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2021 Hajj: Nigeria waiting on Saudi Arabia - DAILY POST

MAY 23, 2021

BY   Wale Odunsi 

The Federal Government of Nigeria says preparations for the 2021 Hajj depend on the timetable yet to be released by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) distanced itself from notices on social media relating to the Hajj guidelines.

Fatima Sanda, Head of Public Affairs, in a statement said the finality of the programme will come from the Saudi’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The spokesperson said until a formal communication to Nigeria, the information being circulated should be regarded as inconclusive.

Sanda assured that the agency will not fail to keep the public updated as soon as an official stand is finalized by the kingdom.

“NAHCON understands the anxious wait by the public, especially by Hajj and Umrah stakeholders regarding 2021, in order to make their final decisions and preparations.

“The Commission trusts that Saudi Arabia is considerate of all happenings and will soon make a proclamation on Hajj 2021 in the interest of all Muslims as promised.”

The statement advised stakeholders and intending pilgrims to remain patient and accept in good faith whatever decision the Kingdom will take on the pilgrimage.

Boom Supersonic aims to fly 'anywhere in the world in four hours for $100' - CNN

MAY 23, 2021

(CNN) — The aviation industry is in crisis, there's a global push to cut carbon emissions, and many of us haven't stepped on a plane or hugged far-flung loved ones in more than a year. Reviving the supersonic dream that died with Concorde's retirement nearly two decades ago seems, at first, like an outrageous fantasy. The British-French airliner Concorde, one of only two supersonic jets to have operated commercially, flew from 1969 to 2003 and was ludicrously expensive and an environmental disaster.

But now a fresh bunch of start-ups are working on supersonic and hypersonic projects. Last October frontrunner Boom Supersonic was the first to roll out an actual honest-to-goodness IRL demonstrator aircraft, the XB1. CNN Travel caught up with its founder and CEO Blake Scholl to talk about Overture, the Mach 2.2 commercial airliner he wants to get in the air by 2026, and the company's ambitious long-term plans.

Breaking the time barrier

"Either we fail or we change the world," says Scholl over a video call from Denver, Colorado. There hasn't been any major speed-up in travel times since the Jet Age of the '50s and '60s and his team hopes to change that. "That barrier of time is what keeps us apart. We believe it's deeply important to break the time barrier, more so than the sound barrier." Designed to seat between 65 and 88 people, Overture will focus on over 500 primarily transoceanic routes that will benefit from the aircraft's Mach-2.2 speeds -- more than twice as fast as today's subsonic commercial jets. A journey from New York to London would take just three hours and 15 minutes while Los Angeles to Sydney would be cut down to eight and a half hours. Breaking the time barrier could be life-changing, says Scholl. "It changes where we can vacation, changes where we can do business, changes you can fall in love with or you can be close to."

We want supersonic flight to be "a great experience, but available to lots of people," says Scholl.

Set the goal, then work backwards

Boom Supersonic's current timeline is to fly the 1:3 scale XB1 prototype aircraft "around the end of the year," break ground on a new US factory in 2022 (location TBD), and then start building the first Overture plane in 2023. "We see ourselves as picking up where Concorde left off, and fixing the most important things which are economic and environmental sustainability," says Scholl. Accessibility is key. His aim is that airlines will be able to set fares at a price point similar to business class -- unlike Concorde, which by the '90s was charging around $12,000 for a round trip, or $20,000 in today's money. "That's not travel, that's like a thing you might hope to do once in a lifetime," says Scholl, before adding, "Versus where we want to get, which is anywhere in the world in four hours for 100 bucks." Yes, you heard that right. "Now it's going to take us time to get there," says Scholl. The four hour, $100 dream is Boom's long-term aim, two or three generations of aircraft down the line. "Lots of people think like one or two steps ahead," he says. "I find it helpful to think much further out and say, 'where do we want to be in a decade or two? And what's possible at that time scale?' Then you work backwards and say, 'how do we get there?'."

