Travel News

Nigerian Airline Status 2022: What Is Next In 2023 - DAILY TRUST

JANUARY 02, 2023

For the last 70 years, Nigeria has been aiming to develop a healthy airline industry, originally as a one national airline construct, as so many…

    By Tilmann Gabriel

For the last 70 years, Nigeria has been aiming to develop a healthy airline industry, originally as a one national airline construct, as so many other nations, then leaning towards a minority share with reputable airlines, now focusing on a primarily private airline industry, as customary in most economies around the world. 

Business is an infinite game, never-ending, with new rules and new players all the time, frustrating for executives and employees to remain the number one, never sure if this is sustainable for the years to come. ‘Too big to fail’ is a book that describes the dilemma of executives who have to innovate a huge company to stay abreast with changing rules and aggressive new players.  

In Nigeria, the largest African nation by people, all initiatives to launch a sustainable National Carrier were doomed to fail. Nigeria Airways, founded in 1958, was the longest symbol of Nigerian national pride. This author counted some 130 AOC (Air Operator’s Certificate) holders in Nigeria, which went under in those 70 years of Nigerian airline industry, assuming this is a world record. Many of these 130 airlines were only flying for a few years, after spending lots of money (an airline launch costs at least 150M USD today), energy and disappointed hopes. Nigeria Airways was the longest existing airline so far, shut down in 2003, after 45 years in the domestic, regional and international skies. 

Key reason for the demise of Nigerian Airways was the involvement of the Nigerian government, dictating fares, rules and free tickets for many. No airline can survive such intervention in the revenue creation. Sucking the lifeblood out of an airline, which has critical costs in the US dollar (aircraft leases, fuel, foreign fees), is a sure recipe for failure. Eventually, the then government was no longer able to substitute such failure. What happened with the next hope of a successful Nigerian airline project, Virgin Nigeria? An agreement for Virgin Nigeria, to use the same terminal for domestic and international operation in Lagos, was no longer honoured by the new government elected in 2007. Eventually, the 51per cent government majority share in Virgin Nigeria was left with the pull-out of Virgin’s 49 per cent, and with it the loss of the international relations and the Virgin supplied aircraft. Successor Air Nigeria was not able to survive without the Virgin assets and expertise. 

Why is Ethiopian Airlines successful then as a 100 per cent government-owned airline? Not a short story. Over 70 years, it grew mainly organically, slowly and with realistic budgets and expectations. The main difference was that the management, still led today by the highly regarded Girma Wake as chairman, was never directed by the government and by the inevitable changes of governments in a democracy. Today, Ethiopian Airlines is the leading African Airline, with a 20 per cent profit margin and a strategic plan to double its fleet of 130 aircraft by 2035. Vision, strategy, and a highly competent management governed by a Board of experts is the key for success. Disruptive innovations, adjusting to the fast changes in aviation (for example, ET’s new cargo focus during the years of COVID), lean cost structures and as a reliable contractual partner with its lenders and aircraft lease companies, have made Ethiopian Airlines a valuable African airline. 

Is this possible in Nigeria as well? The Buhari administration, early on in its life, agreed on an aviation roadmap with a national airline, a leasing company, a maintenance company, and an aviation university as its key components. Under the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, all these roadmap projects are well under way, proof of a successful strategic political direction of the government. It is important that the next elected government continues this direction and present a stable aviation industry in Nigeria to the world, based on international aviation laws and supportive political governance. 

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Nigeria Air will be a new competitor in the Nigerian market, adding to the existing airlines. In short, the new year 2023 will have added choices for domestic flights for all customers, soon also on the regional and international markets.  

Tilmann Gabriel lives in Abuja [email protected] 

Botched Airlines’ Shutdown, Nigeria Air, Others Shaped Aviation In 2022 - DAILY TRUST

JANUARY 02, 2023

The aviation industry in Nigeria was full of activities in 2022 amidst mixed feelings over lingering expectations, failed promises, and mixed targets that dominated the…

The aviation industry in Nigeria was full of activities in 2022 amidst mixed feelings over lingering expectations, failed promises, and mixed targets that dominated the sector in the outgoing year.

Over the years, air transportation in Nigeria has continued to wobble despite its strategic place as a major driver of economic development, and its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has remained abysmally low.

From the present meagre 0.5 per cent contribution to GDP, the federal government has promised to increase the contribution to 5 per cent with the implementation of the aviation roadmap which unfortunately has become perennially elusive.

Be that as it may, expectations are high and there is increased optimism ahead of next year as the government ups the implementation of the roadmap.

Stakeholders started the year with high hopes and expectations after a partial recovery in the previous year from the COVID-19 pandemic. To many operators and stakeholders in the industry, the recovery witnessed in 2021 was incredible and they predicted a better 2022.

However, year 2022, according to stakeholders, was a marked improvement as several highly anticipated projects became reality even though the challenges confronting the sector remain.

Failed airline shutdown

As the year was just starting, the entire industry would have been brought to its knees following a threat by indigenous airlines, under the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), to shut down operations. This was due to the skyrocketing Jet A1 crisis which went all-time high in the outgoing year, shooting up the airlines’ cost of operations.

