Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of global airline, travel and aviation news.
Shares In Aeromexico Jump Again; Analysts See Speculation At Work
Grupo Aeromexico stock rose sharply for a third day on Wednesday December 22 on speculative buying, analysts said, after plummeting last week on a tender offer that valued the shares near zero in the airline's effort to emerge from bankruptcy.
The shares rose as much as 58%, or 3.43 pesos per share, with a cumulative increase of nearly 200% the week of December 22.
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
The surge comes after the stock slumped to an historic low of 0.90 pesos the week before December 22 after the announcement of a public tender offer by an unnamed third party that proposed offering 0.01 peso for each outstanding Aeromexico share.
"It's speculation, we don't see anything other than that," Carlos Hernandez, an analyst at Masari Casa de Bolsa, said of the market appetite for the airline's stock.
Despite the rally, which has led the stock exchange to repeatedly carry out volatility auctions on Aeromexico's stock, the shares are still below 4 pesos, the price where they traded before the tender announcement. Volatility auctions halt trading when the stock is fluctuating dramatically and seek to set a new stable price.
Analysts and traders said further details on restructuring plans would likely to determine future market moves.
"The company has to clarify the conditions of the takeover bid and then see how professional investors who determine whether or not it's convenient to participate in the takeover behave," said Gustavo Fuentes, an independent market analyst.
Aeromexico said in a statement after close of markets on Wednesday December 22 that the third-party firm Sociedad Alinfra submitted a formal request to Mexico's national banking and securities commission and the country's stock exchange to carry out the public tender, in line with Aeromexico's restructuring plans.
Kenya To Replace Nominal Debt Ceiling With Debt Anchor -Finmin
Kenya aims to replace a nominal legal public debt ceiling with a debt anchor by the end of June 2022, Finance Minister Ukur Yatani has said.
In a Dec. 2 letter to the International Monetary Fund that was made public on Wednesday December 22, Yatani said the government would at the same time take over $827 million of national carrier Kenya Airways' debt.
It will also give the airline $473 million in direct budget support in the fiscal year that ends in June 2022 as well as the subsequent one, Yatani said.
Lufthansa To Cut 33,000 Flights Due To Omicron - FAS Newspaper
Lufthansa plans to cut 33,000 flights from its winter schedule due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant and related travel restrictions, CEO Carsten Spohr told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
"From mid-January to February, we see a sharp downturn in bookings," he told the newspaper on Thursday, adding that 33,000 flights was equivalent to about 10% of the flight plan.
In particular, Lufthansa was feeling the absence of passengers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, which are being hit particularly hard by the pandemic, said Spohr.
He said that the German airline would have cut even more flights in January due to weak demand if it didn't have to comply with European Union regulations on slot usage.
"We have to operate 18,000 additional, unnecessary flights in the winter just to secure our take-off and landing rights," he said.
"While climate-friendly exemptions have been found in almost every other part of the world during the pandemic, the EU does not allow it in the same way," he said.
"This harms the climate and is exactly the opposite of what the EU Commission wants to achieve with its 'Fit for 55' plan."
Turkish Airlines To Offer Pay Rise Of Inflation Plus 65% In 2022 -Union
Turkish Airlines has reached an agreement with its labour union for a pay rise of inflation plus 65% for 2022, the Hava-Is union said on Thursday December 23.
The flag carrier will offer a further increase of inflation plus 5% for the second half of 2022, followed by a rise of inflation plus 1% for each half of 2023, according to the union, which represents more than 80% of the airline's workers.
U.S. To Lift Travel Curbs On Eight African Countries - White House
The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant, the White House said Friday December 24.
Foreign nationals who are barred from the United States because they have been in one of the eight countries within the prior 14 days will again be allowed on U.S.-bound flights leaving after 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 31, a senior official said, confirming a Reuters report.
The United States on Nov. 29 barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in an "abundance of caution" over the variant detected in South Africa.
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted that Biden "will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries" effective Dec. 31.
He said the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted," Munoz tweeted.
Reuters reported earlier U.S. public health agencies had recommended lifting the travel restrictions because retaining them would have not a significant impact on U.S. cases given the widespread current U.S. transmission, confidence that an Omicron-specific vaccine would not be necessary and that existing vaccines and booster shots are highly effective.
"This travel pause has served its purpose. It bought time to understand the science, it gave time to analyze the variant," the official, who did not want to be identified because the decision has not yet been made public, told Reuters.
"This was not meant to keep Omicron out. We knew we couldn't do that. The point was to reduce the number of cases coming in - in those early days and weeks."
The restrictions have not prevented flights or Americans from returning from southern Africa.
Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday December 20 that lifting the restrictions was likely "because we have enough infection in our own country... We're letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the southern African countries."
The official emphasised the restrictions were meant to be temporary and lifting them after about a month "sends a pretty clear signal that there's not going to be a significant penalty" for coming forward to disclose new variant information.
