Travel News

ValueJet airline begins local operations, targets eight destinations - THE GUARDIAN

OCTOBER 07, 2022

By Wole Oyebade

Debuts with free tickets, low-cost fares

It was pomp in Lagos on Tuesday as a new scheduled carrier, ValueJet Airline, rolled out operations with some interesting packages to cheer up the troubled local travellers.

Smarting from the challenges of fare hike, the ­start-up – a hybrid model that combines features of low-cost and legacy carriers – offers local air travellers some of the cheapest airfares, beginning from Monday.

At the colourful unveiling, the airline said the venture targets some of other 95 per cent Nigerians that had never had opportunity to fly, either due to high fares or capacity.

And to mark its grand entry, the carrier is offering customers free tickets on its first set of flights.

Chairman of ValueJet, Adekunle Soname, said the company’s business model is poised towards ensuring that Nigerians have access to affordable flights through competitive pricing.

Soname said: “Our mission is to reinvent air travel with our unique value proposition of safety, comfort, convenience, experience, and high value for money. We are pleased to be able to make air travel more affordable to everyone, underlined by our payoff line, ‘Wings for Everyone’.

“ValueJet is hardly a stranger in the industry, and all operational insights from previous partnerships have been applied in building our business plan and propositions. We have identified a niche in the sector, the need for fair pricing amidst the rising cost of commercial aviation to the average customer, compounded by tough economic realities for air operators. Tough times are for us to get even tougher.” The airline hinted that customers who book round trips between October 4 and 9 would have their first flight free on ValueJet. However, this offer is only valid for flights between October 10 and November 9, 2022.

At the moment, the airline operates to and fro Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Asaba airports. Expanded operations before the month’s end will cover Warri, Benin, Yola, Jos and Owerri.

“Our fleet of modern and efficient CRJ 900 aircraft is ready. We can boast of a resolute professional workforce, which is among the best in the industry to deliver end-to-end customer experience backed by modern technology.

“With a long-term vision and growth mindset, we have set our sights on the coming years to expand beyond the Nigerian airspace. We are in a privileged position despite existing economic headwinds. We are building a cost-conscious business with an understanding of the sector and how Nigeria is poised to play a key role in developing Africa’s aviation by joining the rest of the global players in regional and international markets,” Soname said.

The airline that was founded in 2018, lately took delivery of three CRJ900 jets, 5N-BXS, 5N-BXT and 5N-BXR, and concluded all required demo flights to earn the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and Air Transport Licence (ATL).

Managing Director of ValueJet, Capt. Omololu Majekodunmi added that ValueJet was founded with a mission to make air travel affordable to everyone, and a vision to build a global airline, connecting people with places through modern air travel.

“Offering end-to-end customer experience backed by up-to-date technology, the airline is made up of dedicated and passionate people who are committed to providing the best-in-class service to its customers,” Majekodunmi said.
Chief Commercial Officer, Trevor Henry, who spoke on the airline’s initial route network, said ValueJet would on Monday start with a Lagos-Abuja flight twice daily in the interim, while Port Harcourt and Asaba will start with a flight daily. At full swing, the airline targets about 20 flights daily.

Arik Air marks anniversary with discounted fares - THE GUARDIAN

OCTOBER 07, 2022

Local airline, Arik Air, is commemorating the eighth anniversary of its frequent flyer programme, Arik Affinity Wings, offering discounted airfares to loyal customers.

Spokesperson of the airline, Banji Ola, said that registered and intending members of the programme have the opportunity to travel more and pay less by taking advantage of the anniversary promotion.

Existing members will enjoy a 20 per cent discount on any flight booked between October 1 and October 31, 2022, while new members will be welcomed into the Affinity Wings family with a 15 per cent discount on flights booked within the same period.

Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, said Arik Air was proud to achieve the milestone with its esteemed customers despite the odds.

