US Airport Chaos As Over 2,700 Flights Cancelled

MIAMI, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 28: Travelers make their way through Miami International Airport on December 28, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Over the holiday weekend, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. reached their highest level in nearly a year. More than 2,000 flights were canceled over the weekend as airlines dealt with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP.

 

Air travel continued to be severely disrupted in the United States on Saturday, with bad weather in parts of the country adding to the impact of a massive spike in Covid-19 infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.

The United States had 2,723 cancelled flights, more than half of the 4,698 cancelled worldwide, around 11:00 pm (0400 GMT Sunday), according to tracking website FlightAware.

In addition, 5,993 domestic flights were delayed on Saturday, out of a total of 11.043 worldwide for the day.

The worst affected US airline was SkyWest, which had to cancel 23 percent of its flight schedule, according to the site.

In the United States, airports in Chicago were particularly hard-hit because of bad weather, with a snowstorm expected in the area on Saturday afternoon and into the night.

READ ALSO: France To Ease COVID-19 Rules As England Says Curbs Are ‘Last Resort’

The global air travel industry is still reeling from the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Many pilots, flight attendants and other staff are absent from work after contracting Covid-19, or because they are quarantining after coming in contact with someone who has the infection.

Some 7,500 flights were cancelled by airlines worldwide over the Christmas weekend.

AFP

75-Year-Old Nigerian Dies On Arrival In Lagos Airport

A file photo of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
A file photo of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

 

A 75-year-old man (name withheld) has died at the Lagos Airport in Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The man arrived in the country on Monday via the Murtala  Muhammed International Airport, Lagos aboard a flight operated by Delta Air from the United States of America.

Sources at the Lagos Airport told Channels Television that the man died shortly after the aircraft touched down and taxied to the finger for passengers to disembark and move into the airport terminal.

READ ALSO: Electoral Bill: Buhari Will Inform NASS Of His Decision, Says Presidency

The airport sources said further that the deceased passenger was suspected to have suffered a prolonged underlining ailment before embarking on the flight.

The sources said the reactions of his family members who came to receive the corpse showed they suspected that he would be brought to the country dead.

His remains were said to have been deposited in a hospital morgue.

No further detail has been obtained from the airline regarding the development.

Cheers, Tears As Australia’s Border Reopens After Almost 600 Days

Family members celebrate upon being reunited on arrival at Sydney’s International Airport on November 1, 2021, as Australia’s international border reopened almost 600 days after a pandemic closure began. (Photo by Saeed Khan / AFP)

 

Australia’s international border reopened on Monday almost 600 days after a pandemic closure began, sparking emotional scenes at Sydney airport as loved ones reunited.

Shortly after dawn, bleary-eyed passengers began to trickle into the arrivals terminal at Kingsford Smith International and were quickly wrapped up in the tearful embraces of flower-clutching relatives.

On March 20 last year, Australia introduced some of the world’s toughest border restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost all travel to the island continent halted, prompting critics to dub the country a “hermit state”.

Tim Turner, who had not seen his son for more than a year, said it was “pretty brilliant” that they were now able to reunite.

Arriving in Sydney was “beautiful, beautiful”, he told reporters at the airport.

Julie Choo, who flew back from the UK to visit her sick mother in hospital, said she was trying not to cry as the plane touched down.

“I just can’t wait to touch my mother’s hand when I see her. I can’t wait to hold her,” she said. “It’s going to be very emotional.”

For the last 19 months, Australians have been banned from travelling overseas without permission.

Families were split across continents, and tens of thousands of nationals were stranded overseas.

The few who did gain permission to enter were forced to spend thousands of dollars and agree to spend 14 days locked in a hotel room.

Those conditions have now been dropped for the country’s two largest cities — Sydney and Melbourne — which will now allow vaccinated Australians to come and go without quarantine of any kind.

But for some, like Lucinda Botlero, the long-awaited reopening comes agonisingly late.

“I haven’t seen my family for four years, we’ve been trying to get in for a year and a half,” she said.

