Travel News

U.K. Fuel Stations Seen Taking Weeks to Return to Normal - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 01, 2021

(Bloomberg) --

U.K. motorists will have to wait weeks for fuel supply to return to normal, prolonging a shortage that has caused chaos across the country.

More than a quarter of the nation’s service stations have no fuel, and another 20% have only one grade in stock, according to the U.K. Petrol Retailers Association. Around London, many service stations were still closed, while those that did have supplies were surrounded by long lines of cars waiting to fill up. 

“It will take a number of weeks to get it back to more normal running levels” with no lines or shortages at service stations, Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio on Friday.

The government says its emergency measures -- deploying a fleet of reserve tankers and putting the army on standby to drive trucks -- have eased the crisis. But there was little sign that drivers were heeding ministers’ exhortations to slow their purchases, meaning fuel deliveries were barely able to keep up with demand. 

“Consumer behavior, allied with a perception of a shortage of fuel, is driving different levels of demand,” Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News. “If we can return to a normal pattern of consumption we can return to a normal pattern of supply.”

The scenes on the streets of London on Friday morning were far from normal. From Woodford New Road in the north of the city to Catford in the south, a significant number of service stations displayed signs saying they had no fuel. 

Where supplies of gasoline and diesel were available, there was ample evidence of “unprecedented demand.”

From Kilburn in northwest London to the Old Kent Road, long lines of vehicles waited to fill their tanks, snarling traffic, blaring their horns and occasionally getting into arguments. Frustrated drivers spoke of many wasted hours searching for fuel and disruption to their lives and businesses.

At an Exxon Mobil Corp. station in north London, a motorist named Kevin said he had finally found fuel after having been on the hunt since Monday. Running on empty for most of the week, the Ecuadorian national who declined to give his last name said he and his colleagues had to cancel jobs in his business collecting discarded furniture. 

In southeast London on Thursday, a van driver who asked not to be named said he’d visited 12 empty stations before finding a Royal Dutch Shell Plc forecourt that had fuel. He’d been waiting at least an hour for his turn to refill. 

(Updates with government comment in fifth paragraph.)

‘Arik Air Owing Agencies N19bn, Shouldn’t Transform To NG Eagle’ - DAILY TRUST

OCTOBER 01, 2021

Two aviation unions, the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) – Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch, yesterday insisted that the proposed Nigeria Eagles being created out of the existing Arik Air should not be granted Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

Already, two Arik Air aircraft have been rebranded Nigeria Eagles while another is undergoing rebranding at the Ethiopian Airlines maintenance facility in Addis Ababa.

But ANAP and NUP are kicking against AMCON’s divestment move while calling on all aviation staff across the country to prepare for a showdown with Arik Air.

They hinged their opposition on the huge indebtedness of Arik Air to aviation agencies to the tune of N19bn.

ANAP’s General Secretary, Comrade Rasaq Saidu, and its NUP FAAN branch counterpart, Njoku Emeka, said the huge indebtedness to aviation service providers was affecting operation services rendered by the agencies.

In a statement they added that: “It has equally affected aviation staff negatively to carry out the duties and responsibilities to other airlines and passengers in general.”

The unions, therefore, urged the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to stop the issuance of AOC to Nigeria Eagles “until all the total debts of Arik transforming to NG Eagle is settled to avoid repeated mistakes of Bellview Air transforming to First Nation and eventually dying with debts.”

It would be recalled that other sister unions in the industry, including the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Employees (NAAPE), all of Arik branch, on Monday, asked ANAP and NUP to steer clear of affairs in Arik and NG Eagle, calling the duo busybodies.

Africa lags on COVID-19 vaccination, healthcare workers at risk - WHO, nurses say - REUTERS

OCTOBER 01, 2021

By Cecile Mantovani Ayenat Mersie

GENEVA/NAIROBI, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Only 15 of Africa's 54 nations have fully vaccinated 10% of their populations against COVID-19 and many frontline health workers remain at risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Council of Nurses (ICN) said on Thursday.

They called for speeding up distribution of doses to those at risk on the continent amid what the WHO called "opaque delivery plans" and "bottlenecks" in the rollout of vaccines in Africa.

The WHO had called for vaccinating at least 10% of health workers in every country by Sept. 30 - a target met by nearly 90% of high-income countries, the United Nations health agency said.

Half of the 52 African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated just 2% or less of their populations, WHO's regional office in Brazzaville said in a statement.