Ilegbodu said: “These offers are unique due to the timing, as we are using this promotion to celebrate our valued customers this season. It’s the month of Nigeria’s independence and also the 2022 customer service week. We cherish the patronage of our customers, and this is our way of showing appreciation.”

The Arik Affinity Wings was launched in October 2014. There are currently over 150,000 members earning and spending miles on the platform.

Nigerians decry extortion, delays at passport offices home and abroad - ALJAZEERA

OCTOBER 07, 2022

Many Nigerians say getting a passport is now cumbersome due to corruption and government inefficiency.


Ilorin, Nigeria — In September 2021, when Akpos Malafakumo walked into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) office in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, to apply for a new passport, she had no idea it would take 10 months to get it.

After filling the forms, an officer there told her to pay 70,000 naira ($175) for an expedited passport or wait six weeks – like others. “Six weeks sounded like a reasonable time to me so I paid 45,000 naira [$113] because I was not in a hurry to get the passport,” the 25-year-old told Al Jazeera.

It was not until mid-November that Malafakumo was called in for biometric capturing. Six weeks later, when she had still not been notified that the passport was ready, she went to the office to complain in December 2021.

“I was getting worried already … because I was applying for a graduate school outside the country and most of the applications needed my passport number,” she said.

In 2017, the NIS banned cash payments ostensibly to make the process of getting or renewing passports nationwide as efficient as possible and phase out middlemen. Two years later, it introduced e-passports to curb forgery.

But citizens say these measures have instead worsened the situation at immigration offices within Nigeria and abroad and left a long line of people waiting for passports to be issued.

Nigeria does not produce its own passport booklets despite owning a minting and printing company. And immigration officials have been repeatedly accused of bribery and corruption – hoarding booklets and introducing arbitrary charges to line their pockets.

“Nigeria is this interesting test case where the application of technology to the delivery of government services often worsens the experience for citizens and taxpayers rather than enhancing or easing the process of accessing government services,” said Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based geopolitical risk advisory firm.

‘The highest bidders’

Last year, Nigerian media reported that about 1.5 million Nigerians in Italy needed passports.

A 2021 survey by SBM Intelligence indicated that the international passport is the least owned government identification in the country because it was too stressful to obtain. Less than a tenth of the 6,954 respondents had it.

Meanwhile, a declining socioeconomic situation and increasing insecurity in the country have spurred an immigration wave and further increased the demand for passports.

A 2021 report by the Africa Polling Institute found that seven in 10 Nigerians want to move abroad. Data from the UK government placed Nigeria third on a list of countries granted sponsored study visas in “the year ending June 2022” with an almost two-thirds increase from its 2019 figures and the largest recorded change all year.

The manufacturing and contracting issues have led to a racket within the system, according to analysts like Effiong.

“Not many Nigerians can afford to travel internationally,” he told Al Jazeera. “So the demands that underpin the passport issuance and renewal process is a unique market populated by certain kind of Nigerians who [believe] having the resources to be able to afford international travel means [people] can afford exorbitant charges.”

The lags have halted travelling plans for many looking to leave Nigeria. Overseas, it has delayed the plans of many looking to travel back home. In Rome, one man complained that immigration officers were issuing passports without appointments and demanding unofficial fees; his wife reportedly paid a 200 euros ($195) bribe.

“It is frustrating for those in the diaspora,” said Tope Fasua, Lagos-based political commentator and consultant. “Even if they are there and unable to regularise their papers, at least let them be able to have their Nigerian passports.”

After months of being told by the authorities that there was a passport booklet shortage, Malafakumo gave up trying.

“I think they have booklets and were only using it for the highest bidders,” she told Al Jazeera. “I watched people from other states who paid 100,000 naira [$250] get their passport on the same day.”

“I feel really hurt,” she said. “I actually got admission into one school in Ireland and they offered me funding. I needed my passport number to move forward with it but I didn’t get it. I wrote to them and they said the passport was the only means of identification for them.”

‘You have to know someone’

Selina, a Lagos resident who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, applied for passport renewal online in December 2021 and is still waiting. Every time she goes to the immigration office to track its progress, officials keep telling her to contact “the person helping her”.

