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Hospitality Ireland Presents Round-Up Of Global Airline, Aviation And Travel News

By Dave Simpson

Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of global airline, aviation and travel news.

Australian Budget Airline Bonza To Lease Up To Eight 737 MAX Jets In First Year

New budget Australian airline Bonza said on Wednesday December 8 it planned to operate up to eight Boeing Co 737 MAX jets in its first year of operations as part of an aircraft leasing deal with its parent, U.S. private investment firm 777 Partners.

The fleet growth will be dependent on regulatory approval. The airline has been talking to Australia's aviation regulator and expects to lodge a formal licence application soon, Bonza Chief Executive Tim Jordan said.

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The airline hopes to start domestic flights with two to three planes from the second quarter of next year.

It will compete against Qantas Airways Ltd, Virgin Australia and Regional Express Holdings Ltd (Rex) in the domestic market, taking aim at leisure routes that are not served by its rivals or are underserved.

The initial routes will be chosen partly based on which airports offer better financial incentives.

"From our initial expression of interest to 46 different airports across the country we received positive feedback from between 35 and 40 airports," Jordan said. "That response has given us the confidence to make the announcement today."

Some analysts have expressed scepticism about the airline's ability to fill 186-seat 737 MAX planes on thin routes in a market dominated by flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, where regional routes are often flown by small turboprops.

"These are big aircraft for small markets that are going to have to be flying very frequently … to keep them in a way that is economic," CAPA Centre for Aviation Chairman Emeritus Peter Harbison said in October.

Jordan said Bonza, whose parent's investment portfolio includes Canadian-low cost carrier Flair Airlines, would keep its aircraft utilisation high by operating a large number of routes. 777 Partners in March placed an order for 24 737 MAX planes with purchase rights for 60 more.

PE Firm 777 Partners Nearly Doubles 737 MAX Order

Boeing Co said on Tuesday December 7 Miami-based 777 Partners placed an order for 30 more 737 MAX jets, valued at $3.7 billion at list prices, that would nearly double the private-equity firm's order book for the popular aircraft.

Shares of the planemaker rose 2.5% in morning trade following the announcement.

The order is a boost for Boeing, which said last month that it had delivered 212 737 MAX jets this year, as it tries to recover from the fallout of the pandemic and a safety scandal caused by two fatal crashes of the planes.

Boeing has stepped up deliveries of the aircraft this year on an air-travel rebound that helped the company book massive orders, including a deal to sell 200 737 MAX jets to United Airlines Holdings Inc .

Its larger 787 Dreamliner aircraft, however, has been hobbled by production problems.

777 Partners, which owns a stake in Canadian low-cost carrier Flair Airlines, had in March placed an order for 24 737 MAX jets, with an option to purchase 60 more.

The bulk of the new order is for Boeing's 737-8-200 variant, Miami-based 777 Partners said, adding that the firm will now own a total of 68 737 MAXs.

American Airlines Taps President Isom As Next CEO

American Airlines Group Inc CEO Doug Parker will hand over the reins of the No. 1 U.S. airline to president Robert Isom on March 31, the company said on Tuesday December 7, sending its shares up 2% in morning trade.

Parker will continue as chairman, while Isom will join the carrier's board after he takes over as CEO.

Isom, a longtime airline industry executive, took over as president in 2016 and has overseen operations, planning, marketing and pricing.

The leadership change comes as the industry recovers from the lows hit during the pandemic but faces operational challenges due to the threat posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Isom faces the challenge of repairing American's balance sheet as the pandemic has left it with the largest debt stock in the U.S. airline industry. He will also have to work on improving relations with the company's labor unions.

In an interview, Isom said American would focus on returning to profitability as soon as possible and delivering a reliable service. He also aims to pay down a lot of debt.

"We're going to be really focused on making sure that we have an appropriate level of leverage," Isom told Reuters.

Returning to profitability, however, is contingent upon a full recovery in travel demand. Isom said while the airline's domestic business remained strong, new travel restrictions following the Omicron variant's discovery had dampened demand in some international markets.

