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Where Can You Fly Right Now? U.S. Vaccine Drive Gives Airlines a Boost - BLOOMBERG

MAY 19, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- A powerful vaccine drive in the U.S. has pushed North America’s air-travel comeback past Asia’s for the first time since the Lunar New Year holiday in February.Airlines in the U.S. continued to gain momentum in the most recent week, based on data from flight tracker OAG. Asia, which had led all regions, lost ground as countries such as Singapore and Indonesia held back on air travel to fight a surge in coronavirus cases.

The switch highlights the power of accelerating Covid-19 vaccine programs in bringing back activities like entertainment and tourism that became high risk with the onset of the crisis last year. Countries that have quickly rolled out shots are making rapid progress toward the return of flying— including in Europe, where several nations have started to relax restrictions.

Air traffic there region still lags the rest of the developed world, but it’s begun to close the gap. The progress has been made possible by rising vaccination counts: notably in U.K., but also across the European Union.

Countries in Asia feeling the sting of rising cases have responded by tightening restrictions to counter the threat of a highly transmissible coronavirus variant that first took hold in India. This week, Singapore and Hong Kong suspended plans for a travel bubble that was set to start on May 26.

While Western countries have also taken such measures, they’ve emphasized accelerating vaccine rollouts to protect their populations. Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan, for example, are far behind the U.S., U.K., or Israel in per-capita inoculations.

What’s Happening in Air Travel This Week

Overall, air travel ticked up in the most recent week. Global capacity rose by one point to 58% of pre-crisis levels, based on Bloomberg’s weekly flight tracker, which uses OAG data to monitor the pulse of the comeback. 

Aviation has been hit hard throughout the pandemic. The industry lost $126 billion last year and stands to bleed another $48 billion this year, based on estimates from the International Air Transport Association. Governments that slammed borders shut early on are loath to loosen up too quickly, fearful that — like India — they’ll backslide on progress fighting a disease that has now killed almost 3.4 million people. 

The cautious pace of reopening means chances for a strong European bounce back in tourism this summer now rest on the peak of the season in July and August extending through September, when many tourists have traditionally gone back to work. This year, there’s hope that pent-up demand from vaccinated masses will extend for another month.

Airlines located inside of large domestic markets such as China, the U.S. and Australia have generally fared better than those in smaller locales like the U.K., Singapore or Greece. That dynamic is starting to shift, and vaccines are the big driver.

In the U.S., where 48% of the population has received at least one dose, carriers have added capacity to international destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, fed by demand from vaccinated travelers less afraid to get on planes. Still, domestic flights make up 85% of the global total.

Overall, U.S. capacity is now down less than 25% from the same week in 2019, jumping more than 7 percentage points in the past month, with the big three of  American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc., along with discount specialist  Southwest Airlines Co. and others accelerating their expansions.  

“Vaccinations have really picked up,” George Michalopoulos, chief commercial officer of Hungarian discounter Wizz Air Holdings Plc, said on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai this week. The U.S. is “two to three months ahead of Europe but that shows the path forward.” 

Europe Gets Going

In Europe, the return of international travel has been complicated by border rules set independently by more than two dozen countries. Progress was made this week, when the U.K. — which has gotten jabs into 55% of its population — finally removed a legal ban on leisure escapes. Sunny Portugal, one of the few countries on Britain’s “green list,” has been the biggest beneficiary. 

Read more:Sun-Hungry Brits Head South as Flights Resume Post-Covid Ban Empty Airports, Glitchy Apps: How to Fly From LHR-JFK Right Now

Greece, Italy and France have also made strides, with EU vaccine rates accelerating and plans being rolled out to welcome more outside visitors. In all, airline capacity closed the gap with 2019 levels by 4.4 percentage points in the past week, the most of any region. 

While vaccinations are the most important factor to a return to travel from a medical perspective, ending border restrictions will have a more-immediate impact transforming pent-up demand into ticket sales, said John Grant, chief analyst at OAG. 

“Governments have got to start acting responsibly and in unison rather than unilateral declarations around lockdowns,’’ said Grant. “Those types of situations are just damaging everyone’s confidence and frustrating airlines.’’

Crossing the Pond

One key objective for U.S. and European airlines is a meaningful restart of trans-Atlantic flights. The highly profitable market was gutted last year as the virus first surged in the west. Some European countries such as Italy have started to ease restrictions on Americans, but the opening isn’t reciprocal.