The United States had only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa on Nov. 8 put in place since late January to address COVID-19 concerns.
In the wake of Omicron, the United States tightened testing rules for international travellers and extended a requirement to wear masks on airplanes and at airports through March 18.
On Dec. 6, CDC toughened testing rules for international air travellers arriving in the United States, requiring them to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.
Under prior rules, vaccinated international air travellers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure.
CDC last week started distributing free COVID-19 home test kits to international travellers at several airports. The CDC encourages - but does not mandate - international air travellers to get a new COVID-19 test three to five days after arriving in the United States.
The CDC last month ordered airlines to disclose passenger names and other information about those who have recently been in the eight southern African countries.
Fauci Says U.S. Should Consider Domestic Flight Vaccine Mandate; More Planes Grounded
Rising COVID-19 cases, along with bad weather, caused airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights on Monday December 27, and the spread of the Omicron variant prompted the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert to suggest the government consider mandating vaccines for domestic flights.
Monday's travel woes marked a fourth day of flight cancellations, capping a glum Christmas weekend for thousands of passengers who were left waiting in airport queues and on customer service phone lines to re-book flights.
Airlines have struggled with staffing shortages as the spread of infections blamed on the Omicron variant forced many pilots, cabin crew and other workers to isolate at home.
Winter storms also took a toll on travel. On Monday December 27, airlines canceled more than 1,300 commercial flights within or into and out of the United States. Travel-related stocks fell.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, said a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel should be considered.
"That is just another one of the requirements that I think is reasonable to consider,” Fauci told MSNBC in an interview.
President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters on Monday, declined to say whether he endorsed a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel. The president has previously said he did not consider them necessary.
Fauci appeared to walk back his remarks in a second interview on MSNBC later on Monday, and told CNN in another interview that he did not expect to see a vaccine mandate anytime soon.
"I did not say I support mandates on domestic flights. I said that is something on the table for consideration," Fauci told MSNBC host Joy Reid.
In the CNN interview Monday evening, Fauci said he doubted the Biden administration would call for vaccine mandates for domestic flights "in the reasonable foreseeable future."
The average number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has risen 55% to over 205,000 per day over the last seven days, according to a Reuters tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday December 27 it was shortening the recommended isolation time for infected Americans to five days from 10 days previously, if they are asymptomatic. The move could help airlines and other businesses mitigate staff shortages.
The CDC also said on Monday December 27 it was investigating 68 cruise ships after reports of COVID-19 cases on board.
On Monday December 27, snowy weather in the Pacific Northwest contributed to the cancellation of more than 110 flights scheduled to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
A representative for Alaska Airlines, which canceled more than 140 flights on Monday due partly to snowy conditions in Seattle, told a passenger on Twitter that it would take hours to speak by phone to someone from customer service, a sign of how airlines were overwhelmed with frustrated passengers.
"The hold time is about 7 hours. I am so sorry," Alaska Airlines wrote on Twitter in response to a customer complaint.
Aisling Daniel, an 18-year-old college student, was trying to return home to Anchorage, Alaska, with her younger sister and two black Labrador retrievers on Monday after visiting family in Kansas City. She was stuck in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and holding out hope that her newly booked flight out Monday afternoon would not be canceled.
"The weather and the airport being understaffed is a really big problem here right now," she said.
Harley Garner, a 27-year-old creative strategist from Portland, Oregon, and his brother from Seattle were staying with their parents in Pahrump, Nevada, over the holidays and had planned to fly home Sunday evening. Both brothers' flights - to Portland via Alaska Airlines and to Seattle via Allegiant Airlines - were canceled Sunday afternoon.
After those flights were canceled, the brothers' father was driving them to Bakersfield, California, where they planned to rent a car and then drive to Portland and Seattle, a total of some 17 hours on the road.
Indonesia Allows Boeing's 737 MAX To Fly Again After Deadly Crash
Indonesia has lifted a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX, its transport ministry said on Tuesday December 28, three years after the crash of one of the aircraft operated by domestic carrier Lion Air with the loss of all 189 people on board.
Aviation authorities around the world grounded the aircraft months later after a similarly deadly accident in March 2019 involving one of the aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines.
The approval for the aircraft's return in Indonesia comes months after it returned to service in the United States and Europe, and follows more recent lifting of grounding orders in countries including Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Ethiopia.
The lifting of the ban was effective immediately and it follows the evaluation of changes to the aircraft's system by regulators, the ministry said in a statement.
Airlines must follow airworthiness directives and inspect their planes before they can fly the 737 MAX again, it said, adding that the government would also inspect the planes.
Privately owned Lion Air, which operated 10 of the 737 MAX planes before the ban, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia said it had no plans to reintroduce the plane to its fleet as it focuses on debt restructuring, chief executive Irfan Setiaputra told Reuters.
