Liquid Limits to Cease at UK Airports With 2024 Scanner Upgrade - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- Britain will set a June 2024 deadline for airports to upgrade security scanners so that liquids can be packed with hand luggage, ending the requirement for items such as sunscreen and shampoo to be presented at security gates in a separate plastic bag.
The introduction of cutting-edge systems will both speed up checks and improve security by providing more-detailed images, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said in a statement Thursday, announcing the introduction of legislation mandating the new cabin-bag rules.
The changes will also allow electronic devices to be packed away, while people will eventually be able to carry containers with up to 2 liters of fluid, doing away with the 100-milliliter mini bottle and the ritual of discarding larger volumes of liquid, however valuable.
The UK isn’t the first country to introduce the new technology. Hubs including Amsterdam Schiphol and Helsinki, as well as several in the US, already have CT — or computed tomography — baggage scanners that generate a 3D image that can be viewed and rotated on three axes.
Some airports have vowed to complete the upgrade sooner. Passengers flying through London City will be able to leave laptops and liquids in their bags from April, the operator said last month.
Eurostar Strikes Called Off But UK Still Faces Mass Disruption - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Strikes on Eurostar have been partially called off in a rare sign of respite for travelers trying to navigate weeks of UK rail disruption.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said Wednesday that strikes on the service, scheduled for Friday and Sunday, were suspended to allow security staff a chance to vote on the latest offer from their employer, Mitie Group Plc.
Strikes on Dec. 22-23 “remain on at the present time,” the RMT added. The Eurostar train line links London to continental Europe.
The RMT and another labor group, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, have begun a series of strikes across the UK rail network this week following a lengthy dispute over pay and proposed reforms to the system.
The strikes will officially pause on Thursday, yet workers traveling into the office still face disruption — and on some journeys, the mornings following a walkout can be more disruptive than the strike days themselves. Commuters from Brighton, on England’s south coast, should be able to get to London Victoria by 8.13 a.m. on Friday, according to current scheduling, despite the strike. On Thursday, the earliest they will be able to make it in is 8.41 a.m.
Read More: Strikes and Snow Turn the City of London Into a Ghost Town
Travelers from Feltham, on the outskirts of south west London, will see an even bigger discrepancy with a train getting to Waterloo by 8.11 a.m. on Friday, but no services arriving into the city before 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Unions have accused the UK government of thwarting higher pay offers from train companies, while ministers argue that steep raises could trigger second round effects on price hikes and end up worsening the cost of living crisis. Inflation eased to 10.7% in November, according to data published Wednesday. Strikes have spread across a number of sectors and include nurses, ambulance drivers, postal workers and civil servants.
‘Badge of Shame’
At Rishi Sunak’s weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer told the premier that the nurses’ strike, which begins Thursday, is a “badge of shame” for the government.
“Instead of showing leadership, the Prime Minister is playing games with people’s health,” Starmer said. “All he needs to do is simply meet the nurses.”
Sunak said the government has “consistently spoken to all unions involved in pay disputes,” adding that the government had responded to nurses’ requests for more training and money for nursing students, while also awarding them a pay rise last year when the pay of other public sector workers was frozen.
Health service bosses have criticized the nurses’ union for leaving some patients vulnerable to the industrial action. Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said senior nurses had been “let down by” the Royal College of Nursing and asked it to extend exemptions to the strike.
--With assistance from Siddharth Philip, Alex Morales and Deirdre Hipwell.
US Air Travel Stumbles in December After Year of Recovery - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- As 2022 draws to a close, a growing number of US airlines are finding that travel demand isn’t holding up quite like they expected.
Delta Air Lines Inc. on Wednesday became the latest carrier to hint at a lackluster December as it narrowed a revenue projection for the fourth quarter. It still sees strong results in 2023.
“The December month was the off-trend month,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said at an event for analysts and investors in New York. “January will be significantly better than December. February will be better than January, and March better than February.”
The comments echoed those from smaller rival JetBlue Airways Corp., which said a day earlier that “the expected very strong close-in demand for December reflected in its prior outlook has materialized below expectations.” Similarly, Alaska Air Group Inc. this week flagged a “modest softening in corporate travel bookings.”
Read more: JetBlue Tumbles After Warning of Weaker-Than-Expected Demand
The warnings raise questions about the strength of the rebound in air travel, after relaxed restrictions around Covid-19 and pent-up demand helped fuel a recovery from early in the pandemic. A Standard & Poor’s index of the largest US airlines is up about 22% this quarter.
Delta insists December will be merely a blip in the overall recovery. As Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said at the New York event, there is “sustainable, strong demand we’re going to see for an extended period of time.”
Mortgage Rates Drop for a Fifth Straight Week - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- US mortgage rates dropped for a fifth straight week, bringing slight relief to a housing market that’s been slammed by the rise in borrowing costs this year.
The average for a 30-year, fixed loan fell to 6.31%, the lowest since late September, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday.
This year’s surge in borrowing costs has pummeled demand in the housing market, sidelining potential buyers and even leading some sellers to hold off on listing homes. But rates have started to ease over the past month, leading to a slight uptick in applications to buy homes.
