US, Israeli Officials Take ‘Historic’ First Commercial Flight To UAE

US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner (C-R) and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (C-L) pose with members of the Israeli-American delegation in front of the El Al’s flight LY971, which will carry the delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on August 31, 2020. – The El Al flight, scheduled to leave at 0730 GMT from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, will carry a delegation led on the American side by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner. (Photo by Heidi levine / AFP)

 

A US-Israeli delegation including White House advisor Jared Kushner took off Monday on a historic first direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi to mark the normalisation of ties between the Jewish state and the UAE.

The word “peace” was written in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the cockpit of the plane of Israel’s national carrier El Al that took off around 11:20 am (0820 GMT) and was expected to land in the Emirates in the afternoon.

“While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key architect of his Middle East policy, said before boarding.

“The future does not have to be predetermined by the past. This is a very hopeful time.”

The flight number El Al 971 is a reference to the UAE’s international dialling code, and the return flight, set to leave Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning, is El Al 972, matching Israel’s dialling code.

The Israel-UAE agreement to normalise ties was announced by Trump on August 13, making the UAE the first Gulf country and only the third Arab nation to establish relations with Israel.

Unlike Egypt, which made peace with its former battlefield enemy in 1979, and Jordan, which followed in 1994, the UAE has never fought a war with Israel.

The unprecedented flight also passed through Saudi airspace, according to data from the specialist website FlightRadar24, and marked the most concrete sign yet that Israel’s thaw with major Arab powers is taking hold.

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was also on the flight to the UAE, said “our goal is to achieve a joint working plan to advance relations in a very broad range of areas.

“This morning, the traditional blessing ‘go in peace’ receives special meaning for us,” he was quoted as saying in an English-language government statement.

– ‘Sparks fly’ –

The talks in Abu Dhabi aim to boost cooperation between the two regional economic powerhouses in areas including aviation, tourism, trade, health, energy and security.

An Israeli government statement said there would be “working meetings of joint teams on a range of issues ahead of the signing of cooperation agreements in the civil and economic spheres”.

The visit will also include a trilateral meeting between Kushner, Ben-Shabbat and UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, it said.

Israel’s health ministry had late Sunday updated its list of “green countries” with low coronavirus infection rates to include the UAE and eight other countries.

A picture taken on August 31, 2020, shows Israeli women taking pictures of the El Al’s airliner, ahead of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, which will carry a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE following a normalisation accord. Heidi levine / POOL / AFP.

 

The change meant the Israeli officials and journalists travelling to Abu Dhabi would be exempted from a 14-day quarantine upon return.

Since the agreement between the UAE and Israel was unveiled, there have been phone calls between their ministers, and on Saturday the Emirates in a new milestone repealed a 1972 law boycotting Israel.

“It will be permissible to enter, exchange or possess Israeli goods and products of all kinds in the UAE and trade in them,” read a decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking alongside Kushner in Jerusalem on Sunday, praised “the swift pace of normalisation” between his country and the UAE.

Noting the UAE’s Saturday move, Netanyahu said it “opens the door” for “unbridled trade, tourism, investments, exchanges between the Middle East’s two most advanced economies”.

A picture taken on August 31, 2020, shows the El Al’s airliner, which will carry a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE following a normalisation accord, lifting off from the tarmac in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP).

 

“You will see how the sparks fly on this. It’s already happening,” he said, predicting that “today’s breakthroughs will become tomorrow’s norms. “It will pave the way for other countries to normalise their ties with Israel.”

“There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said without naming any countries.

As part of the normalisation agreement, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank, although Netanyahu quickly insisted the plans remained on the table in the long run.

The Palestinians dubbed the UAE’s agreement with Israel a “stab in the back” as it opens parts of the Arab world to the Jewish state while their own conflict remains unresolved.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by most Arab states, says it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians establishing an independent Palestinian state.

AFP

More Airports Reopen Across Nigeria

This photo taken on July 6, 2020, shows the front view of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Members of the House Committee on Aviation have inspected the airport ahead of the resumption of domestic flights scheduled for July 8, 2020. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

More airports across the country are now open for flight operations after about three months of shutdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the resumption schedule from the Ministry of Aviation, the airports in Akwa Ibom, Edo, Kwara, and Kaduna, among others are expected to reopen today.

Last week, flight operations resumed at the airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt, as well as the Maiduguri and Owerri airports.

