Travel News

London Stansted evacuated - terrified passengers 'ordered out' as emergency fears erupt - DAILY EXPRESS

NOVEMBER 01, 2021

Taking to Twitter as the confusion breaks, Asha Umrawsignh posted a picture of passengers queuing at the terminal. In a further Tweet, she wrote: "@STN_Airport can you tell us what is happening, please? Just been asked to vacate the terminal... A little info would appease a lot of people."

Stanstead© Twitter StansteadA Stansted Airport spokesperson confirmed the evacuation was due to a suspicious package in the terminal building.

They said: "Following reports of a suspicious package in the area, a partial evacuation of the terminal is taking place.

"Essex Police are managing the response and will provide an update on the situation soon."LDN STN© Getty LDN STN

Ms Umrawsingh continued: Asha Umrawsingh, who is at the airport, told The Mirror: "We were about to go through security and they asked us to move back and then out of the terminal."

Dr David de Lorenzo tweeted: "Stansted Airport has been partly evacuated. People asked to leave the stores leaving the shopping carts behind, and being closed in a hurry."

Video from outside the terminal shows hundreds of passengers waiting in the airport car park, with Jet 2 staff also standing outdoors.

Petrol Scarcity Imminent Due To Gridlock On Enugu-Onitsha Expressway – IPMAN - NAN

NOVEMBER 01, 2021

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) says movement of petroleum products within the South-East zone is being greatly hindered by the condition of some inter-state roads.

Chairman of IPMAN, Enugu depot, Mr Chinedu Anyaso, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka yesterday.

The gridlock, particularly at border towns of Anambra, Amansea and Ugwuoba at the Enugu end, has extended beyond Anambra Government House towards Arroma junction in Awka.

Anyaso, who was reacting to the gridlock on the Ugwuoba-Awka stretch of Enugu-Onitsha expressway, said about 250 trucks had been trapped in the traffic in the past one week.

He said the trucks include product-laden ones going to Enugu and Ebonyi states, and those scheduled for Anambra which had gone to Enugu to register for Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and were returning to their outlets.

The chairman said those that had discharged their products and heading back to various depots were also trapped.

According to him, if the situation continues for a few more days, many filling stations may run out of products, thus triggering an artificial scarcity.

“The poor state of Awka-Amsnsea-Ugwuoba road on Enugu-Onitsha expressway has constituted serious challenge to free movement of goods and services.

“We marketers are suffering huge losses; some of our tankers have fallen and have to be trans-loaded, while many of our drivers have had to sleep on the road for days as a result of the situation.

“Presently, we have more than 250 trucks, both loaded and empty, that are trapped. The danger is that filling stations may dry up, thus causing increase in price within the depot community.


“We call on the federal government and governments of the affected states to effect the necessary repairs in order to ensure free flow of vehicles,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has attributed the situation to failed portions of the road.

The public education officer of the corps Anambra sector command, Margaret Onabe, in a statement, said the impatience of motorists also exacerbated the chaotic traffic situation.

“We appeal for patience and understanding from all road users within the state,” she stated. (NAN)


NOVEMBER 01, 2021


You know how stressful living in Lagos can be right?

It takes a toll on a person and you just want to travel, leave all your worries and the stressful life of Lagos behind, even if it’s just for a couple of days or weeks as the case maybe.

Anyway, I had gotten to that point and I just needed to take a break, so I planned for a mini vacation which was going to be for about 14 days. We went to a total of three countries, but for this article, I will be focusing on Cotonou, because I had the most fun in Cotonou.

Journey from Porto-Novo to Cotonou town

Immediately you enter the country, the first thing you notice is the roads. They have the most straightforward roads and even a lane for motorbikes (Okada). They also seem to have a flair for roundabouts, heading from Porto-Novo to Cotonou town alone. I counted about five roundabouts, I mean, these people really love their roundabouts. Oh, and not a single porthole/bad road.

Covid 19 & Road safety measures

Another thing I noticed was everyone had a mask on, and I mean EVERYONE! From the bike men, the petty traders, those just walking on the roads, to the policemen, everyone had one on (little wonder why their Covid cases are so low). They were also not touching each other or being unnecessarily close while speaking to themselves. Secondly, they follow traffic rules; when the traffic light says stop, everyone stops, bike men, taxis and private cars alike, oh and the bike men all wore helmets (would have loved for helmets to be provided to passengers too but hey, I don’t make the rules).