The state-controlled airline, which had operated one 737 MAX before the ban, has said it plans to cut its fleet from 142 to 66 planes under the plan.
Anton Sahadi, a relative of one of the passengers on board the Lion Air plane that crashed, urged the government to ensure proper management of the risks before returning the aircraft to service "so that no planes of this model will ever fall and kill people again".
"The trauma is still there," he said.
Carnival Says Most Itineraries Unchanged Even As Omicron Cases Rise
Carnival Corp said on Tuesday December 28 a majority of its ships' itineraries were unchanged despite a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which has threatened to stall a recovery in the cruise industry.
The world's largest cruise operator, however, said a few destination ports were reviewing their protocols and processes due to the fast-spreading new variant.
Many passengers and media reports, including those from CNN and Euronews, said authorities of a few ports in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Mexico disallowed passengers to disembark from cruise ships that were carrying active COVID-19 cases.
"Looks like my cruise this Friday is a cruise to no where," wrote one Reddit user on a Royal Caribbean forum late Monday December 27.
Carnival said on Monday December 27 it would find an alternative destination should it be forced to cancel a port.
Royal Caribbean Group did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd declined to comment.
"The cruise lines' reaction to the substantial increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron surge is largely hit or miss," said James Walker, a Miami-based maritime lawyer.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also identified more than 85 cruise ships with COVID-19 cases on board, the agency said on Tuesday December 28.
On Monday December 27, the CDC said 68 ships with COVID-19 cases had met its threshold for an investigation.
The Omicron variant has sparked concerns that U.S. health officials may reintroduce a temporary ban on cruising, just months after U.S. cruise operators resumed guest operations.
Carnival Unit Says Ship Will Not Sail To New York Amid Omicron Worries
Carnival Corp's Cunard unit said on Wednesday December 29 its Queen Mary 2 cruise ship would skip a scheduled stop at New York and instead extend its stay in Barbados until Jan. 2 to bring in more staffers.
The company said its decision to add more crew members was a precautionary measure, but did not expand on why it needed more workers on the ship.
Queen Mary 2 is among the more than 85 ships the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating for onboard COVID-19 cases.
The spread of the Omicron variant has sparked fears that U.S. health officials may reintroduce a temporary ban on cruising, just months after U.S. cruise operators resumed guest operations.
The 28-night Queen Mary 2 ship left Southampton on Dec. 13 and will sail back to the United Kingdom after its stay in Barbados to ensure it reaches the British port city on Jan. 10 as planned.
Carnival said on Tuesday itineraries of most of its ships were unchanged but a few destination ports were reviewing their protocols and processes due to the fast-spreading new variant.
Carnival U.S. shares fell nearly 1% before the bell on Wednesday December 29.
Cunard's Queen Mary 2 Skips Voyage To New York Amid Omicron Worries
Carnival Corp's Cunard cruise line said on Wednesday December 29 its Queen Mary 2 ship would skip a scheduled stop at New York and instead extend its stay in Barbados until Jan. 2 to bring in more staffers.
Cunard said its decision to add more crew members was a precautionary measure, but it did not detail why it needed more workers.
The ship, Cunard's flagship liner named by Queen Elizabeth, is among the more than 85 vessels the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating for COVID-19 cases.
The CDC starts an investigation if 0.10% or more of passengers on guest voyages test positive for COVID-19.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has sparked fears that the CDC may reintroduce a temporary ban on cruising, months after cruise operators resumed operations.
Queen Mary 2, the only ocean liner from Southampton to New York, left the British port city on Dec. 13 and will sail back to the United Kingdom from Barbados to ensure it reaches Southampton on Jan. 10 as planned.
"The trip started out well. The entire ship was tested on our fourth day out of the Brooklyn Red Hook port. As far as we could tell there were five or six cabins affected," retired architect Sandy Weinberg Benjamin, who is cruising with her husband, said.
Few passengers on the 28-night voyage said the mood on Queen Mary 2 had been largely upbeat, although family members of a few guests were concerned due to connectivity issues on the liner.
Cunard said it would arrange flights for guests due to disembark in New York on Jan. 3, but Benjamin said she could not figure out how the cruise line would find flights for more than thousand guests out of Barbados.
Carnival, whose shares fell marginally, said its other brands are not cancelling any cruises.
JetBlue Cuts About 1,280 Flights Through Mid-January On Omicron Hurdles
JetBlue Airways Corp is reducing its schedule through Jan. 13 by about 1,280 flights due to a surge in crew members falling sick from the Omicron coronavirus variant, a spokesperson for the airline told Reuters on Thursday December 30.
Carriers have been cancelling hundreds of flights every day in the United States since Christmas Eve as they grapple with staff shortages due to COVID-19 infections and bad weather in parts of the country.
Over 1,000 flights were cancelled within, into, or out of the United States as of Thursday morning, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.