In a letter by its president, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, to the minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, which was also copied to the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), AON said, “Overtime, aviation fuel (JetA1) price has risen from N190 per litre to N700 currently. No airline in the world can absorb this kind of sudden shock from such an astronomical rise over a short period.

“While aviation fuel worldwide is said to cost about 40% of an airline’s operating cost globally, the present hike has increased Nigeria’s operating cost to about 95%. 

“In the face of this, airlines have engaged the federal government, the National Assembly, NNPC and oil marketers with the view to bringing the cost of JetA1 down which has currently made the unit cost per seat for a one hour flight in Nigeria today to an average of N120,000.”

The decision to shut down was coming after the operators had increased the cost of a one-way ticket to N50,000 in February, making it difficult for many Nigerians to fly.

However, the intervention by the federal government and the National Assembly saved the day as the operators were given some windows of getting fuel to sustain their operations, but the problem has persisted as aviation fuel price has since doubled from N400 per litre which it was sold at the time the airlines threatened to shut down.

MMIA new terminal

In March this year, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, the biggest airport in Nigeria witnessed the opening of a new terminal, 40 years after the airport was opened with the existing terminal already dilapidated and unable to cope with the current growth of activities in the airport.

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 22 commissioned the new airport terminal, a state-of-the-art facility, which changed the face of the airport and significantly improved passenger experience.

The new terminal has 66 check-in counters, five baggage collection carousels, 16 immigration desks at Arrival, 28 at Departure, eight security screening points, six passenger boarding bridges with remote boarding and arrival.

Other facilities include two food courts, four premium lounges, 22 guest rooms and spars, 16 airline ticketing offices, visa on arrival and port health facility, praying areas, more than 3,000sqm duty free spaces and over 5,000sqm let-table utility spaces.

But almost a year after, the terminal is still under-utilised as many airlines could not relocate there due to the size of the apron which couldn’t accommodate many wide-bodied aircraft while the government is yet to actualise its promise to expand the apron after demolishing some structures including the former corporate headquarters of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) close to the terminal.

Kaduna Airport Attack

The Kaduna International Airport in March this year came under attack from bandits leading to the suspension of flights by Azman Air, the only airline operating to the airport.

The attack also led to the death of a security staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who was reportedly shot by bandits.

The staff identified as Shehu Na Allah was attached to the VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) site of the Kaduna Airport. The airport has since the attack, remained with little or no activity as only Azman Air currently operates to Kaduna Airport.

Airlines’ exit and return

In the year under review, the airline industry experienced a major boost with the birth of a new airline, ValueJet, even as existing ones increased fleet and expanded routes.

But prior to the arrival of ValueJet, two major domestic airlines, Aero and Dana Air suspended operations. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended the AOC of Dana Air after an audit of the airline.

Also, Aero Contractors on its part willingly suspended flight operations over a cash crunch. The temporary exit of the two airlines limited seat capacity in the industry while the gaps were explored by other airlines through imposing high cost of tickets as the demand was high. But the two airlines are back in the air as they have since resumed operations.

Similarly, one of the domestic airlines, Azman Air, had its license temporarily withheld over alleged indebtedness to the tune of N1.2bn. This was after the NCAA had read a riot Act to the airlines over non-remittance of outstanding N19bn accrued from the ticket sale charge and cargo sale charge (TSC/CSC).

The runway 18L miracle

Despite the challenges the industry has faced in the outgoing year that would dovetail into the New Year, the completion of installation of airfield lighting (AFL) at the domestic runway of the MMIA was a great reprieve for the operators.

For the past 14 years, the operators had agitated for the installation as they have been using the runway without the AFL which allows aircraft to take off and land at night, while arriving flights had been landing at the international runway anytime from sunset.

Operators usually consume more fuel when aircraft taxied to the domestic terminal after landing at the international wing at night.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had shut down the runway on July 7, 2022 for 90 days to install the equipment comprising approach lights, runway lights (Threshold and Centre, edge light) and others so that it can return to full 24/7 operations.

However, after three months and three days, the runway was reopened and the airlines have started enjoying it.

Ground handling support

In the year under review, the ground handling support sector also witnessed a boost as the main operators – the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Pls and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) PLC took delivery of several ground support facilities.

Just in December, SAHCO acquired Universal loaders, tractors, container dollies, canopied passenger steps, conveyor belt loaders and air starter units.

The new Universal loaders which were manufactured by French Ground Support Equipment (GSE) maker, AirMarrel in France, are 7,000 ton lower and main deck loaders.

Airlines’ trapped funds

As the year 2022 winds down, there is an ongoing strained relationship between the federal government and foreign airlines operating in Nigeria over their inability to repatriate their ticket funds.

In line with the bilateral air service agreements (BASAs) signed with the foreign airlines, they are expected to sell their tickets in naira while they would be provided the dollar equivalence by the country’s central bank to repatriate. But funds’ repatriation in recent times has been a hard nut to crack as many foreign airlines are unable to repatriate their funds which continue to grow as airlines’ tickets are sold on an hourly basis.