“It’s a very mixed feeling. Because I still couldn’t see my dad alive. He passed away just a week ago. We’re just a week late, but it’s still really gratifying that I’ll be able to attend his funeral now.”

– Leaving the island –

As some Australians returned home, others stuck in the country took the opportunity to leave.

Abhi Bajaj, 35, said it was “too overwhelming” that he could now travel to the United States to celebrate Christmas with family after two years apart.

“I was waiting for this day for a long time,” he told AFP, before boarding a flight to Los Angeles.

Australian airline Qantas had grounded much of its fleet for more than 18 months, with CEO Alan Joyce calling the resumption of regular international flights “a long time coming”.

“It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “big day for Australia”, posting on Facebook that the country was now “ready for take-off!”

Travel is expected to resume slowly after such a protracted shutdown, with low passenger numbers on the first flights to arrive.

More than one million foreign residents remain stuck in Australia unable to see friends or relatives overseas, with the relaxed travel rules applying mainly to citizens.

And some Australian states with lower vaccination rates will remain virtually closed to the world, as they still have mandatory and costly 14-day hotel quarantine.

Seven People Die In Chaos Near Kabul Airport –  UK

File photo: Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.
Wakil Kohsar / AFP

 

Britain said Sunday that seven Afghans have died in the chaos near Kabul airport as the British defence secretary expressed support for extending Washington’s end-of-the-month deadline to permit the evacuation of so many people.

The United States and its allies have been struggling to cope with the thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans trying to flee Afghanistan in the week since the Taliban retook power.

“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” a defence ministry spokesman said without giving the circumstances.

Britain’s Sky News had on Saturday aired footage of at least three dead bodies covered in white tarpaulins outside the airport.

Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of one part of the crowd were being “crushed”, while others were “dehydrated and terrified”.

The defence ministry spokesman said: “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

The ministry said separately that the UK had now evacuated nearly 4,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13.

READ ALSO: Viral Footage Of US Marine Aiding Baby Captures Kabul Chaos

READ ALSO: Kabul Evacuation Is One Of Largest, Most Difficult Airlifts In History – Biden

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace issued what could be read as a plea to Washington for more flexibility over US President Joe Biden’s August 31 target date to complete the rescue missions.

“If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.”

US President Joe Biden has said the deadline could be extended for the airlifts. “I think we can get it done by then, but we’re going to make that judgment as we go,” he said Friday

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seeking to speak to his US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss extending the August 31 deadline, according to the Sunday Times.

AFP

Airports Concession: FG Releases Request For Qualification

A file photo of travellers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

 

The Federal Government has released a request for qualification for the concession of four international airport terminals and related services.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, explained that the release was in compliance with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P).

According to a document signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Hassan Musa, the four major commercial airports and surrounding communities are intended to develop into efficient, profitable, self-sustaining, commercial hubs that will create more jobs and develop local industries through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

They are the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; Malam Aminu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) through the Ministry of Aviation is inviting bids from reputable Airport Developers/Operators/Financiers/Consortia for prequalification for the Concession of selected Airports Terminals under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement,” the statement said.

“The airports terminal concession is one of the critical projects under the Aviation Sector Roadmap of the FGN and fits well within the scope of the Ministry’s strategic plan for the sector.

“The execution of this project is meant to achieve the Federal Government’s objective in terms of air transport value chain growth by developing and profitably managing customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure, and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality.”

The eligibility requirements, according to the document, include the full names of firm/consortia; evidence of company registration; ownership structure of bidding entity; audited financial statements; sworn affidavit; power of attorney/board resolution, and evidence in the form of a letter of association agreement – in the case of a consortium.

The ministry explained that to be prequalified for consideration as a prospective PPP partner for the project, the firms/consortia must have the technical, operational, and financial capability.

These include experience in the development and operation of an international airport and cargo terminals, evidence of financial capacity in support of the company or consortium’s ability to undertake the airport concession illustrated by a minimum net worth of N30 billion, as well as letters of support from credible financial institutions in support of the consortium’s ability to manage and operate the airports’ terminals.

