Travel News

Increase airline counters to stop flight delays –AON - PUNCH

DECEMBER 19, 2022

By Funmilayo Fabunmi

Airline operators under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria have said flight delays and cancellations may occur during the Yuletide celebration if nothing is done to address the infrastructural deficit, especially at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

Speaking at a book launch: ‘Air Transportation In Nigeria: The Lingering Expectations,’ held at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Annex, the Chairman of the AON, Allen Onyema called for disparities to be addressed as they add to the causes of delays.

Onyema said that even in the case of international operations, Nigerian airlines are left with just three counters to work from while an expanse of space is given to foreign airlines, describing it as a disservice to Nigerians who are trying to get it right under harsh environment.

He noted that the issue of delays was not solely airlines’ responsibility as those supposed to provide infrastructure and support to the airlines were busy de-marketing them.

Onyema said, “In aviation, there is no half and half, we are prepared. Yuletide season or not, we are prepared but we need to have the infrastructure to make it happen. In a situation where that is lacking then there are going to be problems.

NCAA is alive to its duties of regulating us properly, safety is assured that I can tell you. The issue of seamless operations is out of our hands. The airport authority must have some questions to answer too.”

On what airlines had done to alert the authorities to this anomaly, he added, “We have written to FAAN; in fact, the AON has written to the ministry and FAAN on the issue of the Abuja check-in terminal. It is crazy out there, nine or ten airlines in one small space, it is not encouraging.

“However, a few days ago, the MD of FAAN spoke to me and said they were going to do something about it. What we are asking for is expansion. The old international terminal (Abuja) is lying fallow.

“Airlines, some of us should go there so we have enough counters for check-in. Not when they give you two counters and you’re checking in thousands of people, delays will surely come, and I tell the flying public to stop blaming the airlines for delays.

“10 airlines in one cubicle in Abuja is unacceptable, cramping the airlines without facilities. The airlines are not responsible for all the delays on routes flown.”

American Airlines to Drop Mesa Air as Partner on Reliability Concerns - BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 19, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- American Airlines Group Inc. said it will wind down its partnership with Mesa Air Group Inc. on concern about reliability at the regional airline, which has been struggling to hire pilots during an industry-wide shortage.    

“Mesa Airlines has experienced various financial and operational difficulties this year,” Derek Kerr, American’s chief financial officer, said in a memo. “We have concerns about Mesa’s ability to be a reliable partner for American going forward.”

Mesa Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ornstein said in a memo to employees that the American partnership had resulted in losses of some $5 million a month, and had negotiated a mutual agreement to end their contract. 

American didn’t help fund higher pilot pay at Mesa and penalized the regional airline for not flying the amount required in its contract, actions that caused concerns “about American’s ability to be a reliable partner going forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mesa has negotiated an agreement with United Airlines Holding Inc. that would transition its CRJ900s planes currently flying for American Eagle to United Express, Mesa said. “As a result of our planned transition of the CRJ900 aircraft, we have ensured not only all the jobs associated with that flying but the future of our company,” Ornstein said in the memo.

A United spokeswoman declined to comment. Phoenix-based Mesa said last week it would delay release of its fourth-quarter results and 10-K filings. The carrier’s stock dropped 20% last week and is down 79% this year. 

The American-Mesa partnership, which was focused on American’s Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth hubs, will begin winding down in March, with the final Mesa-operated flights for American ending April 3, according to the American memo.  

American will use two of its three wholly owned regional carriers, plus SkyWest Inc. and Air Wisconsin Airlines LLC, to help cover the flying now being done by Mesa, Kerr said. 

--With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein.

(Updates with United response in fifth paragraph.)

Report: 93% of African Countries Improved Their Visa Policies - THISDAY

DECEMBER 19, 2022

BY  Chinedu Eze

A new report has indicated that 93 per cent of African countries have maintained or improved their visa process.

Reviewing their scores last year and comparing them with what obtained this year, the report stated that relative to 2021, two-thirds of African countries have adopted more liberal visa policies compared to six years ago.

This was revealed in the 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI) report, showing that African countries are making progress in their freedom of travel policies, most of which had been severely curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis.