On the basis of this, Emirates, one of the foreign airlines, stopped flights to Nigeria while other airlines are said to be considering the same option as the funds have grown to about $600m. Though the government has promised to clear the trapped funds, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) representing the airlines has continued to put pressure on the government.

Nigeria Air

The establishment of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, has missed several targets and timelines, but the government has remained determined to float the airline this year by selecting Ethiopian Airlines as the technical partner. President Muhammadu Buhari also promised that the airline would take to the sky this December but the take-off has been stalled by the suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) challenging the decision to name ET as the only bidder.

The case has been adjourned to January 2023 but until then the take-off of the national carrier remains uncertain.

Like Nigeria Air, the Airport Concession is also a subject of litigation as one of the bidders has taken the federal government to court challenging the process.

So far there has been uncertainty over the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap which has other projects like the MRO, Aviation Leasing Company, Aerotropolis, among others. It was not clear whether the present government would be able to achieve the projects before its tenure runs out.

New Civil Aviation Act

But in terms of policy implementation, the passage of the new aviation act into law has been described as a major leap in the efforts to upgrade Nigerian aviation. For instance, the NCAA now has a new Civil Aviation Act which repealed the 2006 CAA and addressed various developments in global aviation since 2006.

Similarly, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has transformed into the Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) with its activities now covering the rail, marine and road transportation sub-sectors. Analysts say the new acts of all the agencies would reinvigorate them and improve their performance.

Experts speak 

Mr. Olumide Ohunayo of the Aviation Roundtable lauded the performance of the domestic airlines in the year under review, and the airfield lighting installation but said the failure to achieve the roadmap is a minus for the industry.

“With the roadmap that has not been achieved, I doubt if we will get any genuine investors when the government is almost on its way out,” he said.

Capt. Ibrahim Yunusa, an aviation analyst said, “I believe we are on the right track considering the new Civil Aviation Act 2022 in place. The policy will surely take care of almost all the aviation issues.”

Nigeria regrets travel restrictions to curb Omicron variant, says it disrupted business - THE GUARDIAN

JANUARY 02, 2023

By Dennis Erezi

The Nigerian government said the travel restrictions enforced to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 had no health benefit.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa stated that the restrictions impacted negatively on individuals and businesses.

“Recent experience in Nigeria with the arrival of omicron showed travel restrictions did not have any public health benefits but were disruptive for persons and businesses. COVID-19 has and continues to follow a different course (epidemiology in Nigeria and most of Africa),” Adetifa tweeted.

Following a meeting of the NCDC COVID-19 National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) held on Saturday, Adetifa said the EOC would continue to review the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the coming week.

He expressed confidence that the Nigerian population is significantly protected from a combination of natural infection and vaccination but hinted that there will be changes in government approach if the need arises.

“At the next review and if deemed necessary, a range of actions, not limited to enhanced surveillance of travellers at airports, may be implemented,” Adetifa said.

He advised Nigerians to make use of every opportunity the government has provided via to get vaccinated and urged citizens to receive their primary vaccination which can be two or a single vaccine dose.

“If you have received two vaccine doses already, go get your booster,” Adetifa said.

“If you have received one booster dose already, please go get your second booster dose. If you belong in any of the high-risk categories (old age, etc), kindly ensure you adhere to recommended public health safety measures – mask use, hand hygiene and avoiding crowded spaces.”

Croatia adopts euro, enters borderless Europe club - AFP

JANUARY 02, 2023

Croatia on Sunday switched to the euro and entered Europe's passport-free zone -- two major milestones for the country after joining the European Union nearly a decade ago.

At midnight, the Balkan nation bid farewell to its kuna currency and became the 20th member of the eurozone.

It is now the 27th nation in the passport-free Schengen zone, the world's largest, which enables more than 400 million people to move freely around its members.

"It is the season of new beginnings. And there is no place in Europe where this is more true than here in Croatia," tweeted EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, as she arrived in Croatia to mark the occasion.

She met Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Slovenian President Natasa Pirc Musar at a border crossing with EU member Slovenia, and was then to head on to Zagreb.

Experts say the adoption of the euro will help shield Croatia's economy at a time when inflation is soaring worldwide after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent food and fuel prices through the roof.

But feelings among Croatians are mixed.

While they welcome the end of border controls, some fear the euro switch will lead to an increase in the cost of living as businesses round up prices when they convert them.

"It will be difficult. Prices that are already high will become even higher," said Ivana Toncic, a teacher from Zagreb.

- 'Elite club' -

But tourist agency employee Marko Pavic said Croatia was joining "an elite club".

"The euro was already a value measure -- psychologically it's nothing new -- while entry into Schengen is fantastic news for tourism," he told AFP.

Use of the euro is already widespread in Croatia.

Croatians have long valued their most precious assets such as cars and apartments in euros, displaying a lack of confidence in the local currency.

About 80 percent of bank deposits are denominated in euros and Zagreb's main trading partners are in the eurozone.

Officials have defended the decision to join the eurozone and Schengen, saying that the country thus completes its full EU integration.

Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic of 3.9 million people that fought a war of independence in the 1990s, joined the European Union in 2013.

Experts say the adoption of the euro will lower borrowing conditions amid economic hardship.

Croatia's inflation rate reached 13.5 percent in November compared to 10 percent in the eurozone.

Analysts stress that eastern EU members with currencies outside of the eurozone, such as Poland or Hungary, have been even more vulnerable to surging inflation.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday hailed Croatia's switch to the euro, describing it as a "stable and solid" currency that had contributed to Europe's resilience in facing the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

- Boost for tourism -

Earlier on Sunday, Croatian National Bank governor Boris Vujcic symbolically withdrew euros from a cash machine in downtown Zagreb.

In recent days, customers have queued at banks and ATMs to withdraw cash, fearing payment problems during the immediate aftermath of the transition period.

As the clock struck midnight, a series of events were held along Croatia's borders with its EU neighbours to symbolise barrier-free travel.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman took part in a ceremony at a crossing point with EU member Hungary, where the New Year countdown ended with a traffic barrier being raised.

A similar ceremony was held at the Slovenia border, with Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic and Slovenian Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanovic Hovnik.

"Tonight we are celebrating New Year, new Europe with Croatia in Schengen," Bozinovic told reporters.

Croatia's entry into the Schengen borderless area is expected to provide a boost to the Adriatic nation's key tourism industry, which accounts for 20 percent of its GDP.

Previously long queues at the 73 land border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary will become history.

But border checks will only end on March 26 at airports due to technical issues.

And Croatia will still apply strict border checks on its eastern frontier with non-EU neighbours Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The fight against illegal migration remains the key challenge in guarding the European Union's longest external land border at 1,350 kilometres (840 miles).

Why Canada banned Nigerians, other foreigners from buying estate property - VANGUARD

JANUARY 02, 2023

By Biodun Busari 

Canadian government has banned non-Canadians from buying homes in the country following surged prices in the real estate market. 

The North American country passed the law after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but it took effect from Sunday, January 1, 2023.

Canada took this decision that will last only two years when some politicians believed that buyers were behind the skyrocketed prices jerking up the supply of homes as investments.

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party last year, the desirability of Canadian homes is attracting profiteers, wealthy corporations, and foreign investors.

In late December, Ottawa also explained that the prohibition would apply only to city dwellings and not to recreational properties such as summer cottages. 

This temporary two-year measure was proposed by Trudeau during the 2021 election campaign when soaring prices put home ownership beyond the reach of many Canadians.

According to the campaign site, “This is leading to a real problem of underused and vacant housing, rampant speculation, and skyrocketing prices. Homes are for people, not investors.” 

Following their 2021 election victory, the Liberals quietly introduced the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act.

Major markets such as Vancouver and Toronto have also introduced taxes on non-residents and empty homes, as per Associated Press report.

However, in the law, an exception has been made for the immigrants and permanent residents of Canada who are not citizens, as per reports from the country.

Bodies Pile Up in China as Covid Surge Overwhelms Crematoriums - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- For five days the elderly Chinese lady’s corpse lay decomposing in the Shanghai house she shared with her family before a hearse finally arrived to take away her remains.

“We’re lucky it’s the cold winter time,” a relative said last week at Shanghai’s Longhua Funeral Home, recounting the ordeal as the family waited their turn to say goodbye along with roughly 300 other masked mourners, many of whom asked not to be identified discussing sensitive issues. While the octogenarian woman didn’t die of Covid-19, the explosion of cases across China is overwhelming crematoriums, making it hard for anyone to find an open slot. 

Public notices at Longhua over the weekend explained that the crematorium had received more than 500 corpses on that day, roughly five times more than it typically handles, according to one funeral goer. After hours of waiting, each family was given five-to-10 minutes to mourn in a no-frills ceremony, fighting for space in a cramped room with bodies laying on stretchers, zipped up in yellow body bags.

The brisk pace of business — families ushered in and out on a de facto assembly line — robbed the bereaved of the dignity typically on display at funerals in China. Aside from mourners and staff, a lone flower vendor loitered around selling small bouquets for 50 yuan ($7.25) a pop, before he was shooed away.

“The whole system is paralyzed right now,” said an employee who answered the phone at the Shanghai crematorium last week, the only number it has listed. “Things here are busier than anyone can handle.” 

Similar scenes are playing out at funeral homes across China, where a seemingly endless flow of grieving families and exhausted workers tell the real story of Covid’s toll on the world’s second-biggest economy. President Xi Jinping’s administration has officially acknowledged only about a dozen Covid deaths since it abandoned strict pandemic controls at the beginning of December, prompting governments around the world to impose restrictions on Chinese travelers.

While nobody knows the true extent of fatalities, it’s clear funeral homes in major cities are already at capacity – and some experts warn that the worst is yet to come. Airfinity Ltd., a London-based research firm that focuses on predictive health analytics, estimated that China could see Covid deaths rise from around 9,000 a day now to as many as 25,000 a day later in January, when a rebound in travel is expected to occur during Lunar New Year festivities.