As far as hotels/Airbnb’s/Apartments go; there is still a lot of work to do. It took me approximately five days of searching for a decent place before I found a hotel that we thought was alright. What we were looking for was an apartment so we could make our own food when we didn’t feel like eating out, but I just couldn’t find anything nice enough in Cotonou town (or maybe I didn’t search deep enough). Accommodation is also pretty expensive in my opinion. The hotel we settled for was cool, I would give it a solid 7/10. It was a bit pricey but I’d rather pay for that amount at this hotel than pay the same amount and a subpar hotel or apartment. Anyway, our room had a balcony with a sea view, wifi was incredibly slow inside the room but once you leave your room and are within the premises, it is better, the hotel had a pool and an open bar that was on till very very late, so that was exciting for us. 

If you book your accommodations online like me, please make sure that the price written is the same as the hotel, because sometimes, the website/app you use may reduce the price or give a discount and when you get to the hotel, they tell you there are no discounts, this happened to us recently and it was not even remotely funny.

Call Minutes, Internet Connection & Electricity

Most of the hotels and apartments in Cotonou do not have WIFI, and those that have, say WIFI isn’t in all areas of their property (This was a big problem for us). There are several network providers in Cotonou but the two that stand out are Moov and MTN. We eventually found out that data and electricity are quite expensive in Cotonou, hence the scarcity.

More than half of the apartments also insist you buy your own units for electricity after you pay for the accommodation because your bill does not cover electricity; it is not negotiable if you stay in these properties, and another thing to note is the caution fee. For apartments/Airbnb there is usually a caution fee that has to be paid along with the accommodation fee and will be refunded to you as you check out and after inspection of the place by staff. The fee is usually a lot more expensive than the combined accommodation fee itself (wild right? I know!) Make sure you read the fine prints when booking hotels/apartments online, they are usually hidden in small letters, so most people miss it.


The people of Cotonou proudly speak French, most of them speak what I like to call ‘pidgin French’ but French anyway, and they are not in a hurry to learn or speak English. A large number of them also speak Yoruba, this was a very pleasant surprise because, and I’ve been told that the French I speak can bring tears to the eyes (side eyes at my husband). Anyway, once you can speak French or Yoruba, you’d do just fine in the language department. They are also very friendly and are willing to wait for you to use Google translate while conversing with them.


Sigh….I make it a point to travel with my own pepper mix anytime I leave Nigeria because I’ve come to realise that most people’s ‘HOT’ and ‘SPICY’ food is my own ‘this food just has a slight touch of pepper’. The only country I’ve been to that matched my pepper Anyway, as far as food is concerned, I do not like the food in Benin Republic, I was looking forward to eating their Dahomey Fish Stew, but when I tasted it, I just didn’t like it (I know, I’m sorry), maybe it was the way it was made by that particular chef. I also do not fancy their perfumed rice. Hear me out; Rice is my best food, I mean, here in Nigeria, I eat this thing almost every day so why do I not like it, well, in my opinion, their rice is a bit sticky, probably a lot more starchy than the one we eat here.

They also put onions, A LOT OF ONIONS in their food, I love me a good dose of onions in my dishes, after it has been sautéed well and cooked in the food, because it helps to bring the food together, and has a wonderful aroma, but our brothers and sisters in Benin take Onions to a whole new level I never knew existed. My husband once bought ham and sausages on a bed of rice (so we thought at the time). Upon opening and tasting it, the bed we thought it was on was actually Onions…a lot of it. They also have the best palm wine I have ever tasted in my entire life! Fresh and absolutely delicious palm wine…We loved it so much that it became our daily drink till we left Cotonou 

Things to do for fun

While Cotonou has lots of fun places to visit, we didn’t really leave town, we stayed in Fidjrosse. These are things you can do within Fidjrosse and environs:

  • You can go to Fidjrosse beach or Obama beach 
  • Go to lounges/clubs in the evenings
  • Visit Dantokpa market (I’ve been told that merchants from all over West Africa come here to buy things)
  • Visit Babs Dock, this is a fun place to go and they only go by boat and open only open on the weekend, while this is a lovely place and the food is nice too, some people may think it is pricey. 

Babs-Dock-Cotonou | Razvan

Grande Mosquee Porto-Novo Benin | Joseph Herve Ahissou

Door of No Return | Alberto Molero – WildJunket

These places are just a few places you can visit; there are a lot more places to explore.


If you are going to Benin republic, it is best to change Naira to Dollars or Euros before you leave Nigeria because despite how close our countries are, they do not accept Naira in most places, and with how unstable the Nigerian Naira is currently, it is advisable to not change Naira directly to CFA. You can change Dollars/Euros to CFA when you get there or you can decide to use Euros to buy things while there. I find that groceries are a bit pricey in Cotonou, but I guess this is because most of the things there are imported. 