“The modalities for application submission shall be in a sealed envelope containing seven copies neatly bound (one original and six copies clearly marked) of the completed RFQ and the required supporting documents, which shall be clearly marked ‘RFQ for the Concession of Airport Terminals’ and addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Federal Secretariat Complex Abuja.

“The Application shall be submitted either physically or by prepaid, registered/certified mail or courier to the address provided. The submission shall be on or before 15:00 hours Nigerian Time (14.00hrs GMT) on 27th September 2021,” the document added.

The request emphasises that the RFQ is the pre-qualification stage of the procurement process for the project in which interested parties are required to meet the pre-qualification requirements specified in the RFQ package.

It stated that only pre-qualified parties would proceed to the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage and would execute a non-disclosure agreement prior to the issuance of the RFP documents.

The ministry urged interested international parties to partner with local firms in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Government’s local content development policy while submission of RFQs through electronic media would not be considered.

NDLEA Nabs Woman With 100 Wraps Of Heroin At Lagos Airport

An official of the NDLEA (File Photo)

 

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has nabbed a woman with 100 wraps of heroin and two parcels of the same substance at the departure hall of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in Ikeja, Lagos.

Director of Media and Advocacy at the NDLEA Headquarters, Abuja, Mr Femi Babafemi, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday.

The woman, identified as Mrs Nnadi Nora Chinyere, was arrested during an outward clearance of passengers on the Qatar Airways flight to Florentine, Italy on August 3.

Drugs found on her were concealed in five containers of hair relaxer cream.

Days later on August 5, narcotic officers on routine patrol intercepted another consignment of 25.8 kilograms of cocaine and cannabis concealed inside foodstuffs going to London at the NAHCO export warehouse.

When the export package was opened and examined, 2.3kg of cocaine and 23.5kg of compressed cannabis were discovered inside.

Also, during a patrol operation along Akure-Owo road, a team of operatives from Owo Area command of the Agency equally intercepted a bus from Lagos en route Owo to Ibilo, Kogi State on August 7.

Five days later, on August 12, operatives of the MMIA Command of the Agency intercepted a United Kingdom-bound consignment of illicit drugs at the NAHCO export shed of the airport.

Further investigations revealed that the consignment contained 66.600kg of cannabis sativa; 1.600kg heroin and 1.450kg of cocaine with a combined weight of 69.65kilograms, all concealed inside cosmetics.

On Friday, August 13, the Benue State Command of the agency arrested an interstate trafficker, one Eze Victor Ezenwanne along the Apir-Aliade road, Makurdi with 65.436kilograms of diazepam tablets.

A suspected fake soldier, Adeyemi Segun Olamide, was also arrested in Maiduguri, Borno State with 650grams of skunk on the same day.

Two days earlier, an ex-staff sergeant in the Nigerian Army, Muffat Ekong and one Frank Iredia Obamwonyi had been arrested with 286.3kilograms of cannabis in Ogwashi Uku, Delta State on their way to Enugu.

Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (rtd), has commended the officers and men of the MMIA command as well as their Ondo, Borno, Benue and Delta state counterparts for the huge seizures and arrests.

He charged them and other commands to sustain the current momentum, assuring them that President Muhammadu Buhari recognises their efforts and would continue to motivate them to do more.

Germany Moves Diplomatic Staff In Afghanistan To Kabul Airport

This picture taken on August 14, 2021 shows aircrafts standing on the tarmac of the airport in Kabul. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

 

Germany on Sunday moved its diplomatic personnel in Kabul from the embassy to the airport ahead of an evacuation planned from Monday, as the Taliban reached the outskirts of the Afghan capital.

“I have decided this morning to move the personnel from the Kabul embassy into the military section of the airport,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter.

Sources close to the defence ministry said an evacuation was planned from Monday.

Germany announced Friday it was slashing staff levels at its Kabul embassy to an “absolute minimum” as the security situation deteriorates around the city.

“We are not going to risk our people falling into the hands of the Taliban,” Maas told the Bild daily on Sunday.

The minister called a meeting of “crisis cell” to organise the evacuation of “German employees and other persons in danger”.

The German army will assist with the evacuations, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Saturday.