The annual publication, prepared by the African Development Bank Group in collaboration with the African Union Commission, is now in its 7th edition and was launched on Sunday on the sidelines of the 2022 African Economic Conference in Mauritius.

The report tracks visa policies adopted by African governments on three main criteria: whether entry to citizens from other African countries is visa-free, if a visa on arrival can be obtained, and whether travellers are required to obtain visas ahead of traveling to other African countries.

This year’s report underlines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years (2020 and 2021) during which most countries restricted movement, both domestically and for international travel. Restrictions on international travel ranged from closing entire borders to quarantines, screening measures, and bans on visitors from countries deemed ‘high risk.

Domestic restrictions included a gamut of measures such as prohibitions on travelling between provinces, bans on non-essential movement, curfews, and rules that limited gatherings, as witnessed in Nigeria during the lockdown.

The 2022 report reflects on renewed signs of progress: 10 countries have improved their visa openness score over the past year, and visa openness on the continent now exceeds that recorded during the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and is in line with the peak score achieved in 2020.

Progressive visa policies that increase visa-free entry or to visa on arrival policies, will ensure that this positive trend continues. The use of technology and a greater adoption of e-Visa systems will help fast track the ease at which travellers can cross borders.

According to the Visa Openness Index, African travel has become more open to African citizens in 2022, with fewer restrictions overall. There is now an even split between travels that is visa free, and travel where a visa may be obtained on arrival at the destination country.

Three countries—Benin, The Gambia and the Seychelles—offer visa-free entry to Africans of all other countries. In 2016 and 2017, only one country did so.

African Development Bank Group Acting Vice President in charge of regional development, integration and business delivery, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, said: “The Africa Visa Openness Index has been tracking visa openness as a measure of the freedom of movement since 2016. This year’s edition—the seventh—shows many African countries having greatly simplified their visa regime over the past year.”

London City Airport Waters Down Proposals for 40% Capacity Hike - BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 20, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- London City airport dialed back proposals for more early-morning and Saturday flights in a bid to make its plans to lift capacity by almost 40% more palatable to planning officials and local people.

The terminal, favored by business travelers for its proximity to London’s financial districts, is sticking with an application to raise its annual passenger cap to 9 million from from 6.5 million while modifying other elements of the expansion goals, according to a statement Monday.

Changes to a planning request include no more than nine flights in the first 30 minutes of the day Monday through Saturday, down from the sought after 12. Saturday operations that currently end at 12:30 p.m. would be extended only to 6:30 p.m. rather than 10 p.m., plus an extra hour in summer for arrivals.

London City, hemmed in by housing on a former docklands site in the UK capital’s East End, is seeking to add passengers without resorting to extra trips, with a ceiling of 111,000 aircraft movements to be retained, together with an eight-hour night-time curfew and limited operations on Sundays.

The plan also requires no new infrastructure after permission for eight more aircraft stands and a new terminal and taxiway was granted in 2016, though the additional flights would have to be performed by new-generation jets such as the Airbus SE A220, a plane that’s at the limit of the airport’s short runway.

London City attracted 5.1% million passengers in 2019, before the Covid pandemic struck, and expects to reach the current cap in the middle of the decade. A master plan for further expansion envisages capacity for 11 million passengers and 151,000 aircraft movements annually by the mid-to-late 2030s.

(Updates with long-term capacity plans in final paragraph)

UK property sales climb in November despite inflation and rising interest rates - YAHOO FINANCE

DECEMBER 21, 2022

UK property sales saw an uptick in volume during November despite the housing market still showing hallmarks of a slowdown in the face of soaring inflation and rising interest rates.

According to the latest data from HMRC on Wednesday, there was a 4% month-on-month increase in transactions during the period, and an increase on figures from November 2021.

An estimated 107,190 house sales took place in November, which was 13% higher than November the previous year.

HMRC warned that year-on-year comparisons should be treated with caution after the stamp duty holiday, which ended in autumn 2021, caused house sales to bunch up earlier in that year.

The report said house sales “have been stable in recent months, and remain similar but slightly elevated above pre-coronavirus levels”.