"If there's anything, it just delays recovery," he said.

Isom, 58, has been playing a key role in developing American's strategy before and through the pandemic.

Analysts at Jefferies said he would bring broad experience to the job and the leadership change was unlikely to result in a deviation from the strategy, focused on fleet renewal and alliances, under Parker.

"Given Mr. Isom's lengthy history with Mr. Parker, this transition was likely in place for a significant period of time," they wrote in a note.

In a letter to employees, Parker said the transition was the result of a "thoughtful and well-planned multi-year process", dating back to Isom's elevation to president in 2016.

Parker, 60, said the transition would have happened sooner if it was not for the pandemic, which brought the airline industry to its knees.

"While we still have work to do, the recovery from the pandemic is underway and now is the right time to make the transition," he said.

Parker, one of the longest-serving chief executives in the airline industry, is known for overseeing consolidation in the industry as well as leading it through crises.

He took the reins at America West Airlines just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks. When America West merged with US Airways in 2005, Parker continued as CEO of the combined company.

He was named chairman and CEO of American Airlines in 2013 after its merger with US Airways.

He was also instrumental in negotiating a COVID-19 relief package for the industry, which carriers say has saved thousands of jobs, prevented bankruptcy and put it in a position to support the economy's recovery from the pandemic.

Under Parker, American expanded overseas and took on low-cost carriers at home, sparking a fare war. He formed strategic partnerships with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp to compete in markets where other carriers had an advantage.

The alliance with JetBlue, however, has invited lawsuits https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/us-preparing-challenge-american-jetblue-partnership-wsj-2021-09-21 from the U.S. Justice Department and six states.

In June, Southwest Airlines Co named company veteran Robert Jordan as CEO in place of Gary Kelly, who will step down next year.

NORWAY GOVERNMENT SAYS AIRLINE SEAT TAX ALSO SUSPENDED FOR MARCH

USER REPORTS INDICATE UNITED AIRLINES IS HAVING PROBLEMS - DOWNDETECTOR

Date: 07/12/2021 19:11

Airbus Delivers 58 Jets, Gets Order Boost In November

Airbus delivered 58 airplanes in November, leaving itself the task of speeding up monthly deliveries to 82 in December to reach an end-year target of 600, company data showed on Tuesday December 7.

The European planemaker booked 318 new orders after a busy Dubai Airshow, but removed or took cancelations for 75 jets including 28 A320neos for Mexico's Interjet, which halted operations last December and has been in debt talks.

Between January and November, Airbus delivered 518 jets and sold 610, or a net total of 368 after adjusting for cancellations, the company said in a monthly bulletin.

Airbus deliveries frequently surge in the final month of the year but supply chain problems have dampened the pace of deliveries from Hamburg in Germany, industry sources say.

Airline executives say a handful of deliveries have been pushed back into next year.

November deliveries were nonetheless slightly ahead of expectations. Reuters last week reported that Airbus deliveries were expected to be in the mid-50s in November.

Airbus handed over 21 aircraft in the last week of the month compared with 15 in the last week of October.

Interjet meanwhile plans to resume flights in 2022 with 10 leased Airbus airplanes after shutting down a year ago when its already-suffering finances were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, company representatives said last week.

Omicron Sets Back Airline Industry's Recovery Hopes

New travel restrictions prompted by the Omicron coronavirus variant have set back the nascent recovery in international flights, creating delays and headaches in some regions, according to airline and airport officials.

The flurry of new testing rules and border closings has raised concerns ahead of the important Christmas travel season, but some airline bosses said they hope any backward moves will be short-lived.

Global airlines have blamed a patchwork of shifting rules for depressed demand for international travel, which is critical for their return to profit following steep COVID-19 pandemic-related losses in 2020.

American Airlines incoming Chief Executive Robert Isom told Reuters the Texas-based carrier's return to profitability is contingent on a full-scale recovery in travel demand. American has the largest debt stock in the U.S. airline industry.

"If there's anything (in the way), it just delays recovery," he said.

He said the airline's domestic business remained strong but the new travel restrictions had dampened demand in some international markets.