“The security situation in Afghanistan continues to escalate,” she said, adding that the military would help the foreign ministry in repatriating German citizens and evacuating local staff “who are in need of protection to Germany”.

READ ALSO: Afghan President Flees Country As Taliban Captures Kabul

The ministry estimates its remaining staff count at the embassy in the “high double digits”.

The Taliban were on the brink of total victory in Afghanistan on Sunday, with their fighters ordered to wait on the outskirts of the capital and the government conceding it was preparing for a “transfer of power”.

Other NATO members including Britain, Denmark and Spain, have also announced they are evacuating their embassy personnel.

AFP

Jubilation As First Commercial Flight Touches Down At Bayelsa Airport

 

It was an occasion for great celebration as a United Nigeria Airline (UNA) aircraft touched down at the Bayelsa State International Airport on Wednesday.

This landing was of a different import, even as it entered into the history books, becoming the first commercial flight to commence operations at the airport.

The aircraft took off from the Murtala Mohammed Airport 2 (MMA2) in Lagos at exactly 3pm. It had on board the state governor, Senator Douye Diri; the airline’s chairman, Chief Obiora Okonkwo and Bayelsa-born Tokyo Olympics silver medalist, Blessing Oborududu.

Others were King Alfred Diete-Spiff, Ambassador Boladei Igali,  National Assembly members from Bayelsa State, members of the state House of Assembly, commissioners among other dignitaries.

Many Bayelsans were also on the ground and could not hold back their joy, as the historic event holds great potentials for economic growth and development in the state.

When the aircraft landed, Governor Diri told his people that full commercial flights would commence in two weeks based on bookings made.

“This is the maiden commercial flight of the United Nigeria Airlines. From today, you can book online, you can book and we hope that by next week or there about, they will commence the usual commercial flights from Lagos to Yenagoa and from Abuja to Yenagoa,” the governor stated.

According to him, the event is a culmination of the aspirations that was birthed by late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of the state, which was eventually built by Senator Seriake Dickson, his predecessor, and finally brought to fruition under his administration.

The Bayelsa governor believes that that the landmark event is a true testament that his team truly works.

Airport Concession Open To All Qualified Entities, States Exempted – FG

A file photo of the front view of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

 

The concession of four major airports in the country is open to all qualified entities except state governments, the Federal Government has said.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made this known as the drive for the concession of the nation’s major airports gathers momentum.

He made the remarks at a Zoom meeting held on Tuesday to update the sector on the concession plans for the four international airports.

They include Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano, Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

Sirika explained that the decision to concession the airports was to ensure that the government was relieved of control of the aviation facilities.

He also assured industry workers, especially those of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that no worker would lose his or her job on account of the exercise.

According to the minister, the concession is a step in the right decision as it will boost the nation’s earnings.

He disclosed that the Murtala Muhammed Airport terminals would bring investment worth over N30 billion annually, which would be aided by the construction of a rail line to link both the domestic and international terminals.

The minister, however, informed the meeting that there was an urgent need for infrastructure investments and modernisation, saying the facilities required investments in runway maintenance, among others.

“There is relatively low asset utilisation due to the limited opening hours of other smaller Nigerian airports; lack of terminal capacity as the airports fall short of gates, stands, and check-in desks.

“The airports have not been designed as international hubs but operate separate international and domestic terminals,” he said.

Passengers Cheat Death As Plane’s Tyre Bursts At Ilorin Airport

The Chinese nationals departed via an Air Peace flight.
File photo of an Air Peace flight.

 

Sixty-six passengers onboard an Air Peace aircraft narrowly escaped death as the plane’s tyre burst on landing at the Ilorin Airport in Kwara State.

The incident happened on Friday while the B737-500 aircraft with registration number 5N-BQR was taxiing to the parking bay at the airport.

The passengers are said to have disembarked safely.

Although one person was reportedly injured during the incident, there was however no loss of life.

According to a statement issued by the airline management, the incident has been reported to the authorities.

Meanwhile, the Accident Investigation Bureau said its safety investigators did an evaluation of the occurrence and decided not to investigate and has released the aircraft to the Operator (Air Peace).