“The 4% month-on-month increase in property sales volumes in November does not mean that the housing market got a second wind following the mortgage market chaos in the fallout of the ill-fated mini-budget in late September,” Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor, said.

“It takes months before sales are completed and as such, many transactions would have started before the infamous fiscal event.

He added: “However, the housing market is still exhibiting the hallmarks of a slowdown as inflation concerns, rising mortgage rates and an impending recession weigh on the property market.

“Mortgage lenders have reported a fall in new buyer enquiries in recent months, while recent Bank of England data shows the number of mortgage approvals for house purchases has waned.

“After a period of stratospheric growth, the burning question now is how low will house prices fall?”Scroll back up to restore default view.

Nationwide (NBS.L) has predicted that UK house prices are set to fall by 5% next year as activity is expected to stabilise to just below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasted a 9% fall in the next two years.

Sam North, analyst at social investing network eToro, said: “The end of the stamp duty holiday in September last year meant transactions were forced forward and there was a subsequent lull towards the end of the year.

“November 2022 showed a marginal increase in October figures, but realistically, this is perhaps being driven by a desire to finalise moves before the end of the year, and a slight improvement in sentiment now that mortgage rates have rolled back a little.

“The real test will likely come into the start of 2023, as the cold weather starts to bite and interest rates continue going up, as is widely expected. For buyers and sellers alike, incomes will be squeezed, and this may well start to impact property costs and transactions alike.”

Meanwhile, Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “Transaction numbers are holding up, particularly as we would expect things to start to slow down as we approach Christmas.

“Buyers with good mortgage offers are keen to complete before they expire, while others have to move for whatever reason, even if the market is more difficult than it has been.

“Even though the Bank of England hiked the base rate by half a point as expected last week, fixed-rate mortgages continue to move gently downwards, with five-year fixes breaching the 4.5% barrier and expected to go below 4% in the new year as the cost of funds falls, servicing pressure subsides and lenders attempt to originate new business.

“For some borrowers, a base-rate tracker with no early repayment charges is a better alternative until fixed-rate pricing comes down further.”

South Africa to Offer Additional Coronavirus Booster Shots to Most Vulnerable - BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 21, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa plans to offer additional Covid-19 booster vaccines to people at highest risk of complications associated with the disease. 

The government intends making top-up inoculations available to qualifying adults a minimum of 180 days after they had their last shot, Foster Mohale, a spokesman for the health department, said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Those aged 18 to 49 are currently eligible to get three vaccines and those 50 and older four shots. 

“This next booster will be a voluntary dose and not part of a wide community campaign,” Mohale said.  

South Africa suffered severe coronavirus waves over the past two years, but the number new cases have slowed as increasing numbers of people gained a degree of immunity after contracting the disease or getting vaccinated. More than 4 million infections have been recorded so far and excess death data, which measures fatalities against an historical average, show that one in 500 citizens died from the disease. 

Children aged between five and 11 who have specified chronic medical conditions and who are referred by a clinician will also be offered two doses of the pediatric Pfizer Inc. vaccine early next year, with an interval of 21 days between them, Mohale said. 

“Despite the current low hospitalization and mortality rates, the pandemic continues threaten the lives of vulnerable people,” he said. “Vaccination still provide the best protection against severe disease as well as long Covid.”

Long Covid is a term used to describe complications ranging from lethargy to an increased risk of heart disease experienced by some people after an initial Covid-19 infection.

Airlines Warn Of Disruption Due To Nigerian Fuel Shortage - SIMPLY FLYING

DECEMBER 21, 2022


The third fuel crisis to hit Nigeria's aviation industry this year.

Nigerian airlines have warned of impending flight disruptions due to a scarcity of aviation fuel across the country. The latest fuel shortage in Nigeria could see scores of flights canceled or delayed. Let's take a closer look below.

Another aviation fuel shortage

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), which includes Air Peace, Azman Air and Dana Air, said in a recent statement that a scarcity of Jet-A1 fuel would force domestic carriers to reschedule operations, leading to significant cancelations and delays.

The AON said,

"We wish to inform the general public of impending disruptions in scheduled flight operations due to the scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as Jet-A1, which reared its ugly head again in the last few days. While we do our utmost best to manage the situation and ensure safe flight operations, we plead for the understanding of the traveling public in the circumstances."