Read Also:  Nigerians Comply With COVID-19 Protocols As Domestic Flights Resume

At the airports, passengers were seen wearing face masks, observing social distancing and adhering to other COVID-19 protocols.

 

 

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 gave the go-ahead for the commencement of domestic flights following approval by the president.

On July 1, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that the Abuja and Lagos airports will resume domestic operations on July 8, the Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri airports would resume on the 11th, while others would resume operations on the 15th.

Sirika, however, noted that a date for the international airports will be announced in due course. See more photos here.

Meanwhile, Channels Television gathered that in Benin, passengers hoping to use the airport may have to wait a bit longer as the facility appears not to be ready to resume operations.

When Channels Television visited the airport, there were no passengers at the facility but airline operators and officials of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria were seen but no one was willing to speak on the reason for the delay.

The arrival and departure terminals are, however, wearing a different look in line with COVID-19 guidelines, with work still in progress.

German Firms Plan Charter Flight To Send Staff Back To China

NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP.

 

German firms plan to charter a flight to China this month, business leaders said Wednesday, as Beijing appears ready to further ease a ban on foreigners imposed over coronavirus fears.

The idea is to eventually extend a similar plan to other European countries, Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber in China, told AFP.

Talks are underway for “a fast-track procedure” allowing employees of German companies to re-enter China on the special flight, said Jens Hildebrandt, executive director for the German Chamber of Commerce in North China.

The aim is to help companies bring back “urgently required personnel”, with the German embassy and German chamber working with Chinese authorities to make it happen as soon as May 25.

“We hope that this can serve as a blueprint to get more foreign employees back to China,” Hildebrandt told AFP, adding that this process generally applies to staff who hold valid residence permits.

There may be more charter flights later, if the first proves to be successful, he said.

In late March, China drastically cut flight routes to and from the country, and imposed a ban on most foreigners — even those with valid residence visas.

The move underlined its growing concern over imported cases of the coronavirus, as well as fears of a second wave of infections as the virus epicentre shifted beyond China where the deadly pathogen was first reported.

Wuttke told AFP that Chinese officials approached the German embassy after he wrote to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi requesting assistance to ease entry restrictions on foreigners.

READ ALSO: Europe Steps Up Reopening, Unveils Plans For Summer Travel

He said German flag-carrier Lufthansa is expected to handle the first flight and as the Swiss and Austrian airlines belong to the Lufthansa group, a similar flight model would be easy to replicate for both countries.

A first charter flight with 200 seats could leave Frankfurt for Shanghai Pudong airport on May 25, with passengers subject to mandatory COVID-19 tests before departure.

But a list of those boarding the aircraft will have to be approved by Chinese authorities, and travellers will need to have their visas issued or reinstated.

Passengers will also need proof of a negative COVID-19 test result valid for 48 hours before their departure, issued by their company doctor, local health authorities or an institute providing commercial tests.

Upon arrival in China, they will need to take another COVID-19 and antibody test, and have to undergo a mandatory quarantine for 48 hours in Shanghai.

Foreign nationals eligible to apply for the flight include those needed for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities — or those who have to travel due to emergency humanitarian needs.

A notice circulated to member companies, seen by AFP, said the expected economy-class ticket price is around 2,500 euros ($2,700).

The cost for COVID-19 testing, accommodation and transport involved in the return to China will be borne by companies.

China has reached an agreement with South Korea to set up a “fast track” for businesspeople to return, following the entry ban aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly pathogen.

Beijing is also in talks with other countries such as Singapore to set up a similar channel to stabilise economic cooperation and ensure supply chains run smoothly.

Wuttke said China has a “strong self-interest” in getting engineers and specialists back into the country.

AFP

Sala’s Pilot Colour Blind, Not Authorised To Fly At Night – Report

Stadium stewards display a portrait of Argentinian forward Emilianio Sala, whose plane disappeared over the Channel Islands over a week prior, in the middle of the pitch before the French L1 football match between Nantes (FCN) and Saint Etienne (ASSE) at the La Beaujoire stadium in Nantes, western France, on January 30, 2019.
SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMIS / AFP

 

The pilot of a small plane that plunged into the English Channel with newly-signed Premier League striker Emiliano Sala on board was not authorised to fly at night, the BBC reported on Saturday.

The report said the pilot, David Ibbotson, was colour blind, which would have automatically disqualified him from night flights.

