Hospitality Ireland presents round-up of global airline and aviation news.
UK Airlines Seek Government Aid After Omicron-Led Travel Restrictions
Major British airlines on Monday December 13 called on the government to remove testing rules for vaccinated passengers and provide economic support for the battered sector, as new travel rules were imposed to fight off the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Britain currently requires all inbound travellers to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test and another test on arrival in England, despite their vaccination status, dealing a blow to airlines trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Whilst we fully recognise the need to take steps to contain the initial impact of the Omicron variant, travel has been singled out with the introduction of disproportionate restrictions," a letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The letter said the government's move to restrict travel was "haphazard and disproportionate" and disrupted Christmas for families and businesses alike.
The letter was signed by the chief executive officers of British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Loganair, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2.com, the managing director of TUI UK & Ireland, as well as trade body Airlines UK. Last week, airport operator Heathrow's CEO John Holland-Kaye called on the British government to reduce restrictions as soon as it was safe to do so, including allowing UK nationals arriving from red list countries to isolate at home.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC ANNOUNCES 400 MLN STG INVESTMENT FROM VIRGIN GROUP AND DELTA AIR LINES
VIRGIN ATLANTIC SAYS CREDITORS CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE AIRLINE WITH £200M REDUCTION IN CASH BURDEN THROUGH 2024
VIRGIN ATLANTIC SAYS AIRLINE TO HAVE FULLY FINANCED NEW AIRCRAFT DELIVERIES THROUGH Q2 2024
VIRGIN ATLANTIC SAYS NEW INVESTMENT TO BOLSTER VIRGIN ATLANTIC’S BALANCE SHEET, ENHANCING LIQUIDITY AND ALLOWING THE COMPANY TO PAY DOWN DEBT
Ghana Airport To Fine Airlines That Bring Unvaccinated Passengers
The operator of Ghana's main international airport will fine airlines $3,500 for every passenger they fly in who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 or who tests positive for the coronavirus upon arrival, it said on Monday December 13.
The rule comes into effect on Tuesday December 14 at Kotoka International Airport in the capital Accra, Ghana Airports said. It follows a health ministry move last week to require all people entering Ghana to be vaccinated.
The measures are some of the strictest in Africa, where vaccine uptake has been challenged by lack of supply and logistical issues even as the new Omicron variant raises concerns about quicker transmission of the virus.
Ghana's tightening of restrictions comes as the European Investment Bank announced a €75-million investment loan to support its pandemic response - the largest such support for a COVID-19 programme in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Ghana has taken significant steps to manage the impact of COVID and to unlock long-term investment," EIB President Werner Hoyer said in a statement.
The authorities launched a massive vaccination drive this month ahead of the enforcement from Jan. 22 of a vaccine mandate for targeted groups, including government employees, health workers and students. It plans to recruit more health workers to be able to double daily inoculation from 140,000.
Ghana, one of West Africa's largest economies that runs on exports of cocoa, gold and oil, has so far vaccinated slightly more than 5% of its population of 30 million, data compiled by Reuters showed.
Its health service has recorded 131,412 infections and 1,239 deaths from COVID-19, according to the data.
Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 cases recorded at Kotoka airport accounted for about 60% of total infections in the country, the health service said on Friday December 10.
Branson Leads £400m Funding Round For Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic has raised £400 million in fresh funding from shareholders Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines as a new bout of gloom descends on the aviation sector.
Founded by Richard Branson in 1984, Virgin Atlantic has been particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis after business travel and long-haul flights largely ground to a halt.
The new funds announced on Monday will help the airline to bolster its balance sheet, cut debt, improve liquidity and withstand any new downturn in flying, it said.
"Virgin Atlantic's business has transformed, allowing them to emerge from the pandemic a stronger airline," said Josh Bayliss, CEO of Branson's Virgin Group.
The agreement for new funding adds to £1.5 billion of recapitalisation completed over the past two years. The split for the fresh funds is £204 million from Virgin Group and the rest from Delta.
The ownership structure remains unchanged, with Virgin Group owning 51%.
Virgin Atlantic, which flies to the United States, the Caribbean and destinations in Asia, said the full support of shareholders and creditors means it is now ready to recover after the reopening of U.S. borders to European nationals and as it benefits from pent up demand for next year.
Airlines such as Virgin and British Airways were given a huge boost in early November when the United States reopened its borders to allow normal transatlantic routes to resume.
Some of that optimism has since dimmed, however, as emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant has forced the reintroduction of some travel restrictions. Shares in British Airways owner IAG are down 16% in a little more than two weeks.
Major British airlines on Monday December 13 also called on the government to remove testing rules for vaccinated passengers and provide economic support for the battered sector.
Air New Zealand Gets Further $338m Government Loan As Pandemic Headwinds Continue
Air New Zealand Ltd said it has increased its government loan facility by NZ$500 million ($337.90 million) as it faces continued headwinds from domestic lockdowns and COVID-19-related travel restrictions across its global network.
The company plans to raise fresh equity in the first quarter of 2022 to weather the impact of the pandemic, the airline said on Tuesday December 14. The government had earlier promised to participate to maintain its majority shareholding in the national flag carrier.
Air New Zealand suspended its cash burn outlook in October following tough coronavirus restrictions in Auckland, as the country's largest city tried to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus.
Since then, the government has outlined a plan of phased reopening of borders from 2022, which the airline says provides an indicative pathway to reopening New Zealand for international travel.
"However, the future impacts of COVID-19 remain uncertain and circumstances continue to change all over the world, " Air New Zealand said.
"It is important that the airline has sufficient flexibility to withstand presently unforeseen delays without relying entirely on increasing debt levels."
The new package makes an overall liquidity support of NZ$2 billion available to the airline. As of Dec. 14, the company has drawn NZ$505 million of the existing loan and estimates borrowings from the support package could be NZ$900 million by late February or March 2022.
Virgin Australia Switches U.S. Partner To United From Delta
Virgin Australia said on Tuesday December 14 it would enter a new codeshare and loyalty partnership with United Airlines from April 2022, replacing a longstanding partnership with Delta Air Lines on U.S. routes.
Virgin last year stopped flying from Australia to Los Angeles but had maintained a relationship with Delta in competition with a rival partnership between Qantas Airways and American Airlines.
United has a much larger market share than Delta on routes between Australia and the United States and Virgin said the new partnership would triple its reach into the Americas, including on flights to Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.
United customers will also gain access to Virgin's extensive domestic network in Australia under the arrangement.
Delta said in a separate statement that its operations to Australia would not be affected by Virgin's decision and it would continue to operate flights between Sydney and Los Angeles after their partnership ends in June 2022.