The President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokeoma, added that domestic airlines could even suspend operations due to the scarcity.

Peak holiday travel period

Unfortunately for Nigerian airlines and travelers, the crisis comes during the busy Christmas and New Year travel season which will only exacerbate its impact. Airlines have already hiked up fares this year and any disruptions to operations could be passed on to the customer in their ticket price.

The AON added,

"We also call on the concerned authorities including product importers and marketers to do their best to resolve this ugly situation so as to ease the stress it brings on the traveling public."

Simple Flying readers may recall some of our stories earlier in the year on Nigeria's aviation fuel problems. The industry suffered major shortages in May and July of this year, leading AON airlines to almost suspend all operations before calling off their flight suspension plans in favor of continuing negotiations with the government.

Why does this keep happening?

While airlines worldwide are grappling with rising fuel prices, Nigeria has been hit particularly badly due to its ongoing foreign exchange crisis. The oil-rich country, currently the sixth-largest exporter of oil in the world, does not produce any Jet-A1 fuel in-country and must purchase it from abroad, usually in US dollars.

Eventually, Nigeria's government agreed to subsidize fuel for airlines at an agreed rate of N480 per liter for a three-month period which has since expired. Fuel prices hit N780 at Lagos Airport in November, around 400% higher than at the beginning of the year, while outside of Lagos prices have exceeded N800 within the last month.

Additionally, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to further problems importing fuel, particularly as Russia was formerly a major provider before facing widespread economic sanctions. Corruption has also played its part with allegations of fuel theft and extortionate pricing.

Saudi restores 95,000 Hajj slots to Nigeria - VANGUARD

DECEMBER 21, 2022

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has restored 95,000 Hajj slots to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), ahead of the 2023 Holy pilgrimage.

Assistant Director, Information and Publications, NAHCON, Mousa Ubandawaki, said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.

“The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has granted Nigeria its usual allocation of 95,000 slots in the 2023 holy pilgrimage.

“The hopes of many prospective Nigeria pilgrims to perform the 2023 Hajj may have been answered as the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has approved the pre-COVID-19 allocation NAHCON.

“The good news was announced by Bahauddeen Alwani, the Director-General in charge of Hajj Missions at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, during a preparatory meeting for hajj via a video conference with the Chairman of NAHCON, Malam Zukrullah Hassan.

“Other guidelines released for the 2023 Hajj by the Ministry included the removal of age barrier or limit and cancellation of PCR Test for the Hajj,” Ubandawaki said.

Similarly, he said that the Saudi Hajj Ministry had also granted the commission the right of choice of package for pilgrims’ services from the Mutawwiffs of African Non-Arab countries.

“In addition, the Ministry also stated that henceforth, any payment to service providers must be through the e-track or e-wallet platforms as the Kingdom will not take responsibilities for payment outside the two platforms,” he said.

In his response, the NAHCON’s Chairman, Hassan expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the early preparation and restoration of the country’s Hajj allocation.

He said that it was heartwarming that the Kingdom through the Ministry of Hajj has restored the hope and confidence of many prospective Nigerian pilgrims that desired to perform the Hajj this year.

He also thanked the Ministry for its consistent support and cooperation in serving the guest of Allah.

The chairman, however, appealed to the Ministry to allow the commission to handle the feeding management during the Mashair activities.

This, according to him, will enable the commission to serve Nigeria’s pilgrims better than what was obtained at the 2022 Hajj. 

Chaos continues for travellers trying to fly from B.C. after heavy, pre-Christmas snowfall - CBC

DECEMBER 21, 2022

Hassan Khan, along with his two siblings and parents, was on the plane to begin a Hawaiian holiday on Monday night, but the aircraft never managed to leave the departure gate in Vancouver.

After a couple of hours, he and the other passengers were told to disembark.

Khan's family waited at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) all night to try to get information from WestJet on how to reschedule the flight. He said fellow passengers were there just trying to locate their checked bags.

But when staff appeared Tuesday morning, it quickly became apparent there would be no other flight, so he and his family drove home to Langley.