The deluge of deaths is another blow to Xi, who touted his Covid Zero policy as more humane and morally superior than the US and Europe, which saw large amounts of elderly people die in the early stages of the pandemic. He shifted course abruptly after spontaneous protests against lockdowns erupted simultaneously in key cities around the country.

In a New Year’s address, Xi acknowledged that the pandemic “has not been an easy journey for anyone.” He warned of tough times ahead and nodded at the social discontent, saying it was “only natural” for China’s 1.4 billion people to have different concerns and views on some issues. “What matters is that we build consensus through communication and consultation,” Xi said.

The difficulty in putting loved ones to rest threatens to further exacerbate social tensions. Interviews with workers at funeral homes in Beijing and Shanghai, where furnace ovens are now operating through the night, showed the wait for a spot to cremate a loved one now extends well into mid-January.

At Shanghai’s Longhua Funeral Home, some families last month arrived as early as 3 a.m. for one of 200 queue numbers that were handed out at noon. Besieged by requests, Longhua announced an online booking system on Dec. 27, allowing families to wait for a phone call and avoid long lines. 

“But there’s no guarantee of when it can happen,” said one employee. “We can’t give people a date for cremation at this point. You just have to join the queue first.”

‘I Shall Find an Empty Patch’

In Beijing, where the government said last week the Covid outbreak has peaked, police turned away people from funeral homes in the northern districts of Miyun and Huairou. The Civil Affairs Bureau in southeastern Tongzhou district told Chinese media on Dec. 22 that its main funeral home was burning around 140-150 bodies daily, up from 40 per day in the past. 

The situation has gotten so grim that some people have sought to take things into their own hands.

“I’ve tried multiple paths to cremate my father but none have worked,” said a Dec. 28 WeChat message from a Shanghai resident to her neighborhood group chat, according to screenshots widely shared on social media. “The funeral services hotline told me that all cremation slots are full until after the new year. Since national law doesn’t allow patients who die of infectious diseases to be stored at home, I shall find an empty patch in our neighborhood to cremate my father. If you have problems with this, please call the police.”

Local officials eventually intervened to expedite the case after fervent protests from the neighborhood, according to screenshots of subsequent messages in the group chat. Bloomberg News has been unable to independently verify the episode.

Even the rich are having a tough time. Mao Daqing, a well-known figure in China’s property and tech circles and the founder of office space provider Ucommune International Ltd., spoke of the struggle finding a cremation spot after the sudden passing of an elderly family member.

“The sheer difficulty of cremation and burial entirely surpassed my imagination,” he wrote on Dec. 21 on his WeChat public account. Later, on his individual timeline, he posted again: “Just this morning, six people approached me to help them find cremation, another three urgently required Pfizer, and three more were in dire need of ICU beds. That’s the real status quo of Beijing.”

The father-in-law of prominent economist and Tsinghua University professor Hu Angang, who passed away on Dec. 21 from Covid-induced pneumonia, waited hours for an ambulance to take him to the hospital, according to a close friend’s account posted on China’s Weibo social media platform. He then struggled to secure a spot at the prestigious Babaoshan Funeral Home, where top Communist Party leaders including former president Jiang Zemin have been cremated.

“Beijing’s Babaoshan has 200-300 bodies waiting to be burned each day, and there’s no way to join the queue today; there’s no hearse; no farewell ceremony; his children’s only wish is that he can be cremated alone,” the post said. “The family is heartbroken.” Hu didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

A whole gray economy has emerged to cater to those who are desperate to bury their loved ones. Everything is an opportunity for profit: scalpers hawk queue numbers to skip lines for cremation, rent out hearses and offer all-in-one packages at exorbitant rates. Some trumpet their connections to workers at various crematories and hospitals.

‘Bodies Are Overflowing Everywhere’

When Bloomberg News called one such provider named De Shun Xiang in Beijing, an employee said cremation can be arranged within three days at the cost of 68,000 yuan, with same-day service going for 88,000 yuan. Normally it would cost around a few thousand yuan.

“Bodies are overflowing everywhere,” said the employee, who asked not be named. “You’ll have to wait a month if not.”

While funeral homes warn against trusting brokerage services, some middlemen are using creative ways to reach anguished families. On Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, videos featuring colorful visuals and stirring music advertise Mercedes-Benz hearses, elaborate burial clothes and Babaoshan cremation slots.

“We couldn’t afford to live under lockdown,” wrote a person on Weibo, sharing a view commonly expressed on the social-media platform over the past few weeks. “And now we can’t afford to die.”

--With assistance from Philip Glamann.

China Vows to Hit Back at Nations Imposing Covid Travel Curbs - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- China said it would hit back at nations that placed Covid restrictions on its travelers for “political goals,” showing the coronavirus remains a politically sensitive subject in Beijing even as it lets the virus run rampant.

“We believe that some countries’ entry restrictions targeting only China lack scientific basis and some excessive measures are unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

“We firmly oppose attempts to manipulate Covid prevention and control measures to achieve political goals, and China will take corresponding measures based on the principle of reciprocity in different situations,” she said, without naming any individual countries. She added that China was ready to “strengthen communication with the international community and work together to defeat Covid.”

