Libya Suspends Flights After Deadly Fire Rocks Capital

FILES) In this file photo taken on April 08, 2019 Grounded air-planes sit on the tarmac at Mitiga International Airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

 

Flights at the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport were suspended Thursday after deadly overnight rocket fire, a spokesman for the country’s unity government said.

Wednesday night’s rocket fire “killed a guard and wounded several security agents tasked with protecting the airport,” said Moustafa al-Mejii, spokesman for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

He blamed the attack on “the militias of (Khalifa) Haftar” whose forces launched an offensive on the Libyan capital in April.

Arrivals and departures at Mitiga airport were suspended as a result, Mejii said.

Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military airbase that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the GNA and has often been targeted, leading to repeated suspensions of flights.

READ ALSO: Flights Suspended In Irish Airport After Fire Guts Runway

United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, in a report to the UN Security Council last month, urged “authorities in Tripoli to cease using the (Mitiga) airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it.”

The GNA protested at what it said were “untruths” in the envoy’s report.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has encountered fierce resistance from pro-government forces in the battle for Tripoli.

A stalemate on the ground in the capital’s southern outskirts has led to a greater reliance on air strikes by both sides.

The fighting since April has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752 others, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 120,000 people have been displaced.

The LNA said Thursday its air force carried out a strike against an airfield in Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, and destroyed two hangars allegedly used to house Turkish drones.

“The runway and terminals were spared” at the airfield, which is not open to commercial flights, LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari wrote on Facebook.

The GNA, however, posted pictures of a huge crater and debris on the tarmac.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

AFP

Hundreds Of Protesters Gather At Hong Kong Airport

A man looks out from the departures area as protesters rally in arrivals against a controversial extradition bill at Hong Kong’s international airport on August 9, 2019. Hundreds of pro-democracy activists, some wearing face masks and helmets, staged a sit-in at Hong Kong’s airport on August 9 hoping to win support from international visitors for their movement.
Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Thousands of pro-democracy activists chanted for reform on Friday as they staged a sit-in at Hong Kong airport, hoping to win international support for their movement after two months of protests.

“No rioters, only tyranny,” the demonstrators chanted as they began a three-day action — the latest in a string of protests that have rocked the international financial hub.

Activists, some dressed in the movement’s signature black, sat on the floor in the airport’s arrivals hall and held up signs in Chinese and English condemning police violence.

“Save Hong Kong from tyranny and police brutality!” read one sign on a piece of cardboard.

They cheered loudly as activists overcame objections from airport staff and hung a long banner from the railings of the upper floor reading “LIBERATE HK. REVOLUTION NOW.”

The protests that began two months ago over a controversial bill to allow extradition to mainland China have now morphed into a broader movement demanding democratic reforms.

Protesters have staged increasingly inventive rallies across Hong Kong, and brought out supporters ranging from families to lawyers in a bid to show the broad backing for their demands.

But the demonstrations have also increasingly descended into violence, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters hurling bricks and bottles.

The airport sit-in, scheduled to run throughout the weekend, is the second time the demonstrators have brought their message to the busy travel hub, hoping to garner support from international arrivals.

‘Let them know the truth’

“Ask me about Hong Kong” read signs in different languages attached to the sleeves of some of the protesters.

“We want to tell the passengers what’s happening in Hong Kong, so we prepared these leaflets showing our five major demands,” said Charlotte Au, a 16-year-old student among the protesters.

“We hope to let them know the truth through our communication and gain their support,” she told AFP.

Protesters want to see the controversial extradition bill, which has been suspended, completely withdrawn, and are also seeking direct election of the city’s leader and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

“We want the government to withdraw the bill and set up an independent inquiry commission,” said another protester, who asked to be identified only by her surname Choi.

“I also want to be here to support those who were arrested because our goals are the same.”

The three-day airport rally was promoted online with a mock boarding pass reading “HK to freedom” and “warm pick-up to guests to HK”.

Passengers arriving at the airport appeared confused as they came into the hall to see the sit-in, with some stopping to take photos or look at leaflets being handed out by the demonstrators. Some offered protesters a thumbs-up as they chanted.