Airline stocks have recovered some ground following a sell-off last week. While investors are taking heart from anecdotal evidence that suggests the new variant might not be as lethal as originally feared, it could take weeks, even months to know its effect on the course of the pandemic.

U.N. agencies specializing in aviation and tourism pleaded on Tuesday for travel restrictions in response to new coronavirus variants to be imposed only as a last resort.

Japan has banned foreigners, the United States is requiring a COVID-19 test 24 hours before flying, and travellers to Singapore now must be tested daily for seven days after arrival.

"We were seeing accelerating openings until Omicron," Campbell Wilson, chief executive of Singapore Airlines budget offshoot Scoot, said at an event held in Sydney by market-intelligence company CAPA Centre for Aviation.

"We have seen basically a pause since then," Wilson added.

Airlines and travel agencies are hopeful that rising vaccination rates and new medicines would make a difference.

"This is not the spring of 2020," said Booking Holdings Inc's Chief Executive Glenn Fogel. "Absolutely not."

But Sue Carter, head of Asia Pacific at booking technology firm Travelport, said she has seen some searches go down week on week, adding that traveller confidence tends to be closely linked to government announcements.

A spokesperson for trade group Airports Council International (ACI) World said the global patchwork of travel rules is challenging airport operations and called for better coordination between countries.

At Calgary International Airport, the line upon arrival is longer than it had been before the introduction last week of a plan by Canada to eventually test all passengers arriving from countries other than the United States, an airport spokesperson said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Reuters reporter departing from a U.S. airport to Montreal last week had to repeatedly inform airline agents of an update that exempted Canadian passengers returning to the country after less than 72 hours abroad from needing a COVID-19 test.

Rules brought in after the discovery of Omicron are just the latest in "a constant state of change," said Leslie Dias of Unifor, the union that represents customer service workers at Air Canada among other carriers.

In Australia, fully vaccinated travellers to Sydney and Melbourne must now isolate at their home or a hotel for 72 hours after arrival. An earlier policy of no isolation led Hawaiian Airlines to add five weekly Honolulu-Sydney flights starting this month, rather than an initial plan for three, its chief executive Peter Ingram said.

Qantas Airways Chief Executive Alan Joyce said his hope is that once more is known about Omicron, the 72-hour isolation requirement would be removed.

"We still haven't figured out whether this is a spanner in the works or a fly in the ointment," Association of Asia Pacific Airlines Director General Subhas Menon said of Omicron. "From what we see now, it looks more like a fly in the ointment that is still good for using."

Australian Airlines Gear Up For Price War As New Challengers Enter Market

Australia's domestic airline industry, held back during the pandemic by state border closings, is gearing up for a price war as new entrants into the jet market challenge dominant incumbents Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia.

Regional Express Holdings Ltd (Rex) is expanding on major routes while low-cost start-up Bonza will target thinner leisure routes that are unserved or underserved from next year.

The companies are bringing fresh competition to the market for the first time since Virgin bought independent budget carrier Tigerair Australia in 2013. Lower fares, like Rex's A$69 ($49) one-way tickets on its new Sydney-Brisbane route, are leading others to drop prices.

"This market has never even had three large jet players in it for a sustained period," CAPA Centre for Aviation Chairman Emeritus Peter Harbison said at a conference hosted by his firm. "Who are the winners out of all of this? The Australian travelling public."

The domestic market, down to 17% of pre-COVID passengers in October, when Sydney and Melbourne were locked down, is on its way back as states are so far sticking with plans to open borders despite the threat of the Omicron variant.

The airlines are scrambling for a piece of now-closed Tigerair's 7% market share in a domestic market that historically produced a profit pool of A$1 billion ($711.80 million) a year, according to Qantas data.

Qantas expects to return to pre-pandemic domestic capacity by January and surpass it by April. It is now aiming for 70% market share, up from 62% previously.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline would "be competitive to defend our turf" with the best products and fares.