The US, Japan and some other countries are requiring travelers from China to show a negative test before allowing them to enter, and Taiwan has said it will quarantine positive cases. The tightening measures come as China disbands its strict Covid Zero strategy after nearly three years — one that made entering the Asian nation very difficult because it required all arrivals to isolate for days in hotels or camps.

A deluge of cases, combined with a lack of information from the Chinese government about how many people are sick or dying, has raised concern over the possibility that new strains of the virus will emerge. 

Italy said it would begin testing all arrivals from China after almost half of the passengers on two recent flights to Milan were found to have the virus. The European nation later said it didn’t find any new concerning Covid-19 mutations among the arrivals from China who tested positive.

Covid-19 has been a politically sensitive topic in China since first appeared in the nation some three years ago. Former President Donald Trump angered Beijing by repeatedly referring to the “China virus,” prompting China’s diplomats to spread the conspiracy theory that the virus may have originated in US bioweapons labs.

In April 2020, former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison upset China by calling for an international investigation into the origins of Covid. Beijing later placed trade sanctions on a number of Australian exports, including wine, barley and meat.

A visit to Beijing last month by Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has helped thaw relations with China, though trade barriers remain in place.

Australia House Prices Tumble Most Since 2008 - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s housing market suffered its biggest annual decline since 2008 last year as sharp interest rate hikes sapped buying power and put off investors.  

The national Home Value Index fell 5.3% in 2022, the first decline since 2018, CoreLogic Inc. said in a report Tuesday. Annual falls were the biggest in the bellwether market of Sydney, which slid 12.1%, followed by an 8.1% drop in Melbourne. National values declined 1.1% in December, according to the report.


Home values could fall further in the early months of 2023 before stabilizing after interest rates peak, according to Tim Lawless, research director at CoreLogic. Despite the downturn across many areas of the country, “housing values generally remain well above pre-Covid levels,” CoreLogic said in the report, suggesting the sector is weathering the sharpest monetary tightening cycle in a generation. 

The Reserve Bank has raised interest rates by 3 percentage points since May to 3.1% and is widely expected to hike one or two more times this year. RBA officials have generally expressed confidence in Australia’s housing market, highlighting that prices are still higher than at the onset of the pandemic. In addition, with unemployment at the lowest level in almost 50 years, borrowers are well placed to meet their commitments and loan arrears are likely to be limited.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

“The lagged effect of rate hikes — including the one we expect in February — should continue to weigh on the market. We expect house prices to trough in mid-2023, once the RBA pauses its tightening cycle”

— James McIntyre, Economist. Click here for the full report

Australia’s A$9.4 trillion ($6.4 trillion) housing market has declined 8% from the recent peak reached in April, after surging 28.6% from a pandemic-induced trough, CoreLogic said. 

Lawless highlighted that 2023 was likely to test the housing market as record-low fixed-rate mortgages start to expire and such borrowers are forced to shift to much higher variable rates.

An RBA document last month showed some 30% of Australian borrowers on fixed-rate mortgages will see repayments climb by more than 40% when their loans roll over in 2023.

“As interest rates peak and inflation eases, housing values are likely to stabilize, however a broad based rise in housing values would be dependent on interest rates coming down, or on other forms of stimulus,” CoreLogic said in the report.


(Updates with economist comment in 5th paragraph)

Passengers say Southwest flew their bags to Denver without them after canceling a Christmas Day flight, report says - BUSINESS INSIDER

JANUARY 04, 2023

  • Passengers say Southwest Airlines flew their bags to Denver without them on Christmas Day, per NPR.

  • The couple said they were planning to fly from Nashville to Denver when their flight was canceled.

  • Southwest canceled thousands of flights over the holiday period.

Passengers say Southwest flew their bags to Denver without them after the airline canceled their Christmas Day flight.

The couple, Bri Murphy and Peter Ferguson, said they were planning to fly from Nashville, Tennessee, to Denver on December 25 when their flight was canceled, NPR reported.

Murphy told the news outlet their flight was delayed multiple times before it was eventually canceled altogether.

However, despite the cancellation, the couple learned that their bags had arrived in Denver without them, per NPR.

Murphy told NPR that her father-in-law was able to drive to Denver airport and find two of the bags. Another bag, which contained her medication and Christmas gifts, was not with them.

Murphy said she had spent hundreds of dollars on transport and replacing some of her lost belongings, per NPR.

"There's been all kind of these collateral effects that have been frustrating to work through," she said.

Representatives for Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Murphy and Ferguson could not be reached for comment.

Thousands of Americans experienced travel disruptions after Southwest suffered an operational meltdown over the holiday period. The airline announced on December 28 that it would operate only around one-third of its schedule for safety reasons, throwing thousands of Americans' holiday plans into chaos. A Southwest spokesperson told Insider: "Our aim is to always connect customers and their baggage. During the worst of the storm, at times, we had to move aircraft out of the weather before we had available staff to offload bags." It added: "There are several high-priority efforts underway to do right by our customers, including processing refunds from canceled flights, and reimbursing customers for expenses incurred as a result of the irregular operations."