Pandemic opportunity

How Boom plans to get there is by designing a new 100% carbon-neutral plane from the ground up. The current crazy state of the world has actually been an unintended bonus. "I wouldn't wish the pandemic on the world, but it's actually going to accelerate the adoption of supersonic," says Scholl. Airlines have had to downsize their fleets and, in some cases, it's forced an early retirement for wide-body jets such as the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380. "As things get back into growth mode," says Scholl, "There's an opportunity to build a new-generation fleet that's got supersonic baked into it. That actually makes it easier to adopt." Then's there's the plane's lean 199 feet (60 meters) of super-svelte lines, with no space inside for those undesirable middle seats -- an advantage post-pandemic. "Physics does not let you design an ugly supersonic jet," says Scholl. But whizzy as its exterior may be, "It's about the same form factor as a 757, so it fits in narrow-body gates, which actually causes airlines to really love it." Wide-body gates are at a premium in today's super-congested airports, so big fat airplanes can be hard to find space for -- but not so for a humble Boeing 757, 737 or, says, Scholl, a Boom Overture.

"Speed is really, really important to us as humanity," says Scholl.

On-board experience

"Supersonic's got some inherent advantages," says Scholl. "Like if you don't want to be in an airplane because you're worried about the next pandemic, well it's better to be on the airplane for a shorter period of time." Boom's first mission, he says, was to be fast enough to make a difference. While ultimately his team wants to be able to connect any point in the world in four hours, at this stage a key aim was to be able to turn a red-eye flight into a daytime flight.

"Instead of paying in business class for a flying bed, you get the best bed in the world, which is the one at your home the night before you have to leave," says Scholl. With less focus on those long-haul amenities, it means the team has been able to focus on making the on-board experience clean, uncluttered and as relaxed as possible.

Carbon-neutral

For many it's hard to shake the idea that supersonic travel must be inherently expensive and wasteful. But says Scholl: "It helps to remember that we're talking literally about 1960s technology. So much has changed." Airplane technology has "gone from aluminum to carbon fiber, from drafting paper and slide rules and wind tunnels to being able to optimize airplanes for computer simulation. We've completely changed how we build jet engines, so now they're quieter and they're more fuel efficient." This means that the costs of supersonic flight has come way down, and at the same time, we are now able to build in support for alternative fuels. "What you're basically doing is sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, liquefying it into the jet fuel, then you put that in the airplane," says Scholl. "So when it goes out the back of the airplane. You're just moving carbon around in a circle."

Breaking the time barrier will allow us "to do more, to see more, to experience more of the planet, and also to bring more of the planet to us," says Scholl.

'An audacious goal'

So how realistic is Boom Supersonic's long-term ambition of connecting anywhere in the world in four hours, at a price point of just $100 in today's money? "It's an audacious goal!" says Professor Sean O'Keefe, an aviation industry expert at Syracuse University who served as former chairman of Airbus and secretary of the US Navy. "And sometimes that's what it takes: to get somebody who really believes in their capacity to do something like this, to actually make it come to be." The major obstacle is that "beyond just accomplishing the speed, it generates a ferocious amount of heat. Any conventional engine that you put together would melt." What will be needed is further advances in material science -- and it's dependent on further invention or discovery. While it's feasible, O'Keefe reckons "it's going to require two or three generations of technology, development and breakthrough -- which equates to about 20 years." Interest in Boom's project has been high. A couple of weeks ago, Scholl addressed the US House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Aviation and in April American Express Ventures was the latest high-profile investor to open its wallet. Boom says it currently has $6 billion in pre-orders of Overture aircraft. Boom's hottest competitor in the supersonic race is Florida-based Aerion, which in March 2021 unveiled its plans for a Mach 4+ commercial airliner called Aerion AS3 which would be capable of carrying 50 passengers.

Summer Travel Will Require Picking Your Way Through a Maze of Border Rules - BLOOMBERG

MAY 23, 2021

BY  Charlotte Ryan, Christopher Jasper, William Wilkes and Katharine GemmellBloomberg News

Passengers check in at London Heathrow on May 17. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Passengers check in at London Heathrow on May 17. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg , Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Europe is slowly peeling back border restrictions set in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, providing an opening for sightseers and sun-seekers to finally make plans for a summer migration to Greece, Spain or Italy.

This past week, the U.K. reversed a ban on international leisure travel, while installing a “traffic light” system that ratchets up the costs and hassles of a trip based on the risk. For now, Portugal stands alone among major countries that are both green-lit and welcoming of Brits.

The European Union, too, is moving ahead with a plan to facilitate free travel within the bloc for those who have been vaccinated, recovered or test negative for the coronavirus. It could take effect within the next week or two. All EU countries will be required to accept certificates, which will be accessible using an app but can also be printed out, starting July 1.

