 coverage also means insurers could be on the hook for big payouts should another wave of infections lead to large numbers of cancellations or tourists getting sick.
“Travel insurance and protection services are taking off at pace with travel as it resumes, said Dan Richards, chief executive for travel risk and crisis management firm Global Rescue.
COVID-19 insurance benefits typically cover treatment up to $100,000, and could include coronavirus testing costs and services like evacuation or local burial or cremation. These benefits, introduced by insurers in mid-2020, are sold either as add-ons or as separate policies with coverage for illness or quarantine.
Jeremy Murchland, president of Indiana-based travel insurance company Seven Corners, said travelers are now “more likely to insure their trips,” as more countries require COVID-19 coverage.
A travel insurance plan that includes trip protection, medical expense coverage for COVID-19 and protection for baggage and personal effects typically costs 4% to 8% of the dollar value of the trip, Murchland said.
While the pandemic has battered travel, demand for coverage has created opportunity for the hard-hit insurance industry and a niche to develop new products, companies said.
For example in June, Seven Corners introduced an optional medical travel plan with coverage for coronavirus expenses, Murchland said. By year’s end, the product with coronavirus coverage generated about 80% of total medical travel plan sales.
Seven Corners also saw a 20% rise in travelers buying highly priced “cancel for any reason” policies in 2020. The policies cover cancellation costs related to the virus.
Some countries have mandated travel insurance for incoming visitors – either by including it in their entry or visa fees or by requiring proof of coverage, said insurer World Nomads.
Jordan is evaluating whether to require a mandatory flat fee for visitors as part of a program from Global Rescue and the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council, said council co-chair Taleb Rifai. The program, which costs up to $100 per person, covers certain disasters and illnesses like COVID-19.
Jordan’s Tourism Bureau was not available for comment.
It is not clear how coverage demand will evolve as many more people become inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines.
Frank Comito, a special advisor to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, said some budget travelers have complained about mandatory coverage. And some countries could discontinue or relax the requirement as “we move away from the pandemic.”
Rifai, former secretary general of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, said he expects countries will continue requiring coverage as the vaccines “will take years” to roll out globally.
Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bangaluru; Editing by Denny Thomas and Bill Berkrot
FAAN Tightens Security At Airports After Kaduna Attack - DAILY TRUST
By Abdullateef Aliyu
Following Saturday's invasion of the airport quarters in Kaduna where 11 people were kidnapped, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has said it will not shut down the Kaduna International Airport, but that it has beefed up security around airports nationwide.
The Managing Director (MD) of FAAN, Capt Rabiu Yadudu, said this when the Senate Committee on Aviation visited the agency.
Daily Trust reports that two houses were attacked when gunmen broke into the quarters near the Kaduna airport where 11 people, including the entire family of a staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), were kidnapped.
The FAAN MD regretted the attack and noted that the agency was working with various security agencies to strengthen security of lives and equipment at airports across the country.
He said, "This incident is entirely different from closing down the airport. It's a security concern that we have at our staff quarters. A lot of our staff do not even live in this quarters. If there is a need for us to close, we will close it, but this is even far away from it.
"There is no need for that drastic action. Just a small percentage of our staff stay in the staff quarters; the rest are all living in the town. You can see that the staff quarters is fenced. We are taking appropriate measures, but like I said, we just have to improve to counter these challenges."
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, called for new security strategies to tackle the increasing security challenges in the country.
Sen Smart said, "There is a need for us to evolve new security architecture for Nigeria. Our population has increased and we are still faced with porous borders. Nigeria is not a clear-cut federal system. I don't know how to describe this country; federal system or unitary system, but I do know that Nigeria is said to be a federation and all nations where federalism is practiced, we do not run a unitary system of policing."
Thailand backs Covid-19 vaccine passport plan ahead of wider reopening - STRAIT TIMES
BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand moved a step closer to issuing vaccine certificates, with a panel of officials backing the proposal seen as a major milestone towards allowing the tourism-reliant nation to fully reopen to foreign visitors.
The Health Ministry will issue documents to residents who have completed their Covid-19 vaccinations that will allow them to travel abroad, according to Deputy Premier and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Thailand also plans to reduce the mandatory quarantine period for vaccinated foreign visitors to seven days from 14 days currently, he said, adding the proposals are expected to be approved by a national committee later this month.
“Foreigners travelling to Thailand with vaccination certificates in accordance with the requirements of each brands, will need to quarantine for only seven days,” Mr Anutin Charnvirankul told a news conference, referring to the doses needed to be effective.
The vaccine passport plan is the strongest signal yet from Thai authorities of their intent to reopen the borders more widely to tourists.
The so-called vaccine passport holders may get a complete waiver from quarantine on arrival from October, according to Mr Anutin.
A successful reopening by Thailand could spur other tourism-reliant nations to follow suit, as countries like Britain set out ambitious timelines for easing restrictions.