Australia's competition regulator said on Tuesday that it was closely monitoring capacity and pricing, but analysts say the unusual trading environment could make it more difficult to prove whether activity is anti-competitive or part of a recovery plan.

Qantas says that it wants to generate cash and get idle planes and staff back in the air rather than turn immediate profits and that it has natural advantages such as a strong loyalty programme.

It has launched nearly 50 new domestic routes during the pandemic. Virgin is also adding routes like Perth-Launceston as it looks to keep around one-third of Tigerair's market share, according to chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka.

Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp said his airline would add planes and expand to more big cities, while Bonza Chief Executive Tim Jordan said he believed there would be a profitable niche as an independent budget carrier given Jetstar is owned by Qantas.

"It is about new growth, new opportunities, new markets," Jordan said of Bonza's plans. "It is not about stealing share from anybody."

TUI Reports Loss As Omicron Trumps Summer Recovery

TUI reported an operating loss of over €2 billion for its 2020-2021 financial year and said it may need to cut winter capacity as the Omicron coronavirus variant overshadows hopes of a rebound next summer.

The world's largest holiday company has struggled since pandemic restrictions wreaked havoc on the tourism industry, leaving its hotels, airlines and cruises largely empty since March 2020.

It expects travel bookings to return to pre-pandemic levels by summer 2022 but the Omicron variant has prevented it from giving an outlook for the current fiscal year running from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

"It is clear that now in winter, due to the new variant, there will probably again be a reservation restraint," Chief Executive Officer Fritz Joussen told a news conference on Wednesday December 7.

Frankfurt-listed shares in TUI were down 4% by 0845 GMT on Wednesday December 7.

TUI said it might have to limit its winter programme to the lower end of its guidance for 60-80% of 2019 capacity depending on the fourth wave of the pandemic and possible policy decisions due to the Omicron variant.

To survive the pandemic restrictions, the group has had to take German state aid and raise money through debt and equity including a recent capital increase of €1.1 billion.

Asked about the possibility of another capital increase, the CEO said "nothing can be excluded at the moment."

However, mid-term earnings once the COVID-19 crisis ends should significantly exceed pre-pandemic levels, Joussen said.

"People want to travel and are willing to spend a relatively large amount of money on holidays," he said.

The company, which owns travel agencies, hotels, airlines and cruise ships, said it was currently recording 4.1 million bookings for this winter and summer 2022.

Southwest Expects Improvement In Operating Revenue Growth As Travel Recovers

Southwest Airlines is expecting an improvement in its fourth-quarter operating revenue growth as travel rebounds on easing restrictions and higher vaccination rates.

The airline expects operating revenue to be down 10-15%, compared with its previous forecast of a 15-25% fall.

UK Travel, Leisure Stocks Slip On Reports Of Tougher COVID-19 Curbs

British travel and leisure stocks fell on Wednesday December 8 after media reports that the country could impose tougher COVID-19 rules as early as Thursday December 9 in an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The UK travel and leisure index declined as much as 1.5%. It later pared losses to trade 0.5% lower after BioNTech and Pfizer said a three-shot course of their vaccine was able to neutralise the Omicron variant.

Airlines Easyjet, Wizz Air and British Airways owner IAG, and public transport companies FirstGroup, Stagecoach and National Express dropped between 2.5% and 4%.

Leisure stocks such as cinema chain operator Cineworld , pubs Wetherspoon and Mitchells & Butlers , and Restaurant Group slid 2%-5%.

The tougher rules could include advice to work from home as well as COVID-19 passports for large venues, the reports said.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office had no immediate comment on the reports.

Airlines Say Nations Overreacted To Omicron Variant

Global airlines blasted governments on Wednesday December 8 for worsening the Omicron scare through snap border measures and "rip-off" virus testing regimes, and urged politicians to let travellers make their own decisions based on scientific data.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, predicted "knee-jerk" border restrictions resulting from the coronavirus variant would ease soon, but it was too early to say whether holiday travel would be disrupted.

"We can't shut down everything when a new variant appears," Walsh told a news briefing, adding hasty travel bans had penalised countries like South Africa for reporting findings.