"We expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crew members are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two," JetBlue's spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down."
COVID-19 cases in the United States have been hitting new highs in the past few days, with the average number of daily confirmed cases touching a new record of 258,312 over the past seven days, a Reuters tally showed on Wednesday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week said it was not currently considering a vaccine mandate for domestic flights. It later shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.
Delta Air Lines Inc soon after updated its policies for workers testing positive for COVID-19 by providing them five days of paid leave to isolate, the New York Times reported on Wednesday December 29, citing an internal company communication.
The company is also encouraging, but not requiring, those workers to take COVID-19 tests to go back to work, according to the report. Delta did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Royal Caribbean Bookings Take A Hit As Omicron Fears Worsen
Royal Caribbean Group said on Thursday December 30 it was grappling with a drop in bookings and a rise in cancellations as COVID-19 cases surge in the United States, driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
U.S. cruise ships have been gradually returning to the seas since late June, but an increase in Omicron cases has sparked calls a temporary ban on cruising, including from Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.
Since the Celebrity Cruises parent resumed operations from U.S. ports in June, the company's cruise ships have ferried 1.1 million passengers, with 1,745 people testing positive for COVID-19 and 41 being hospitalized.
"Our case count has spiked, but the level of severity is significantly milder," Royal Caribbean's chief medical officer, Calvin Johnson, said.
The company said load factors for sailings in the first half of 2022 remain below historical levels, although it said the recent disruption was not as severe as that experienced during the Delta variant wave earlier this year.
Royal Caribbean shares rose nearly 2% in early morning trade as it said bookings for the second half of 2022 continue to be within historical ranges.
Some cruise liners recently had to hold off on disembarking passengers due to active COVID-19 cases on board, or to bring in more workers as a precautionary measure.
Royal Caribbean said on Thursday December 30 it was seeing disruptions at some destinations and that it had canceled or "significantly modified" 16 destination calls out of 331.
The company also said disruptions brought on by the Omicron variant and its impact on labor availability were hurting its ability to offer some onboard services.
Carnival Corp's Cunard unit on Wednesday December 29 said its Queen Mary 2 cruise would miss a scheduled stop at New York and extend its stay in Barbados.
Israel Agrees On More Aid For El Al Airlines Amid COVID Travel Bans
Israel's government said on Thursday December 30 it would give additional aid to El Al Airlines to help compensate for the reimposition of a COVID-19 entry ban on foreign tourists and restrictions on overseas travel by Israelis.
Israel's flag carrier will receive tens of millions of dollars from the state and El Al's controlling shareholders to help it weather the pandemic, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to a Finance Ministry statement.
The aid will be given over the next few months, and Israel's other main airlines, Arkia and Israir, will also be offered a similar deal, the ministry said.
El Al has been pressing the government for another aid package, with Israelis barred by the government from travelling to dozens of countries, including the United States and Britain, and an entry ban on foreigners back in force.
"The new outline will allow (airlines) to overcome the pandemic while maintaining the principle that state aid will be provided along with external capital to strengthen their capital structure," said Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"I hope that in the coming month we will open the skies to those entering and leaving."
Israel had closed its borders in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic. In November 2021, foreigners were briefly allowed in but the rapid spread of the Omicron variant led Israel's government to tighten travel restrictions.
El Al has laid off 1,900 employees - nearly one-third of its staff - as part of a recovery plan mandated by the government to receive a $210 million aid package earlier in the year. It also reduced its fleet to 29 from 45.
The airline also was set to receive another $30 million in aid due to the restrictions over the summer.
El Al lost a net $136.2 million in the third quarter, a period that is typically its strongest, compared with a $146.6 million loss a year earlier. Revenue jumped to $253 million from $39.2 million a year ago, when borders were largely shut.
It had initially believed sales for the fourth quarter would be higher in the wake of the government’s approval for tourists vaccinated within the prior six months to enter Israel as of November 1.
Avoid Cruise Travel As Omicron Cases Surge, Says U.S. CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people should avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status, as daily COVID-19 cases in the country climb to record highs due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The move delivers another blow to the cruise industry that had just started returning to the seas in June after a months-long suspension of voyages caused by the pandemic.
The CDC on Thursday raised its COVID-19 travel health notice level for cruise ships to its highest warning level, citing reports of COVID-19 outbreaks on cruises.
The health agency has investigated and still probing into COVID-19 cases on more than 90 ships. It starts scrutiny if 0.10% or more passengers on guest voyages test positive for COVID-19.
Shares in Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd and Royal Caribbean Group reversed course to fall about 1% after the travel advisory from the CDC.
"The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard," the Cruise Lines International Association said.
Norwegian Cruise, meanwhile, said it believed guests on its ships were better protected from contracting COVID-19 than in any other general population setting.
The company and Carnival said the CDC's decision had not impacted scheduled itineraries.