“The good news for the housing market is that recent declines in rates have led to a stabilization in purchase demand,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in the statement. “The bad news is that demand remains very weak in the face of affordability hurdles that are still quite high.”
The Federal Reserve has signaled that rates will likely go even higher. On Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank has “some ways to go” on its campaign to curb inflation after boosting its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points.
The overall climb in borrowing costs throughout the year will continue to impact the market. Brokerage and data company Redfin Corp. expects 2023 to be slowest year for US housing since 2011, even as the firm forecasts a slight easing in rates by the end of next year.
Buyers have been squeezed by affordability issues. The monthly payment on a $600,000 loan at current rates is $3,718, up from $2,565 at the end of last year.
Canadian Home Prices Grind Lower as Winter Freeze Grips Market - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Canadian home prices fell for a ninth straight month as sharply rising interest rates prompted buyers and sellers to withdraw from the market heading into the traditionally slower winter season.
The benchmark price for a home fell 1.4% to C$744,000 ($546,880) in November, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Thursday. That brings the cumulative price drop from February’s peak to 11.5%, on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
The number of transactions nationwide fell 3.3%, outpacing the decline in new listings, which were down 1.3% from the month before, the association said.
The Bank of Canada has raised its benchmark overnight rate to 4.25% this year from 0.25% in March, a rapid rise in borrowing costs that has left many prospective buyers priced out of the market. With many sellers also waiting for a more opportune time to list, the market seems to be going into a deep freeze during Canada’s winter months.
Rates have gone up so quickly that some prospective homebuyers will have to show they can afford loans at interest rates of more than 7%, with mortgage rates at major commercial banks exceeding 5%. That’s because Canada imposes a “stress test” rule on uninsured mortgages; borrowers qualify at a rate that’s two percentage points higher than what banks are offering them.
The current rate offered by Royal Bank of Canada on variable-rate home loans is at least 6%.
Shortage of Homes
Still, supply remains tight. The number of new listings in November was the second lowest for that month in 17 years. The number of months of inventory up for sale nationwide, meanwhile, stood at 4.2, a full month below its long-term average.
Economists are now predicting Canada will enter a shallow recession the first half of next year. Whether more buyers or sellers emerge as the weather warms into the spring selling season will depend, in part, on how the economy develops between now and then.
“November’s housing data from across Canada came in as expected — still pretty quiet — and that is unlikely to improve this winter with the Bank of Canada raising rates again last week,” Shaun Cathcart, the real estate board’s senior economist, said in a press release accompanying the data. “It will be interesting to see what buyers do when listings start to come out in big numbers in the spring.”
In a separate release Thursday, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. said builders started work on an annualized 264,159 units in November. Total housing starts remain elevated compared to historical levels, pushed higher by multifamily construction.
--With assistance from Erik Hertzberg and Kevin Orland.
e-Passport: Immigration launches fastrack service for Nigerians in diaspora - VANGUARD
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, in continuation of implementation of passport administration and immigration service reforms, have launched a special fastrack service that enables Nigerians with expired passports living in foreign countries return home without any hindrance at all ports of entry.
The ongoing dedicated diasporan service available from December 12, 2022 to January 31 2023, allows Nigerian passport holders in the diaspora to board at their countries of residence and be admitted into Nigeria with their expired international passports.
The service, which will be available for two months, also gives the returnee Nigerians opportunity to renew their Nigeria passports during their stay in the country as part of the multi-layer strategic reforms of passport administration in the country.
Comptroller-General of Immigration, Isah Idris, had in a circular dated December 9, 2022, forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, all Heads of Foreign Missions, all Immigration Attaches, all Airport Comptrollers and all airlines, stated that the special arrangement was approved by the Federal Government.
Idris added that all airlines in Nigeria were requested to allow holders of expired Nigeria passports to board without any hindrance, while all Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad were also requested to circulate the same information to airline operators and border authorities of their host countries for compliance.
Speaking further on the special fastrack service, Public Relations Officer of the NIS, Anthony Akuneme, a Deputy Comptroller of Immigration, said dedicated Diaspora Desks had been set up at all international airports across the country to ensure Nigerians returning home from abroad have hassle-free passage.
He added that the Comptroller General of Immigration had also directed Passport Control Offices to accord priority to the returnees and their families bearing in mind that most of them have specific time they must return to their countries of residence after their holiday in Nigeria.
Akuneme encouraged Nigerians in the diaspora to take advantage of the Federal Government’s kind gesture, while stating that applicants for the new enhanced Nigerian e-Passport whose biometrics had been captured at the NIS offices at the Nigerian missions in their respective countries of residence did not have to start fresh application.
While restating that the procedure for application and processing of Nigeria passport has been simplified and faster, Akuneme, said all that fresh applicants for the enhanced e-Passports are required to do is log-in to NIS website, https://www.passport.immigrati... and apply online.
He added that the application process includes: making payment for preferred passport type via approved payment platforms, after which they are to visit the passport office of their choice indicated on the application form, taking along with them the required documents including the National Identity Number (NIN), which is mandatory among other necessary documents.
