Heathrow, British Airways to Ease Mask Rules as U.K. Ends Curbs - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- London’s Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. are dropping mask requirements as the country scraps remaining Covid-19 travel curbs despite a new flareup in cases.
Masks will no longer be needed in Heathrow terminals, rail stations or office buildings from Wednesday, the airport said in a statement. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will also drop face-covering requirements on flights to destinations where their use is no longer mandated.
On Monday, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a tweet that the government had decided to drop all pandemic-related travel restrictions from Friday, including testing requirements for unvaccinated passengers and the passenger locator form for inbound travelers.
The changes to mask requirements for aviation come after most pandemic-related rules were lifted in England last month as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to get the country to learn to live with the coronavirus. Case counts have risen in recent days, though hospitalizations and deaths are far below previous levels.
U.K. to Scrap Pandemic Rules on International Travel This Week - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s U.K. government will scrap the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on international travel from the end of this week, marking the end of nearly two years of measures.
Although the harshest rules had already been lifted, the move will be welcomed by the aviation and tourism industry who blame the measures as acting as a deterrent to travel.
Currently people arriving in England who have not yet had a Covid-19 vaccine must take a test before arrival, while all passengers need to fill in a passenger locater form. Both requirements will be dropped from Friday morning.
The move is “the final important step toward frictionless air travel,” a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said.
Petrol to hit £2.50 per litre and diesel £3, experts warn MPs - YAHOO FINANCE
Petrol prices could hit as high as £2.50 per litre in the UK and diesel could soar to £3 per litre as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine keeps pushing oil prices, MPs have been told.
Amrita Sen, director of research at Energy Aspects, told the Treasury Committee that Britons can expect the current trend at the pump to continue as long as crude prices climb.
“Crude oil prices are currently around $110, we are saying it could easily go up by $50 — so let’s say it’s just over a 50% increase — that’s how much fuel prices would go up.”
Asked by MPs if she saw petrol rising to £2.40 a litre, she said: “Yes, around that much.”
The scenario is even more dire for diesel as industry demand will ensure that prices keep climbing.
“Even when consumers, let’s say you and I don’t fill up our cars and we run or cycle, it’s that industrial usage that can keep diesel [prices] high. Absolutely, £2.50, even closer to £3 depending on how high oil prices get. That is definitely within the realms of possibility,” she said.
The only way to tackle these soaring prices would be if the government moves to cut VAT on fuel, something motorist group RAC is already pushing for.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced last week that the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of the year.
UK fuel prices broke new records over the weekend, as the surge in crude prices pushed up costs.
The average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts hit 163.5p on Sunday, up from 148p per litre a month ago, according to data firm Experian Catalist.
Diesel hit 173.4p per litre, up from 151.6p last month.
The drop in crude prices in the last week has not yet reached the forecourts, but prices could start to fall soon.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the average price of petrol “appears to be on a collision course with £1.65 a litre”:
The price hikes seen over the weekend are still a result of the oil price rise which began at the start of the month and peaked early last week.
“As the oil price has now fallen back, we should hopefully reach the peak and start to see prices going the other way to reflect the big drop in wholesale costs seen at the end of last week, subject to no further spikes in the barrel price this week.”
Also giving evidence at the Treasury select committee, Nathan Piper, head of oil and gas research at Investec, said consumers need to prepare for even more price hikes.
“Consumers need to get ready for what could be continuing increases in fuel price,” he said.
He also warned that energy bills in October are set to double from already record highs. The price cap for the average energy bill will jump by £693 in April.
“The input price there is 126p per therm and the current price is 225p so the bills in October are going to go up again and by quite a margin. What you will see is actually a doubling in people’s energy bills year-on-year," Piper said.
Sen estimates that the government would have to spend millions if it wanted to soften the blow for UK families.
"We calculated that the price cap versus where currently our price forecast is for NBP [gas] and (...) the difference you [government] would potentially have to subsidise households is anything between £30bn to £62bn more”
The energy expert added that she is seeing banks restricting borrowing and lending, removing liquidity from the markets. Despite saying this is not as bad as the 2008 great financial crisis, "it is step one", he said.
