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Mobility in GCC fell drastically amid Covid-19 shut downs, Google data shows

Bahrain experienced the least mobility reduction in the region, according to Google’s Community Mobility Reports

According to Google data cited by the Bahrain Economic Development Board, the kingdom experienced the least mobility reduction in the region at -21.7 percent

Overall mobility fell by an average of 36.9 percent in the GCC in May, with fewer visits to parks, grocery stores and workplaces, according to new data released by Google.

According to Google data cited by the Bahrain Economic Development Board, the kingdom experienced the least mobility reduction in the region at -21.7 percent, compared to -35.7 percent for the UAE, -36.8 percent for Oman, -39.5 percent for Saudi Arabia and -59.5 percent in Kuwait.

Residential mobility was the least impacted segment, as citizens and residents stayed home during Ramadan, with an average positive growth of 26.8 percent across the Gulf.

This was followed by the grocery and pharmacy category (-33 percent) and workplaces (-45 percent).

The most significant impacts were recorded in transit stations and parks, with average reductions of -60.1 and -53.8 percent, respectively, largely as a result of measures taken across the region to stem the spread of Covid-19.

“I feel very happy about what has been done,” said World Health Organisation regional director Ahmed Al Mundhari. “A lot of states, for example, Gulf countries, they have from day one preparing their system at points of entry in the airports and other points of entry to their country.”

The Google data formed part of the company’s Community Mobility Reports, which show national movement trends in categories including retail, parks, workplaces and transit.

The data shows visitor levels compared to baseline days, representing a pre-Covid value for that day of the week.

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Emirates airline warns passengers over phishing email scam

Email tells passengers that the flight has been cancelled

Emirates has provided correct email addresses that customers can check to ensure that it’s a genuine communication from the airline.

Emirates airline has warned passengers about the latest phishing email scam that is currently in circulation.

The Dubai carrier said the Covid-19-related phishing email scam, which is attempting to gain access to sensitive information, has a subject line of ‘Your flight is cancelled: collect your refund’.

Emirates has provided two correct email addresseses that customers can check to ensure that it’s a genuine communication from the airline.

“We’ve been alerted to recent email phishing attacks that contain the subject “Your flight is cancelled: collect your refund”. These are not emails sent from Emirates,” the statement from the Dubai carrier said.

“Please be careful to protect your personal information and don’t respond or click on links in such emails.

“The easiest way to detect a fake email is to look at the email address it was sent from. All official emails from Emirates are sent from one of these two email addresses: [email protected] or [email protected].”

In December last year, Emirates issued a warning about an email claiming to be from the airline, suggesting the recipient had been selected to take part in an ‘Emirates Rewarding Survey’. 

If a customer suspects their account may have been compromised, visit Emirates security page on its website.

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Saudia announces 60 daily flights as Covid-19 movement restrictions ease

Flights will be operated from the new terminal at Jeddah’s international airport

Saudia said that the first phase of its resumption of domestic operations will see the airline operate 60 flights a day to locations including Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Jazan, Hail and Najran.

Saudi Arabia Airlines will begin operate dozens of daily domestic flights on May 31 following a decision from the kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), the airline has announced.

In a statement, Saudia said that the first phase of its resumption of domestic operations will see the airline operate 60 flights a day to locations including Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Jazan, Hail and Najran.

All domestic flights will be operated from the new Terminal 1 at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport.

The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia moves to ease restrictions from Thursday, May 28, which includes an easing of domestic travel in all areas of the kingdom with the temporary exception of Makkah.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia reported 1,931 new cases of Covid-19, bringing its total to 76,726, including 411 deaths.

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Southwest Puts Summer Flights on Sale Through June 12

Southwest Airlines is giving travelers the “freedom to hope, plan and dream” during its month-long sale on summer travel within the continental United States featuring one-way fares as low as $49.

The low-cost carrier’s latest nationwide sale is available for bookings from now until June 12 at 11:59 p.m. CT for travel between May 26 and August 31, 2020.

Like Southwest’s previous sales, the discounted fares require 14-day advance purchase and travel is not valid on Fridays and Sundays, except as otherwise specified.

One-way fares range from $49 to $99. For example, travelers can fly from Chicago to Nashville for under $100 roundtrip or from Atlanta to Los Angeles for less than $200 roundtrip.

With travel restricted and many places keeping their borders closed to combat the spread of COVID-19, many Americans will be limited to planning for domestic destinations this summer, including popular beaches, theme parks and national parks.

Contact your travel advisor or visit Southwest.com to filter flight deals by your departure city.

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Boeing Announces 10 Percent Cut to Staff, Scaled Back Production

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the continued grounding of the 737 MAX fleet, Boeing announced it would be forced to cut staff and slash production.

