British Airways extends revolving credit facility

British Airways has extended its United States dollar secured revolving credit facility for one year.

The move, confirmed by International Airlines Group, will take effect from June 23rd.

The amount available under the extended facility is $1.38 billion.

Including the extended facility and some smaller additional facilities recently arranged, IAG has total undrawn general and committed aircraft financing facilities equivalent to €2.1 billion currently, compared to €1.9 billion at the end of 2019.

IAG has not drawn down on any of its facilities.

IAG continues to have strong liquidity with cash, cash equivalents and interest-bearing deposits of €7.2 billion as of March 27th.

Total cash and undrawn facilities are currently €9.3 billion.

In addition, the group is exploring a number of operational and treasury initiatives to improve further its cash flow and liquidity and will update the market in due course.

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TSA to Receive Supply of Expired Respirator Masks

With supplies such as medical masks running low amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) will be sending the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a large stockpile of expired N95 respirator masks. TSA will distribute the masks to airports as needed.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to The Washington Post the decision to send out 1.5 million masks. It is currently unknown how many masks will be sent to the TSA or when they will be shipped.

It is not typically advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use N95 respirator masks that have expired. However, the large demand for masks by airport and medical workers, along with the general public, have made the need necessary. With the proper storage, the CDC has found that “many models have continued to perform in accordance with NIOSH performance standards.”

According to Fox News, TSA has allowed employees to wear protection in order to lower the risk of contracting the virus. This includes eye protection, N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and nitrile gloves. The use of surgical masks and nitrile gloves have been mandatory since the beginning of the pandemic.

“TSA will continue to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding workforce protection,” TSA said in a statement. “We are working closely with the CDC and will follow any additional guidance that is issued.”

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TSA Agents Find Loaded Handgun in Traveler’s Carry-On Bag

Despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, travelers are still taking loaded handguns into airports.

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), security officers working at Logan International Airport in Boston on Tuesday noted something suspicious in a male traveler’s carry-on bag.

When the agents pulled the luggage from the checkpoint X-ray machine, they discovered a 9mm handgun loaded with five bullets. TSA officials called on the Massachusetts State Police to confiscate the weapon and question the man.

The male traveler from Alabama said he did not know he was in possession of a loaded gun and blamed a co-worker for putting the weapon inside his bag before he left for the airport. The man was subsequently cited on state weapons charges.

While passengers are permitted to travel with firearms properly stored and claimed in checked baggage, travelers are never allowed to board an airplane with a weapon in a carry-on bag, regardless of whether they have a concealed firearm permit or not.

Last year, a record-breaking total of 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the United States. The five-percent increase resulted in an average of 12.1 firearms found each day, with 87 percent of them being loaded.

TSA officials also recently announced its PreCheck program reached a milestone of 10 million members, more than six months ahead of the October 1 deadline.

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Norwegian secures NOK3 billion in government support

Low-cost carrier Norwegian has secured the necessary approvals to unlock emergency funding.

The Norwegian government last week proposed a guarantee of NOK6 billion for the Norwegian airline industry, of which up to NOK3 billion is directed to Norwegian.

The guarantee will be up to 90 per cent from the Norwegian government provided that financial institutions contribute with the remaining ten percent.

The guarantee scheme will consist of three tranches with a maximum two years maturity.

Two Nordic banks have now obtained credit committee approval to provide a guarantee to Norwegian for the required ten per cent for the first tranche.

Norwegian will secure the necessary headroom to pursue further guarantees from the Norwegian government, the carrier said.

The company added it was now working with GIEK and the ministry of trade, industry and fisheries to clarify the criteria and terms related to the remaining tranches under the scheme and to obtain further guarantees from financial institutions in order to back such remaining tranches.

Norwegian will update the market with its further plan of action and implications for its stakeholders as soon as the criteria and terms have been finalised.

Currently, most of the Norwegian fleet is grounded and the company has reduced its operations to a minimum.

Norwegian will primarily operate domestically in Norway and Sweden and between the Nordic capitals, in order to deliver on its corporate responsibility of maintaining critical infrastructure so that people and necessary goods and medical supplies can be transported during this unprecedented crisis.

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United Airlines Reinstating Some International Flights to Help Travelers Get Home

With the rapidly dwindling number of commercial flights available to those tens of thousands of Americans who are still stranded abroad and attempting to find a way home in the face of abrupt international border closures, United Airlines is doing its best to offer some solutions.