NNPC Set To Grant Airline Operators Licence To Import Aviation Fuel - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
By Kehinde Akintola – Abuja
The Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, Mr Mele Kyari on Monday disclosed plans to grant licence to the Airline Operators Association of Nigeria (AOAN), to commence importation of Aviation Fuel otherwise called ATK.
Mr Kyari disclosed this at the end of the investigative hearing into the price hike of ATK by oil marketers, held at the instance of the House of Representatives, during which the House leadership, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), NNPC Limited unanimously resolved to fix the ATK price at N500 per litre as against N670 per litre.
“We know this is a very difficult situation. We know that once aviation fuel increases, prices of flight tickets will certainly increase and this can surely cost pain for Nigerians. That is why we are working with you to ensure that those pains are minimized to the barest minimum and one of the elements is the pricing of aviation fuel.
“So, what we have engaged with MOMAN, DAPMAN and the airline operators is that in three days’ time, their representatives will sit down and agree on a transparent base for pricing. That means that they ought to have a referenced benchmark that is quoted transparently in the market.
“They will have a referenced exchange rate for the Naira so that anyone can compete. They will also agree on a premium which currently differs from Customer to Customer, depending on the volume you buy and the credit level.
“These are the things they can negotiate in three days and close so that going forward, there is a transparent decision on pricing. This will no doubt throw up the actual value of the product in the market. You will no longer see these discrepancies we have seen where some people are selling at 445 and some are selling at N630. This will completely bring close such that you will not see these differences.
“We also agreed that in the interim, between now and the three days that have to close negotiations, (the lowest price we have seen as of this morning was N445 and a high of N605. There is a trader that is selling at N630 and we don’t think this is normal and so, we discounted it), we agreed that the will sell at N500 in the next three days and after that, they will switch to the new price that everyone can assess.
Speaking earlier during the investigative hearing, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Wase chided the authorities of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) for failing in its responsibilities, saying: “You are supposed to regulate their (oil marketers) activities, are you just giving the licence? What are the minimum requirements; what is expected of that company that you are authorizing them to bring in this product; is it that they have the opportunity and then the leverage to tell you whatever rate they want and it has to stand? No, I don’t think so,” the Deputy Speaker queried.
While noting that the investigative hearing initiated by any Parliament is a quasi-court, Hon. Wase said: “You are the one to give the direction. I cannot listen to them (airline operators) much because you are the regulator, the law allows you to do that, the law allows you to issue licence, it’s not everybody that is allowed to bring in this product.
“GMD knows what suffering he has gone through in trying to bring back normalcy because of the carelessness of some persons has caused us. Is it the past situation we have found ourselves that you are trying to take us back to? I said we are not, you remember I sued the word don’t blackmail this government? We are not willing to accept blackmail,” Hon. Wase warned.
In his remarks, Chairman/Managing Director of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema who frowned at the fraud being perpetrated by the oil marketers and the reluctance to give the actual cost of landing cost of ATK, said: “Mr Deputy Speaker, sir, nobody on this side of the divide has answered your question. You have been asking them one particular question. Everybody is dancing around it.
“What the Deputy Speaker wanted to hear is how much did buy this fuel per litre. By now, you must have computed it. They are dancing around it and telling you stories. That is what you have been asking, sir. Before they came here, they were supposed to have computed their unit cost.
“I have the mandate of every airline in this country to announce to you that if they can’t come down from their rooftops, we have only three more days to be able to fly. We are not threatening this country. We have been subsiding what we have been doing.
“The rate as of today is N630, N640 and N605. We have an aircraft going to Kano, it has about 7000 litres of fuel in it, multiple it, sir by N630. The unit cost per seat is about N70,000 per seat. You have not talked about insurance that is very static. Nigerians pay heavy insurance premiums because this country is stigmatized.