The CDC said passengers already on cruise ships should get tested three to five days after their trip ends, and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.
The Omicron variant also continued to impact air travel. Total flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States stood at more than 1,180, with over 10,300 flights delayed as of 14:37 ET on Thursday December 30, data from flight-tracking website FlightAware.com showed.
JETBLUE CEO ROBIN HAYES ON RAPID COVID-19 TESTS FOR PASSENGERS SAYS "IT WILL CREATE MANY CHALLENGES" - CNBC INTERVIEW
BRIEF-Jetblue CEO Robin Hayes Says New CDC Guidelines On Quarantining Will Be Helpful In Dealing With Staff Shortages - CNBC Interview
* JETBLUE CEO ROBIN HAYES SAYS NEW CDC GUIDELINES ON QUARANTINING WILL BE HELPFUL IN DEALING WITH STAFF SHORTAGES - CNBC INTERVIEW
* JETBLUE CEO ROBIN HAYES ON RAPID COVID-19 TESTS FOR PASSENGERS SAYS "IT WILL CREATE MANY CHALLENGES" - CNBC INTERVIEW
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:
** AUSTRIA: all over 14s from February 2022; holdouts can be fined up to €3,600 every three months
** ECUADOR: obligatory, except for people who have a relevant medical condition or incompatibility
** GERMANY: plans to make mandatory for all adults from February
** INDONESIA: all adults, with fines or refusal of social assistance or government services for the unvaccinated.
** MICRONESIA: all adults
** TAJIKISTAN: all over 18s
** TURKMENISTAN: all over 18s
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR WORKERS
** CANADA: all federally regulated workplaces from early 2022
** COSTA RICA: all state workers
** CROATIA: all public sector employees, citizens who need services in public institutions
** CZECH REPUBLIC: police officers, soldiers and some other professions from March
** DENMARK: workplaces allowed to require a digital "corona pass" for employees
** EGYPT: vaccination or weekly COVID-19 test required from public sector employees to work in government buildings
** FIJI: public servants, employees at private firms
** FRANCE: public officials or employees, including civil security pilots, flight personnel providing care for victims, soldiers permanently assigned to civil security missions, firefighters
** GHANA: targeted groups including all public sector and health workers from Jan. 22
** HUNGARY: employees at state institutions
** ITALY: all workers, school staff, police, military
** LATVIA: required for lawmakers to be able to vote and to receive full pay; businesses allowed to fire unvaccinated workers
** LEBANON: all civil servants and workers in the education, tourism and public transport sectors from Jan. 10
** NEW ZEALAND: workers of border, prison, police and defence force sectors; education sector by Jan. 1
** OMAN: public or private sector employees for entry to workplace
** POLAND: teachers, security personnel and uniformed services from March 1, 2022
** RUSSIA: workers with public-facing roles in Moscow;
** SAUDI ARABIA: public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace; people entering government, private, or educational establishments
** TUNISIA: officials, employees and visitors accessing public and private administrations
** TURKEY: some sectors including teachers and domestic travel employees
** UKRAINE: public sector employees including teachers; extension to medical personnel and municipal employees under consideration
** UNITED STATES: all federal workers, contractors (temporarily blocked from enforcing nationwide), private sector workers in companies with 100 or more employees (reinstated on Dec. 18), public-sector workers (contested in New York court)
** AUSTRALIA: high-risk aged-care workers, employees in quarantine hotels
** BRITAIN: care home staff in England, health workers in England by April 1
** CROATIA: health and social care workers
** CZECH REPUBLIC: hospitals and nursing homes employees from March 2022
** FINLAND: plans to make vaccines mandatory for health and social care workers
** FRANCE: healthcare and care home workers, home aids and urgent care technicians
** GERMANY: workers of hospitals, doctor's offices and nursing homes by mid-March.
** GREECE: nursing home staff, healthcare workers
** HUNGARY: healthcare workers
** LEBANON: health sectors from Jan. 10, 2022
** NEW ZEALAND: health and disability sector workers
** POLAND: health care workers from March 1, 2022
** Western Australia: employees of mining, oil and gas exploration sectors by Jan. 1, 2022
** CHINA: booster shot required in Beijing for key workers on construction sites, including cooks, security guards and cleaning personnel