At the end of my trip, I had so much fun in Cotonou, took long walks by the beach and had a very restful visit. The people are very welcoming, are always eager to help. This was my second visit to Cotonou. I’ll definitely go back.

A picture taken on September 12, 2017 shows franc CFA banknotes.<br />A controversial west African activist, Kemi Seba, was expelled from Senegal following an incident last month in which he burned 5,000 CFA francs — a banknote worth 7.6 euros ($9.10) — in an anti-colonial protest over “French Africa”. The CFA franc is pegged to the euro and used in 14 African countries, six of which are former French colonies. / AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

As Towing Companies Device New Ways of Extortion - THISDAY

NOVEMBER 01, 2021

BY Chinedu Eze

Air travellers and other airport users who drive to both domestic and international terminals of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos may become victims of the numerous towing companies engaged by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), as they have devised illicit ways to extort money from motorists.

The towing companies deploy their staff to ensnare road users by stationing some people who carry luggage like travellers at locations designated as no parking zone and anyone who stopped to pick the “passenger” is swooped on and his vehicle would be clamped on by the towing van. Motorists are forced to pay fines ranging from N15, 000 to N50, 000 depending on the circumstances and avarice of the towing company workers.

THISDAY investigation crvealed that the towing companies had disengaged from their rule of engagement with FAAN, which was to ensure that vehicles are not parked along the roads at the airport in order to ensure unobstructed traffic. What they do now is to set traps for motorists and those who inadvertently fall into the traps become their victims and they are made to pay huge fines and the usually insist on cash payment.

This is the way the towing companies set their trap. One, they have removed most of the No Parking signs in the areas not designated for parking of vehicles and they ones they did not remove, they make the signs inconspicuous.

Then they would park their towing vans a distance away, waiting for a motorist “to fall into the trap”. Once a vehicle parks at the non parking area, one of the workers would meet the motorist and engage him in discussion in order to distract him so that he would not enter his car and drive off.

As the worker is talking to him, the towing van would approach the car and block it and they would quickly clamp chains on it and drive it to one of the two major locations they park such vehicle until the owner paid the fine. One such location is at the Maintenance Department near FAAN headquarters in Lagos and the other is located near Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) head office at the international wing of the Lagos airport.

The second way the towing companies extort fines from the airport road users is that they go out of the roads to other areas where people park their cars and tow them. These areas were not part of the places designated for car towing, but in engaging in excesses, they move to these areas and clamp on vehicles.

One of the victims of the towing companies narrated to THISDAY how he parked at the parking lot in front of the head office of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) one Saturday afternoon, waiting for his friend who worked for the agency, when some of the workers approached his vehicle with a toying van.

“As I lifted my face from my phone, I saw the towing van approaching my vehicle in reverse and blocked me. They did not even talk to me until after they have clamped on my vehicle. I protested that I was at a car park. They asked what I was doing there on a Saturday. It became obvious to me that they have gone overboard, doing whatever they want. I contacted a FAAN official who told me that those towing companies have a concession arrangement with FAAN; that there was nothing he could do,” he told THISDAY.

The video has gone viral where the officials of one of the towing companies arranged a man who posed as a traveller and stood near NAMA head office, on the way to FAAN living quarters and hoping that any taxi or Uber would stop and want to pick him. The towing van was stationed less than 100 meters away and waiting for a “victims.”

Reacting to the video, an operator at the airport said, “What manner of hoodwink is this? Already, the airport towing van operators have become of such huge nuisance value. They are a law unto themselves. They are callously released unto unsuspecting airport users rudderless. They are concessionaires of FAAN without any form of oversight. It is very heart wrenching when all we do are just stacked against the users of the same airport we are meant to position as a welcoming gateway.”

The Chief Executive Officer of West Link Airlines, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia who frowned at the activities of towing company at the Lagos airport, excoriated FAAN for so many exploitative charges leveled at passengers and other airport users.

“I still wonder why we pay tollgate fees at our airports accesses. Parking lot charges are the norm, but not access to the airports. Access to drop off and pick up is free everywhere outside Nigeria, as my research and experience have shown. I am still asking Google to show me where they still pay to access an airport to pick up or drop off. Only Nigeria pops up. “This is 2021, we still charge people to access airports after they have been taxed several charges on their tickets, they pay to access the gate, pay to access the terminal, pay to use the lounge, haba!” Mshelia said.

When contacted, the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu told THISDAY that the agency has initiated talks with the vehicle towing companies in order to stop their hostility to airport users and also for them to stick to forestalling road users parking on the thoroughfare at the airport. She also said that motorists do not comply to the rules, especially those who have friends and relations that work with FAAN.