“You have to insure abroad. It is a must before all the insurance companies in Nigeria put together cannot even pay for one aircraft. So, you have to go abroad to insure. Yet the fuel cost which is supposed to be about 30 to 40 per cent in every clime, in Nigeria it about 70 per cent even before time. So, so you can now see the mortality rate of airlines in this country.
“They refused to answer your simple question. Whether you got money from CBN or red market, how much is the unit cost of your acquisition so that we know if the airlines are cheating you or you are cheating the airlines if you have formed a cartel to increase your prices overnight. From what is happening, sir, if it continues this way, the least ticket will be about N120 for economy and we don’t want to do that.
“We want to inform the house that we are demanding that we should be given a license to import this fuel. If we can buy jets that cost hundreds of billions of dollars, we can afford to import this fuel. Let NNPC give us the right to import this fuel, we won’t complain, sir.
Speaking after the resolution of the crisis, Mr Onyema who applauded the House intervention, said: The Nigerian Legislature has been very wonderful, without you, the airlines in Nigeria would have crumbled. I am not saying this to please you.
“You fought for the Customs waivers on imported aircraft, aircraft spares and for the airlines to have sustainable operations. So, we owe you huge gratitude, together with the President of this country who signed it into law.
“For the (NNPC) GMD, he was very transparent and was not on any side except on the side of truth. He told me it was too possible to bring down the price to N200, but he brought it to where it is. The DG NCAA has always breadth down our neck to ensure that fly safe.
“We thank the GMD for wading into this. Even though at N500, our unit cost per seat will now be about N85,000 barely insurance and other things. That is our pain. I wish we could buy this fuel at N200 so that Nigerians can afford to buy it. That is our predicament and so, the public should understand if there is shift in what they are paying now and what they are going to pay later.
“Anybody can calculate it just as it has been done here, to buy 8,000 litres of fuels at N500 per litre. How much will that give you for just one hour flight.”
On his part, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu who frowned at the level of impunity being perpetrated by some actors, said: “I believe strongly that it is better to jaw aw than to war-war. Essentially, we all know the limitation of not getting a problem solved and the best always is to find a solution which we have done today. We will continue to work for the Nigerian people.
“I will plead that whatever assistance the GMD and the regulatory authority can give the aviation industry, they should please do because the market is a bit chaotic now and whatever impact in the aviation has security consequences.”
In his ruling, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wase who stressed the need for effective monitoring of the implementation of the resolution said: “We have come to terms and reached a number of resolutions and we are looking forward to a conclusion.” https://tribuneonlineng.com/nn...
EndSARS Protest: LCC to Resume Toll Operations at Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge - THISDAY
BY Segun James
The Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the operators of the Lekki and the Lekki-Ikoyi Toll Gates are to resume operation at Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge on April 1, 2022.
The company, in an advertorial in a national newspaper and signed by the Managing Director, Yomi Omomuwasan, said that the resumption of tolling followed several consultations with all parties and critical stakeholders affected by the tolling operations.
This is coming about 18 months after tolling was suspended at the bridge following the aftermath of protests against police brutality and extrajudicial killings in Lagos State in October 2020.
Although Omomuwasan was silent on the Lekki tollgate operation, he, however, announced that commuters plying the corridor will not be paying any toll for the first two weeks until 15th April 2022.
He said that resumption of tolling at the bridge is coming after extensive consultations with stakeholders including the residents associations, traditional rulers, community leaders, professional bodies as well as the Lagos State Government.
“We have introduced new technology and innovations to make passage at the toll plaza seamless and faster for commuters. We are replacing the old toll device with upgraded ones for faster throughput at the toll plaza.
“The new devices have been configured to synchronise with the newly upgraded tolling systems and will improve functionally while enabling a better experience at the toll plaza,” the LCC boss said in the announcement.
Following the LCC’s announcement that it consulted the state government, all efforts to confirm the new situation proved abortive as both the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso and the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Gboyega Akosile refused to pick their calls and did not respond to short test messages sent to their phones.