The spokesperson also said applicants interested in taking advantage of the special window can visit their selected passport office between Monday and Wednesday each week throughout the special window
Akuneme reiterated that supply of NIN was mandatory for issuance of the enhanced e-Passport, while also advising passport applicants to ensure their personal information in the application form and NIN match as any mismatch of information would render their application incomplete and would not be processed.
Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has commended the NIS boss for launching a dedicated service to meet the needs of Nigerians returning home from abroad, saying the step would go a long way to ease the burden of citizens coming back home to celebrate the yuletide.
Baggage Handlers Call Off Planned Strike at London Heathrow - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- Baggage handlers at London Heathrow airport called off a strike planned for Friday after their union received an improved pay offer from Menzies Aviation.
The U-turn means a three-day walkout that was set to begin at 4 a.m. Friday won’t take place, as the Unite union ballots members on the new offer. Financial details were not disclosed.
Unite had said earlier Thursday that more than 400 workers at Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4 would strike. The labor group said at the time that the company had offered a 4% raise backdated to May this year and a further 6.5% next year, while it’s been demanding 13% for this year alone.
Industrial action planned over New Year’s Eve will still go ahead pending the result of the ballot. These strikes could still disrupt one of Europe’s most important aviation hubs during the holiday period.
“Unite has been adamant that Menzies was able to offer an improved pay offer and that has proved to be the case,” Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said in a statement.
Regulator slams ‘unacceptable’ Wizz Air behaviour - REUTERS
Wizz Air has been slammed by the aviation regulator for “unacceptable” behaviour as its passengers are far more likely to make escalated complaints than those of other airlines.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it has “significant concerns” about the Hungarian airline, which is also delaying paying money owed to passengers.
Some 811 grievances per million Wizz Air passengers on UK flights were brought to independent bodies between July and September.
With the exception of Royal Brunei Airlines which had 555 escalated complaints per million passengers, the rates for all other airlines were fewer than half of Wizz Air’s.
Escalated complaint rates per million passengers at other airlines included easyJet (245), Ryanair (235) and British Airways (166).
The figures relate to complaints taken to either Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes or the CAA by passengers unhappy with an airline’s response to their initial report of a problem.
Many airlines and airports are members of ADR bodies, which are independent third parties that consider facts and make binding decisions.
CAA head of consumer policy and enforcement Anna Bowles said passengers have “every right” to expect their complaints and claims to be resolved “quickly and efficiently”, and to be “treated fairly” by airlines.
Wizz Air’s delays in processing and paying claims, combined with the “large number” of County Court Judgments made against it, has “raised significant concerns for the CAA”, she explained.
Ms Bowles went on: “We have made it clear to Wizz Air that its behaviour is unacceptable and that we expect overdue complaints and claims to be resolved in advance of Christmas.
“We understand the payment of County Court Judgments may continue into January, but we are encouraging Wizz Air to ensure that the payment of these is also prioritised.
“We will continue to monitor the situation.”
She added the CAA “won’t hesitate to take further action” where it has evidence that an airline is “letting passengers down”.
Wizz Air operates short-haul flights from 10 UK airports including Belfast International, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Gatwick and Luton.
Analysis by the PA news agency published in August found that it was the worst airline for flight delays from UK airports last year.
The carrier’s UK departures were an average of 14 minutes and 24 seconds behind schedule in 2021.
Excitement as FG opens 2nd Niger Bridge to traffic - VANGUARD
By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka—AFTER four years of consistent construction work by Julius Berger, the multi-million naira 2nd Niger Bridge connecting the western and eastern parts of the country was finally opened to traffic yesterday, with the people residing around Onitsha and Ogbaru areas of Anambra State expressing joy at the development.
The Federal Government ordered the opening of the bridge for use starting from midnight on Thursday.
The Minister of Works, Mr Babatunde Fashola on Wednesday during the inspection of the bridge said the test run on the bridge would last from December 15, 2022, to January 15, 2023.
As soon as officials of the Federal Ministry of Works removed the barriers to enable vehicles to drive on the bridge, residents of Odekpe in Ogbaru and other people plying the Onitsha-Owerri expressway jumped up in excitement and hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment towards the completion of the project.
It was gathered yesterday that many traders are already acquiring spaces down the bridge along the Obosi interchange in Onitsha for various kinds of business.
Most of those who spoke said they would open restaurants in the area as the interchange would soon become the hub of business around the Idemili and Ogbaru axis of Anambra State.
FAAN opens court at Abuja airport - PUNCH
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria in collaboration with the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, commissioned a magistrate court at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The court which would have both criminal and civil jurisdiction would ensure swift administration and dispensation of justice.
While speaking at the commissioning event, the Managing Director /CE FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, promised to continue to collaborate with the judiciary, as well as other relevant stakeholders to ensure safe and secure flight operations at Nigeria airports.
The Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice Hussaini Baba, observed in his remarks that it was important to have the Magistrates court at the premises of the airport.
He further stated that Magistrates shall immediately be posted to the courts as well as support staff while emphasising that they shall discharge their duties dispassionately without fear or favour.