Just days ago, in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis, the White House issued a Level-4 Travel Advisory, the State Department’s most severe restriction, encouraging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel and advising that those currently outside the country should “arrange for immediate return”.

Aware that U.S. residents still abroad are frightened, frustrated and faced with unprecedented travel challenges, United Airlines is revising its previous announcement (released March 20), which had promised a 95-percent reduction in the carrier’s international schedule for April 2020.

In an effort to help displaced travelers get where they need to go, United will continue flying six daily operations to and from select destinations in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. While the airline’s international schedule will still be reduced by about 90-percent in April, United’s aim is to provide some additional options for those still struggling to get home.

Although a full listing of flights is available on the United Hub website, some specific routes set to continue through May 2020 include service between Newark/New York and Frankfurt, Newark/New York and London; Newark/New York and Tel Aviv; Houston and Sao Paulo; San Francisco and Sydney; and San Francisco and Tokyo-Narita.

Newly-reinstated outbound flights running through March 27 include United’s service between Newark/New York and Amsterdam; Newark/New York and Munich; Newark/New York and Brussels; Newark/New York and Sao Paulo; Washington-Dulles and London; and San Francisco and Frankfurt. Also, operating through March 29, service will connect San Francisco and Seoul.

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American Airlines parking some 450 planes coronavirus

In a message to American Airlines employees on Thursday,
president Robert Isom said the carrier has taken steps “unparalleled in our
history” to reduce capacity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

International flying has been reduced by 75% in April and
domestic flying by 30%. Further reductions are planned for May. In all, 55,000
flights have been scrubbed from AA’s April schedule. The airline will park approximately
130 widebody jets and 320 narrowbodies.

All long-haul international flying has been grounded, except
once-daily service between London Heathrow and both Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth
plus thrice-weekly service between Dallas and Tokyo Narita. 

AA has offered voluntary leave to most employees. The
airline is also offering an early out so workers with at least 15 years at American who are ready to leave can keep their medical care at active employees’

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US deep water submarine firm targets wealthy Middle Eastern buyers

A Saudi national took part in an expedition to the deepest point of the Red Sea, in a Triton Submarines model

Triton Submarines are priced from around $4m.

A US-based company which manufactures deep water personal submersibles has described the Middle East as one of its “primary markets” and is targeting wealthy buyers in the region who want to add the next big toy to their superyacht, private jet or sports car.

Triton Submarines offers a range of submersibles which can dive to depths of up to 1,000 metres with around six passengers. The Florida-based company has also developed a larger model – the DeepView 24 – which can be used by tourism companies or high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs).

“As the size of our client’s vessels continues to grow, so we are experiencing a demand for submersibles that deliver extraordinary experiences for larger parties of guests,” Triton’s president Patrick Lahey said in a press statement.

According to an article by The Guardian, around 30 personal submersibles are sold around the world to HNWIs each year, with the units ranging in price up to around $35 million.

“The super-rich aren’t happy to sit on the back of their yachts… They want to see what’s beneath the surface as well as what’s on top. They have seen Blue Planet, and they want to get down there and see it for themselves,” a Triton spokesperson said, adding that the BBC’s series narrated by Sir David Attenborough had helped see a spike in sales.

It is no surprise that the Middle East is a focal point for Triton, whose submarines are priced from around $4m.

“The information about Triton clients is strictly confidential,” a spokesperson told Arabian Business when we asked about specific buyers. “But they do have Arab buyers, as the Middle East is one of the primary markets.”

As part of efforts to promote their products in the region, Triton is involved in the Five Deeps Expedition initiative, which aims to dive to the deepest points on earth, including an expedition to the Red Sea.

The Five Deeps Expedition is being carried out by Caladan Oceanic, a private US company dedicated to the advancement of undersea technology and supporting exploration of the Earth’s oceans.

As part of a partnership with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, Caladan Oceanic’s founder Victor Vescovo, along with Saudi national Mohammed A. Aljahdli, make the first-ever manned dive to the deepest point of the Red Sea, Suakin Trough. The team made the journey in a Triton 36000/2 model submarine.