“When their vehicle is towed they start calling their friends and relations that work with FAAN who began to plead on their behalf,” he said. THISDAY learnt that the towing companies operate as concessionaires so their actions are hardly influenced by the workers of the agency.

Covid-19 - Outcry Over Permit As Returning Passengers Decry Treatment By Airlines - DAILY TRUST

NOVEMBER 01, 2021

By Abdullateef Aliyu

More Nigerian passengers are said to be stranded in various countries abroad over the country's COVID-19 permit, Daily Trust reports.

This is despite the directive by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to foreign airlines to board passengers that are having difficulty with generating their Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) code.

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had on Thursday narrated his ordeal as he was prevented from boarding at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, for allegedly failing to obtain permit to travel.

Daily Trust reports that inbound passengers are expected to make payment online and generate a PCR code, which is a travel permit but many passengers have been experiencing difficulty in recent weeks.

The Director-General of the NCAA, Musa Nuhu, in a letter, told all airlines operating in and out of the country to board passengers without the evidence of payment in view of the challenges some of them are experiencing while trying to fill their Health and Travel history into Nigeria's International Travel Portal (NITP).

The NCAA letter was dated September 11, 2021, with the heading, "Permission for airlines to board passengers traveling to Nigeria who are unable to show evidence of payment for day seven COVID-19 PCR test or generate paid QR code/permit to fly".

The DG explained that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has been notified of the challenges being faced by the travellers.

The letter has therefore mandated airlines to board any traveler to Nigeria who is unable to either pay for the repeat day-7 COVID-19 PCR test or generate the paid QR code/permit to fly.

Despite the directive, it was learnt that many passengers including eminent Nigerians were being denied boarding by foreign airlines.

But a source told our correspondent last night that the portal, which was experiencing hitches at the time the NCAA issued the directive is now working and only requires passengers to enter appropriate details.

Daily Trust reports that passengers were required to enter their details including passport and ticket numbers in order to generate the bar code which is a permit to travel.

But Prof. Wole Soyinka lamented how he was delayed in France for 48 hours while speaking with journalists in Lagos.

He explained that while there was no attempt to banish him, he felt like serving a decree of banishment for 48 hours that the event lasted.

He said, "Of course, there is something known as force majeure that means you cannot help it. If there are floods, or there is turbulence and your plane cannot land and it is turned somewhere else, yes we understand that."

Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George also confirmed to our correspondent that he suffered delay during a transit flight from Germany on Lufthansa, saying he nearly missed his flight until an official at the airport later recognised him and intervened on his behalf.

Just Sunday, another passenger said he was deboarded by Air France "over an innocuous form".

When contacted last night, the NCAA DG said he would find out what specifically happened with the affected passenger, confirming that the portal is working and there shouldn't be an issue if the passengers had followed the laid down procedures.

International airfares rise as naira crashes on IATA platform - PUNCH

NOVEMBER 02, 2021

BY  Oyetunji Abioye

The lingering shortage of foreign exchange in Nigeria has forced the naira to crash against the United States dollar on the air ticket pricing template of the International Air Transport Association, the Switzerland-based trade body representing over 290 global airlines.

As a result, airfares on Nigeria routes which are priced in naira have increased considerably, forcing Nigerian travel companies to express fear the development may further dampen the recovery of international travel from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The development came amid struggles by foreign airlines to access forex from the Central Bank of Nigeria to repatriate ticket sale proceeds running to over $208m.

Investigations by The PUNCH revealed that the naira fell against the US dollar last week on the IATA ticket pricing template from 415/dollar to 444/dollar, forcing travel companies to sell tickets at higher prices.

The development is coming at a time travel agents are bracing to make higher sales from intending international travellers for the Yuletide vacation later in the year.

Travel companies told The PUNCH that air ticket pricing had gone up from 415/$ to 444/$ as agents were bound to issue tickets based on the exchange rate stipulated on the IATA platform.

Multiple travel companies confirmed that the IATA exchange rate had been fluctuating between 415/$ and 442/$ in recent times before peaking at 444/$ last Thursday.

As of Monday evening when this report was being filed, the IATA rate was still at N444/$.

Random checks by The PUNCH through some popular travel companies showed that airfares had surged following the naira’s crash against the greenback on the IATA platform.

Speaking on the development, the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents, the umbrella body for travel agencies/companies in Nigeria, Susan Akporiaye, expressed dismay and warned the situation could dampen the post-COVID-19 recovery of the air travel industry.

She said, “The exchange rate is fluctuating now. Before now, IATA had moved the exchange rate from N425/$ to N442/$. What is now happening is unfortunate and it is not good for our industry.

“I think it was necessary because there is a big disparity between the bank rate, airline rate and the black market rate. Before now, the airline rate was N415/$ while the black market rate was N580/$. Look at that disparity!”