“It has been frustrating and depressing,” she said. “Everyone expects I should have a certain someone who is helping me. When I tell them I did it online, I get the ‘ohh’ look and then the term ‘self-service’ follows me everywhere I turn to for help,” she recounted to Al Jazeera. “As they move my file from one officer to the other, they start with ‘it’s self-service’ like I am the enemy.”

The need for insider help has given leeway to middlemen who know people in the immigration service to make profits. Uthman (who refused to give his real name), who hawks this service on social media, told Al Jazeera that he gets a commission of at least 5,000 naira ($13) and the remaining sum goes to the officers who do the work.

Sometimes, applicants end up paying double the original price which NIS says is 35,000 naira ($88) and 70,000 naira ($175) for 64-page passports with five or 10 years’ validity respectively and 25,000 naira ($63) for 32-page passports with five years’ validity.

“If we are in a country with a good structure, what I do is illegal but the officers are not ready to work and they only attend to those who bribe them,” Uthman said. “I don’t see it as work or business. I am just helping people.”

NIS spokesman Amos Okpu refused to comment on the corrupt dealings, asking Al Jazeera to provide the names of officers and passport offices involved.

No proper punishment

Analysts say the NIS suffers from the same structural issues as other government agencies, bureaucratic processes, being understaffed and paying little remuneration, thus creating an incentive for corrupt practices.

“What this all means for Nigerians is that they are now in a more disadvantageous position in terms of accessing and utilising global opportunities that comes their way,” said Effiong. “And there seems to be very little political will on the part of the government to actually ease this process.”

A lack of incentive to encourage best practice or proper punishment to dissuade unethical behaviours have been cited as reasons for lax standards in immigration offices.

“It is another low for us but one may not be surprised any more given that Nigeria is very adept at ploughing those lows and invariably disgracing ourselves all over the world,” Fasua said. “The government needs to punish some of the bad guys in immigration, even if you have to sack them,” he added.

Still, more Nigerians continue to apply for their passports comfortable in the knowledge that they may not get it anytime soon.

“This is not a normal thing, it is abnormal. People should not be frustrated for wanting to get a passport,” asked Malafakumo, who got her passport this June. “There should be a straightforward way to do these things. Why should I beg for something I have paid for?”

Lufthansa is telling passengers to turn off AirTags in their checked luggage, rendering them useless, report says - YAHOO FINANCE

OCTOBER 08, 2022

  • Lufthansa is banning activated AirTags from passengers' luggage, per German media.

  • The airline said the tags were classed as "dangerous goods" and needed to be turned off.

  • Travellers turned to trackers amid a summer of chaotic scenes at airports and lost luggage.

Lufthansa is telling passengers to switch off tracking devices placed in their luggage, rendering the hardware useless in keeping track of bags.

Local publication WirtschaftsWoche first reported in August that the German airline was treating the tags, such as Apple's AirTag, as an electronic device like phones and laptops, indicating their batteries would need to be removed prior to flying as they were "dangerous goods."

This would make it impossible to keep track of the tag or luggage during a journey.

"Baggage trackers belong to the category of portable electronic devices and are therefore subject to the dangerous goods regulations for carriage in airplanes issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization," a Lufthansa spokesperson told WirtschaftsWoche.

"Accordingly, due to their transmission function, the trackers must be used similarly to cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc. during the flight if they are in checked baggage."

Air tracking hardware like the Apple AirTag became a saving grace for passengers during a summer of travel chaos where thousands of bags were lost.

Some passengers were even able to use data from their tags to contradict airlines' claims about where their luggage was located, while an Apple AirTag helped track a lost bag to an airline worker's home, who was subsequently charged with theft.

A spokesperson for Berlin Brandenburg Airport told local publication Watson in a statement that the airport did not have a ban on trackers like AirTags, and that they typically would not be removed from luggage.