Arrivals from non-EU nations such as the U.S. will soon be welcomed anywhere in the bloc if they’ve been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days with any shot approved by the EU’s drug regulator or the World Health Organization. Some countries like Greece, Cyprus and Italy have already opened the door to those who have been vaccinated, test negative or some combination, including from outside Europe.

More progress is likely ahead of a G-7 summit in England in June, which could act as a catalyst for trans-Atlantic travel.

While the developments will lead to a gradual resumption of international tourism, for now a raft of jurisdictions make for a messy, overlapping and rapidly changing set of guidelines.

On Saturday, for example, Germany imposed fresh restrictions on travelers from the U.K., citing concern over a highly transmissible Covid-19 strain first identified in India.

Residents of Britain and the European Union, along with a rising number of vaccinated Americans who are eager to travel to the region, will need to pay close attention to news announcements and government websites, check with airlines and consult industry groups like the International Air Transport Association to keep up with the latest information.

“Booking a trip is a financial risk, so you should do your research before parting with any cash,” said Naomi Leach, deputy editor at U.K. consumer site Which Travel. “Even if you're fully vaccinated you could face a hefty bill for tests, and then you've got to think about the cost of tests required when you return.”

Lots of Rules

Complicating matters are criss-crossing jurisdictions — the EU has a plan for a unified reopening, but member states, especially from tourist-dependent countries, have moved ahead more quickly. And for each international trip, there are rules for entry into the destination country and separate rules for leaving and getting back home.

The U.K., for example, has placed Singapore, Australia and New Zealand on its green list — but most Brits shouldn’t travel to those places because they won’t be allowed in. Likewise, Spain and Italy are allowing Brits to enter with just a negative Covid-19 test. But getting back from the amber-listed countries will require multiple Covid-19 tests and 10 days of isolation. This will make a holiday impractical or too expensive for many families.

Here’s a rundown of current rules for high-demand European and trans-Atlantic travel. Most Asian countries, along with Australia and New Zealand, are still mostly closed off to outsiders:

U.K.: Tests and Quarantines

Travelers visiting the U.K. or returning after a trip are subject to quarantine unless they’re coming from one of the 12 nations and territories on the green list. Even then, multiple Covid-19 tests can add hundreds of pounds to the journey’s cost.

People from amber-listed countries can still get in, but the cost and restrictions will limit any comeback for the U.K.’s own tourism sector centered on historical sights in and around London. 

Green-list arrivals must take a coronavirus test two days later at their own expense. For those on the amber list there's added test on day eight, plus self-quarantine for 10 days. People who come from red-list places are taken directly to a hotel for isolation. 

Many green-listed places aren't letting Brits in. Portugal is the only EU country of note green-listed by the U.K., but Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary predicts that Italy and Greece will be added by the end of the month, followed by Spain in June.

There are also intra-U.K. restrictions, with Scotland now banning travel to English Covid-19 hotspots hit by the virus strain affecting India. The U.K. is not allowing people to enter who have been in or transited through red-list countries such as India, along with Brazil or South Africa, in the past 10 days, unless they are British or Irish nationals or U.K. residents.

Germany: Within the Zone

Germany, along with the U.K., provides more visitors to Europe’s beaches than any other nation. It loosened border curbs with member countries of the EU and the Schengen free-travel zone on May 13, giving its citizens access to more destinations than their British counterparts.

Fully vaccinated or recovered people no longer need a negative Covid-19 test and don't have to quarantine when they re-enter the country from those locations, removing a hurdle for Germans considering a holiday on the continent. Those who don’t meet those tests will, for now, still have to quarantine from designated risk zones, including all of Italy and Greece, as well as swaths of Spain.

Meanwhile, travel from so-called third countries like the post-Brexit U.K. remains severely restricted. People can only enter if they're residents of Germany, have an important role or if there is an urgent need to travel, such as life-or-death medical care. Starting Sunday, Brits will be subject to a two-week quarantine, even if they test negative.

Citizens from Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand can enter Europe’s biggest economy without restrictions. China, Hong Kong and Macau residents will also be allowed when Germans are granted equivalent entry rights, according to the interior ministry.