On Tuesday, Deutsche Lufthansa AG added its voice to a growing chorus of airlines demanding decisionmakers from Washington and London to Brussels change the rules.  The German carrier said it’s adding flights to Atlanta and Orlando starting in June based on rising demand, after curbs were loosened in its home country.

Meanwhile, U.S. businesses including hotel chains and car-rental firms are pushing hard for a reopening. The EU aims to lift recommended curbs on U.S. visitors as it introduces its Green Digital Certificate that should facilitate easier border checks. 

Once curbs are lifted, a good portion of the trans-Atlantic market “could be back very quickly, since these routes are for many airlines amongst their most profitable and there is a large amount of pent up demand,” said OAG’s Grant. He said it may take until next year for schedules to be fully restored.

One catalyst for a rebound could be a meeting of the G7 nations in Cornwall, England, from June 11 to 13, said Sean Doyle, the chief executive officer of British Airways.

He said he expects Britain to be “the first country this side of the Atlantic” permitted to resume travel to U.S. for non-Americans.

UK’ll deny visas to Nigerians who disrupt 2023 polls - British High Commissioner - VANGUARD

MAY 19, 2021

By Egufe Yafugborhi 

BRITISH High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has said the United Kingdom, UK, would deny visas to Nigerians who disrupt 2023 elections. Laing in a chat with Vanguard, yesterday, in Port Harcourt on her maiden visit to Rivers State, cautioned Governor Nyesom Wike and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to cement their legacies on a positive note by ensuring peaceful 2023 elections in Rivers State. 

The envoy said: “I do have some sympathy for Nigeria because if we as UK have one of these problems your country is having today, we will be struggling. Here, you deal with everything, from insurgency to kidnapping, to piracy off the Gulf of Guinea and you don’t have such a large army and police force for a country of this size. “The only way you turn this thing around is that government has to build the trust of its people, to have the people working with the government to deal with criminality. 

That’s how successful anti-criminal operations work. “People willingly report those committing crime, working with police to identify criminals, same with the military on the insurgency situation. It’s only when the community is on the side of the police and security services that they can turn around the situation.” On the expectations for Nigeria’s 2023 elections, Laing said: “2023 is not alright. What happens in the elections is very crucial, not just for Nigeria, but Africa to the world. You (Nigeria) are a large democracy.

“It doesn’t have to be a perfect election. There would be problems, but we want it to be better than the last one. We want it to be secure, peaceful, the process should be run well, and you need to get people to register.” On her choice of candidates, she said: “My ideal candidates would be two younger presidential candidates, both with female vice presidential candidates,” apparently referring to the two leading political parties.

To Wike and Amaechi on the next Rivers State governorship election, she said: “It is essential that there’s a peaceful election in Rivers State. It’s going to be a crucial part of his (Wike) legacy, how the election goes in this state. We’ve been saying the same thing to Amaechi. “Another thing we will be doing is to remind people that if people do incite violence or act violently, we will be prepared to deny them visas to the UK. We will make that statement clear and say it over again.”

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/20...

National carrier: Ministry prepares memo, plans 2022 takeoff date - PUNCH

MAY 20, 2021

BY  Stephen Angbulu


The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has assured Nigerians that the national airliner will swing into full operation by the first quarter of 2022.

He said this on Wednesday while answering questions from State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Sirika added that his ministry would, in two weeks, submit a proposal for the project for FEC’s approval.

He assured Nigerians that despite the initial delays, the Federal Government was still working hard to launch the national carrier and get it working.

He said the coronavirus pandemic stalled the plans and launch of the project.

Sirika underscored the project’s importance to Nigeria’s economy, stressing that the population size, vantage geographical location and other natural factors made the national carrier an economic necessity.

He said, “In this 2021, we will try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022.

“It is still in top gear, we are coming back to council, hopefully within the next two weeks to present the memo on the national carrier.

“We went to council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and then the council raised some questions and asked us to go and do the memo again and bring it back.

“So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by council, then of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.

“It was our intention to have a national carrier running in 2021, which is this year, unfortunately due to COVID-19, which took the greater part of last year, since March last year, activities were almost impossible.

“This in itself, though negatively affected civil aviation in terms of the establishment of the national carrier, makes it a much better time to establish the carrier than before.”

Buhari approves four airports as special economic zones - PUNCH

MAY 20, 2021

BY  Segun Adewole

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has approved four airports in Nigeria as Special Economic Zones.

The approved airports are Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

This was disclosed on Thursday by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

“I am very glad to announce that Mr President has Approved our four International Airports as Special Economic Zones. These are Lagos, Kano, Abuja & Port Harcourt. Our roadmap working,” he tweeted.