However, he predicted the latest health emergency would be short-lived and said it would not impact IATA forecasts which predict a return of air travel to pre-crisis levels from 2024.

Walsh said competition authorities should investigate the prices charged for COVID-19 tests which in some cases bore no relation to their true cost.

Britain's competition watchdog said in August it would help the government take action against COVID-19 testing companies if it found they were breaching consumer law, amid concerns about the price and reliability of PCR travel tests in the country.

"I hope governments and competition regulators step in and stop consumers being ripped off," Walsh said. "I do think we need to understand how that has happened and where all the money (has) gone."

Airbus Takes Lead In Dutch KLM Jet Contest - Sources

Airbus is closing towards a possible breakthrough at Dutch airline KLM, potentially displacing Boeing as its supplier of medium-haul jets, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday December 8.

The European planemaker has taken the lead in a bid to supply A321neo jets to the Dutch national carrier, beating rival Boeing's 737 MAX, the people said.

Boeing remains in contention to keep its spot as supplier to the group's low-cost carrier Transavia, the people said, asking not to be named. Talks on the widely watched pair of deals could go down to the wire, they cautioned.

Air France-KLM said it had made no decision on a tender announced earlier this year. Airbus and Boeing declined comment.

The Franco-Dutch airline launched a tender earlier this year to renew and expand the medium-haul Boeing 737 fleet at KLM and the French and Dutch operations of Transavia.

Chief Executive Ben Smith has said combined the deal could involve a firm purchase of 80 aircraft with options for another 60 to 80 in what would be the group's biggest single fleet transaction.

Analysts have previously said the competition is Boeing's to lose after a long association with KLM, but Smith stressed in September the group was talking to both major suppliers and holding parallel talks with engine makers.

Factors weighing in Airbus's favour in recent months have included a gradual thawing of relations between French and Dutch arms of the airline group, which have different suppliers, and tensions over recent Boeing 787 delays, the people said.

None of the companies agreed to comment on details of negotiations.

UK Shares Steady As Vaccine Cheer Offsets Fears About New Restrictions

UK's main stock indexes ended flat on Wednesday December 8 after hitting session lows as positive headlines on COVID-19 vaccines helped offset concerns about Britain implementing tougher coronavirus measures as early as Thursday December 9.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 turned negative before ending flat as gains in travel-related and healthcare stocks offset commodity-linked weakness.

Several media reports said Prime Minister Boris Johnson might announce a new coronavirus Plan B which could include advice to work from home and COVID passports for large venues.

However, markets were quick to reverse losses after BioNTech and Pfizer said a three-shot course of their COVID-19 vaccine showed a neutralising effect against the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test.

"The Pfizer news is feeding into that more positive picture that's being built around Omicron," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda.

"This idea is that it's not all doom and gloom, just because this variant is more vaccine resistant, it doesn't mean the vaccines are now useless, is building a more positive picture than what we were facing a week last Friday," Erlam added.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index ended flat, weighed by weakness in industrials and technology stocks.

Cineworld dropped 2.6% and was the top loser on the travel and leisure sub-index.

UK's benchmark FTSE 100 has rebounded to levels seen before the detection of the Omicron variant in late-November, as experts say the new strain might not be as severe as feared.

Tour operator TUI recouped early losses and rose 1.7% despite posting an annual loss of over 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion).

Homebuilder Berkeley Group Holdings added 2.4% as it raised annual profit outlook after sales recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

FACTBOX-Countries Making COVID-19 Vaccines Mandatory

Governments have been making COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups, pushed by a sharp upturn in infections caused by the Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccinations, as well as the new Omicron variant.

A growing number of countries are also making shots compulsory for public servants and other workers.

Here are some countries' vaccine mandates, listed according to categories of people affected:

ALL ADULTS

** GERMANY plans to pass legislation in the national parliament to make vaccination mandatory from February.

** INDONESIA made inoculations mandatory in February, warning that anyone who refused to be vaccinated could be fined or denied social assistance or government services.