Thailand is betting on a revival in tourism, which accounted for about a fifth of the country's gross domestic product pre-pandemic, to return South-east Asia's second-largest economy to growth.
The local tourism industry has called for mandatory quarantines to be lifted from as early as July 1 so it can open to potentially millions of vaccinated visitors.
“The quarantine waiver remains the best way to support the travel industry” given the local industry’s dependence on foreign tourists, Mr Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of the Thai Airlines Association told reporters.
Mandatory quarantine of any duration may still remain a sticking point for most holidaymakers though it may be used by business travelers and long-stay tourists, he said.
Thailand will be able to adjust its quarantine rules for inoculated travellers once there's a global standard for vaccine passports, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Monday (March 8).
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, chaired by Mr Prayut, will consider easing more restrictions ahead of the Thai New Year holiday in April, a peak travel period, according to Ms Apisamai Srirangsan, the centre's spokesman.
More than 25,000 people in Thailand have received their first shots in the first week of a national rollout, including in regions that are popular with foreign tourists. The government may also lift a nationwide state of emergency imposed a year ago to contain the pandemic by the end of May, Ms Apisamai said.
Highlights of the proposed quarantine rules from April are:
- Shorter quarantine period of seven days for foreign nationals with vaccine certificates issued 14 days prior to travel and not earlier than three months and negative Covid-19 test results.
- Seven-day quarantine for returning Thai citizens with vaccine certificates issued at least 14 days prior to travel and not earlier than one month. Travellers also need negative Covid-19 test results.
- 10-day quarantine for those without vaccine certificates but have a negative test result.
Those arriving from Africa will still be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
COVID-19: FG threatens to suspend flights from UAE, Netherlands - THE CABLE
The federal government has threatened to suspend flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Netherlands as a reciprocal action.
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, was speaking during the presidential task force on COVID-19 (PTF) briefing in Abuja on Monday.
Mustapha said the ministry of aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have been directed to take necessary reciprocal measures permissible by law and other international obligations.
“For over a month, Nigeria has been engaging with the authorities of the UAE and the Netherlands over pre-departure testing requirements passengers should meet before travelling from Nigeria,” Mustapha said.
On February 1, 2021, Emirates Airline, which operates from Dubai, announced that it would conduct rapid COVID-19 tests for Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure in addition to banning transit flights operated by other airlines with Nigerians on them.
The NCAA opposed this move and placed a 72-hour suspension on outbound Emirates flights from Nigeria.
At the time, the agency said the airline has been airlifting passengers from Nigeria using rapid antigen tests conducted by laboratories not approved by regulatory authorities.
The ban was lifted after the carrier agreed to withdraw the rapid antigen testing done prior to the departure flights from Nigeria.
U.S. says visa applicants denied due to Trump 'Muslim ban' can reapply - REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. visa applicants who were denied because of former President Donald Trump’s travel ban on 13 mostly Muslim-majority and African countries can seek new decisions or submit new applications, the State Department said on Monday.
President Joe Biden overturned Trump’s so-called Muslim ban on Jan. 20, his first day in office, calling it “a stain on our national conscience” in his proclamation.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said applicants who were refused visas prior to Jan. 20, 2020, must submit new applications and pay a new application fee. Those who were denied on or after Jan. 20, 2020, may seek reconsideration without re-submitting their applications and do not have to pay additional fees, Price said.
Applicants selected in the diversity visa lottery prior to the current fiscal year are barred by U.S. law from being issued visas if they have not gotten them already, he said. The diversity lottery aims to accept immigrants from countries that are not normally awarded many visas.
Since December 2017, after a revised version of the original travel ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, some 40,000 people have been barred from entering the United States under the ban, according to State Department data.
During the Trump administration some countries were added and others dropped from the list. At the end of Trump’s presidency it comprised Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela and Yemen.
Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Christopher Cushing
MMA2 Gets New X-ray Machines, Others - THISDAY
The new x-ray machines and air conditioning system ordered by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) to upgrade facilities at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Terminal two (MMA2) have arrived the country.
This was disclosed in a statement by the Group Corporate Affairs Manager of BASL, Mikail Mumuni. He said the equipment imported from the US arrived the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, last Wednesday, from where they were later moved to MMA2.
The installation of the x-ray machines and air conditioners commenced last Friday and was expected to be completed within one week.
The BASL Spokesman quoted the acting Head of Business of the company, Mr. Ralph Uchegbu as saying that “the installation of the new X-ray machines and air conditionals will further re-inforce the status of MMA2 as the nation’s pre-eminent airport terminal in terms of customers security and comfort.”
BASL recently announced that it had invested over $500,000 on the importation of the machines as part of a massive upgrading of its X-ray machines and air conditioning systems for passengers’ safety, security and comfort.