The PUNCH reported that the minister, on Wednesday, assured Nigerians that the national airliner will swing into full operation by the first quarter of 2022.

He disclosed this while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said, “In this 2021, we will try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022.

“It is still in top gear, we are coming back to council, hopefully within the next two weeks to present the memo on the national carrier.

“We went to council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and then the council raised some questions and asked us to go and do the memo again and bring it back.

“So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by council, then of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.”

Why Immigration Suspended Passport Production - THISDAY

MAY 21, 2021

BY  Chinedu Eze 


Overwhelmed by the plethora of demands by Nigerians desirous of leaving the country and pressured by the producers of the Nigerian passport to find the right pricing for the product, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) decided to suspend production of passports for two weeks.

Within that period, the NIS is expected to clear all the backlogs, including request for renewal and application for new passports, whose process had started and possible re-organisation of the top hierarchy of agency.

NIS in its verifiable twitter handle had stated: “All passport issuing centres have been directed to clear existing backlog of application on or before 31st May, 2021. To this effect, requests for fresh and reissue shall not be entertained with effect from 18th May 2021 to 31st May 2021 in all centres.”

THISDAY investigations revealed that there has been upsurge for demands for passports because, “people are desperately leaving the country.” Also, sources from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) disclosed that there has been upsurge in the number of Nigerians that are going for medical assessment for possible permanent stay in the UK, Australia and Canada.

“There are more asylum seekers from Nigeria. The demand for passport has increased exponentially, especially from the southern part of the country,” the source added.

THISDAY learnt that since last year there has been a spike in the demand of passports but many of those who had completed the requirements were yet to receive their passports so NIS faced piling demand which could reach choking level if Immigration continued to delay the issuance of completed passports. Passport Office Ikoyi, Lagos records the highest passport demand in Nigeria with average demand of 15,000-20,000 monthly, while Festac and Alausa offices produce about 50 per cent of that figure of about 7,500 to 10, 000 passports monthly.

But Immigration official from Ikoyi officer told THISDAY that the figures had doubled since after the lockdown in 2020, and the demand has continued unabated until the temporary suspension of passport issuance on May 17, 2021.

Immigration official at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos told THISDAY since after the lockdown the number of Nigerians who travel has continued to increase; although trips out of the country is seasonal, “there are high seasons and low seasons, but there have been progressive increase in the number of people that travel.”

“What is characteristic about migration is that more people leave the country during harsh economic situation and when the economy gets better more people will return to the country.

“This is not peculiar to Nigeria. But demographically, more people travel from southern Nigeria. In fact, it is largely southerners that pay for passports, even in the north; people from the south make more demand for passports.

“This is the first time scarcity of passport has lasted for too long. That is the reason why some of us feel that the scarcity may have been deliberate because this one lasted for over six months. There has not been any time in the past such scarcity lasted for up to two months.

“A lot of people are suffering because of this. Some Nigerians in Diaspora who returned to renew their passports dropped it and ran back overseas to secure their jobs. Students studying overseas seem to be the hardest hit because they cannot go to school. This is very tough for them,” a senior Immigration official who pleaded to remain anonymous told THISDAY.

THISDAY also learnt that the technical partner to NIS, Newworks Solution & Investment Limited and the producers of the passport, Irish Smart Technology Nigeria have been clamouring for the increase in the cost of the passports so that it could be profitable, due to naira depreciation.

Informed source disclosed to THISDAY that the new regime that would start in June, may be accompanied by new prices of the products and in order to sanitise the system, everything would be done online: applicants would make their application online and when the passports are ready Immigration would communicate to them online and now the period would take a minimum of six weeks.

THISDAY also learnt that the major reason why the passport booklets were scarce was because the producer of the passports, Irish Technologies was allegedly owed debts that run into millions of dollars by the Ministry of Interior. Although it was not confirmed that the debts had been paid but with the planned increase in the price of the products, it is hoped that Nigeria would be able to offset the debts.

Currently the Nigerian passports are produced overseas. The Ministry had a Public, Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with the foreign company, which produces the enhanced e-passport, but it has refused to supply the product due to the alleged huge debts.

Informed source from NIS said that there has been amicable resolution between the Ministry of Interior, the Nigeria Immigration Service and its partners to solve the impasse, noting that by the time the new regime would kick off on June 1, 2021 “the whole issues would be resolved.”

However, industry observer told THISDAY that the rules to restrain passport applicants from having access to Immigration officials have been there, “but it is these officials that flout the rules to make extra money for themselves; so even this new rule that will go with the new passport regime will not stand.”