** MICRONESIA, a small South Pacific island nation, mandated in July that its adult population be inoculated.

** TAJIKISTAN made coronavirus vaccination mandatory for citizens above 18 years in July.

** TURKMENISTAN has made vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR WORKERS

** CANADA expanded COVID-19 mandates on Dec. 7 to all federally regulated workplaces. The new regulations would come into effect in early 2022.

** COSTA RICA in September mandated all state workers to be vaccinated.

** CROATIA requires from Nov. 15 a digital vaccination certificate from all public sector employees and citizens who need services in public institutions.

** CZECH REPUBLIC announced on Dec. 6 it will order COVID-19 vaccinations for police officers, soldiers and some other professions from March.

** DENMARK passed a bill allowing workplaces from Nov. 26 to require a digital "corona pass" for employees.

** EGYPT mandated public sector employees to either be vaccinated or take a weekly coronavirus test to be allowed to work in government buildings after Nov. 15.

** FIJI introduced a "no jab, no job" policy in August, with unvaccinated public servants forced to go on leave and subsequently dismissed if still unvaccinated by November. Employees at private firms could also face fines and companies could be forced to stop operations over vaccine refusals.

** GHANA will make the vaccine mandatory for targeted groups including all public sector and health workers from Jan. 22.

** HUNGARY said in October it would require employees at state institutions to be vaccinated. It had already made COVID shots mandatory for healthcare workers.

** ITALY made COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers in October. The government extended mandatory vaccination to all school staff, police and the military, beginning from Dec. 15.

** LATVIA on Nov. 12 banned lawmakers who refuse COVID-19 vaccine from voting and docked their pay.. On Nov. 4 it allowed businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a vaccine or transfer to remote work.

** LEBANON will require mandatory vaccination for all civil servants and workers in the education, tourism and public transport sectors as of Jan. 10.

** NEW ZEALAND mandated vaccines for workers of border, education, prison, police and defence force sectors.

** POLAND will require mandatory vaccination for teachers, security personnel and uniformed services from March 1, 2022.

** RUSSIA's capital Moscow ordered all workers with public-facing roles to be vaccinated, while St. Petersburg on Nov. 9 ordered mandatory vaccination for people over 60 and those with chronic illnesses.

** SAUDI ARABIA in May mandated that all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated. People must also be vaccinated in order to enter any government, private, or educational establishment.

** TUNISIA in October mandated officials, employees and visitors to show a card proving inoculation to access public and private administrations.

** TURKEY began demanding negative COVID-19 tests and proof of vaccination for some sectors in August, including teachers and domestic travel employees.

** UKRAINE in October made vaccinations compulsory for public sector employees including teachers. The unvaccinated face restrictions on access to restaurants, sports and other public events.

On Nov. 11, it proposed expanding the list of occupations for compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations to cover medical personnel and municipal employees.

** UNITED STATES President Joe Biden on Sept. 10 ordered all federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated. A mandate that private-sector workers be vaccinated or tested weekly will be enforced from Jan. 4. Biden's executive order requiring new contractors to have employees fully vaccinated by Jan. 18 was blacked by a federal judge on Dec. 7.

HEALTH WORKERS

** AUSTRALIA in late June made vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.

** BRITAIN in October made it mandatory for care home staff in England to be vaccinated. Health workers in England will have to be inoculated by April 1.

** CROATIA requires a digital vaccination certificate for all health and social care workers.

** CZECH REPUBLIC announced on Dec. 6 it will order COVID-19 vaccinations for people working in hospitals and nursing homes from March.

** FINLAND plans to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for health and social care workers.

** FRANCE required all healthcare and care home workers, home aids and urgent care technicians to have had at least their first shot by Sept. 15; around 3,000 workers were suspended for failing to comply. It has postponed implementing a vaccination mandate for health workers in Martinique and Guadeloupe islands to Dec. 31 following protests.

** GERMANY is planning to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory from March 16 for people working in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical practices.

** GREECE made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff in July and healthcare workers in September.

** LEBANON will require mandatory vaccination for all workers in the health sectors as of Jan. 10.

** NEW ZEALAND said in October it would require teachers and workers in the health and disability sectors to be fully vaccinated.