Howard Catton, chief executive officer of the Geneva-based ICN, told Reuters that it analysed data from nine African countries.

It showed that approximately a third of health workers were still waiting for their first dose of vaccine and only about 10 percent had been fully vaccinated.

"Despite the promises, we are not seeing the delivery And this is a health and a human rights crisis," he said. "Today nurses and health workers are still going to work knowing that they are at higher risk, but not having the protection of vaccine."

In the meantime, some rich countries are already administering booster shots and vaccines to youth, he said.

"You know, we have just seen a billionaire send a healthcare worker into space, yet, here on earth, we have millions of healthcare workers still waiting to be vaccinated. They shouldn’t have to wish on a star for a vaccine, they should be prioritized," Catton said.

Richard Mihigo, coordinator for the WHO's Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme Africa, told a briefing: "What the data is showing us – in the 39 countries where we were able to collect that information, 8% of all the doses administered in those 39 countries were administered to healthcare workers."

Some healthcare workers in remote rural areas have not been reached, he said.

Reporting by Cecile Mantovani in Geneva and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Angus MacSwan

Nigeria’s air transport sees highest passenger departures since April 2020 - BUSINESSDAY

OCTOBER 01, 2021


A total of 232,501 passengers travelled out of Nigeria by air between the months of April and June 2021, representing the highest figures the country has seen in five quarters, (April 2020 -June 2021).

A new report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Air Transportation showed that a total arrival under foreign movement statistics in the period was 220,171 as against 222,453 arrival and 212,977 departure recorded in the previous quarter.

“On a Year-on-Year basis, foreign movement statistics for second quarter 2021 was 220,171 (arrival) and 232,501 (departure) as against 3,699 (arrival) and 16,163 (departure) recorded in second quarter 2020.

“Similarly, under domestic passenger’s movement, arrival in second quarter 2021 stood at 1,375,002 and departure at 1,381,696, as against 1,274,350 arrival and 1,247,797 departure recorded in Q1 2021,” it stated.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos state record the highest number of passengers with a total of 335,841 passengers (162,720-arrival, 173,121-depature) in the period.

This was followed by Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano state, Port Harcourt International Airport, and Maiduguri international Airport with 110,266, 6,443, 92, 30 passengers respectively.

The number of arrivals at the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport, was 54,454, while departure was 55,812.

Similarly, in the period under review, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Port Harcourt International Airport, and Maiduguri international Airport recorded 2,942, 43, 12 arrivals and 3,501, 49, 18 departures respectively.

Airlines Are Ripping Out Business Seats to Create a New Middle Class - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 01, 2021

Premium economy lets flyers avoid the cattle-car feel of coach, and it’s super profitable for carriers.

By William Wilkes and Christopher Jasper

For decades, ferrying tourists to vacation destinations has helped major airlines cover basic costs, but the front of the plane is where they’ve racked up the bulk of their profits.

So when the pandemic whacked business travel, carriers were left looking for another way to pad the bottom line. Increasingly they’re finding it in premium economy, where travelers can avoid the cattle-car aesthetics of coach without spending thousands of dollars for the expansive digs of business class. And with Covid-19, growing numbers of leisure travelers are willing to splash out for a bit of extra elbow room at fares that are frequently more than double the cheapest economy seats. “People are desperate to take charge of their lives now, and airlines can no longer force them into just one or two categories,” says Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., which pioneered the service in 1992.

The trend was already on an upswing before the pandemic, with installations of premium economy seats—not including the “plus” sections of coach, which offer extra legroom—growing 5% annually in the three years before the coronavirus hit. Researcher Counterpoint Market Intelligence predicts that pace will accelerate as more carriers embrace the idea of a separate cabin on long-haul flights featuring slightly wider seats, several extra inches of legroom, a deeper recline, bigger screens, and marginally better food and drink.

What Premium Economy Really Means

Maximum seat width and distance from seat back to seat back on a Boeing 787

*British Airways doesn't offer Plus extended-legroom seats in its economy cabin.

The three largest U.S. carriers— AmericanUnited, and Delta—are installing the class across their widebody fleets. Emirates introduced its first premium economy offering this year on some Airbus SE A380 double-deckers and plans to add it to 777X planes on order from Boeing Co. Finnair Oyj, which specializes in flights linking Europe with East Asia via its Helsinki hub, next year will start adding the service on all 27 of its widebodies. “The investment has been an easy decision for us,” says Topi Manner, Finnair’s chief executive officer. “Premium economy is the most profitable real estate on the aircraft, and the pandemic is reinforcing that.”