** PHILIPPINES: in-office workers and employees in public transportation services
** KAZAKHSTAN: mandatory vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20
** COSTA RICA: over 5s
** LITHUANIA: over 16s, considering for over 12s
** CZECH REPUBLIC: over 60s from March
** GREECE: over 60s
** MALAYSIA: over 60s and all adult recipients of the Sinovac vaccine required to get a booster dose by Feb.
** RUSSIA: over 60s and chronically ill in St. Petersburg
ENTRY TO PUBLIC VENUES
** AUSTRIA: public places including restaurants, hotels, theatres and ski lifts
** BRITAIN: vaccination or negative test for all over-18s at night clubs and other venues in Scotland; at nightclubs, some indoor and outdoor unseated venues and all venues with more than 10,000 people in England
** BULGARIA: "health pass" for visitors of public venues such as cafes, hotels, concert halls, museums and swimming pools
** CZECH REPUBLIC: vaccination certificates or testing status required at restaurants and clubs
** DENMARK: health pass required for entry to indoor bars, restaurants and other public places
** EGYPT: vaccination mandatory for public university students to access campuses
** FRANCE: health pass required for restaurants, cafes, cinemas and museums, other public venues. Health pass will be transformed into a vaccination pass, mandatory for some professionals and for entry to cinemas and bars from first half of Jan.
** GERMANY: vaccination required for all but the most essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and bakeries
** ITALY: vaccination required for indoor seating at bars, restaurants, visiting museums, cinemas, clubs, attending sporting events; basic green health pass obligatory for all public transport
** KENYA: court temporarily halted vaccination requirement by Dec. 21 to access public services including schools, transport services, immigration and other state offices, hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks, wildlife reserves
** LEBANON: vaccine certificate or antibody tests required for entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches
** MOROCCO: vaccine required for access to all government buildings, spaces such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, gyms, transportation
** NETHERLANDS: health pass mandatory to enter bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events
** ROMANIA: health pass, negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery mandatory for entry to most public venues including majority of non-essential ones
** SERBIA: health pass mandatory to visit indoor cafes, hotels and restaurants after 10 p.m.
** SINGAPORE: vaccination necessary to enter shopping malls; considers requiring a booster shot to qualify as fully vaccinated
** SWITZERLAND: proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test required to access bars, restaurants and fitness centres
** SOUTH KOREA: vaccine pass mandatory to access 14 designated public spaces, including hospitality and entertainment venues; requirement extended to over 12s from February
** SWEDEN: vaccine passes required for indoor events with more than 100 people; to be extended to smaller gatherings, such as in restaurants.
** UKRAINE: restrictions for unvaccinated on access to restaurants, sports and other public events
Spirit Airlines To Double Flight Attendant Pay Through Jan. 4 -Union
Spirit Airlines Inc flight attendants are receiving double pay on any work through Jan. 4, their union said, as the budget carrier scrambles to keep its schedules intact after U.S. airlines were hammered by a week of mass cancellations.
United Airlines is offering its pilots triple pay to pick up trips for most of January, CNBC reported on Friday December 31, citing a company staff note.
United did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The holiday season has been marred by delayed or canceled flights, causing chaos at most U.S. airports as sick staff and fear of contracting COVID-19 grow. Coupled with the prospect of dealing with unruly passengers, many pilots and cabin crew are even forgoing overtime incentives.
That hesitancy, combined with bad weather and tight staffing, has led to over 8,000 flight cancellations over the past eight days, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.
"All flight attendants, regardless of how you have obtained your pairing, will be receiving 200% pay for any pairing that touches Dec. 28 through Jan. 4," the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement. The union represented about 4,000 flights attendants at Spirit Airlines, according to the carrier's latest annual filing.
Earlier this year, Florida-based Spirit Airlines was forced to cancel nearly 3,000 flights due to bad weather and staffing shortages.
JetBlue Airways Corp said in a customer note on Thursday December 30 that 75% of its crew is based in the U.S. Northeast, a region that has been hit hard by COVID-19 infections. The carrier has already cut its schedule through Jan. 13 by about 1,280 flights.
Alaska Air Group Inc said while the pandemic had hit its operations, the vast majority of cancellations and delays were due to bad weather.
The airline last week agreed to offer some benefits such as instituting pay protections in case of any reassignments on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day, the AFA said.
Hawaiian Airlines said it had not offered new incentives to its crew for working during the holiday period.
SkyWest Airlines said its operations continued to be hit due to weather and the Omicron variant, which is spreading rapidly and causing record-breaking cases across the United States.
COVID Outbreak Ends Cruise For Thousands On German Ship In Lisbon
The German operator of a cruise ship that has been stuck in Lisbon's port due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among its crew pulled the plug on the voyage on Sunday January 2 after some passengers tested positive, port authorities said.
The AIDAnova, with 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew onboard docked in Lisbon on Dec. 29 while en route to the island of Madeira for New Year's Eve celebrations, but was unable to continue the journey after 52 cases of COVID-19 were detected among the fully-vaccinated crew.
It had been allowed to leave port and head to the Spanish island of Lanzarote on Sunday, but now another 12 people have tested positive, including four passengers, captain of the port Diogo Vieira Branco told TSF radio.
"The company's protocol was immediately actioned, with those infected, who are asymptomatic or displaying light symptoms, immediately isolated on the ship ... and the company decided to end the cruise and disembark the passengers," he said.