According to NPR.com, a massive first-quarter financial loss and a drastic drop in air travel demand forced Boeing officials to cut around 10 percent of its workforce (16,000 employees) through buyouts, natural attrition and involuntary layoffs.

Boeing’s commercial airplane unit took the hardest hit after it was announced production of the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 widebody passenger airplanes would be scaled back. The commercial unit also endured deep cuts to its staff, with around 15 percent of employees being let go.

“The demand for commercial airline travel has fallen off a cliff,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement. “The pandemic is also delivering a body blow to our business.”

With more than two-thirds of the aircraft around the world not currently operating, passenger demand down by around 90 percent and orders for more planes being delayed, Boeing lost $1.7 billion from its core operations during the first quarter.

The announcement comes after the airplane manufacturer announced hopes to win regulatory approval in August for the 737 MAX’s return to service, but the timeline could be pushed backed until fall due to the impact of the viral pandemic.

Earlier this week, Boeing shareholders have elected 12 members to its board of directors despite objections to almost half of them by proxy advisory firms.

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Etihad suspends sales of tickets on flights before June 16

Previously, travelers could book flights for the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June

Etihad has suspended all online sales for flights before June 16, the airline announced on Wednesday.

Bookings are currently only being accepted for flights that are scheduled to depart after that date, although these bookings are subject to change.

Over the weekend, Etihad announced it was planning to resume flights from May 16, subject to approvals by local aviation authorities.

Following the announcement, travellers could book flights for the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June to a number of destinations including India and the United States

According to an Etihad spokesperson quoted by the UAE’s The National, the airline has taken the decision to suspend sales on travel before June 16.

“To minimise any potential disruption or discomfort to customers, only flexible and refundable fares will be offered [for sale] after 29 April 2020, for travel ‪between 16 June and 31 August 2020,” the spokesperson said.

“The network is under continuous review, and Etihad is monitoring the situation and following UAE and international government and regulatory authority directives.”

Arabian Business has reached out to the airline for comment.

Customers who had purchased May flights can rebook flights for a later date or request that the airline provide them credit or a refund.

Earlier on Wednesday, Etihad announced it was increasing special repatriation flights to a number of locations, including the Irish capital of Dublin and New York City.

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Covid-19 testing facilities installed at Abu Dhabi ports

The new facilities at Zayed Port and Khalifa Port can process up to 700 tests each day

Abu Dhabi Ports has installed Covid-19 testing facilities at Zayed Port and Khalifa Port to help safeguard maritime personnel in the emirate, it was announced on Tuesday.

The new facilities – which were constructed in just one day – can process up to 700 tests a day. They are accessible to all Abu Dhabi Ports employees, contractors and subcontractors active in the ports.

In a statement, Abu Dhabi Ports said it plans to conduct 6,000 tests in the next few days.

“Hundreds of thousands of port personnel, ship crews, and offshore workers across the world are running critical maritime operations, day and night, to ensure that the global supply chain continues to move critical cargo to where it is most needed,” said Captain Hazzaa Al Junaibi, corporate security manager of Abu Dhabi Ports.

“As part of our fight against COVID-19, it is imperative we redouble our efforts to protect the health of these invaluable individuals, so they can continue to support our vital economic and trade lifelines and help mitigate the overall impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” he added.

Abu Dhabi ports has also introduced temperature screening at all sea checkpoints, as well as thermal scans of all vessel crews and offshore personnel.

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Embraer says Boeing wrongfully terminated merger deal

CHICAGO (AP) — Boeing’s announcement that it is terminating
an agreement to join forces with Embraer has prompted an angry response from
the Brazilian jet maker, which is now threatening to seek damages.

The pair had planned to work together on Embraer’s
commercial aviation business and to develop new markets for its C-390
Millennium aircraft. They had been working toward an agreement for two years.

Boeing said it ended the agreement after Embraer did not
meet conditions laid out by the deal, in which Boeing would have held majority
ownership. Over the past few months, the companies had “productive but
ultimately unsuccessful negotiations” about the unsatisfied conditions, which
was “deeply disappointing,” said Marc Allen, Boeing’s president of Embraer
partnership and group operations.

Embraer issued a statement saying it “believes strongly that
Boeing has wrongfully terminated” the mutual transaction agreement and “that it
has manufactured false claims as a pretext to seek to avoid its commitments to
close the transaction and pay Embraer the US$4.2 billion purchase price.”

“We believe Boeing has engaged in a systematic pattern of
delay and repeated violations of the MTA (master transaction agreement),
because of its unwillingness to complete the transaction in light of its own
financial condition and 737 Max and other business and reputational problems,”
it added.

“Embraer will pursue all remedies against Boeing for the
damages incurred by Embraer as a result of Boeing’s wrongful termination and
violation of the MTA,” the company said.