Seats in the premium cabin occupy barely 10% more space than coach, whereas a business-class berth typically requires three times as much room. Deutsche Lufthansa AG says premium economy generates 33% more revenue per square foot than economy and 6% more than business—and is 40% more profitable than the latter because it’s cheaper to install. The German carrier has premium economy cabins on all 102 of its long-haul aircraft and is considering stripping out more business-class seats to expand the sections. Initially, Lufthansa was concerned that the service would cannibalize its business bookings, but most passengers upgrade from coach. “Premium economy is the area we’re focusing on the most,” says Heike Birlenbach, head of customer experience.

Some in the industry caution that the cost could be an issue for airlines just recovering from the financial devastation of the pandemic. A premium seat costs $8,000 to $20,000, a fraction of the $75,000 to $250,000 price tag for a lie-flat pod in business class. But it’s still about five times what carriers pay for a coach berth, and Quentin Munier, strategy chief at seat-maker Safran SA, says some carriers are struggling to scrape together the funds needed to make the change. “Many are in wait-and-see mode,” he says.

Lufthansa Technik, a unit of the German carrier that specializes in cabin makeovers, says it’s had several inquiries from other airlines about adding premium economy and shrinking business—with some Asian carriers considering eliminating business class altogether. And it takes only about five days to install the berths and rewire the cabin, says Niels Dose, product sales manager with Lufthansa Technik. “It’s a pretty simple engineering operation,” he says.

Today’s premium economy is similar to the business class that airlines introduced in the 1970s—a marginal increase in comfort at a substantial increase in price. But carriers in recent years have deemphasized first class, making business the key differentiator for their brands, with lie-flat seats and sumptuous service. A recent design study envisions flat berths in premium, though carriers haven’t jumped at the idea. Surveys show the most important feature of business class is the ability to get a good night’s sleep on red-eye flights, so such an offering would likely spur more business passengers to take a step down rather than encourage coach-class flyers to upgrade, says Ben Bettell, a consultant with Counterpoint. That means for the foreseeable future, aside from a few extra inches of space, the principal appeal of premium economy may still be that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you know you’re not sitting in the worst seat on the plane. “Premium economy offers an affordable escape out of economy,” Bettell says, “and perhaps more importantly an opportunity for coach passengers to improve their status.” —With Tara Patel and Julie Johnsson

Why are Nigerians paying for fake COVID test results? - ALJAZEERA

OCTOBER 01, 2021

The high cost of private PCR tests and results delays are inhibiting a key weapon in Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19.


Lagos, Nigeria – In August, the University of Lagos temporarily closed its doors after positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in hostels on the main campus in Akoka.

Twenty-three-year-old Bolu and 24-year-old Veronica were among the thousands of students whose studies were interrupted.

The students, who asked Al Jazeera to refer to them by pseudonyms, are both in their final year of medical school. Neither was allowed to return to the classroom until the end of August – and only then if they could furnish the school with a negative COVID-19 test result.

COVID-19 tests are free in government-owned hospitals in Nigeria, but students and medical professionals Al Jazeera talked to say that demand for them far outstrips supply, and that results can be delayed for days, inhibiting public health measures to combat the spread of the disease.

There are private accredited labs students and others can turn to, but they don’t come cheap. Private labs in Abuja, for example, charge upward of 36,000 naira ($88 at the official exchange rate) for a COVID-19 test. In Lagos, a private test can leave someone 50,400 naira ($123) out of pocket. The monthly minimum wage in Nigeria is only 30,000 naira ($73).

Bolu and Veronica said they worked around the system by paying a fixer 3,000 naira ($7.30) to get them a forged negative COVID-19 test result from a private laboratory.

“I don’t even know the [actual] person who did the result, I just paid to a friend who works in a laboratory and then I got the result,’’ Veronica told Al Jazeera.

Neither of them said they even set foot in a testing centre.

“I just paid the money and they sent me the result to my email,” Bolu told Al Jazeera.

Both students said the practice of faking test results for COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus that is spreading around the globe – was widespread on their campus.

“Most of the results [students submitted] were doctored. It was not like the school was confirming with the laboratories if the results were genuine or not. In fact, I could have just written any letter and submitted it,’’ said Veronica.