"Pretty bummed — everyone was bummed," said Khan of the scuttled holiday plan.

Travellers trying to fly out of B.C. airports were met with substantial delays beginning Monday night, followed by cancellations and uncertainty as severe winter weather dumped snow across the province.

For Jeff Bryant, who was trying to fly from Vancouver to Toronto, plans were similarly dashed — but not before he and a planeload of passengers were made to wait on the tarmac for about 12 hours, as the pilot informed them there was an issue accessing a gate to unload.

According to Bryant, he and the other passengers took the experience in stride, and remained patient and tolerant of the inconvenience.

But now it's unclear if he'll be able to make the trip to Toronto at all.

"I'm just thinking it's going to be extremely challenging this week to put a bunch of people on other flights, right?" he said.

"The advice that we were given is just go home and stand by for an email."

Airports, airlines overwhelmed

A spokesperson with YVR declined an interview request, but said in a written statement that the number of cancelled flights due to severe winter weather was unprecedented, and the focus late Tuesday was simply assisting travellers at the terminal.

"Passengers who are expecting to fly today and this week are advised to check with their airline directly on the status of their flight," said the spokesperson. "We are asking people to please not come to YVR if you do not absolutely need to."

A spokesperson at Kelowna's YLW airport, where many flights were also delayed or cancelled due to the weather, also declined an interview request from CBC News, but said disrupted flights would continue to cause compounding issues for travellers.

The spokesperson said it was up to airlines to determine how to prioritize re-bookings, and travellers should check with airlines directly.

CBC News requested an interview with Air Canada, but only received a written statement.

"The magnitude of the impact from numerous overlapping winter storms over several days across the country are affecting many stakeholders across the aviation ecosystem, creating knock-on effects," the airline's statement read.

Air Canada said it was waiving re-booking fees and offering vouchers for people scheduled to fly in and out of YVR up until Dec. 25.

"We are working to get aircraft and crew which are out of position, back on track following B.C.'s unprecedented winter storm," said the airline, referring to Wednesday as a "recovery day."

In a release, WestJet said there were 210 flight cancellations on Tuesday, mainly due to disruptions in Vancouver and frigid temperatures in Calgary and Edmonton. They also said were 146 flight cancellations on Monday and 104 on Sunday.

The airline declined an interview request, and instead sent a written statement saying "there is very limited re-accommodation availability due to the high demand for travel this time of year and the significant impact across the industry."

It is also advising people travelling between now and Dec. 26 that they can proactively cancel their booking for a full refund on their website.

'Just make other plans': passenger

Bryant is planning to see if he's able to get a different flight to Toronto, but says the trip wasn't essential so if it doesn't happen he'll be fine. He says the information given at the airport was unclear.

"It was so chaotic there that I think a lot of the advice we were given was just kind of, like, hopeful, aspirational advice, without it really being pulled into focus what the battle plan was, because it was just like putting out so many fires," said Bryant.

For Khan and his family, the Hawaii vacation is off — they booked through an online company that wasn't able to re-book the five of them on a flight for at least three days, so they've been promised a refund.

His advice for anyone else trying to travel by air in the coming days?

"Get on the phones right away, because that's the only thing that's going to help you out," said Khan.

"Or just make other plans."

Aviation fuel scarcity: Airlines warn of flight disruption -+ THE NATION

DECEMBER 22, 2022

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has alerted air travellers of possible  disruption in scheduled flights  due to scarcity of aviation fuel, popularly called JET-A1.

In a statement signed by its spokesman, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, AON said  Jet A1 scarcity started again in the past few days.

He said the scarcity will no doubt force airlines to reschedule flights leading to late operations and cancellations.

According to him, the unintended development is a pain on airline operators and a stain on the industry especially at this time of mass movement of people for the Christmas and New Year festivities.

He assured that members of the AON will do their utmost to manage the situation and ensure safe flight operations, while pleading the understanding of the traveling public in the circumstance.

The AON also called on the concerned authorities including product importers and marketers to do their best to resolve this ugly situation so as to ease the stress it brings on the travelling public.

The body said  it  remains committed to doing all that is necessary to ensure seamless services and safe air travels in our dear country.


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