** POLAND will require mandatory vaccination for health care workers from March 1, 2022.

OTHER WORKERS

** Western Australia will require all employees working in mining, oil and gas exploration to have their first dose by Dec. 1 and to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 1.

** CHINA's capital Beijing is demanding a vaccine booster shot for key workers on construction sites, including cooks, security guards and cleaning personnel.

** PHILIPPINES will require in-office workers and employees in public transportation services to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested frequently from Dec. 1, the president's office said on Nov. 12.

** KAZAKHSTAN introduced mandatory vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20.

CHILDREN

** COSTA RICA said on Nov. 6 children aged five and up must get COVID-19 vaccinations.

** LITHUANIA is considering extending COVID pass requirement to children over 12-years-old from those over 16 currently, and making them unavailable to those unvaccinated.

ELDERLY

** CZECH REPUBLIC announced on Dec. 6 it will order COVID-19 vaccinations for all citizens aged 60 and older from March.

** GREECE said on Nov. 30 it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over.

ENTRY TO PUBLIC VENUES

** AUSTRIA placed millions of people not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in lockdown as of Nov. 15. It had already banned the unvaccinated from places including restaurants, hotels, theatres and ski lifts.

** BULGARIA as of Oct. 21 made a COVID-19 "health pass" mandatory for people visiting public venues such as cafes, hotels, concert halls, museums and swimming pools.

** CZECH REPUBLIC on Oct. 20 said it would require restaurants and clubs to check COVID certificates showing a person's vaccination or testing status.

** DENMARK requires a pass when visiting indoor bars, restaurants and other public places.

** EGYPT made vaccination mandatory for public university students to access campuses.

** FRANCE requires a health pass to enter restaurants, cafes, cinemas and museums, among other public venues. Booster shots will become a requirement for a valid health pass, which shows proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test.

** GERMANY's leaders agreed on Dec 2. to bar the unvaccinated from access to all but the most essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and bakeries.

** ITALY tightened curbs on Dec. 6, barring the unvaccinated from accessing indoor seating at bars and restaurants, visiting museums, cinemas and clubs and attending sporting events. A basic green health pass became obligatory for all public transport.

** KENYA requires its residents to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by Dec. 21 to access public services including schools, transport services, immigration and other state offices, hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks and wildlife reserves.

** LEBANON limited entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibody tests.

** MOROCCO introduced a vaccine pass on Oct. 21 for access to all government buildings, as well as spaces such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and transportation.

** NETHERLANDS introduced in September a health pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.

** ROMANIA made health passes mandatory for entry to most public venues from Oct. 25. It allowed entry to most non-essential public venues for those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus and for those who can present a negative COVID-19 test, from Dec. 8.

** SERBIA as of Oct. 23 made a COVID-19 "health pass" mandatory for people who want to visit indoor cafes, hotels and restaurants after 10 p.m.

** SINGAPORE has barred unvaccinated people from entering shopping malls since mid-October.

** SWITZERLAND requires people entering bars, restaurants and fitness centres to show a COVID-status certificate providing proof of vaccination, recovery from infection or a negative test result.

** SOUTH KOREA has asked its citizens to show vaccine passes for visiting 14 designated public spaces, including hospitality and entertainment venues.

** SWEDEN introduced vaccine passes for indoor events with more than 100 people from Dec. 1 and had said it was putting preparations in place to extend it to smaller gatherings, such as in restaurants.

Southwest Airlines Expects To Be Profitable In Fourth Quarter On Stronger Travel Demand

Southwest Airlines Co said on Wednesday December 8 it was expecting to be profitable in the fourth quarter on the back of stronger travel demand and fares.

It had previously forecast a loss for the quarter due to mounting costs.

The Texas-based carrier also said it expects to be "solidly" profitable next year and is trying to ensure adequate staffing as well as restore operational reliability.