The passengers would be transported home by air, he added, without specifying when.
The company, AIDA Cruises, which is a subsidiary of Carnival Corp, did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.
Reuters footage showed passengers still enjoying afternoon sun on decks with their drinks, and local media said the disembarking would begin after 6 a.m. on Monday.
The crew who had tested positive between Wednesday and Friday were transferred to Lisbon hotels and were in isolation there.
On Thursday December 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to avoid travelling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status.
The move delivered another blow to the industry that only returned to the seas in June after a months-long suspension of voyages caused by the pandemic.
Omicron-Related Disruptions Cause Over 4,000 Flight Cancellations To Kick Off 2022
Over 4,000 flights were cancelled around the world on Sunday January 2, more than half of them U.S. flights, adding to the toll of holiday week travel disruptions due to adverse weather and the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
The flights cancelled by 8 pm GMT on Sunday January 2 included over 2,400 entering, departing from or within the United States, according to tracking website FlightAware.com. Globally, more than 11,200 flights were delayed.
Among the airlines with most cancellations were SkyWest and SouthWest, with 510 and 419 cancellations respectively, FlightAware showed.
The Christmas and New Year holidays are typically a peak time for air travel, but the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections, forcing airlines to cancel flights as pilots and cabin crew quarantine.
Transportation agencies across the United States were also suspending or reducing services due to coronavirus-related staff shortages.
Omicron has brought record case counts and dampened New Year festivities around much of the world.
The rise in U.S. COVID cases had caused some companies to change plans to increase the number of employees working from their offices from Monday.
U.S. authorities registered at least 346,869 new coronavirus on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rose by at least 377 to 828,562.
U.S. airline cabin crew, pilots and support staff were reluctant to work overtime during the holidays, despite offers of hefty financial incentives. Many feared contracting COVID-19 and did not welcome the prospect of dealing with unruly passengers, some airline unions said.
In the months preceding the holidays, airlines were wooing employees to ensure solid staffing, after furloughing or laying off thousands over the last 18 months as the pandemic hobbled the industry.
Jet Maker Safran Plans 12,000 Hires In 2022 As Air Traffic Recovers
Jet engine maker Safran believes the worst of the crisis in aviation caused by COVID-19 is over, and plans to hire 12,000 people worldwide this year to build its capacity back up, its chief executive told a French newspaper.
"Today air traffic is recovering, the placing of orders is dynamic, the tempo is increasing. The worst is behind us. I am very confident," Olivier Andries told the Figaro.
"We are in the process of coming out of the crisis and we've decided to relaunch our hiring, with 12,000 hires planned in 2022, of which 3,000 will be in France," he was quoted as saying.
Safran is the world's third largest aerospace contractor and with General Electric it co-produces engines for Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Safran, along with most other players in the sector, reduced capacity and cut some jobs in response to the sharp downturn in orders from airlines.
Malaysia's AirAsia Seeks To Rename Company As Capital A
AirAsia Group Berhad has proposed changing its company name to Capital A Berhad, the operator of Malaysia's flagship budget airline said in a stock exchange filing on Monday January 3.
The airline group said the proposed name was approved by the Companies Commission of Malaysia and is now subject to shareholders' approval at a general meeting to be convened at a date to be announced.
Brazilian Cruise Ships Pause Operations After COVID-19 Outbreaks
Cruise ship companies in Brazil will suspend most operations until Jan. 21, an industry association said on Monday January 3, after health authorities recommended against cruise ship travel following several offshore outbreaks of the coronavirus.
The industry association Clia said no ships will cast off during the "voluntary" suspension period, which could be extended, while those at sea will complete their voyages.
Last week, Brazil's national health regulator Anvisa recommended cruise companies temporarily pause operations after five ships off Brazil's coast registered over 300 new COVID-19 cases.
"During this pause, Clia is working on behalf of the cruise companies that operate in the country - MSC Cruzeiros and Costa Cruzeiros - to look for points of alignment with the federal government, Anvisa, states and municipalities," the association said in a statement.
MSC Cruzeiros and Costa Cruzeiros are subsidiaries of Swiss-Italian cruise line MSC Cruises and Carnival Corp, respectively. Clia made its announcement after federal, state and municipal officials met with representatives of the tourism industry about the issue.
Verizon, AT&T To Delay 5G Deployment, Averting Aviation Standoff
Verizon Communications and AT&T Inc said late on Monday January 3 they had agreed to a two-week delay in deploying C-Band wireless spectrum, averting an aviation safety standoff that threatened to disrupt flights starting this week.
The carriers had faced pressure from the White House, airlines and aviation unions to delay the deployment amid concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
The agreement pushes back the deployment date to Jan. 19. Verizon said the delay "promises the certainty of bringing this nation our game-changing 5G network in January." AT&T said it agreed to the delay at the request of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
"We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues," AT&T said.