Soaring jet fuel prices 'a huge challenge' for recovering airline industry - YAHOO FINANCE
As travel demand reaches levels not seen since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the airline industry will have to grapple with soaring prices that may raise the cost of tickets and hamper financial recovery efforts.
The sudden spike in jet fuel prices spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine is putting additional pressure on the airline industry, just as it is in the midst of a recovery from the pandemic.
According to the S&P Global Platts jet fuel price index, the price of jet fuel jumped to US$141.70 a barrel as of March 4, an increase of 27.5 per cent from the previous week and 96.2 per cent compared to the same time last year. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a lobby group that represents 290 airlines including Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, had previously forecast that the airline industry would lose $11.6 billion in 2022 with the price of jet fuel at $78 a barrel, representing 20 per cent of total costs.
With the cost of jet fuel nearly double that, airlines stand to lose even more this year.
"Absorbing such a massive hit on costs just as the industry is struggling to cut losses as it emerges from the two-year COVID-19 crisis is a huge challenge," IATA chief executive Willie Walsh said in a news release, warning that soaring fuel costs could impact fares as airlines try to recoup losses.
"If the jet fuel price stays that high, then over time, it is reasonable to expect it will be reflected in airline yields."
Some airlines are already looking at raising prices in the wake of higher fuel costs. Transat A.T. (TRZ.TO) chief executive Annick Guérard said on a conference call with analysts last week that the airline is "adapting" its pricing in response to rising costs.
"We are looking at all the programming we have planned for the summer, and we are using (Airbus A321 neo planes), which are very fuel-efficient planes so that is going to be beneficial for us and give us an edge in the upcoming season," she said.
"We are adapting our pricing structure. We are seeing some movement in terms of fuel charges in the Atlantic market as well, so this is reassuring."
The fuel price challenge comes as Canadian airlines ramp up capacity ahead of what is expected to be a busy summer season.
Air Canada (AC.TO) announced last month that it will expand its summer schedule, relaunching 34 international routes, including some that have been suspended since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Last week, Transat announced it is relaunching a "significant" number of routes to Europe and the United States as COVID-19 restrictions ease. On Monday, WestJet unveiled its summer schedule that includes the full restoration of service across Alberta to pre-pandemic levels. The Calgary-based airline will also offer more transatlantic routes, flying from Calgary to London, Paris, Rome and Dublin, and from Toronto to Barcelona, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.
Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker wrote in a note to clients that there is a three to four-month lag before travellers see the impact of rising fuel costs reflected in airfares. She says rising fuel costs may also impact the extent to which capacity is relaunched.
"In general, growth may slow or, as is the current case, capacity that airlines would have brought back if the pandemic continued to recede won't return."
"It is likely the next few months will be financially concerning, even though traffic is strong," Becker said.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.
UK suspends visa application for study, work, family - RADIO NIGERIA
The United Kingdom Embassy in Nigeria has announced a temporary suspension of study, work, and family visa applications, as priority is now being placed on applications made under the Ukraine Family Scheme.
The Embassy announced this in a statement shared on Tuesday on their official social media handles.
According to the Embassy, the Ukraine Family Scheme was launched in response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the invasion of Ukraine.
The statement further noted that Nigerians, whose passports were ready for collection, would be contacted by the Visa Application Centre.
“UK Visas and Immigration is currently prioritising applications made under the Ukraine Family Scheme, following its launch and in response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the invasion of Ukraine.
“As a result, UKVI has temporarily suspended priority and super-priority services for new study, work, and family applications. Customers with standard applications in study, work, and family routes may experience some delays in the processing of their application.
“We are still currently unable to offer PV for visitor applications in Nigeria. Standard visitor visa applications are currently taking an average of six weeks to process
“Applicants will be contacted by the Visa Application Centre (VAC) when their passport is ready for collection. They should not attend the VAC until they have been invited to do so.
“Where there are extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example, a medical emergency), UKVI may consider expediting specific cases. However, the bar for this is high and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. If a request is exceptionally urgent, applicants can contact UK Visas and Immigration for help. Please note that this is a chargeable service for overseas customers.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause,”
Editing by Tola Oguneye
162 Stranded Nigerians arrive Lagos from Libya - TVC NEWS
A batch of 162 Stranded Nigerian Returnees from Libya has just arrived the country.