The University of Lagos College of Medicine did not respond to Al Jazeera’s multiple email requests for comment.

But Dr Bamidele Mutiu, the director of Lagos State Bio-Bank and the specialist in charge of the laboratories, insists that anyone who needs a free COVID-19 test in Nigeria can get one.

“Testing is readily available across Lagos state,’’ he said. “The stock of reagents, sampling kits, and consumables at Lagos State Bio-Bank is more than enough for the ongoing response.”

Mutiu added that while results were delayed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the turnaround time for them now is now within 24 hours.

But a medical professional who worked with the coronavirus centre at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) between April last year and August of this year told Al Jazeera that results take three to four days at government-owned laboratories.

“There is a shortage of the kits for reasons I don’t know,” he said. “So, it will take them two or three days to supply us the sample kits, and to take the test again, it takes about three or four days to get the results out. That means we have been managing COVID blindly for like a week, which does not make sense.”

I just paid the money and they sent me the result to my email.

Lowering test costs

Testing is a key weapon in combating the spread of the coronavirus – including in Nigeria, where over 205,000 confirmed cases have been recorded and at least 2,700 people have lost their lives to the virus.

Experts say COVID-19 tests are pricey, though – and not only in Nigeria.

“Generally, the cost of carrying out COVID-19 PCR tests is high, alongside the costs of running molecular laboratories where these tests are carried out,” Chikwe Ihekweazu, the former director-general of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), told Al Jazeera. “This high cost is not unique to Nigeria alone.’’

It is, however, more prohibitive for Nigeria than for wealthier countries.

Forty percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to government figures. Some 20 percent of Nigerian workers have lost their jobs to coronavirus pandemic disruptions and the country is still crawling out of its worst recession in four decades. Meanwhile, the annual rate of inflation – which topped 17 percent in July – is eroding purchasing power, especially for poorer households.

“The high cost of PCR tests is not peculiar to Nigeria. The challenge is the poverty level,” said Ifeanyi Nsofor, a public health expert and senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute.

“Most people cannot afford to pay 40,000 naira ($97) for one COVID-19 test. Imagine if you have to do several tests a month.”

Nsofor believes the only way for Nigeria to price private tests more within reach of its population is to lessen dependence on federally funded testing.

“State governments and local councils must also invest in COVID-19 tests to reduce costs,” he told Al Jazeera. “The overreliance on the federal government is unsustainable. It is time for health insurance companies in Nigeria to add COVID-19 tests to the list of things they cover.’’

The high cost of PCR tests is not peculiar to Nigeria.

Scared to the bone

University undergraduate Pelumi Oteniya was exposed to the coronavirus in August when his roommate in Bariga, a suburb of Lagos, tested positive for COVID-19.

“The mere thought that I came in contact with a positive person really messed me up because I was scared to the bones,” the 21-year-old told Al Jazeera.

Oteniya said his attempts to get tested at a government facility yielded only frustration.

“The first centre I went to in Shomolu, I was told there was no testing facility and I was referred to another hospital in Shomolu with the same story,” he told Al Jazeera. “I went to another in Akoka but the attendants there were not interested in administering a test, but only vaccines that weren’t available at the time.”

Just over two percent of Nigeria’s population has received at least one coronavirus jab, according to Our World in Data [File: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

While richer nations have had the resources to secure millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines for their populations, Nigeria, like many developing economies, has had to wait in line and be drip-fed doses through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) initiative. As a result, little more than two percent of Nigeria’s population has received at least one coronavirus jab, according to Our World in Data.

Ihekweazu said the government has instructed law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute anyone engaged in the production and use of fake test results.

“We cannot do it alone; we need Nigerians to support these efforts by only using accredited and approved laboratories, and reporting illegal activities to the relevant law and health authorities,’’ he said.

But public support could prove challenging if Oteniya’s failed attempts to get a free, timely test result are anything to go by.

“All the experiences I had [trying to get tested] kind of gave me a new perspective that if this COVID was not real?” he said. “Maybe it was just a way to extort people or maybe Nigerian COVID is different because the way you see COVID in other countries is different.”

Why NG Eagle is Yet to Commence Operations - THISDAY

OCTOBER 02, 2021

BY  Chinedu Eze 

A new airline, NG Eagle being floated by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is yet to obtain Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to start operation because one of the aircraft needed to secure minimum number of equipment that would qualify it for certification is not ready.