Southwest's upbeat outlook comes at a time when the airline industry is grappling with the uncertainty caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant. The flurry of new testing rules and border closings has raised concerns ahead of the important Christmas travel season.

The airline said it has yet to feel the new coronavirus variant's impact as leisure bookings for December travel are topping its expectations. Bookings in the January quarter are also in line with the company's estimates, Southwest added.

Chief Financial Officer Tammy Romo, however, warned that any material impact of the Omicron variant could upset the company's projections.

"Any number of external factors may change and impact this plan," she told investors. "But we were cautious in our assumptions about travel demand."

The company's shares were trading up 0.8% at $45.56.

Southwest, which has had to cancel flights en masse partly due to staff shortages, said its efforts to hire 5,000 employees this year are "going well." The company also plans to add at least 8,000 employees to its workforce next year.

But the carrier said a tight labour market will likely not only pose hiring challenges, but also inflate its costs.

The staffing crunch has forced the company to trim capacity in the quarter through January. In 2022, the carrier expects capacity to be in the range of down 3% to up 2% compared with 2019.

Southwest expects revenue in the quarter through December to recover to at least 90% of the 2019 levels. It refrained from providing any estimates for first-quarter revenue, citing the uncertainty caused by the new COVID-19 variant.

New COVID-19 Strain Hits Revival Of South Africa's International Tourist Trade

Rushdi Harper's tour company in Cape Town was just starting to recover from a disastrous COVID-19 lockdown that had forced him to sell his house just to keep the business going.

Then the Omicron variant of the coronavirus struck.

Until then, Harper's Wow Travel & Tours, for which foreigners make up 80% of business, had been looking forward to a bumper Christmas season when travellers from a cold northern hemisphere - mostly Britain, the United States and Germany - typically head south for the sun.

But Omicron's sudden emergence last month prompted the imposition of international travel curbs on southern Africa, hotspot of Omicron, that have "given us quite a setback again," Harper, the company's managing director, told Reuters.

"Fifty percent of our bookings were cancelled for December alone," he said, and 40% for January, he said at the Cape Town waterfront, with a view of its legendary Table Mountain behind him. "As a small business like ours, that's probably about a million rand ($63,274.72)...lost in a very short space of time."

A succession of tough lockdown restrictions imposed in South Africa in 2020 hammered a tourism sector reliant on foreigners, with businesses closing and shedding thousands of hospitality jobs, before the curbs were eased earlier this year.

Now, travel restrictions imposed by the European Union, Britain and the United States because of Omicron, designated a viral strain of concern by the World Health Organization, have cut off South Africa's three biggest foreign markets.

Wow Travel & Tours started seeing cancellations when news of Omicron broke late in November, with quite a number from Brazil, the United States and Germany, often at the last minute as flights were axed.

Abundant wildlife, stunning scenery and renowned vineyards have made South Africa one of the world's big long-haul travel destinations, establishing tourism as a pillar of the economy.

But coronavirus-driven lockdown and travel restrictions decimated tourist numbers. Total foreign arrivals slumped by 71% to less than five million in 2020 from just over 15.8 million in 2019, according to Statistics South Africa.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive officer of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, told Reuters that a survey of tour operators showed that the cancellations so far are worth about one billion rand. These do not include airlines, restaurants and accommodation.

"It could easily be three billion rand ($191 million) worth of cancellations that we've seen for the festive season," he said.

Big hotel owners Tsogo Sun Hotels, City Lodge Hotel Group, Sun International and Radisson Hotel Group interviewed by Reuters said they too had experienced cancellations of international bookings.

William McIntyre, Regional Director of Africa at Radisson Hotel Group, said its hotels are having to review plans to hire more staff in anticipation of a busy festive season.

"The bookings for December and January led us to believe that 2022 was going to be the year the industry would begin its return to normality," McIntyre said.

Marcel von Aulock, CEO of Tsogo Sun Hotels, which owns and operates over 100 hotels across the African continent, said the group had suffered cancellations of corporate, sporting and cultural events.

"The continuation of these travel bans will have further devastating consequences...(namely) of further job losses and business closures," Sun International said in a statement.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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