Clara Boudehen, visiting from France, said she was “very impressed” by the rally.

“Our democracy is not absolute, we have to fight for it… To see the population fight for democracy is very important,” she said.

 ‘Really peaceful’

Monica Yoon Hee Jung, who had just arrived from Korea, said she had been slightly nervous about her trip — several countries have issued or upgraded travel warnings for Hong Kong in recent days.

But she seemed reassured by the sit-in, which did not appear to have disrupted airport operations.

“When I see the rally here, it is really peaceful. They are not aggressive at all. I feel they are trying to show their real heart. Very genuine,” she said.

The airport sit-ins have not been authorised, but a previous demonstration at the transport hub passed off peacefully without disrupting flights.

Further protests are planned across Hong Kong over the weekend, with fears that new confrontations between police and demonstrators are possible.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in the unrest that has gripped the city since the protests began, and with little sign that authorities plan to meet protester demands, the crisis is expected to continue.

The weeks of demonstrations pose the biggest threat to Beijing’s authority since Hong Kong’s handover from the British in 1997.

And the protests have hit the city’s tourism industry, with international arrivals down and hotel bookings tanking, officials say.

AFP

More Than 100 Flights Cancelled As Hong Kong Goes On Strike

Passengers line up at airline counters at Hong Kong international airport on August 5, 2019.  PHOTO: Philip FONG / AFP

 

More than 100 flights were cancelled in Hong Kong on Monday morning with airport authorities warning passengers of potential disruption, as pro-democracy protesters kick off a city-wide strike. 

At least 105 flights were listed as cancelled on the airport’s departure page on Monday morning.

When contacted, an airport spokesman did not give any reason for the cancellations but said passengers should check to see if their flight was departing.

“The Airport Authority advises passengers to check with their airlines for the latest flight information, and to proceed to the airport only when their seats and flight time have been confirmed,” the airport said in a statement.

AFP

FAAN Reacts To Abuja Airport Fire Scare

 

The Federal Airport Authority Of Nigeria (FAAN) has explained the fire scare which occurred on Saturday afternoon at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

Some passengers had panicked when the saw smoke in part of the airport terminal.

But FAAN said what the passengers saw was residue from the hydrant which was released by the automated fire detector and protection machine installed in the airport’s new terminal.

The Managing Director of FAAN, Mr Saleh Dunoma gave the explanations in Abuja after Channels Television visited the airport in response to a call from a worker in the airport.

Although the airport staff said he saw fire which scared some travellers in the afternoon, the FAAN boss maintained that there is nothing to be afraid of as what happened showed the efficacy of the newly installed fire detector and protection equipment at the airport.

FAAN’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, explained in a statement that the incident occurred in the equipment room of the new terminal at the airport at about 3 pm.

She explained that the building was designed with an in-built fire detection and protection system, which is activated when it senses high ambient temperatures and sprays fire extinguishing agent.

“The residue of powder sprayed by the system was seen in the cloud, there was no fire at all,” the statement read in part.

FAAN assured passengers and the general public that there was no cause for panic.

Dubai Airport Retains Top Global Spot For Fifth Year

A section of passengers at the Dubai International Airport. Credit: Reuters

 

Dubai International Airport said it retained its top global spot in 2018 after serving the largest number of passengers for the fifth year in a row despite falling short of its target.

Traffic at the major transit hub rose slightly to 89.15 million passengers, up just over 1.0 percent on the number who used the airport in 2017, it said in a statement.

Although the figure is a new record high, it missed on the 90.3 million passengers Dubai airport had projected for 2018.

Indians retained the top position with 12.28 million passengers last year and Saudis came in second with 6.47 million travellers, overtaking Britons.

Passengers from east Europe made the largest growth with 16.7 percent followed by the Commonwealth of the Independent States and Africa, the statement said.

In 2017, traffic at the world’s busiest airport grew by 4.6 million passengers or 5.5 percent.

Dubai’s non-oil based economy has faced a slowdown in the key real estate and tourism sectors.

Dubai International, the base for Dubai-owned carrier Emirates and its budget airline FlyDubai, overtook London’s Heathrow airport in terms of international passengers in 2014 and has maintained its lead since.