The aircraft, a Boeing B737-700 originally owned by Arik Air but taken by AMCON to NG Eagle is waiting for livery change at Ethiopia Airlines Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa. It was learnt that the aircraft has been in the MRO facility for weeks after a C- check (maintenance) had been conducted on the aircraft.

When painted, the aircraft would now be ready to be ferried to Nigeria to complete the process of obtaining AOC from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Informed source from Arik Air told THISDAY that the aircraft might be leased to the start up airline, which is scheduled to commence operations before the end of the fourth quarter of 2021.

The source also said that the delay in the completion of the transformation process might be due to funds, which the MRO is waiting for AMCON to pay.

However the MRO management in Addis Ababa declined to comment on the issue, but confirmed that apart from the airline, other Nigerian carriers bring their aircraft for maintenance and repainting in its facilities.

Arik Air has been under the receivership of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria since February 2017. Some of Arik Air’s aircraft have been rebranded in the colours of NG Eagle, as AMCON explained earlier that floating a new carrier would be a way it would recoup the huge debts allegedly owed it by Arik Air.

The aircraft, which showed the logo of eagle emblazoned on its engine and painted in green colour, was said to have highlighted the seriousness of AMCON to start a new airline from the fleet of Arik Air. THISDAY learnt that AMCON was in the last stage of acquiring an Air Operators’ certificate from NCAA, which would make it commence scheduled services.

Recently, Director General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu confirmed to aviation journalists that NG Eagle was among the impending new airlines currently undergoing AOC acquisition.

About two months ago there were expectations that the new airline would start operation, but lack of minimum number of aircraft has continued to delay it.

Emirates Airline extends suspension of flights from Nigeria till October 10 - THE CABLE

OCTOBER 03, 2021

Emirates Airline, flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has extended the resumption of flights to and from Nigeria till October 10.

The airline announced in an updated statement on its website – as a diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deepens.

Since February, Emirates had suspended flight operations into Nigeria after the federal government stopped the airline from conducting rapid COVID-19 tests for Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.

Later, the federal government reversed the ban when the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests.

In a twist in March, the federal government reintroduced the ban, explaining that Emirates continued to conduct tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.

“Emirates’ flights to and from Nigeria will remain suspended until 10 October 2021,” the airline said.

“Customers who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai.

”Affected flight bookings have been cancelled. If your flight has been cancelled or impacted by route suspensions due to COVID-19 restrictions, you don’t need to call us immediately for rebooking. You can simply hold on to your Emirates ticket and when flights resume, get in touch with your booking office or us to make new travel plans.

“Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused.”

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had also said the moves by Emirates violated the country’s COVID-19 protocols — while Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, said it is “discriminatory profiling” of Nigerian travellers.

U.K. to Allow Quarantine-Free Travel for Most Countries, Telegraph Says - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 03, 2021

The U.K. will abolish quarantine for almost all countries, the Sunday Telegraph reports, citing sources.

The current ‘red list’ of 54 countries will be slashed to as few as nine. The changes, that are expected to be announced on Thursday, will allow travellers to visit those countries without having to self-isolate on their return.

South Africa, Brazil and Mexico are expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel in time for the October half-term break.

Lufthansa Adds Flights, Sees Rising Demand on Leisure Routes - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 03, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG is adding more than 80 flights from Frankfurt and over 50 departures from Munich this fall as the German airline sees rising demand for leisure destinations.

The carrier will offer extra flights to Spain’s Palma de Mallorca, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Malaga, and other European destinations during the country’s fall vacation period, it said in a statement on Sunday. Spain is in particularly high demand, it added.

Lufthansa sees demand for business travel, one of the big question marks for the aviation industry coming out of the pandemic, picking up as well. 

As a result, the company will continue to expand its domestic flights on routes that are particularly important for business travelers, it said. Over the last few weeks, Lufthansa expanded its services for October by 45% compared to July on routes such as Frankfurt to Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, and from Munich to Berlin, Hamburg and Dusseldorf.

Germany agreed to bail out Lufthansa at the start of the coronavirus pandemic after travel bans forced the grounding of global fleets. The company also owns Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, and the low-cost carrier Eurowings.

Separately, Lufthansa board member Detlef Kayser said the airline favors compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for flight personnel in Germany. 

“As an airline that operates worldwide, we advocate mandatory vaccination for our crews and also need a way to collect vaccination data,” he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. 


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