The collapse marked the latest mishap for Boeing. The
company’s best-selling plane, the 737 Max, has been grounded for more than a
year after two deadly crashes that led to federal investigations. Those
problems, combined with deflated demand for flights due to the pandemic,
sharply reduced the company’s cash.

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More Help on the Way for US Airlines

U.S. airlines, shell-shocked by the global effects of the coronavirus that has cut travel demand by 90 percent, received some good news on Saturday.

The U.S. Treasury Department has released $9.5 billion in additional monies earmarked for the grants associated with the Payroll Support Program as part of the CARES Act stimulus program signed into law in March.

The package called for $25 billion in grants for payroll assistance and $25 billion in loans for the airlines.

So far, according to Reuters News Service, the government has distributed monies to 10 major domestic airlines and 83 smaller carriers.

Airlines receiving more than $100 million from the grant portion of the stimulus must repay 30 percent in low-interest loans over 10 years and issue warrants to the government equal to 10 percent of the loan amount.

All airlines had to guarantee they would not cut pay or furlough employees until at least Sept. 30 as one of the conditions of the grant money.

Reuters noted that the four largest domestic airlines – American, Delta, Southwest and United – are receiving $19.2 billion of the $25 billion in grants, with payments spread out through July.

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Resources help advisors navigate changing airline policies

A look at United’s Covid-19 waiver policy as of the fourth week of April could have been enough to induce brain cramp, even for the most veteran of travel advisors.

The policy was split in four, with different rules applying based upon when a ticket was booked, how quickly a customer rebooked and when an individual was scheduled to fly.

For example, the waiver on tickets purchased before March 3 applied for original travel dates through May 31, and rebooked travel had to commence within 24 months of the original purchase date. But if a customer rebooked before April 30, the waiver applied for original travel dates through the end of the year.

Meanwhile, for tickets booked from March 3 to March 31, United was waiving change fees no matter when travel was scheduled for, with rebookings allowed for travel 24 months from original purchase. But if the ticket was purchased this month, rebookings had to be made within 12 months of the original travel date.

Confused yet?

Well, this isn’t just a United issue.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, airlines in the U.S. and around the world have repeatedly revised their policies on exchanges, refunds, travel credits, ticket validations, ticket expiration dates and more. In fact, as of April 16, Travel Leaders had sent its advisors 512 airline policy updates related to the Covid-19 crisis, said Peter Vlitas, the consortium’s senior vice president of airlines.

For agent Loraine Gardner of Beyond the Horizon Travel Corp. in New York, making all those changes manageable means focusing on the specifics only when they apply to tickets she is actually working with.

“I see those airline policy changes, but I don’t try to study each nuance,” she said. “Why try to dissect a policy issued on March 25 when on April 5 it is going to change?”

Gardner, like so many other travel advisors, is spending most of her working hours these days dealing with refunds.

But even though airlines in the U.S. market were forced by an April 3 DOT order to become more consistent in their refund policies, there are still policy variations, including a shifting landscape of carriers that aren’t currently processing refunds through the GDSs.

With so much complexity, where can travel advisors go for clarity?

One solution is ARC’s Airline Refund and Exchange Information website, which provides sortable information on the refund processing policies of all 235 of its member airlines and also offers a search field that enables agents to see which carriers have extended ticket validity beyond the usual 13 months.

But despite developing this resource in recent weeks, Chuck Fischer, ARC’s vice president of airline retailing and settlement, said it’s still important to double-check policies with the airline, especially with the changes that are coming so frequently.

To that effect, the webpage offers links to all of ARC’s airline websites, while ARC’s separate Participating Airlines page links users to the agent portals of carriers.

Others are also working to facilitate travel advisors’ access to information. Within the Travel Leaders umbrella, agents for Tzell, Altour and Protravel International are able to sit in on a weekly video conference with American, Delta and United, Vlitas said. On the Travel Leaders Network side of the organization, similar conferences are taking place every three weeks.

Travel Leaders has also repurposed its team of associates that typically assists agents with reservations. Now they spend their days dealing with exchanges.

Carriers themselves also say they’ve enhanced their communications with agents during the crisis.

American said it is “pressing more than ever” to share the information travel advisors need. Allison Taylor, the carrier’s senior vice president of global sales and distribution, is hosting regular calls with agencies. And American is using its agent-focused SalesLink webpage to provide its latest policy updates, travel notices and service suspensions as well as to answer questions that have emerged as recurring themes.

Similarly, Delta said it keeps its online agency resource Delta Professional up to date. The carrier also said it has increased its direct communications with travel agents, including making sure staffers are available at all times to answer travel agent questions.

“Fast, reliable and dependable information is more important than ever in these changing times, and we’ve made supporting our agency partners a priority,” Delta spokeswoman Susannah Thurston said.

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