Italian Reawakening

Italy, the European epicenter of the first coronavirus wave, has relaxed rules for tourists entering from abroad. Arrivals from most EU countries, Switzerland, the U.K. and Israel can avoid a 10-day quarantine with a certificate showing a negative coronavirus test no more than 48 hours before landing. Entry from San Marino and the Vatican City, microstates nestled within the Italian peninsula, is wholly unrestricted.

Travelers from countries including Japan, Canada and the U.S. face restrictions on movement, and must to isolate for 10 days. Most other tourists aren’t allowed to enter. Americans can get around the quarantine if they join certain Alitalia SpA,  Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. flights between Rome and Milan on one end and New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Atlanta on the other, with Dallas Fort Worth potentially being added. 

“For a long time we've only spoken about restrictions; now we're talking of reopening,” Italy's tourism minister, Massimo Garavaglia, said at an online event Friday. “We are confident it will be a great summer, now that foreign tourists can return.”

French Curfew

France allows entry from the EU and a handful of other countries, so long as people complete a form and receive a negative test within 72 hours before travel. Arrivals from seven nations including U.K., New Zealand and Japan must also self-isolate for a week.

Passengers from higher-risk countries including Argentina, India and South Africa must have a valid reason for travel, and may be required to take a second test, depending on the timing of the pre-flight screening. A 10-day quarantine is also mandatory.

A metropolitan curfew is still in place in France from 9 p.m. through 6 a.m. Residents are not allowed to travel outside of the EU or seven designated countries unless they meet a list of exemptions.

Spain and Greece Are Opening

From Monday, tourists from Japan and the U.K. can enter Spain without a PCR test. This should give a major boost for the country’s tourism sector, since Brits are its biggest source of visitors — but there’s a hitch. With Spain on the U.K.’s amber list, Brits will have to self-isolate once they get home. And there’s testing required on departure as well as return, which will quell some of the enthusiasm.

Some EU and European Economic Area arrivals can also go to Spain without a test, along with people from Australia, China and Hong Kong — places that are also mostly shut off. Arrivals from the bulk of EU countries, including Germany, Ireland, and France, must take a test. The list is reviewed every two weeks. Those entering Spain from India must quarantine for 10 days, a period that can be shortened with a negative test result on the seventh day.

Entry to Spain will get easier from June 7, when those vaccinated with EU or WHO approved shots will be welcomed and can travel around the country freely.

For Greece, travelers from the EU and Schengen Area can enter without self-isolating as long as they can prove they’ve taken a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. The test isn’t required for those who have completed their vaccinations, or recovered in the past nine months, and can show proof. 

Other countries that are allowed to enter Greece under the same conditions include the U.S., the U.K., Russia, and Canada. A full list can be found here.

Portugal Dash

Airlines rushed capacity into Portugal after the U.K. put it on the green list earlier this month. Tourists from U.K., EU and Schengen Area countries can go as long as long as they present proof of a negative test, carried out 72 hours or less before the flight.

People from countries with high Covid-19 incidence rates of 500 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks can only make essential trips and must to quarantine for 14 days at home or a location chosen by the health authority. The list includes South Africa, Brazil, India, Cyprus, Croatia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, though it doesn’t include people who have made airport stopovers in those places.

Trans-Atlantic Journeys

Trans-Atlantic travel has begun to open up, but so far it's very much a one-way street, with Americans able to fly to some European countries from the U.S. but no reciprocal arrangements in place.

Under a presidential decree issued by Joe Biden just after he took office, entry to the U.S. is denied to anyone who in the previous 14 days has been in the U.K. or Schengen Area, which includes 22 EU members plus a number of other places like Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. There’s an exception for U.S. citizens, permanent residents and their families, so Americans can return home with ease if they can get to the destination country.

To enter the U.K., amber-listed arrivals from the U.S. must self-isolate for 10 days. There's some expectation that the U.S. may soon be added to the green list, with momentum building toward a bilateral accord in the run-up to the G7 meeting in England next month.

Americans can travel to parts of continental Europe without the need isolate, generally on the same basis as visitors from within the region. Those spots include Greece and certain flights to Italy, as well as Iceland and Cyprus. France will join the list on June 9, while strong restrictions still apply to Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and Ireland.

Meanwhile, the EU’s move to work toward a more comprehensive reopening for vaccinated visitors from outside the bloc will favor Americans, given the rapid U.S. rollout of shots, together with people from the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates.