Contacted by AFP, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority did not confirm the report, saying only that an investigation was still underway.

The Air Accident Investigations Branch said: “Licensing continues to be a focus of the AAIB’s safety investigation, but matters of legality are an issue for the regulator.”

The AAIB last month said the plane carrying Sala was not authorised to make commercial flights.

But the investigators pointed out that Ibbotson had in the past transported people on a cost-share basis, which is authorised by the regulation for small planes.

Sala was on his way in the late evening from his old club Nantes in France to his new home at Cardiff City.

His body was recovered from the submerged wreckage of the plane. Ibbotson’s body has never been found.

Ryanair Cancels Flights As Strike Hits Europe

Flight passengers of Ryanair line up at a check-in desk as employees of Irish airline Ryanair stage a strike on September 28, 2018.  Bernd Settnik / dpa / AFP

Ryanair canceled scores of European flights on Friday as unions staged what they warned could be the biggest strike in the airline’s history.

The Dublin-based carrier has played down fears of widespread disruption but confirmed it would cancel about 250 flights.

“Today, over 2,150 Ryanair flights (90 percent of our schedule) will operate as normal carrying 400,000 customers across Europe,” the airline said in a statement.

Walk-outs by cabin crew took place in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. In some countries, pilots’ unions also took action.

At Charleroi Airport in Belgium, around 20 strikers unfurled a strike banner at the terminal and four of 12 scheduled services were canceled.

“Some cabin crew staff earn 2,000 euros, and you have a colleague who does exactly the same work, who only earns 1,000 euros, and with 1,000 euros in Belgium, it is impossible to live,” said Yves Lambot of the CNE union in Belgium.

Tensions ran high at Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands where some passengers had already passed through security when a flight to London was canceled with just half-an-hour until take-off.

The Dutch union VNV said it was seeking to take legal action to prevent Ryanair from bringing pilots in from abroad to replace striking Dutch crews.

At Porto airport, where Ryanair has its main base in Portugal, about 10 people queued up Friday morning in front of the airline’s counter to find alternatives to canceled flights.

“The company has provided a bus. It’s not that comfortable. Instead of 50 minutes, the trip will take five hours. But at least I will arrive today,” one traveler told Portugal’s SIC television.

Affected customers received email and text message notifications on Tuesday to advise them of cancellations and options, Ryanair said.

Trade unions hope that Friday’s 24-hour stoppage will be the biggest strike in the Irish carrier’s history.

Ryanair staff have been seeking higher wages and an end to the practice whereby many have been working as independent contractors without the benefits of staff employees.

 Workers’ rights

A key complaint of workers based in countries other than Ireland is the fact that Ryanair has been employing them under Irish legislation.

Staff claim this creates huge insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.

EU Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said on Wednesday aircrew should be employed under contracts from the country where they work.

“Respecting EU law is not something over which workers should have to negotiate, nor is it something which can be done differently from country to country. I made this very clear to Mr. O’Leary today,” Thyssen said in a statement after a meeting between Ryanair’s combative chief executive Michael O’Leary and EU officials.

At a press conference the same day, O’Leary called for a cancellation of the strike, threatening that he would shrink Ryanair’s fleet at two Brussels airports if it went ahead.

Last month, Ryanair pilots across Europe staged a coordinated 24-hour stoppage to push their demands for better pay and conditions, plunging tens of thousands of passengers into transport chaos at the peak of the busy summer season.

In July, strikes by cockpit and cabin crew disrupted 600 flights in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, affecting 100,000 travelers.

This week, Ryanair signed deals with cabin crew unions in Italy to provide employment contracts under Italian law.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has called on Ryanair to compensate passengers affected by the strikes.

AFP

First Commercial Flight In 20 Years Leaves Ethiopia For Eritrea

Eritrea President Issaias Afeworki (R) is welcomed upon arrival by Prime minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed on July 14, 2018, at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport for his official visit to Ethiopia after more than twenty years in border conflict among the two neighbouring countries.
MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP

 

The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed Wednesday from Addis Ababa after the two nations ended their bitter conflict following a whirlwind peace process.

Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, after a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.

“This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at the ceremony.

Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.

“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said GebreMariam.

An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who were also given roses shortly before take-off.

Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea seceded in 1993 after a long independence struggle. A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.

In a surprise move, Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month announced he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation, paving the way for peace between the two nations.

He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.

AFP