While linking the development to foreign airlines’ inability to access forex, the NANTA president advised the CBN to address the situation urgently.

“If foreign airlines were getting forex as and when due, there probably wouldn’t have been the need for the increase in IATA rate. These are foreign airlines; they are not Nigerian airlines. Their funds have to go back to their countries,” she said.

Akporiaye recalled how a similar forex crisis in 2016 led to a situation where foreign carriers removed cheaper classes of tickets from their inventory.

She said, “A particular foreign airline says it is not repatriating up to 50 per cent of its funds; it says it is doing between 20 and 30 per cent. Some foreign airlines say if they are repatriating about 50 or 60 per cent of their ticket sale proceeds, they will be fine.

“The increase in the exchange rate will affect travel demand because people will not want to go above their budget. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people have learnt to cut their budgets. Demand for travel will reduce. The forex scarcity is another pandemic that we cannot afford to have. Government should seriously look into the issue of repatriation of funds for foreign airlines.”

A leading economic analyst and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr Bismarck Rewane, said the backlog of funds running to $208m was due to the aftermath of the peak season travel in summer.

While linking the development to low oil price and production by Nigeria, Rewane expressed the hope that the CBN would sell forex to carriers to repatriate their funds soon.

He said, “It is possible that the robust provisions of the external reserves at this time will help, going forward. What we are seeing now is a potential improvement, now that the reserves are over $42bn.

“It is not only airlines [that are] going through this. There are foreign portfolio investors, manufacturers buying equipment and others; so there is a whole array of demand for forex, and the duty of the CBN is to make sure that all these demands are met.”

The economist also hinted at a more flexible exchange rate, saying, “The CBN is currently working on some modalities that will make the naira appreciate when there are more dollars and depreciate when there are fewer dollars available.”

On why IATA rate increased to 444/$, the FDC boss said, “What is responsible is when the level of blocked funds reduce, IATA uses the average rate which has applied for their ticket remittances. A fixed exchange rate is the biggest problem here. Once it is fixed, you will not get the supply when you want it. I foresee a situation where if the exchange rate is flexible, the supply is available at every point.”

Rewane observed that some foreign carriers had stopped selling cheaper classes of tickets due to their inability to access forex from the CBN.

He, however, said, “Once there is the availability of supply, the airlines will open all ticket classes. Right now, only the executive classes are available. So now, the Nigerian traveller is being hindered by the exchange rate on one hand and discounted tickets not being available on the other hand.

“Once the supply situation is fixed, you will find out that the discounted fares are returned. Right now, only those buying in foreign currency have access to discounted fares. Once you have a certain level of blocked funds, IATA can say that your tickets are not endorsable in the international market. But I don’t see us getting to that point.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Vice President, Africa and Middle-East, IATA, Kamil Al-Awadhi, is due to meet officials of the Federal Government in Abuja this week.

According to impeccable sources, the meeting will focus on the need for Nigeria to honour the provisions of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement by making sure forex is made available to foreign carriers to repatriate their ticket sales proceeds.

Kamil Al-Awadhi had in a recent opinion piece warned that the blocked funds were threatening to hamper aviation in Nigeria.

International flights to return to regional airports after pandemic restrictions - THE CANADIAN PRESS

NOVEMBER 02, 2021

International air traffic will be returning to more regional airports soon, after flights were restricted for most of the year as part of the government's efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports at eight mid-sized cities can reopen their runways to planes from across the border as of Nov. 30.

The airports range from Victoria to St. John's, N.L. The other six are in Waterloo and Hamilton in Ontario, Abbotsford and Kelowna in British Columbia, and Saskatoon and Regina.

"I'm pleased that increased vaccination levels have allowed us to safely reopen these additional Canadian airports to international passenger flights," Alghabra said on the tarmac at Waterloo International Airport.

"This move will help ensure travellers are able to access more regional airports for their international travels this winter, while continuing to support our government's measured approach to reopening our borders."

The air sector had been pushing the government to allow more airports to take on international flights, with an eye to trips to and from U.S. and Caribbean destinations as the holidays approach.

Ten airports currently enjoy that status, expanded from four when Ottawa first introduced the restriction in February as part of a move to discourage non-essential trips, slow the spread of COVID-19 variants and concentrate the location of quarantine hotels.

Air service across the country last quarter reached just 37 per cent of its 2019 levels, and just 20 per cent for international traffic, Canadian Airports Council president Daniel-Robert Gooch said.

"We can see no reason why these communities have to wait any longer," he said in a statement, citing vaccination numbers and health protocols.

About 84 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of last Friday, according to the federal government.