“It was wonderful to join a young Saudi Arabian national to the bottom of the Red Sea in a manned submersible – for the first time in history. We also believe this will make him the deepest-diving Saudi of all time,” Vescovo said in a press statement.

“We are so excited about the collaboration between Caladan Oceanic and KAUST, and even more proud that our very own Mohammed Aljahdali is the first Saudi to reach the deepest point in the Red Sea,” Justin Mynar, Executive Director of the KAUST Core Labs and Research Infrastructure, was quoted as saying.

Mynar said the Red Sea is virtually unexplored and is a major research priority for KAUST. “In order to protect this important resource, we need to understand it, and partnering with Victor has given us the opportunity to observe and sample the deepest and most inaccessible regions like never before,” he added.

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Coronavirus Forces Hundreds of Flights to be Canceled at Chicago Airport

Chicago’s Midway International Airport is facing hundreds of cancellations after several air traffic control technicians tested positive for coronavirus.

According to the Chicago Daily Herald, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday the airport would remain open, but operations would be limited after the air traffic control tower was shut down for a thorough cleaning.

The FAA will utilize a “resilient system with multiple backups,” including the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach tower in Elgin, Illinois. The official Twitter account of Midway airport shared details of the closure.

Midway is open, but flight operations remain limited. Please consult with your airline.

As a result of the air traffic control tower shutdown, Southwest Airlines announced it would be temporarily suspending service to and from Midway. The carrier said it would provide alternate accommodations for impacted passengers.

According to, over 325 flights in and out of the Chicago airport were canceled Wednesday after 184 flights were canceled Tuesday night.

“We ceased operations at the Chicago Midway airport due to the closure of an FAA ATC tower in the Chicago area, impacting all airlines who operate at the airport,” a Southwest spokesperson told the Daily Herald.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Travel Association announced it projects an $809 billion hit on the U.S. economy and the loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs in the country.

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American Airlines Announces Changes to Admirals Club, Flagship Lounges

American Airlines announced it would make operational changes to Admirals Club lounges and Flagship Lounges at airports around the world.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the resulting decrease in demand, American has changed food and beverage procedures in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Pennsylvania and San Francisco.

The airline has been forced to temporarily close some U.S. Admirals Club locations in airports with multiple lounges due to decreased demand. Facilities in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and London have also been temporarily closed.

American announced alcohol would no longer be served to guests at lounges in Boston, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Other facilities have instituted policies stating all food would be served as to-go items.

The carrier announced earlier this week it would cut 75 percent of its international capacity through May 6 to combat the loss of revenue from decreased customer demand due to the coronavirus.

Other airlines are also making changes, with United Airlines reducing the number of flights scheduled for next month by a total of 60 percent, including a 42-percent drop across the U.S. and Canada and an 85-percent decrease in international flights.

The U.S. Travel Association also announced Tuesday it projects an $809 billion hit on the U.S. economy and the loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs in the country.

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JetBlue Reducing Capacity, Implementing Other Cost-Cutting Measures

JetBlue has announced it will reduce capacity by 40 percent for April and May amid a “stunning shift” in revenue caused by a decline in new bookings, lower fares and a cancellation rate more than 10 times higher than normal stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“As it relates to our business, we are not going to sugarcoat it. Demand continues to worsen, and the writing is on the wall that travel will not bounce back quickly,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and President and COO Joanna Geraghty said in a message to the carrier’s 23,000 crew members on Wednesday.

“Last year on a typical day in March we took in about $22 million from bookings and ancillary fees. Throughout this March, our sales have fallen sharply and in the last several days we have taken in an average of less than $4 million per day while also issuing over $20 million per day of credits to customers for canceled bookings,” the executives added.

Like its competitors, the airline has implemented several cost-cutting measures to navigate the uncharted territory, including grounding some aircraft, pay cuts for VPs and above and increasing cash reserves.

“We also expect substantial cuts in June and July, and given the unpredictability of this event, we will ground some of our aircraft,” said Hayes and Geraghty. “We know this is not an easy move—it will impact hours for many frontline crew members, but it is also essential that we reduce capacity in the face of dramatically falling demand.”

JetBlue is also calling for government intervention as travel bans and restrictions have compounded the industry’s struggles.

“When this pandemic passes—and it will—air travel will play a major role in getting life back to normal and supporting economic recovery. We are going to need significant government help to do that,” the message stated.

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