The Returnees who arrived the Cargo Wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport Ikeja at about 1556 hours aboard Boeing 737-800 Al Buraq Air with registration number 5A-DMG..
The profile of the Returnees shows that 41 adults female, 5 female children and 6 female infants along with 96 adult males, 9 male children and 5 male infants including 3 adults male with minor medical issues were brought back courtesy of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
This batch brought the total of assisted voluntary Returnee flights to 91.
With this number of flights the total number of Returnees are put at 24,000 Returnees.
From Libya, the total is 16,000.
Immigration kicks as Nigerian passport ranks below Niger, Chad, others - PUNCH
The Nigeria Immigration Service on Tuesday in Abuja reacted to a global ranking that placed the Nigerian passport 98th out of 199 countries; below other African states such as Malawi, Niger, Chad, Zimbabwe, Uganda and The Gambia.
It said although it welcomed the ranking, it is more concerned with Nigerian passport’s compliance with the global standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
According to details obtained from Henley & Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, the passport index published quarterly is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information.
The recently published Q1 2022 index cross-examined the passports of 199 countries with 227 travel destinations; and ranked these passports based on global access and mobility.
Each passport is scored based on the number of destinations that the holder can access visa-free. This also applies if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority upon entry.
Japan and Singapore topped the ranks with passports gaining access to 192 countries. The United States and the United Kingdom ranked seventh while Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan settled at the bottom five.
Despite emerging 28th globally, the Seychellois passport ranked the highest in Africa, having visa-free access to 152 countries. Botswana and Namibia ranked second and third with 86 and 78 countries, respectively.
Malawi (76th), Niger (90th), Chad (90th) The Gambia (75th), Uganda (76th), Zimbabwe (78th) and Sierra Leone (80th) all ranked above Nigeria and Ethiopia, which tallied at 98th. Despite Nigeria’s position on the list, it rose five places compared to the Q4 2021.
Reacting to the report, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Amos Okpo, argued that visa-free mobility is largely a reflection of bilateral agreements between countries and within regional blocs.
Speaking with our correspondent on Tuesday, he said, “While we appreciate the work done by Henley & Partners, we are more concerned with deepening our passport technology to meet up with the standards of the ICAO; ensuring that our passport complies with ICAO guidelines.”
Okpo argued that Nigeria has been a Public Key Directory of the ICAO since April 2009 and, therefore, sits in a respectable position in the comity of nations.
According to the ICAO, “the Public Key Directory is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate electronic Machine-Readable Travel Documents such as e-Passports, electronic ID cards and Visible Digital Seals.”
The directory which acts as a central broker for this information ensures that information adheres to the technical standards required to achieve and maintain interoperability.
Asserting NIS’ position on Henley’s ranking, Okpo said, “What we put more emphasis on here is our standing in the ICAO. When ICAO alerts us of any lapses with our passports, we get to work. Nigeria has been part of the Public Key Directory since 2009 and it took us complying with several passport security specifications to be reflected on that directory.
“This (Henley & Partners) ranking is based on passport admissibility. And that is largely a function of mutual understanding, reciprocity among countries which does not necessarily reflect the true strength of a passport. A good example is the European Union and the ECOWAS,” he said.
He also noted that when Nigeria joined the ICAO’s PKD, there were only 13 member states; New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, the United States of America, Germany, the Republic of Korea, France, China, Kazahkstan and India.
So far, the directory has 82 participant countries, with Mongolia joining in December 2021.
Canada housing starts rise 8% in February - REUTERS
OTTAWA, March 15 (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts rose 8% in February compared with the previous month on gains in both multiple urban starts and single detached urban starts, data from the national housing agency showed on Tuesday.
The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts rose to 247,256 units in February, beating analyst expectations of 238,000 and up from a revised 229,185 units in January, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation data showed.
Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Andrew Heavens