As of Nov. 30, all air travellers in Canada must be fully vaccinated in order to board.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. spokeswoman Morgan Bell said the industry's recovery hinges on allowing all airports to clear their runways for international arrivals.

WestJet will run limited international flights from the airports in December, ramping up the volume on Jan. 7, she said.

"Network planning commences months in advance to accommodate scheduling and staffing and we are disappointed that we were forced to delay previously planned international service from these regions due to limited notice," Bell said in a statement.

Both Air Canada and WestJet have criticized Ottawa's COVID-19 PCR test requirement that remains in place for passengers arriving from abroad. Bell called the pre-departure test rule "inconsistent with land border requirements."

Garth Lund, chief commercial officer for budget carrier Flair Airlines, said the Edmonton-based company was grateful for the government's decision.

"We’re eager to offer low fares to snowbirds young and old wanting to enjoy some sun this fall and winter," he said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Air Canada suspends more than 800 unvaccinated workers under new federal rules - THE CANADIAN PRESS

NOVEMBER 02, 2021

MONTREAL — Air Canada has suspended more than 800 employees for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in line with federal rules.

The vast majority of Air Canada's 27,000 cabin crew, customer service agents and others have received both shots, chief executive Michael Rousseau said Tuesday.

"Our employees have done their part, with now over 96 per cent fully vaccinated. The employees who are not vaccinated or do not have a medical or other permitted exemption have been put on unpaid leave," he said on a conference call with investors.

The layoffs are "across the company" rather than concentrated in any particular job, spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

The proportions align with those at WestJet Airlines Ltd., where fewer than four per cent of workers — less than 300 out of 7,300 — are unvaccinated, the company said in an email.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month that as of Oct. 30, Ottawa would require federally regulated air, rail and shipping companies to establish mandatory vaccination policies for employees.

Air Canada sees hope on the horizon as revenues soared over 2020 levels last quarter amid stronger sales for winter, despite continuing to operate far below pre-pandemic capacity and at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Domestic leisure bookings have bounced back, prompting a recall of more than 10,000 laid-off employees since the start of the year — 6,500 of them since July. But business travel remains down across the board due in part to the persistence of remote work, executives said Tuesday.

"We're witnessing a strong rebound in VFR (visiting friends and relatives), and leisure traffic remains strong, specifically within North America, across the Atlantic and to sun destinations," chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said on the conference call.

"We were pretty confident that come 2022 corporate Canada returns to their offices and business travel should return. But no doubt that for us, business has lagged a little bit."

Revenue nearly tripled year over year to $2.10 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, beating expectations by more than 15 per cent, according to according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. Capacity also increased by 87 per cent.

But revenue fell more than 60 per cent short of Air Canada's third-quarter figures in 2019 while capacity remained two-thirds below, as COVID-19 fallout continues to dent carriers' bottom lines.

"There's no textbook on this type of recovery, or any in the history. There's no doubt we're very encouraged by what we see. And there's no doubt that the length of the recovery has moved in from the consensus of 2025 to at least 2024 and maybe 2023," said Rousseau, who took over as CEO in February.

In its outlook, the Montreal-based airline said it plans to expand its fourth-quarter capacity by about 135 per cent compared with the same period in 2020. However, that capacity — calculated using an industry metric called available seat miles — will barely reach half the amount of its pre-pandemic level.

Net cash flow of $153 million was well above analyst expectations of cash burn of up to $460 million. It marked the first quarter Air Canada has enjoyed cash flow in the black since the onset of the pandemic.

Rousseau also stressed a record cargo performance of more than $1 billion so far this year. The carrier began to shift toward air freight last spring, converting several of its retired Boeing 767 jetliners to cargo aircraft.

With fewer flights and less freight being transported in the luggage compartments of passenger planes, the price of shipping cargo by air has increased. Other airlines such as American Airlines and United Airlines also began operating cargo-only last year, hoping to use the opportunity to stem their losses.

Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc., called Air Canada's results "a tremendous source of optimism."

However, rising fuel prices and the pace of business travel's revival remain areas of anxiety.

"Many employees have not returned to the office, companies are continuing to make use of virtual conferencing tools, and air travel for inter-office business and international trips continues to be restricted. At least in the short-term, these factors will suppress demand for corporate travel, which is traditionally the highest contributor to airline top lines," Kokonis said in an email.

Air Canada's share price closed up $1.01 or 4.4 per cent at $24.02 on Tuesday.