The airlines that have never had a single crash - THE TELEGRAPH

JANUARY 04, 2023

Remember the famous scene in Rain Man during which Dustin Hoffman’s character refuses to fly by any airline other than Qantas on the basis of its impeccable safety record? You probably won’t if you watched it on a plane: the scene was cut from one version shown in the skies over fears that it might alarm passengers (Qantas, of course, stuck to the original).

Fast forward 35 years and the airline is still renowned for safety. After a brief hiatus in 2022, when it slipped from first to seventh place in airlineratings.com’s respected safety rankings to be temporarily replaced by Air New Zealand, Qantas has once again nabbed the number one spot for 2023.

It’s worth noting that, despite being among the safest to fly, neither airline has completely avoided fatal disasters in the past (Qantas had a handful in the pre-jet era, while Air New Zealand’s happened in 1979 when a DC-10-30 crashed during a sightseeing flight over Antarctica). It shows that historical crashes aren’t the best way to measure safety – the airlineratings.com survey only takes into account fatalities in the last five years, alongside government audits, incident reports and more.

“We worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the governing body,” says airlineratings.com Editor-In-Chief Geoffrey Thomas. “And the rationale was that a five-year period is an acceptable period for the airline to learn from the mistake, rectify the systems that contributed to the mistake, and then come out the other side and say, ‘look, we learned from that and we’ve moved on’.”

Meanwhile, our table of airlines that have never had a fatal crash (see below), compiled with data from airsafe.com, includes Novair – banned from EU and UK airspace along with all other Armenian carriers due to concerns over the country’s aviation safety record. Then there’s IndiGo, an Indian low-cost carrier that’s allegedly reported 35 serious incidents since 2013.

“If an airline is banned from the EU or banned by the Americans, it’s automatically downgraded,” says Thomas. “We look at the black lists and it very much forms part of our audit process. No airlines that are blacklisted by the EU will appear on our safest airlines list.”

As for other carriers with no accidents, “it can be sheer luck,” says Thomas. “You might have an airline that’s just started up, they’ve got one aeroplane, and, hey, ‘we’re the safest airline in the world’.”

Whoever you fly with, the chances of being involved in a fatal crash are very low. In 2018, the Aviation Safety Network calculated the likelihood of an airline having such a disaster at around one in 2.52 million. In 2022, there were five fatal accidents on planes with 14 or more passengers according to aviation-safety.net, including one in March that killed all 132 people onboard when a Boeing 737-800 operated by China Eastern nosedived into the Guangxi mountains.

Shortly afterwards, the Wall Street Journal published an article suggesting that preliminary assessment reports by US officials indicated that the crash was intentional, but this kind of foul play is highly unusual. Often, tragic disasters happen during internal flights in countries such as Nepal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where planes can be so old that they lack modern GPS systems and pilots have to rely on weather stations for reports on conditions.

However, for the ultra-cautious, we’ve taken a look at the airlines which make both the airlineratings.com top 20 (or its top 10 of low-cost airlines) and have never had any fatal crashes or hull losses. The added bonus? Most of them operate flights from the UK.

The safest airlines in the skies?


When this airline regained the number one spot in its safety rankings for 2023 after a brief hiatus, airlineratings.com’s editors noted that, “over its 100-year operational history the world’s oldest continuously operating airline has amassed an amazing record of firsts in operations and safety and is now accepted as the industry’s most experienced airline”. Not one to rest on its laurels, Qantas continues to embrace new technologies in order to make its planes even safer.

In 2022, the company ordered 52 new aircraft including some ultra-long-range Airbus A350-1000s which will enable passengers to fly non-stop between London and Australia from 2025. Though older planes are generally safe when properly maintained, newer ones benefit from the latest onboard safety equipment and navigational systems.


Voted among the top 10 safest low-cost providers by airlineratings.com, EasyJet hasn’t had a fatal crash or hull loss since it first took off in 1995. However, in 2019 it did have a near-miss after both pilots used the wrong measurements to calculate the runway length at Lisbon Airport, averting disaster by just 1.3 seconds according to a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The UK’s other big-name low-cost carrier Ryanair also scores well in the safety stakes, despite an incident in 2008 when a huge flock of starlings at Rome-Ciampino caused both engines to stall, prompting a hard touchdown that led to passenger and crew injuries and the plane being written off.

Hawaiian Airlines

Running since 1929, Hawaiian is among the oldest airlines in the world but, remarkably, it has never suffered a single fatal crash or hull loss. Ploughing the skies between Hawaii, Australia, Asia and the US mainland, it still remains one of the safest carriers in the skies, coming in at number 12 in the airlineratings.com survey. Having lived through a World War and almost a century of continuous service, the airline didn’t let the little matter of two bankruptcies in ten years (between 1993 and 2013) get in the way of its impeccable record. However, in December 2022, at least 36 people were injured (11 of them seriously) when one of the airline's planes experienced turbulence as it came in to land in Honolulu. The USA's National Transportation Safety Board is launching an investigation into the incident.