AFP

Israel To Open New International Airport Near Red Sea

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a diplomatic conference organised by daily Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post, in Jerusalem. Menahem KAHANA / AFP

 

Israel was to inaugurate a new international airport Monday in its desert south meant to boost tourism to the nearby Red Sea and serve as an emergency alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

The official ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11:30 am (0930 GMT) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Initially, Ramon Airport will handle only domestic flights, operated by Israeli carriers Arkia and Israir.

A date has not yet been given for the start of international flights.

The new airport, named after Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia, will in future host jumbo jets from around the globe.

Its website says that it will be able to initially handle up to two million passengers annually, but will be able to expand to a capacity of 4.2 million by 2030.

It says that it has a 3,600-metre-long runway and apron parking space for nine “large and wide-body aircraft”.

It also has freight-handling facilities.

Ramon is about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba.

Low-cost and charter airlines currently flying to Ovda airport, about 60 kilometres from Eilat, will move to Ramon, its website says.

They include Ryanair, Wizz Air, EasyJet, SAS, Finnair and Ural Airlines.

It will also replace Eilat’s small municipal airfield, where for decades arriving aircraft have swooped past hotel towers.

Construction costs for the new airport have been put at 1.7 billion shekels ($455 million, 395 million euros).

Work began in 2013 but original specifications for the project were revised to allow for upgrades.

The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) has said that the plans for the Ramon project were revised in light of lessons learned during the 2014 Gaza war.

“In an emergency, not only will Israel’s entire passenger air fleet be able to land and park there, but also additional aircraft,” the IAA says.

After a rocket fired by Hamas militants in Gaza hit near the perimeter of Ben Gurion airport in 2014, international carriers suspended flights.

Israeli media have said that a 26-metre (85 foot) high, 4.5-kilometre (2.8 mile) long “smart” anti-missile fence has been installed to help protect Ramon, which is adjacent to the border with Jordan.

The IAA refused to comment on those reports.

Tourism brings in significant revenue for Israel, accounting for $5.8 billion in 2017, the last full year for which figures are available.

Arrivals to the country of more than eight million citizens hit a record 3.6 million last year, the Israeli tourism ministry said.

The United States, Russia, France, Germany and Britain accounted for most of the visitors.

AFP

Israel’s Red Sea Airport To Open In January

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu/AFP

 

Israel plans to inaugurate a new international airport in the south of the country near the Red Sea later this month, the transport minister announced Tuesday.

The Ramon airport will begin with only domestic flights before gradually moving toward full operation, Transport Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

The inauguration ceremony will be held on January 21 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Initially, domestic flights will be operated by the Arkia and Israir carriers. A timeframe was not given for when the airport will be fully operational.

Construction costs for the airport have been put at 1.7 billion shekels ($455 million, 395 million euros). Work got underway in 2013 but original specifications for the project were revised to allow for upgrades.

The airport will be some 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and near the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

Its website says that it will be able to initially handle up to two million passengers annually, but will be able to expand to a capacity of 4.2 million by 2030.

It will replace Ovda airport, some 60 kilometers away from Eilat, and will be able to serve as an alternative to Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv during times of emergency.

The new airport is named after Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia.

AFP

London’s Gatwick Airport Sold To French Conglomerate, Vinci

File photo of Gatwick Airport

 

French building conglomerate Vinci said Thursday it was adding Gatwick airport, Britain’s second-busiest, to the dozens of hubs it already owns, booking a majority stake for nearly three billion pounds.

The purchase of Gatwick, which is Europe’s eight-biggest airport and runs the busiest single runway in the world, comes only months before Britain is to leave the European Union.

The proximity of Brexit “probably helped us close the deal”, Nicolas Notebaert, Vinci Airports chief, told a telephone conference.

The absence of a Brexit deal with the EU could cause major air travel problems as both sides would no longer recognize each other’s aviation safety standards.

Vinci said it will own a 50.01-percent stake in Gatwick thanks to the deal worth £2.9 billion ($3.7 billion, 3.2 billion euros) by the end of June.

Gatwick made headlines last week when it closed its runway repeatedly due to reports of mystery drone sightings nearby, impacting nearly 140,000 passengers.