FG nabs black market airline operator, vows clampdown - BLUEPRINT

MAY 21, 2021

Following recent complaints on  of  operations by private jet owners in Nigeria, federal authority has disclosed that culprits have been nabbed just as it is also scaling up its oversight functions in order to eradicate such nefarious businesses that cost the country billions of naira in .

Describing the act whereby private jet owners use their aircraft for commercial purposes black market operations,  of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt Musa Nuhu said the agency is prepared to arrest the  by frequently carrying out ramp checks of hangers where aircraft are parked.

Capt. Musa Nuhu spoke at an online question and answer session with the Chairman,   Aviation Association, AfBAA, Mr. Nike Fadugba, said where he revealed that the NCAA has a culprit currently being investigated having been nabbed by its inspectors.

According to the CAA helmsman, a number of measures have been put in place that will ensure such erring operators are identified and made to bear the full weight of the law.

Capt Nuhu affirmed that the hitherto melt out sanction on charter operations run foul of its regulations in the form of fines and certificate sanctions as well as the permit for non-commercial flights, PNCF, a  private operators are required to abide by.

World’s Most-Vaccinated Nation Seychelles Sees Tourism Pick-Up - BLOOMBERG

MAY 21, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Seychelles has seen a pickup in tourism after vaccinating a bigger proportion of its population against the coronavirus than any other nation.

The number of visitors to the Indian Ocean island archipelago plummeted 92% to 6,785 in the first quarter as international travel ground to a near-halt. Seychelles has since reopened its borders and several airlines have resumed flights. The country saw a recent surge in Covid-19 infections, although it abated this week.

The tourism numbers “are not pre-Covid numbers but it is a significant improvement,” Naadir Hassan, the minister of finance, economic planning and trade, said in an interview on Thursday. While the government banned intermingling of households and sporting events in response to the increased virus caseload, the minister said the economy couldn’t cope with another border closure regardless of whether there was another surge.

“When we close down our main sector, that is tourism, is impacted,” Hassan said. “That means we do not have revenues coming in, impacting immediately our exchange rate, and the government will not be able to sustain its economy.”

Read more: Seychelles Covid Outbreak Eases, Booster Shot Considered

Plummeting tourism revenues have placed the government’s finances under severe strain. That will require it to be more disciplined in its spending and significantly reduce support for Air Seychelles Ltd., the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation and other state entities, according to the minister.

The fiscal deficit is projected to fall to 15.3% of gross domestic product this year from 18% in 2020, the budget released in February showed. Seychelles is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund about providing budgetary support.

The nation’s debt equates to about 100% of its gross domestic product. It owed 18.1 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) at the end of last year, just over half of it to external creditors.

The government plans to reorganize its debt, replacing some domestic loans with more external financing, a move it hopes will bring down its interest bill, Hassan said.

Read more: Seychelles Sees 2021 Budget Deficit Narrowing

Green Africa gets nod for ticket sales - THE NATION

MAY 21, 2021

By Kelvin Osa-Okunbor

 

 

Lagos-based airline, Green Africa, is set to commence ticket sales via its website – greenafrica.com ahead of flight operations following pre-sales approvals from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

It said to mark the milestone, its first set of flyers to book tickets on greenafrica.com will enjoy 10per cent off the value of tickets as at booking time, adding that the offer applies across all products- Saver, ClassicTM and FlexTM.

Speaking on the initiative, Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Green Africa, Babawande Afolabi said: “This is a pivotal milestone on this journey, and we are delighted that the Green Africa vision is becoming a reality. We look forward to serving our customer and building Green Africa at scale.”

The carrier explained that two ATR 72-600 aircraft (with registrations 5N-GAE and 5N-GAA) have been received with a third aircraft (5N-GAD) expected soon.

Subsequently, commercial flights to and from Lagos (LOS) connecting Akure (AKR), Ilorin (ILR), Abuja (ABV), Owerri (QOW), Port Harcourt (PHC) and Enugu (ENU) are scheduled to commence from June 24th, 2021.

Ahead of ticket sales, a virtual general “Flyer Info Session” is planned to provide adequate knowledge about the value airline’s operations, differentiated core and travel extra offerings as a value carrier and the experiences customers should expect onboard. This info session will be anchored by senior members of the Team.