The unvaccinated could potentially get in too if the U.S. is added to an EU “white list” that currently features eight countries, including New Zealand and Israel, with low Covid-19 rates. Getting added isn’t certain: Talks on the matter stalled, and the list's publication may be postponed for two weeks, Bloomberg reported last week, citing diplomats familiar with the debate.

Germany bans all non-essential travel to UK over Indian variant - EURONEWS

MAY 23, 2021

Germany on Friday classified the UK as an "area of variant concern", banning all but essential travel to the country.

The measure will come into force on Sunday.

The German Embassy in the UK said the new classification is due to "local outbreaks occurring again, including cases of more infectious variants such as the Indian variant at present."

Ambassador Andreas Michaelis said the decision was taken after looking "at all available data and details. We did not take this decision lightly."

German citizens and residents travelling from the UK will be allowed in Germany, others will need an essential reason. All will have to present a negative COVID-19 test no older than 48 hours and will have to undergo a two-week quarantine on arrival.

The B.1.617 variant was first discovered in India in October and has since spread to more than 50 countries worldwide.

It is partly blamed for a surge in infections and deaths in India and has been declared a variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation over fears it may be more transmissible and resistant to treatment including vaccines.

More than 3,850 cases of the Indian variant and its sublineages have so far been detected in the UK with a 160 per cent week-on-week surge observed over the last seven days.

Earlier this month, a paper presented to the UK government said the Indian variant could be up to 50 per cent more transmissible than the original strain and that "it is a realistic possibility that this scale of B.1.617.2 growth could lead to a very large increase in transmission.

"At this point in the vaccine roll out, there are still too few adults vaccinated to prevent a significant resurgence that ultimately could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, without non-pharmaceutical interventions," it added.

The UK is Europe's worst-hit country with nearly 128,000 lives lost to the pandemic. But it also has one of the world's highest rates of vaccination with more than 54.8 per cent of its population having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

India-UAE flights: Only these passengers can fly on charter jets - KHALEEJ TIMES

MAY 23, 2021
  • It costs about $40,000 to fully charter a flight.

With the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) laying down the law against pooling and seat selling on charter jets from India to the UAE, travel agencies and charter operators are falling in line and are now going by the book.

The GCCA, after becoming aware of pooling and per-seat selling on chartered jets from India to the UAE, issued a circular on Friday restricting operators from pooling or selling per seat.

The GCAA further added that operators who have been hired for pooling or 'per seat offer' will be banned from operating in the UAE. The GCAA is collecting all the information required from local authorities to verify flight and passenger information.

And a travel agent of a popular internet-based travel agency again clarified on who can fly on these charter jets.

Raheesh Babu, general manager of Musafir.com, said that families, UAE citizens, diplomats, official delegations, golden residency visa holders, and flights of businessmen, are the only categories who can avail these charter flights.

“Families, corporates who want to bring their employees, provided all the documents required, are in order, can fly on chartered flights from India to the UAE. The other exemptions are UAE citizens, diplomats, official delegations, golden residency visa holders, and flights of businessmen," Babu told Khaleej Times.

In fact, his company is facilitating a Dubai-based corporate in ferrying their staff from India on May 26.

“One of the corporates wants to fly their staff, who are stranded in India, to the UAE, on a chartered jet. We applied for permission and are awaiting approval,” he revealed.

With India caught in the midst of a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 virus, passenger entry from India to the UAE, one of the world’s busiest air corridors, was suspended on April 25.

Since then, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka have been added to the list, in addition to Nigeria and South Africa.

There has been huge demand for charter passenger jets from India as well as Pakistan, especially from high-net-worth businessmen.

“The cost is approximately $40,000 for a fully chartered flight from India,” Babu said.

“From what we have seen in the market, apart from India, there is a considerable demand from Pakistan for charter flights, especially from Karachi. There is some demand from Bangladesh and Nepal as well. There have been some travel agents who have operated charter flights, especially from Karachi. It is a bit cheaper than India, especially because of the flight duration, which is lesser. It roughly costs about $30,000,” he added.

“There is high demand from India, but they are all high-net-worth businessmen, who are flying their families or corporate customers who are getting their senior management staff. Pakistan accounts for about 20 per cent so far,” Babu explained further.