Best known for motorways 

Vinci is best-known for being one of the world’s biggest construction companies, employing close to 200,000 people across the globe, and for running motorways in France.

But the company has also been buying up airports — most recently in Brazil, Japan, and Serbia — making it “a top 5 global player in the international airport sector”, according to a statement by Gatwick. One of its best-known airports is the hub of Portugal’s capital Lisbon.

With the latest acquisition, Vinci Airports will control 46 airports in 12 countries with total traffic of 228 million passengers a year.

Gatwick, which in Britain is second only to Heathrow, will become the biggest airport in Vinci’s portfolio, making the purchase “a major strategic move”, the French company said.

“The transaction represents a rare opportunity to acquire an airport of such size and quality and fits extremely well with Vinci Concessions’ long-term investment horizon,” it said.

Gatwick’s CEO Stewart Wingate said there would be no management or operational changes to the “immediate” running of the airport.

He said the deal would mean “continuity but also a further investment for passengers”.

Global Infrastructure Partners, the current owners of Gatwick, will hold on to 49.99 percent in the airport.

Gatwick’s only runway hit a world record of 950 flights in a day in 2017, Vinci said.

“The airport constantly innovates in all areas of operations (for example passenger self-baggage drop, aircraft queuing systems, parking products) and reaches a very high level of operational efficiency,” it said.

“The whole Vinci Airports network will benefit from Gatwick Airport’s world-class management and operational excellence, which has allowed it to deliver strong and steady growth in a very constrained environment,” Notebaert said in a statement.

Vinci’s share price stood 0.3 percent higher at 70.70 euros in midday Paris trading, slightly outperforming the overall bourse index.

AFP

US Warns Travellers Over Security At Manila Airport

Passengers arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) terminal 1 for their flights in Manila. Noel CELIS / AFP

 

The United States has warned its citizens that security at the Philippines’s main airport does not meet international standards, urging travellers to exercise “increased caution”.

The US Department of Homeland Security issued a travel advisory on Wednesday saying security at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport was not “consistent” with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

“Exercise increased caution when traveling to or from Ninoy Aquino International Airport,” the US embassy in Manila said on its website citing the advisory.

The advisory was based on an assessment by security experts from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the US homeland security department said without specifying the findings.

Once derided as the world’s worst airport due to leaking toilets and creaking facilities, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the primary gateway to the Southeast Asian nation.

A statement on the US homeland security department website said that the agency had directed airlines issuing tickets for travel between the two nations to notify passengers of the assessment.

It added that TSA representatives have been working with the Philippine government “assist airport and transportation authorities in bringing (the Manila airport) up to international security standards”.

Manila International Airport general manager Ed Monreal said on Thursday the Philippines would adhere to international aviation security standards.

“All points raised by the transportation security administration TSA auditors have either been addressed or are in the process of being addressed,” Monreal told reporters, adding that Manila airport was “very, very safe”.

Monreal said TSA auditors were in the Philippines in September and had observed that the Manila airport had some gates with faulty locks while security checkpoints were inconsistent.

He added the Philippines had hired additional guards and would procure x-ray machines to comply with the TSA recommendations.

The Manila airport topped the list of worst airports on the travel website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports” from 2011-2013, causing the government to make major renovations.

The airport is notorious for flight delays and its security personnel had faced allegations of extorting money from passengers.

In 2013, a gunman opened fire outside the airport, killing four people including a town mayor. Lawmakers then criticised the lack of functioning CCTV cameras in the area.

AFP

Again, EFCC Discovers Over $2m At Airport

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has intercepted $2.8 million at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu State.

Acting Head of Media and Publicity of the commission, Mr Tony Orilade, confirmed this in a statement on Friday.

He explained that the money was recovered from two persons suspected to be money launderers by the operatives of the EFCC Enugu Zonal Office on Thursday.

Orilade added that the suspects, Augustine and Ezekwe, said to be working for a company, were arrested based on intelligence report.

READ ALSO: EFCC Arrests Lebanese With Over $2m At Abuja Airport

Upon their arrest, the suspects were caught with consignments of two suitcases, containing $1.4 million each, totalling $2.8 million.