The special offer is in addition to the low fare product offerings in comparison to the current air travel ticket prices in the market and valid for purchases made before the first flight on June 24th.To enjoy the “Flyer Special Offer”, customers are to visit greenafrica.com to join the Flyer Community and claim their unique Flyer number. Unique special offer codes will be delivered to their valid email addresses ahead of the booking website reveal planned for May 25th, 2021 by 12 noon WAT.

What To Make Of The Crypto Capitulation and More - NASDAQ

MAY 21, 2021

China doesn't want to see an asset that they don't control or track to become the currency of the realm. The country recently released a digital Yuan, which allows the country to track every transaction from every user on this centralized blockchain, controlled by the government. China wants to ensure that they are not taken out of the currency loop. Some are saying this new crypto-Yuan is the biggest threat to the West.

The digital Yuan completely goes against the decentralized essence of cryptocurrencies, which made the asset class so popular to begin with.

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Over 20 countries lift travel restriction on vaccine passport holders - THE GUARDIAN

MAY 21, 2021

More than 20 countries have wholly or partially lifted travel restrictions for vaccine passport holders ahead of the summer travels. International carriers have applauded the growing number of countries making data and “evidence-driven” decisions to open their borders to vaccinated travellers, urging more countries to fall in line.

Among the countries that now accept vaccinated travellers are: British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Ecuador, Georgia, Greece, Island, Israel, Seychelles, and lately, Germany. Varying local conditions, however, apply.

The vaccine passport – in the form of certificates or digital cards testifying to the low-risk status of their holders – promises to reopen the world and perhaps return lives to normal. But its subtle compulsory vaccination for all air travellers raises fundamental questions of a more divided and discriminatory world.

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Specifically, vaccine passport policy draws the line between those that have taken the jab and those that have not; between vaccinated-rich countries and poor ones like Nigeria that have barely kick-started vaccination, therefore, disenfranchising the unvaccinated and poor countries from international travel and tourism.

Airlines, under the aegis of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), supported unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated travellers.

And where vaccination is not possible, they sought access to quarantine-free travel should be provided through COVID-19 testing strategies based on widely available, free-of-charge tests.

Germany is among the latest countries to make quarantine alleviations for vaccinated travellers. Vaccinated travellers are no longer subject to quarantine measures (except certain high-risk countries). Germany has also removed quarantine requirements for travellers with a negative COVID-19 test result.

The German government decision followed a review of scientific advice from the world-renowned Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which concluded that vaccinated travellers are no longer significant in the spread of the disease and do not pose a major risk to the German population.

Specifically, it stated that vaccination reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission to levels below the risk from a false negative rapid antigen test.

The implementation of this policy aligns Germany with recommendations from both the European Commission and the European Parliament, based on similar scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

In its interim guidance on the benefits of full vaccination, the ECDC said that “based on the limited evidence available, the likelihood of an infected vaccinated person transmitting the disease is currently assessed to be very low.”

Similar conclusions are being reached on the other side of the Atlantic. In the U.S., the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) has noted that “with a 90 per cent effective vaccine, pre-travel testing, post-travel testing, and seven-day self-quarantine provide minimal additional benefit.”

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, yesterday, said a safe opening of borders to international travel is the goal, and scientific evidence and data such as that presented by RKI, ECDC and U.S. CDC should be the basis for the decision-making needed to achieve that.

“There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is bringing us closer to a world where vaccination and testing enable the freedom to travel without quarantine.

“Germany and, at least 20, other countries have already taken an important step forward in re-opening their borders to vaccinated travelers. These are the best practice examples for others to quickly follow,” Walsh said.

According to the U.S. CDC, alleviations from COVID-19 restrictions are a powerful motivator for vaccination, particularly in communities where vaccine hesitancy is prevalent.

This is an additional and important benefit of restriction-free travel for those vaccinated. IATA polling indicates that 81 per cent of international travellers are willing to get vaccinated to be able to travel.

Moreover, 74 per cent of people in the same poll agreed that those vaccinated should be able to travel by air without restrictions. The decisions of increasing numbers of countries to accept vaccinated travellers without quarantine measures add pressure for a digital solution to manage vaccine certificates and COVID-19 test results.

Paper-based processes could lead to extremely long processing times at check-in and border control. They also open the door to fraud. Digital vaccine/test certificates, coupled with passenger apps such as the IATA Travel Pass, will be needed to manage travel health credentials efficiently and securely in the restart.

“A gap is opening up between countries responding to scientific evidence, and those exhibiting a lack of preparation or excessive caution in reopening borders. Countries that seize the opportunity offered by the increasing numbers of vaccinated travelers can protect their populations and reap an economic reward,” said Walsh.

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