The spokesperson added, however, that the airport abided by the guidelines of each of its airlines, suggesting active trackers found in bags destined for a Lufthansa flight could be removed.

"Basically, my colleagues deal with the baggage act according to the specifications of the airlines. Because [airlines basically decide] what is and is not allowed on board their planes," the spokesperson said.

Lufthansa didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside normal working hours.

FG alerts Nigerians to Ethiopia’s new visa regime - PUNCH

OCTOBER 08, 2022

The Federal Government has alerted Nigerians on Ethiopia’s new visa regime.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, the Ethiopian government had suspended issuance of “visa on arrival” to non-resident foreigners at all points of entry into the country.

The statement, which was signed by the Ministry’s spokesperson, Francisa Omayuli, explained that  the measure by the Ethiopian authorities was aimed at better border control of movement of persons into Ethiopia in view of the ongoing armed conflict in the Northern part of the country.

“The measure is said to be temporary, pending improvement in the security situation in the country and not a replacement of Ethiopia’s open visa policy,” the statement read.

Advising Nigerians on the next step to take, the FG stated “Therefore, Nigerians bearing Standard Passports intending to travel to Ethiopia are by this notification advised to obtain appropriate entry visas at the Ethiopian Embassy or an electronic visa through the country’s Immigration and Citizenship Service portal at www.evisa.gov.et

“Also, those transiting through Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to other destinations or intend to briefly stop over would require valid entry visa to enable them access hotel facilities in the city or else would be obligated to remain in the airport pending their connecting flight.”

The statement added, “The new temporary visa restriction measure came into effect on 29th September, 2022.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will liaise with the Nigeria Immigration Service and relevant Airlines to ensure that intending Nigerian travellers enroute Ethiopia are well sensitised.”                                              

200 Nigerian doctors move to UK in one month - PUNCH

OCTOBER 09, 2022

No fewer than 200 Nigerian-trained doctors were licensed by the government of the United Kingdom in just one month, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

Checks on the website of the General Medical Council, the body which licenses and maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, showed that the GMC licensed at least 200 Nigerian-trained doctors between August 31, 2022, and September 30, 2022.

The statistics also showed that between January 1, 2022 and September 30, 2022, about 1,307 doctors trained in Nigeria were licensed in the UK as Nigeria continues to battle one of the worst situations of brain drain in its history.

Overall, 10,296 doctors who obtained their degrees in Nigeria currently practise in the UK. However, Nigerian doctors who got medical qualifications in schools outside the country are not included in the data.

The rate of migration of medical doctors has recently become a matter of concern. The Nigerian Medical Association, while lamenting the high rate of medical brain drain, had said Nigeria might import doctors in the future.

In 2015, only 233 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK. The number increased to 279 in 2016, while the figure was 475 in 2017. In 2018, the figure rose to 852 while it further increased to 1,347 in 2019.

In 2020, the figure was 833 despite the fact that the GMC closed operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure for 2021 was put at 932.

Currently, Nigeria has the third highest number of foreign doctors working in the UK after India and Pakistan.

The National President of the Medical and Dental Consultant Association of Nigeria, Dr Victor Makanjuola, while commenting on the situation, said, “In the last two years, over 500 consultants in estimation have left the services of government hospitals for practice abroad. All our government hospitals are consultant-led practices, which is the global standard. Now, we lose 500 in just two years and we have found out that those who are more likely to leave are younger ones.

“To sustain the system and be able to train the next generation of medical doctors and medical students, Nigeria needs to retain the older consultants who are in their 50s and getting close to their retirement so that they can stay back and train the next generation of doctors and medical students. Otherwise, the disaster from brain drain would be doubled because we will lose the younger ones and the older ones at about the same time, and you will find a system without consultants. This will affect the standard of care and the quality of care given by hospitals.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria has said that there is only one psychiatrist to 900,000 Nigerians in the country. According to the APN, the country has less than 300 psychiatrists attending to the Nigerian population approximated at 220 million.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the President of APN, Prof Taiwo Obindo, said the recommendation of the World Health Organisation is one psychiatrist for the 10,000 population. He, however, said many psychiatrists were leaving Nigeria as a result of the brain drain in the profession.