Virgin Atlantic

The longest running UK commercial airline never to have suffered a fatal crash or hull loss is Richard Branson’s baby, born in 1984 – while its sister company Virgin Australia also has a clean slate. Remarkably, the airline has also only had 17 serious incidents in its near 40-year history according to research by id1.de (for comparison, EasyJet has clocked up 51). Having ditched its all-makeup-and-no-tattoos rules, Virgin is a progressive choice too. Simple Flying reported that job applications to the airline have doubled since it introduced a gender-neutral uniform policy in 2022.

Wizz Air

It may not make for the most comfortable ride, but Wizz Air’s safety record is seriously impressive. Since its launch in 2004, it’s avoided any crashes that have caused fatalities or damage to its hull – and it beat Virgin Atlantic in commercial aviation safety analyst JACDEC’s Airline Safety Risk Rankings for 2021, coming in a respectable 24th place (though rival EasyJet was 13th).

Against a background of industry cutbacks and airline closures, Wizz is bucking the trend with significant expansion across Europe. However, in 2022, three anonymous pilots raised concerns over working hours, low pay and morale to The Mirror, with one saying that long shifts could have an impact on safety (the airline categorically rejected the claims).

Partly because of the differing treatment of pilots between low-cost and traditional carriers, airlineratings.com groups them separately in its rankings. “We take the view that a low-cost airline will not pay the highest salaries for pilots. It’s not necessarily the case with all low-cost airlines because there are some terrific ones but, as a generalisation, if you’re a pilot, who would you rather fly for? ‘Low-cost airline number one’ or Qantas? You’d like to fly for Qantas, because you get paid a lot more.”


With routes to south-east Asia, Japan, South Korea and China, Taiwan’s EVA Air is not only crash free – it also scores five stars for customer experience in Skytrax’s certified ratings scheme which measures service excellence. Founded in 1989, the carrier has a full 7/7 safety score from airlineratings.com. Its relatively small size (it has 85 aircraft) may help – but even the safest airlines have their moments: witness EVA’s 2021 incident when passengers on a flight from Taipei to Guam got a shock during a baulked landing. Though the plane reascended before landing safely 20 minutes later, it was subsequently grounded for inspection according to the Aviation Herald.

Qatar Airways

With the most serious incident to have occurred onboard allegedly being particularly bad turbulence, Qatar is another safe bet. Having one of the youngest fleets in the skies helps. “We look at the age of the fleet for our ratings,” says Thomas. “It’s not perfect because if Qantas is looking after a 25-year-old aeroplane, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be in perfect condition. But typically, the younger airplanes like the A350 and the 787 have all the safety features as standard.”

Qatar’s CEO Akbar al Baker is “at the forefront of demanding from aircraft manufacturers, the very best in technology and the very best in designs” says Thomas. But it’s not all been plain sailing: a 2017 blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies (including the UAE) meant that Qatar Airways had to make prolonged detours from key Middle Eastern routes until 2021.


Etihad came second in JACDEC’s Airline Safety Risk Rankings for 2021 after Emirates (which doesn’t make our list of accident-free airlines due to a 2016 crash-landing that resulted in a hull loss and the death of a firefighter). It’s also one of the most hygienic carriers out there, achieving the highest Diamond rating in the APEX health safety certification scheme which is built on airline audits. In October 2022, it made the news for other reasons when it upped the cost to bring a cat onboard to around £1,300pp while falcons (the UAE’s national bird) continue to get a free ride.

Other airlines with no fatal crashes

Using data from airsafe.com, these are the 49 major airlines never to have experienced a fatal accident (excludes carriers whose parent company has experienced fatalities):

  1. Aegean Airlines

  2. Air Austral

  3. Air Astana

  4. AirBaltic

  5. Air Berlin

  6. Air Macau

  7. Air Malta

  8. Air Mauritius

  9. Air Seychelles

  10. Air Tanzania

  11. Air Transat

  12. Arkia Israel Airlines

  13. Azul Brazilian Airlines

  14. Bahamasair

  15. Cape Air

  16. Caribbean Airlines

  17. Cayman Airways

  18. easyJet

  19. Emirates

  20. Etihad Airways

  21. EVA Air

  22. Hainan Airlines

  23. Hawaiian Airlines

  24. IndiGo

  25. Jazeera Airways

  26. JetBlue

  27. Juneyao Airlines

  28. Mahan Air

  29. Norwegian

  30. Nouvelair Tunisie

  31. Novair

  32. Oman Air

  33. Porter Airlines

  34. Qatar Airways

  35. Ryanair

  36. Shenzhen Airlines

  37. Sichuan Airlines

  38. Skymark Airlines

  39. Smartwings

  40. Spirit Airlines

  41. Sun Country Airlines

  42. Sunexpress Airlines

  43. Tunisair

  44. Turkmenistan Airlines

  45. Virgin Atlantic/Australia/America

  46. Viva Air Colombia

  47. Volaris

  48. WestJet Airlines

  49. Wizz Air


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