 

Uber Driver, Two Traffickers Arrested With Cocaine At Lagos Airport

Cocaine concealed in air freshener containers.

 

An Uber driver and two other traffickers have been arrested by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), with different quantities of cocaine at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos.

This was disclosed in a statement issued on Sunday by the Director, Media & Advocacy, NDLEA Headquarters, Femi Babafemi.

The Uber driver, Lawal Tunde Rasheed, was arrested at the SAHCO export shed of the MMIA on Tuesday June 8, when he brought a consignment from his client to a freight forwarder for export to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

When the package was searched, 150grams of cocaine concealed inside two pieces of air freshener were discovered.

A follow-up operation the next day led to the arrest of Egbo Emmanuel Maduka, at his residence.

Investigations have so far confirmed that Egbo is behind the two seizures of 50grams of cocaine in hair attachment and another 150grams of cocaine concealed in air freshener, heading to Malabo. The seizures were made on June 4 and 8, respectively.

Also on Friday, June 11, a male passenger, Udogwu James Johnson on Qatar Airlines from GRU in Brazil was arrested at D-arrival hall, MMIA, Lagos with nine wraps of cocaine that weighed 300grams in his underwear.

 

 

In a related development, a 27-year-old final year Petroleum Engineering student of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Bauchi State, Ali Mohammed has been arrested with 3.032kg of cannabis sativa at a motor park in Iddo, Lagos, following a tip-off on Thursday June 10, 2021.

Under interrogation, Ali who hails from Nguru, Yobe State but was brought up in Lagos claimed that while on his way to the motor park in Iddo, from Obalende where he lives, he met an acquaintance, Ahmed who upon learning that he was traveling back to ATBU, Bauchi via Kano, implored him (the suspect) to help deliver a travel bag containing the seized 3.032kg of cannabis Sativa to one Ugo who lives in Sabon gari, Kano.

Ahmed told the suspect that he would send Ugo’s phone number to him through SMS to facilitate the delivery of the consignment when he arrives Kano.

The suspect who admitted knowing that the bag contained drugs, however, denied receiving or being promised any form of gratification for agreeing to take the drugs to Kano.

Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) has commended the MMIA and Lagos state Commands of the agency for the feats while charging the officers and men of the two Commands not to rest on their oars.

He asked them to remain vigilant and intensify the ongoing offensive action against all drug cartels in their areas of responsibility.

Israel Opens Rapid COVID-19 Testing Centre At Airport

Mask-clad Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shown a demonstration of a coronavirus swab sampling at a booth during the inauguration of a COVID-19 coronavirus rapid testing centre at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod on November 9, 2020. (Photo by ATEF SAFADI / POOL / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated a rapid coronavirus testing centre at Israel’s main international airport on Monday, meant to ease travel in and out of the country.

The testing and a lab situated in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport is available to arriving and departing travellers, he said.

“This can help us return faster, better and more efficiently to normal air travel,” he said.

“We want to make it possible to reunite Israel with the world.”

The new set-up allows travellers to give a sample at the terminal and have it analysed at an on-site lab, with the result ready in 5 1/2 to six hours as the traveller waits.

The cost of the express test is 135 shekels($40).

A slower track, with results in 14 hours, is just 45 shekels, said Transport Minister Miri Regev at the opening ceremony.

A clean bill of health would be certified in a “medical passport” allowing quarantine-free admission to some countries, she said, naming the Seychelles and Dubai as examples.

Invited to give a specimen at the opening by a gloved swab-taker working behind a protective window, Netanyahu declined.

“I gave at the office,” he said in English.

In March when Israel went into its first coronavirus lockdown, Netanyahu took a precautionary test after a staffer tested positive for the virus.

Netanyahu had a negative result but went into precautionary self-quarantine.

After a peak of more than 10,000 cases per day in September — then the highest infection rate per capita in the world — Israel went into its second lockdown.

The number of Covid-19 cases has since fallen below 1,000 a day, according to official data, and restrictions are being gradually eased in accordance with infection data.

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 319,500 coronavirus cases, including over 2,600 deaths, according to official figures published on Monday.

AFP