In a previous circular issued earlier this month, the GCAA had clarified that no more than eight passengers will be allowed onboard these charter jets.

“Depending on the size of the aircraft, business jets can accommodate anything between six to 35 passengers. However, irrespective of the size of the charter, the requirements for business aircraft or small-body private jets clearly state that the number of passengers on board a flight cannot be more than eight passengers,” the GCAA had said in the circular.

Only crew (including flight and ground crew), UAE citizens; UAE long-term residence visa holders (also named golden visa) holding a valid PCR test, diplomatic personnel holding a valid PCR test; any official delegations’ personnel holding a valid PCR test; and any person holding a valid PCR test and transported on a business aircraft are allowed to enter the UAE.

Heathrow Airport to open terminal for 'red list' arrivals - BBC

MAY 23, 2021

Heathrow Airport will open a dedicated terminal for passengers arriving from countries with a high risk of Covid.

The decision follows criticism of the airport and the government after arrivals from red list countries were made to queue with other passengers.

But from 1 June, those travelling from red list countries will transit through Terminal Three, which has been closed for the past year.

They will then travel to a hotel where they will quarantine for 10 days.

It comes as the volume of passengers travelling through the airport is expected to increase after 12 countries were added to the government's green list, meaning travellers would not ordinarily be required to isolate on return.

The vast majority of countries are on the amber list, meaning travellers must isolate at home on their return. The government advises against non-essential travel to those on the list.

Heathrow said opening of a dedicated terminal for those arriving from countries on the red list, who must isolate in a government-organised hotel on arrival, would be "logistically very challenging".

"Our hope is that it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list."

The airport said the arrival terminal for those landing from countries on the red list would eventually be moved to Terminal Four and that the arrangement was likely to be in place for some time.

"Red list routes will likely be a feature of UK travel for the foreseeable future as countries vaccinate their populations at different rates.

"We're adapting Heathrow to this longer-term reality by initially opening a dedicated arrivals facility in Terminal 3 from June 1st for red list passengers arriving on direct flights," Heathrow said in a statement.

England's traffic light list will be reviewed every three weeks, and countries can be moved at short notice. There are similar rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Earlier on Friday, Spain said it would lift restrictions for UK travellers from Monday. But those planning to holiday in Spain while it remains on the amber list would be doing so against the advice of the government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "We've been clear people shouldn't be travelling to amber list [nations] for the purpose of holidays. Our advice hasn't changed. We will keep the green list under review… and will add countries where possible."

Portugal is the main destination on the UK's short "green" list of countries that are free of the quarantine requirement. Under the UK's traffic light system, people are advised to avoid amber and red countries, where the Covid risk is greater.

The EU is currently deciding on an expanded "white list" of countries whose citizens can enter the EU freely.

The BBC has been told a final EU decision on expanding the list has been delayed for another two weeks.

India's national carrier says hack leaked passengers' data - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MAY 23, 2021

NEW DELHI (AP) — Personal data of an unspecified number of travelers has been compromised after a company that serves India’s national carrier was hacked, Air India said.

The hackers were able to access 10 years’ worth of data including names, passport and credit card details from the Atlanta-based SITA Passenger Service System, Air India said in a statement Friday.

It disclosed the scale of the breach nearly three months after it was first informed by the IT provider.

The breach that happened in late February had compromised the data of some major global airlines, too. SITA at that time had said that Singapore Airlines, New Zealand Air and Lufthansa were among those affected.

Air India said almost 4.5 million passengers globally were affected in the “highly sophisticated” attack but did not specify how many of them were its travelers. It said no password data was breached during the attack and that the company was investigating.

The company said it recommended in an email to its customers that they should change their account passwords as a precaution.

Air India started as a mail carrier in 1932 before gaining commercial popularity. It has been incurring losses since its 2007 merger with a state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines. The debt-laden carrier is currently in the process of finding new buyers.

The Associated Press

Green Africa to connect seven cities - THE GUARDIAN

MAY 23, 2021

Green Africa has announced its launch route network ahead of entry into service. With plans to commence operations from its Lagos base at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), Green Africa will launch flight operations to connect seven cities after completing its ongoing Air Operator Certificate (AOC), currently at advanced stages at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Plans are already underway to establish two more operational bases outside Lagos to stimulate air travel and provide more options to customers.