Obindo said, “With less than 300 psychiatrists working in the country, the ratio of psychiatrists to the 220 million population will be about one to 900,000 population when the recommendation by WHO is one to 10,000. Some countries are even looking towards having one to 6,500 to 8,000.

The don said there was a need to train and retain more psychiatrists to stem the brain drain in the country.

He added, “I spoke with the president of psychiatrists in Canada and he said more than 150 Nigerian psychiatrists were known to them in Canada. In the United Kingdom, it’s likely to be more and then you have many more in the United States, working there. So, more trained psychiatrists are out of the country than those that are within the country. Well, we may add that a few died and a few retired but that number cannot account for the number we have on the ground.

Vancouver home sales down 46% from last Sept., 10% from August: board - THE CANADIAN PRESS

OCTOBER 10, 2022

VANCOUVER — The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says September's home sales dropped by 46 per cent since last year and 10 per cent from August as interest rate increases cooled buyer sentiment.

The B.C. board says sales in the region totalled 1,687 last month, down from 3,149 the September before and 1,870 in August.

Last month’s sales were almost 36 per cent below the 10-year September sales average.

Andrew Lis, the board's director of economics and data analytics, attributed the lower sales levels to the Bank of Canada hiking interest and mortgage rates in an effort to tamp down on inflation.

Those hikes have contributed to the market's composite benchmark price reaching $1,155,300 last month, up 3.9 per cent from last September but down 2.1 per cent from August.

The number of homes currently listed for sale in the area is 9,971, an eight per cent increase compared with September 2021 and a roughly three per cent jump from August.

“With fewer homes selling and new listings continuing to come to market, inventory is beginning to accumulate, providing buyers with more selection compared to last year,” Lis said, in a news release.

“With more supply and less demand within this market cycle, residential home prices have edged down in the region over the last six months.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Nigeria to complete digitisation of passport processing by December – Official - NAN

OCTOBER 10, 2022

He said that full digitisation would completely eliminate any form of contact between passport applicants and immigration officers.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has said that the full digitisation of Nigerian passport processes would be completed by December. Mr Aregbesola disclosed this when he was featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.

He said that full digitisation would completely eliminate any form of contact between passport applicants and immigration officers.

According to him, this will eliminate the inherent corruption in the system.

The minister said that the project was one of the priorities of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

“We are on it, and by December we will remove any manual processing of passports.

“Now, we still have some manual parts, because files are still manually opened.

“By December, particularly in the busiest passport processing centres, there will be no manual segment of the passport processing, every part of it will be digitised,” he added.

According to him, there is no shortage of passport booklets in the country and advised applicants to begin the processing of their passports at least six months before the scheduled time of travel.

“If you need a passport now, start the process very early, do not begin the processing efforts two weeks to your travelling.

“If you don’t, already you have created problems for yourself, because the system, after capturing, which is enrolment of your data, we harmonise it with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) database,” he said.

Aregbesola also urged passport applicants to ensure their names and other information tallies with their details on the National Identity database.

“Every identity document must be the same to ease capturing,” he said, adding that even wrong arrangements of names could create delays in the processing of passports.

“You must understand what it is. It is a presidential order that the new passport regime should be such that all data, everything about you as an individual must be the same and harmonised.

“What you have in the passport, which is the most secured identity document, must be the same with every other aspects of you, whether in the bank or at the national identity database.

“When you come to us to register, after filling your form online, you come for data capturing, and what you do there is to harmonise what you have filed in your form and your bio-data as we advance.

“So when your name doesn’t tally with what we have, your data information is not the same on the relevant platforms, we will have some challenges with passport processing,” he said.