Air Canada reported a loss of $640 million in its third quarter compared. The loss amounted to $1.79 per diluted share last quarter compared with a loss of $685 million or $2.31 per diluted share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a loss of $554.7 million, or $1.44 per diluted share, according to Refinitiv.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Nigeria Air: FG disburses N6.25 billion on consultancy, advisers - THE GUARDIAN

NOVEMBER 03, 2021

• Budgets N14.7b in three years
• Qatar, Turkish, Ethiopian Airlines identified as technical partners
• Stakeholders split over prospect and priority in pandemic, twilight of Buhari’s govt

The controversial national carrier, Nigeria Air, may see the light of the day before the current administration winds down, with a new take-off date now set for the first quarter of 2022.
The fresh optimism, The Guardian learnt, is not unconnected with a recent headway in the search for credible technical partners and financial backings of the Federal Government year-on-year.
Indeed, another shot at floating a national carrier, being one of the 2015 electioneering promises of President Muhammadu Buhari, has consistently racked up appropriation votes since 2019 to 2022, now summed up to N14.65 billion.

About 40 per cent of the sum (N6.25 billion) has been channelled to working capital, consultancy and transaction advisers’ fees.
Similarly, the grope for technical partners appears to be ending with the Ministry of Aviation and Qatar Airways closing in on a deal, ahead of Turkish Air and Ethiopian Airlines.
Aviation stakeholders, who have been waiting for the project, are divided on its prospects. At stake are questions on its sustainability in the post-Buhari era, its uphill take-off in the pandemic age and official indifference to a transparent process.  
Inquiries by The Guardian suggested that groundwork on the proposed national carrier had continued unabated behind the scene. An official, who is privy to the charge, led by Aviation Minister, Capt. Hadi Sirika, said, “Nigeria is most likely to have the new airline by 2022 Q1.
“Yes, we said the same thing last year, expecting things to have been concluded by the first quarter of 2021. That failed and is behind us now. What is almost certain is the 2022 date.

“We are almost through with our choice of technical partners. The public will know at the right time. I can assure you that we are almost there,” the top official said.
Findings showed that Qatar Airways is in the lead in a race that has Turkish Air and Ethiopian Airlines (ET). Qatar is a better contender given its strong rating, financial strength, modern equipment and global network. ET may be instrumental in setting up a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, according to feelers.
Sirika, shortly after coming to office late 2015, launched an aviation development roadmap. Of priority are a new national carrier, airport concession, aircraft leasing company and a MRO.
The national carrier is to replace the defunct Nigeria Airways that ceased operations in 2003. The replacement was designed as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project with the Federal Government likely to own between five and 10 per cent stake.  
In 2018, the national carrier and its christening in London set the minister on a collision course with the Nigerian public. Harsh criticism of the “prodigal” roll-out at the Farnborough Airshow in London was instrumental to “temporary” suspension of the launch, earlier scheduled for December 24, 2018. Contrary to public perception that the logo design had gulped N80 million, the minister said less than N10 million had been spent.
Findings then showed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) did not also warm up to the proposed airline because it had no provision in the 2018 appropriation law. But since then to date, the project has been rattling-up votes, even faster than jet engines burn kerosene.
Things started looking up for the legacy project in the 2019 budget, where it was awarded between N8billion and N47 billion, with additional N500 million for its transaction advisers. The 2020 budget had N4.6 billion for its working capital, while the 2021 appropriation added another N1 billion to working capital. The 2022 budget recently proposed to the National Assembly also voted N400 million for the airline, with additional N150 million as consultancy fee.

While the airline did not exist prior to or during the pandemic, it was given priority in the N27 billion aviation bailout fund to cushion the devastating effect of the pandemic on businesses.
Aviation Consultant, Chris Aligbe, said though the sum of over N14.65 billion vote is huge, “we only need to convert it to dollars to see the actual worth in aviation ventures because our Naira has, sadly, become palm wine powerless.
“Because when you talk about the airline industry, flotation, aircraft acquisition – be it leasing or whatever, you are talking in terms of dollars. That billions of naira, how many aircraft can it even buy or lease? Again, you have to take away the cost spent on promotion, transaction advisers, and others because those are not yet investments in the airline. They are preparatory for the investment itself. It is when you do that you have a clear sense of what is actually required and what is being put into it,” Aligbe said.
He added that if the airline could come up in Q1 2022, the administration would still have sufficient time to demonstrate its strength to the Nigerian public. “If it gets the right partner, with minimal investment from the government and it is doing well in about six months, Nigerians will not bother about how late or early it came.”
Former Commandant of Lagos Airport, in the 90s, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), agreed that strength of the national carrier will be tested by the genuineness in its buildup, especially the business plans and its transparency, than its promptness.
Ojikutu said it is not enough for the Federal Government to own only five per cent of the stake, without a full disclosure on the 95 per cent balance.
“If Qatar is coming as an investment partner, what is the value of its investment? Would Qatar also be technical partners or who are the technical partners? Who are the other national investors in the national carrier and what shares would they take? What shares would be available to the national or the public in what we are calling a national carrier?
“The N14.6 billion that was received as votes from the government was used for what purpose? Would that be the value of the shares without knowing what is the capital of the airline? If we don’t have positive answers to all these, we may end up with an airline like Virgin Nigeria (VN) that was secretly formed in Aso Rock and secretly defunct at Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos,” he said.
To make the airline truly national, Ojikutu advised federal and state governments not to take more than 10 per cent stake. By extension, appropriate 40 per cent to foreign technical/investors partners, while credible Nigerian investors and the general public take 20 per cent and 30 per cent, in that order.