To facilitate increased economic and trade activities within Nigeria, Green Africa will offer new direct connections from the commercial hub of Lagos (LOS) into Akure, Ilorin, Abuja, Enugu, Owerri and Port Harcourt.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Green Africa, Babawande Afolabi, said they are crafting a network plan that will allow more customers to pursue their economic interest or simply spend more time with family and friends.

Patel unveils digital visa to help ‘count people entering and leaving UK’ - THE GUARDIAN UK

MAY 23, 2021

Patel unveils digital visa to help ‘count people entering and leaving UK’

Priti Patel has unveiled a US-style digital visa system that she claimed would help the government to count numbers of people entering and leaving the UK accurately for the first time.

People coming to the UK without a visa or immigration status would in the future need to apply for an electronic travel authorisation (ETA), the home secretary said, which automatically determines the eligibility of visitors in advance. The Home Office anticipates about 30 million ETA applications each year.

The proposals to “digitise the border” are to be officially launched on Monday as part of Patel’s widely derided plans to change the UK’s asylum and immigration system. Critics have called her plans to deport asylum seekers back to other European countries incoherent and inhumane.

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The digital system is being introduced after recent evidence suggesting that long-held estimates of migration data were significantly wrong.

It was widely accepted that 3 million Europeans lived in the UK and would apply to the government’s EU settlement scheme. By the end of last month, however, more than 5.4 million applications to the scheme had been received, with 4.9 million granted settled status.

Government figures show an estimated 144.7 million passenger arrivals in the year to June 2019, including returning UK residents. About 40 million were from the European economic area and Switzerland; those from elsewhere numbered 20 million.

Patel said: “Our new fully digital border will provide the ability to count people in and out of the country, giving us control over who comes to the UK.”

As well as launching her latest immigration plans, Patel will again stress failings in the asylum system and the need to crack down on people smugglers. On Wednesday she accompanied police as they arrested suspected ringleaders of a people smuggling gang that used minicab and lorry drivers to move migrants in and out of the UK.

However, her asylum reforms have drawn widespread criticism, with the UN among many organisations that believe they are legally unworkable and so damaging they risk Britain’s global credibility.

EU countries have already stated that they will not strike bilateral agreements to facilitate the deportation of refugees from the UK.

The strategy also sets out how the government will make it easier for highly skilled people to come to the UK by simplifying the application process and revamping how people are sponsored by employers.

The Home Office hopes to make entry to the UK fully digital by the end of 2025.


Singapore Airport to Tighten Rules to Curb Virus Spread: Today - BLOOMBERG

MAY 24, 2021

BY  Melissa CheokBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s Changi Airport will impose stricter measures at its terminals in a bid to safeguard against further coronavirus transmissions after concluding investigations into an earlier outbreak, Today reported.

The airport will separate staff handling both incoming and outgoing travelers into various zones and will implement stringent movement controls between these areas, Changi Airport Group Singapore Pte. Chief Executive Lee Siow Hiang was cited as saying. The new measures are targeted to be fully in place by June 13, according to the report.

Singapore currently has 32 active virus clusters with the one at Changi Airport being the country’s largest with 108 linked cases as of Sunday, according to the ministry’s data.

Here are more details about the new safety measures, which will apply to about 14,000 workers at the airport’s terminals:

  • All arriving passengers will be separated from departing travelers in respective zones.
  • Staff working in each zone will be prohibited from mingling with staff in other zones.
  • Workers in the highest-risk zone, Zone 1, must wear protective personal equipment at all times.
    • Only fully vaccinated staff will be rostered for duty in the highest risk zone.
  • Routine rostered daily testing for staff in the highest-risk zone will be shortened, with one polymerase chain reaction test every seven days and one antigen rapid test every three days.
    • The group will work toward conducting daily non-invasive tests for all airport workers in Zone 1, which yield test results in minutes.

Passengers from “very high-risk countries” will also be escorted to remote gates in Terminal 2 for immigration clearance and transport to their quarantine facilities, without passing through the other terminals, according to the report.

Singapore has been racing to contain a new wave of infections in recent weeks and has pledged to increase testing and surveillance in a bid to ring-fence transmissions. The country preliminarily confirmed 24 new cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 infection as of 12 p.m. on Monday, two of which are untraceable.

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