Over the next two weeks, regulators, airlines and wireless carriers will look at ways of minimizing the potential impact of interference on flight operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) praised the wireless carriers agreeing to a delay and the safety measures they offered. "We look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment," the FAA said. Earlier on Monday, groups representing U.S. airlines, aircraft manufacturers and airports had urged the White House to intervene to delay the use by wireless carriers of C-Band spectrum for 5G, which the carriers won in an $80 billion government auction.
The delay came after the chief executives of AT&T and Verizon on Sunday had rejected a request to push back the planned Jan. 5 introduction of new 5G wireless service over aviation safety concerns but offered to temporarily adopt new safeguards.
Buttigieg and FAA chief Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg on Friday for a delay of up to two weeks.
In December, the FAA warned that interference from the planned use of 5G wireless spectrum posed an air safety risk and could result in flight diversions. But it had not yet issued formal notices that would further outline potential impacts.
AT&T and Verizon in November had agreed to delay the commercial launch of C-band wireless service for 30 days to Jan. 5 and to temporarily adopt some safeguards. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, had said on Twitter that "if medicine delivered to hospitals and homes is delayed" Verizon would be responsible.
"If passengers are stranded, thank @Verizon," Nelson said. "Their incentive is money. Our incentive is safety. It’s the purest form of profits over people."
The wireless companies Sunday January 2 said they would not deploy 5G around airports for six months and said it was comparable to safeguards employed in France but had rejected any broader limitation on using C-Band spectrum. That exclusion zone around airports is not as large as the FAA wants.
The trade group Airlines for America, representing American Airlines, FedEx and other carriers, had asked the Federal Communications Commission to halt deployment around many airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.
Travel Stocks Drive European Shares To New Highs
European stocks extended the new year rally on Tuesday January 4 with economy-sensitive travel, retail and commodity stocks leading the gains on fresh signs that the Omicron virus variant might be less severe than initially feared.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.6% to 492.42 by 0809 GMT o Tuesday January 4, hitting a record high after Wall Street's S&P 500 and Dow closed at all-time highs overnight.
The travel & leisure index jumped 2.5% to its highest in more than six weeks. Airlines Ryanair, Aer Lingus and British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) and Wizz Air gained between 6% and 8%.
London's FTSE 100 gained 1%, catching up with a global rally as trade resumed after a long holiday weekend.
Britain's vaccine minister said people being hospitalised with COVID-19 in the United Kingdom were broadly showing less severe symptoms than before.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said although the surge of the fast-spreading Omicron variant was disrupting some sectors, there was no risk of it "paralysing" the economy, and stuck to a forecast of 4% growth for France's GDP in 2022.
Banks And Travel Stocks Power Europe's STOXX 600 To New Peaks
European stocks extended their new year rally on Tuesday January 4, led by economically sensitive banks and travel stocks on signs that the Omicron coronavirus variant might be less severe than initially feared.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended 0.8% higher at 494.02 points, hitting a record high for a second consecutive session.
The European banks subindex jumped 3.3% to November highs, and was the best performer for the day as government bond yields on both sides of the Atlantic got a boost from expectations of tighter monetary policy.
Citigroup said it was overweight on European banks, citing potential interest rate hikes, profit growth, and capital returns. The brokerage ranked BNP Paribas, Lloyds and UBS as its top picks.
Europe's travel and leisure index jumped 3.5% to its highest in more than six weeks. British airlines soared, with Ryanair and Aer Lingus and British Airways owner IAG climbing 8.9% and 11.3%, respectively.
Wizz Air jumped 12.2%, leading gains in the STOXX 600 after reporting a spike in December traffic.
London's FTSE 100 gained 1.6%, catching up with a global rally as trade resumed after a long holiday weekend.
"There are tentative signs that this variant may not be as bad as feared," Max Kettner, chief multi-asset strategist at HSBC, said in a note.
"UK hospitalisations have increased in the past couple of days, but the link clearly appears to be weaker than during the previous winter wave. As such, the sensitivity of cases to hospitalisations has barely budged so far. If that trend was to continue, that's good news."
Britain's vaccine minister said people being hospitalised with COVID-19 in the United Kingdom were broadly showing less severe symptoms than before.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said although the surge of the Omicron variant was disrupting some sectors, there was no risk of it "paralysing" the economy, and stuck to a forecast of 4% growth for 2022 GDP.
Stock markets in Europe and the United States hit a series of record highs in 2021 as vaccine rollouts and huge stimulus packages to boost the pandemic-hit global economy offset worries about persistently high inflation and new COVID-19 variants.
Stay-at-home stocks including food delivery companies Delivery Hero and Just Eat Takeaway.com fell between 7% and 8%, while major healthcare names also retreated.
Meanwhile, data showed German unemployment fell more than expected in December, in a further sign that the labour market in Europe's largest economy remains resilient