He, however, frowned on partnering those airlines that are already competing with Nigeria on its Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) routes.
“Using Qatar, Turkish or any Middle East, EU, and U.S. Airlines that are on our BASA routes, in any partnership, cannot profit the airline. Get technical partners from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and so on.”
Former President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, said the progress report was a sufficient reason for Nigerians to rally behind the project.
Bernard said that some things ended badly and shouldn’t foreclose another try. He noted that the add-on values of a national carrier in the diplomatic community, airfares regulation and industry development, should make the project worth the wait.
Assistant Secretary of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a think-tank group of the sector, Olumide Ohunayo, however, believes that the decision on a legacy asset shouldn’t have taken forever — where handlers are clear-headed and not building for selfish interest.
He cited the case of Ibom Air, for instance, was the dream of the Akwa Ibom State governor, Emmanuel Udom. And in about four years of his administration, the state took to the skies, surpassing expectations in two years of its operations.
This month in Europe, Italy floated a new national carrier, ITA Airways. The new carrier was unveiled less than 24 hours after the former national airline, Alitalia collapsed, ending years of aerial woes and debt crises.
Already, ITA Airways has acquired the assets of Alitalia for $104 million, inviting other Italian brands to be a part of the new carrier that will be 100 per cent Italiano. ITA plans to turn the corner by “right-sizing” the fleet, staff and routes. The airline will operate a fleet of Airbuses for efficiency. The first set of 52 aircraft will enter operation early 2022, and would have increased to 105 by 2025.   

Ohunayo said that is how to do it on a national scale. He advised that instead of the Federal Government forcing another “principality” airline on an already crowded airspace, and helping it start a race minutes ahead of other competitors, attention should go to making the environment conducive for the private sector.
“With the rate at which they are going, what will happen is forcing it (national carrier) down our throats and keeping it as a problem for another government and Nigerians in future. With the lawmakers’ directive to withhold NG Eagle’s Air Operating Certificate (AOC), you can see how politicised the industry has become. For years now, we have also been pumping money into an unborn airline.
“For me, the span for the national carrier is too short and no longer feasible within this administration. What is being done is to force it on us, out of self-desire than a national desire. Truly, our local airlines only need more participation, cooperation, protection and assistance in policies and linkages with international investors to blossom.
“That is how to build strong flag carriers that are now the in-thing among world countries. With our minister standing by one airline, it already gives it an edge over others, which is not good for other long-term investors and operators in the industry. We really don’t need a carrier that is owned by the government,” Ohunayo said.

U.S. Travelers Plan to Spend More Amid Remote-Work Flexibility - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 03, 2021

BY  Augusta SaraivaBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- A majority of U.S. travelers plan to spend the same or more on trips during the holidays than what they spent before the pandemic, according to a study from Deloitte LLP. 

Overall, 42% of Americans plan on traveling at the end of the year, the study shows. About 40% of travelers are planning to work while on vacation, with three in four in this group adding at least an extra day to their plans due to the remote-work flexibility. Those who are combining travel and leisure more than twice as likely to stay at hotels and take flights.

The survey also illustrates the nation’s uneven pandemic recovery: While more than half of high-income Americans are traveling this holiday season, only about a third of those making less than $50,000 annually are doing so. That rises to 46% for those in the $50,000-to-$100,000 bracket and 53% for those making more than $100,000. 

For lower-income Americans who are planning to travel and spend more than before, 44% said they will be taking advantage of accumulated savings. About 20% of those in the middle and higher income levels said they’ll be traveling more this holiday to take advantage of work-from-home flexibility. 

Eileen Crowley, vice chair for U.S. transportation, hospitality and services at Deloitte, said in a statement accompanying the survey that “pent-up demand for tradition, travel, the need for rest, and post-lockdown getaways will drive intent throughout the coming months.”

Deloitte surveyed 6,512 Americans about their travel plans from Sept. 9 to 23. 


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