The EFCC spokesperson said the two men were intercepted at the departure lounge of the airport while they about to board an evening flight to Lagos.

The statement read, “During interrogation, the suspects confessed that they have been in the business of conveying cash for ‘some notable banks’, for over six years.”

 

Suspects arrested by the EFCC for money laundering offences. Photo: Twitter – @officialEFCC

 

According to Orilade, the suspects confessed that they were in the process of doing same for a bank located at New Market, Onitsha in Anambra State, when they were caught.

He added that they were already giving useful information to operatives of the commission and would be charged to court soon.

The suspects said they had so far carried out such assignments “four times this year”.

The anti-graft agency recovered the money barely one month after it arrested a Lebanese, Abbas Lakis, for money laundering offence.

Lakis was picked up in November following intelligence report that he had on him undeclared huge sums of monies aboard an airline conveying him from the Kano Airport en route Lebanon.

Part of the currencies recovered from the suspect included $2,104,936, £163,740, and €144,680, among others.

Gatwick Airport Suspends Flight Over Drone Intrusion

Passenger aircraft are pictured standing on the tarmac at departure gates at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on December 20, 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield.  Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

London Gatwick Airport was forced to suspend all flights on Thursday due to drones flying over the airfield, causing misery for tens of thousands of stuck passengers just days before Christmas.

Flights into Gatwick, south of the British capital, were diverted to other airports while passengers waiting to take off faced gruelling delays.

Gatwick is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single runway air hub.

A cat-and-mouse manhunt is under way to catch the drone operator.

Two drones were first spotted flying over the airport at around 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday. The airfield briefly reopened at 3:00 am on Thursday, but had to be closed again following further sightings.

“All flights to and from Gatwick are suspended due to ongoing drone activity around the airport. Unfortunately, there are significant delays and cancellations to all flights,” the airport said.

“We apologise to everyone affected, but the safety of all our passengers and staff is our number one priority.”

Some 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night, and a further 110,000 were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.

More than 20 police units from two forces were searching for those responsible.

“We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related,” said Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw of the local Sussex Police force.

“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears.”

 ‘Everyone’s trying to get home’ 

Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, told BBC radio that it would be dangerous to shoot at the drone due to the danger of stray bullets.

Inside the airport, weary passengers faced a grim wait to reach their destinations, with many returning home for the holidays.

Gisele Fenech, 43, who was travelling to Malta, was among those stranded.

“We’re meeting family and it’s my daughter’s birthday today so it’s gone all wrong. We’ve been looking forward to this for so long,” she told AFP.

“Everyone’s trying to get home for Christmas.”

Musab Rashid, 22, who was going to Copenhagen, said: “It’s wrong, it’s childish of them to do this, because it’s affected more than 100,000 people.”

Karin Sjostrom-Nandris, 49, was was heading to Stockholm, said: “We can’t really leave this queue because this seems to be the only place we could possibly find out any information. The queue looks like it’s several hours long, so we could be here for some time.”

Under British law, drones cannot be flown near aircraft or within a kilometre of an airport, or at an altitude of over 400 feet (122 metres). Those breaking the law could face up to five years in prison.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman slammed the perpetrator.

“This behaviour is irresponsible and completely unacceptable,” he told reporters.

“We feel for all the passengers who are facing so much disruption.”

In parliament, members of the upper House of Lords raised the likelihood of a new wave of people getting hold of drones as presents this Christmas.

Gatwick serves more than 228 destinations in 74 countries for 45 million passengers a year.

AFP

Petrol Tanker Explodes At Filling Station Near Lagos Airport

 

A petrol tanker has exploded at Forte Oil filling station located very close to the local airport in Lagos State.

Sources from the airport confirmed this to Channels Television on Friday shortly after the incident occurred.

The explosion which occurred when the tanker was discharging its contents has resulted in a massive blaze at the facility.

Channels Television aviation correspondent said officials of the fire services have moved in to contain the inferno.

However, it is yet to be ascertained if there are casualties as a result of the incident.

The airport itself, just across the road, has not been affected by the fire.

The incident has caused a gridlock in the Ikeja axis of the state.

See photos from the filling station below;