Don’t patronise touts, corrupt NIS officials

Mr Aregbesola also urged Nigerians to stop patronising touts, scammers and unscrupulous immigration officials when applying for Nigerian passports.

He said this was necessary to stop corruption in the system.

He said Nigerians must resolve to send the touts, scammers and unscrupulous immigration officials out of business.

“An illegitimate business company had been created around passport.

“It requires commitment, dedication and participation of Nigerians in eliminating and getting rid of such illegitimate business,” he said.

The minister said that as long as Nigerians want a shortcut to passport processing, challenges would continue to occur in the issuance process.

According to him, those who patronise touts and unscrupulous passport officials are the ones mostly facing challenges with the process.

He, therefore, said passport applicants must follow due process and help to eliminate corruption and infuse integrity into passport administration.

“Please, shun any appeal to get the passport through a third party, tout or scammers, by, first of all, starting the process early.

“If I want to recommend, I will say begin, unless there is an emergency, begin the processing six months to either the expiration or renewal or getting a new one.

“If you start six months ahead, there will be no issue at all. And why is six months recommended by me? Because that is the minimum period that you can even process any visa,” he said.

Mr Aregbesola said that within the six months, no matter how reckless the human factor involved may be, there would be no anxiety.

The minister called on the media and the public to help in curbing the menace and encourage passport applicants to do the right thing at all times.


Foreigners’ application to become Nigerians excites Aregbesola - NAN

OCTOBER 10, 2022

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola says it is quite exciting that nationals of other countries are queuing up to become Nigerians.

“There is no continent in the world from where people have not applied to become Nigerians whether by naturalisation or registration,’’ the minister said on Sunday in Abuja.

He was fielding questions at the flagship interview programme of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), “NAN Forum’’

Aregbesola noted that the Federal Government granted 286 of such foreigners the Nigerian citizenship recently.

The Nigerian government granted citizenship to the 286 new nationals on Sept, 15.

The new Nigerian citizens are originally from the United States of America, Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and Africa.

Those of them who became Nigerian citizens through naturalisation were 208, while the 78 others got the Nigerian citizenship by registration.

Aregbesola urged Nigerians to understand that in spite of the current challenges, Nigeria has boundless opportunities for all.

“We only need determined, bold, courageous and enthusiastic people to harvest the untapped opportunities that are here.

“Foreigners know where the opportunities are and how to go for them; that is why they are doing everything to be part of us,’’ he added.

The minister said contrary to the wrong notion that Nigeria is a challenging environment, other people who understood their missions and wanted to actualise them, were becoming Nigerian citizens.

“The real issue is determination and commitment to self-actualisation. Those who know what they want to do find Nigeria very welcoming and supportive,’’ he emphasised.

Aregbesola said the Ministry of Interior had received more applications for Nigerian citizenship from foreigners.

“We receive applications from far and wide; there’s no single continent in the world without people desirous to be part of us.

“We are now processing passports of the 286 persons granted Nigerian citizenship in September.

“If you saw them; if you witnessed the enthusiasm of those people who have become part of us, you will be glad that there can be this number of foreigners desirous to be Nigerians,’’ Aregbesola said.

The minister explained that for a foreign national to even have the right to apply to become a Nigerian, the persons must have stayed in the country continuously for a minimum of 15 years.

“For those that were granted citizenship in September, it took less than three years to process their papers,’’ Aregbesola said.

Air France and Airbus face French court over Rio-Paris crash - REUTERS

OCTOBER 10, 2022

That required the basic manoeuvre of pushing the nose down instead of yanking it up as they did during much of the fatal four-minute plunge, creating even more error messages that fed off each other as the plane hurtled towards the Atlantic.

The BEA's report said the pilots responded inappropriately to the icing problem, but also did not have training needed to fly manually at high altitude after the autopilot dropped out.

It also singled out erratic readings of a cockpit display called the flight director, which has since been redesigned to switch itself off in such events to avoid distraction.

Neither company commented ahead of the trial, which runs until Dec. 8 at the Paris Criminal Court.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)


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