British Airways to drop 15 long-haul routes, including Jeddah and Abu Dhabi

British Airways had said they did not expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. (File/AFP)
British Airways had said they did not expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 December 2020

British Airways to drop 15 long-haul routes, including Jeddah and Abu Dhabi

British Airways to drop 15 long-haul routes, including Jeddah and Abu Dhabi
  • Airline forced to make further cuts, struggling to cope with COVID-19

RIYADH: British Airways has canceled services to more than 15 long-haul destinations next year, according to an article from BBC News.
The article stated that Muscat, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, three of the airline’s destinations in the Middle East, are to be axed. Other routes, including Riyadh, Bahrain and Kuwait, remain on the list for now.
The airline will also temporarily suspend flights to Sydney, Bangkok and San Jose during the summer of 2021.
Routes to cities in North America, such as Pittsburgh, Calgary and Charleston, have also been cut, alongside flights to Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Osaka. The Seychelles, a popular winter holiday destination for Brits, has also been axed.
A request for comment from British Airways was not returned, but the BBC said that passengers had contacted them to say they had trips canceled in 2021 and were waiting to know whether they would receive a refund or a flight voucher.
The British broadcaster also reported that the airline had apologized and that customers on canceled flights were entitled to a full refund.
The news comes as many other airlines were also forced to cut staff and routes as travel rates dropped due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
British Airways said previously that the pandemic had hit them “harder than anything ever before,” with losses that outstripped even the financial crisis of 2008 and the September 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
Losses totaled almost £4 billion ($5.37 billion) in the first half of this year.
The airline was also in the headlines this summer when it made about 10,000 staff redundant as it fought to save money and limit burning through cash reserves as passenger numbers collapsed.
It also announced in October that CEO Alex Cruz would be replaced by Ireland’s Aer Lingus CEO Sean Doyle.
Previously, British Airways had said they did not expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, despite the promise of several new COVID-19 vaccines.
However, with a new strain of the virus being detected in several countries, the UK most prominent among them, Saudi Arabia has followed suit with more than 30 other countries and initiated a new, week-long ban on international flights in and out of the Kingdom.
Saudi citizens who were set to fly home from London on the night the lockdown began were escorted off their scheduled flights and provided with hotel accommodations until further notice.
As the new COVID-19 strain is still being studied, Britain has initiated a Tier 4 Lockdown protocol, calling the situation “out of control.”


Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s parliament approved the 2021-22 state budget in a tense session that managed to temporarily break a deadlock with the government that has blocked reforms in the Gulf state.

But chaos broke out after the vote, supported by 32 out of 63 lawmakers in attendance including 50 elected members and government ministers. Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled.

The session had gone ahead despite opposition lawmakers once again occupying seats reserved for ministers, a tactic they have used in recent weeks to try to highlight their demand to question the prime minister.

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim called for a special session to discuss the budget at a time when the OPEC nation is trying boost state finances and support an economy that shrank 9.9 percent in 2020 due to low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget, proposed by the government in January, had projected 23.05 billion dinars ($76.65 billion) in expenditure for the fiscal year that started on April 1, and a deficit of 12.1 billion dinars.

“We have the right to request a special session because all regular sessions have been disrupted,” Ghanim said.

Ministers stood at an entrance to the hall after MPs took their seats and some lawmakers had rapped on tables to try to disrupt the discussions.

Frequent rows between the government and assembly have over decades led to successive cabinet reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reform.

Lawmakers want to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah over the constitutionality of a motion passed in March delaying any questioning of the premier until the end of 2022 along with other issues such as corruption.

Although the emir has final say over state matters, Kuwait is the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can block laws and question ministers.

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic
Updated 22 min 34 sec ago

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic
  • It marks the first loss in years for the investment arm of Dubai government, which boasts a range of assets, including the Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates

DUBAI: Dubai’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund announced Tuesday a net loss of $5.1 billion over the past year, highlighting the toll that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on the company’s vast assets and the uncertainty around the emirate’s post-pandemic recovery.
The Investment Corporation of Dubai, the huge holding company behind many of the emirate’s industrial powerhouses, reported revenue of $37 billion in 2020, a sharp drop of over 40 percent compared to the year before.
It marks the first loss in years for the investment arm of Dubai government, which boasts a range of assets, including the Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, the lucrative Dubai Duty Free and master-developer Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. The firm turned a profit of $4.9 billion in 2019.
In reporting the loss, the conglomerate cited the severe effects of the coronavirus on travel, hospitality, retail and real estate — all industries that power Dubai, with its cavernous malls and luxury hotels. With 40 major holdings, the firm is often viewed as a barometer for the health of the city’s service-heavy economy.
Any profits churned out last year largely stemmed from the fund’s holdings in financial services such as Emirates NBD, among the top banks in the United Arab Emirates, which it said remained solid amid the pandemic’s upheaval.
The Investment Corp. report came a week after long-haul carrier Emirates posted a staggering loss of $5.5 billion in 2020 — its first in three decades as the travel industry faced a downturn like no other. The Dubai government extended the struggling airline a $3.1 cash infusion as its revenue dropped 66 percent — a vivid sign of just how critical Emirates Air is to Dubai, a futuristic city-state between Europe and Asia founded on the promise of globalization. For comparison, during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Emirates netted profits of $1.9 billion — a record it has not repeated since.
In its statement, ICD described the many headwinds of 2020, from grounded flights to low oil prices. Although Dubai is not oil-rich like the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi, its economy feeds on petrodollars.
Despite the challenges, Mohammed Al-Shaibani, the company’s CEO, focused on hopes for a rebound in tourism and travel, stoked by the UAE’s vaccination campaign, among the fastest in the world.
“Our businesses are today strongly positioned to seize the opportunities presented by global economic activities now gaining momentum with the international vaccine roll-out,” Al-Shaibani said.


Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists
Updated 56 min 45 sec ago

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists
  • Infections have risen in the UAE in the past month, and Abu Dhabi still has restrictions on entry, including home quarantine and PCR testing at intervals after arrival

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is offering tourists free COVID-19 vaccinations that were previously restricted to UAE citizens and residency visa holders.
There is no indication that the change applies to Dubai, the most populous emirate, or the other five emirates that make up the UAE.
Visitors with visas issued by Abu Dhabi and passport holders eligible for tourist visas when they arrive in the UAE through Abu Dhabi can book free vaccines, according to information provided by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), which operates the emirate’s public health infrastructure.
Holders of expired residency or entry visas are also eligible for free vaccinations, Abu Dhabi Media Office said on June 11.
Job losses and travel restrictions during the pandemic mean some people’s residency visas have expired or have been canceled when they were made redundant.
UAE Health authorities said this month nearly 85 percent of the eligible population had received at least one vaccine dose, but did not say how many had had two doses.
Infections have risen in the UAE in the past month, and Abu Dhabi still has restrictions on entry, including home quarantine and PCR testing at intervals after arrival. People driving from other emirates are tested to show they are not infected.
Travelers from 27 countries including China, Germany and the United States can enter without quarantine on arrival.
SEHA offers COVID-19 vaccines by China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm and by Pfizer/BioNTech in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai Media Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether eligibility criteria was to change. Dubai Health Authority information says vaccines are given only to citizens and holders of valid Dubai residency visas.


OPEC+ said to discuss gradual oil output rise from August

OPEC+ said to discuss gradual oil output rise from August
Updated 22 June 2021

OPEC+ said to discuss gradual oil output rise from August

OPEC+ said to discuss gradual oil output rise from August
  • OPEC+ is returning 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs

DUBAI: OPEC+ is discussing a further gradual increase in oil output from August as oil prices rise on demand recovery, but no decision had been taken on the exact volume yet, two OPEC+ sources familiar with the talks said on Tuesday.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs. OPEC+ meets next on July 1.
“It is highly possible to increase gradually from August,” said one of the sources, adding that no final decision had been made and the exact volumes are yet to be agreed on.
Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent hitting $75 per barrel for the first time since April 2019, as investors remained bullish about recovery in oil demand and concerns eased over a quick return of Iranian crude to the market.


Does Iceland tourism rebound provide hope for Dubai?

Does Iceland tourism rebound provide hope for Dubai?
Updated 22 June 2021

Does Iceland tourism rebound provide hope for Dubai?

Does Iceland tourism rebound provide hope for Dubai?
  • Dubai is traditionally a popular destination for British holidaymakers
  • Britain is working on easing travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people to allow them to take a summer holiday

DUBAI: Iceland’s fourteen-fold increase in tourist arrivals in May compared to a year earlier highlights the extent of pent up demand for travel and could provide lessons for other emerging economies, according to research group Tellimer.

Similar to Dubai around the turn of the year, Iceland is currently demonstrating the pent-up demand for tourism, Tellimer said in a strategy note on Tuesday.
“I can attest to the unpleasant experience of spending 11 nights in a UK government quarantine hotel. I traveled from the UAE, which is a “red list” country despite doing a much better job of managing Covid than many on the UK’s “amber list,” and despite being personally very fortunate, by global standards, to have two doses of the Pfizer vaccine by virtue of being a Dubai resident,” said report author Hasnain Mailk. “If I had more time the route I might have taken would have been to spend ten days in Iceland, which is on the UK’s ‘green list.’”
Proof of vaccine means tourists can enter Iceland, take a free PCR test on arrival, and start their holiday with minimum fuss.
“Iceland, like other tourism destinations, is doing whatever it takes to re-open, but, of course, the resumption of tourism also requires a cooperative, competent, and unbiased policy from the country of a visitor’s origin or ultimate destination,” said Malik. “In the last two months, Iceland is providing an example of how vast the pent-up demand is for international tourism. It follows a similar experience in Dubai around the turn of the year. It remains to be seen whether there is a similar spike in infections as seen in Dubai (which subsequently moderated).”
Dubai, which has been urging UK authorities to ease travel restrictions to the emirate, is traditionally a popular destination for British holidaymakers.
Britain is working on easing travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people to allow them to take a summer holiday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday. However the plans are not yet finalized.