News of travel ban end leads Saudis to seek out flight options

News of travel ban end leads Saudis to seek out flight options
Some Saudis booked flights right away, while others preferred to wait until restrictions were lifted around the world to make the most of their vacation. (SPA/File)
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Updated 10 January 2021

News of travel ban end leads Saudis to seek out flight options

News of travel ban end leads Saudis to seek out flight options
  • “The Kingdom has done a lot of effort to fight this pandemic and we are grateful and thankful to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for all these wonderful plans and management”

JEDDAH: Saturday was a busy day of bookings for travel agencies in the Kingdom and they are expecting bumper business ahead following news that international flights will resume for Saudis on March 31.

The Ministry of Interior said on Friday that citizens would be permitted to travel to and from the country from that date, when international flights will also resume.
Al-Maha United Travel has seen high demand for trips to Dubai, London and the US.
“We received many queries on phone calls, our social media accounts and had walk-in clients as well,” the agency’s corporate and holiday supervisor Fawad Iqbal told Arab News. “It was great news after a long time (of waiting) as we suffered the last 10 months without international travel and (with) tourism suspension.”
Flights resume around two weeks before the start of Ramadan, but Iqbal said that the timing should not restrict or slow down bookings in any way.
“I believe it will not (have an) affect as mostly everyone is desperate to travel outside the country, citizens and residents alike. It will boom if the other countries will allow tourists to enter, as many countries have restrictions to allow entry to tourists.”
He said that Saudi Arabia’s travel restrictions had been aimed at ensuring people’s safety in the country, and he welcomed the government’s swift response to the pandemic.
“The Kingdom has done a lot of effort to fight this pandemic and we are grateful and thankful to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for all these wonderful plans and management.”
Saudis had different approaches to their future travel plans upon learning of Friday’s decision. Some booked flights right away, while others preferred to wait until restrictions were lifted around the world to make the most of their vacation.
Airline bookings showed price hikes that varied between 50 to 300 percent for guest class reservations.
Nurse Ghufran Ahmed, 24, favored booking her flight at the end of the year or the beginning of 2022 because she felt that waiting a few more months would not make a difference.
“Lockdowns abroad played a big role in choosing to postpone my travel plans,” she told Arab News. “I would rather wait until all countries lift lockdowns and restrictions. What’s the point of traveling just to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks and so many places to visit are closed?”

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Ministry of Interior said on Friday that citizens would be permitted to travel to and from the country from March 31, when international flights will also resume.

• Flights resume around two weeks before the start of Ramadan.

• Airline bookings showed price hikes that varied between 50 to 300 percent for guest class reservations.

She also said that the point of going on vacation was to travel without worry and to experience activities not usually found in the Kingdom, adding: “I would like to go to a concert for sure, hiking, snorkeling, sports activities with groups.” Others were more eager to take off.
“I would like to travel in the first four to five days of the resumption of flights,” 24-year-old medical intern Sarah Eid told Arab News. “I haven’t booked yet, but that is my plan. We haven’t traveled in a year. The last time I traveled was in February 2020.”
She said she would travel to one of the Gulf countries because they were the safest option.
“I will travel to close countries, either the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait or Bahrain. I haven’t decided yet, but it will be the safest option because they are close and they have control over the spread of the virus just as good as we do in the Kingdom. The Kingdom, of course, has better control over it, but they are as close in containing it. Four to five days in one of these countries. I don’t need to travel far because I would worry about lockdowns.”
An official source at the Ministry of Interior said the decision to lift the travel ban was made following a drop in COVID-19 cases, the Saudi Press Agency reported, despite some countries experiencing a second or even third wave and the emergence of a new variant that spreads at a faster rate.


Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. (SPA)
Updated 54 min 46 sec ago

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
  • The new regulations cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic

RIYADH: The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered the waiving of overdue rents on businesses hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and called for a review of such contracts between tenants and owners.

The steps have been taken in view of the circumstances caused by the pandemic, wherein an obligation or contract cannot be implemented without unusual losses.

The president of the Supreme Court, Khalid bin Abdullah bin Muhammad Al-Luhaidan, approved the decisions backed by 32 members of the assembly, Okaz newspaper reported.

Authorities have set conditions that have to be met before a case can be considered for review under the new regulations.

If a contract was concluded before the commencement of the preventive measures announced in the wake of the pandemic, then the impact was direct and unavoidable. If in such a case, an affected party was not compensated or did not reach a deal to mitigate the impact of the health crisis, then it qualifies for a review and the new regulations will then take effect, said legal sources.

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

It also said the new provisions will be applicable to tenancy contracts and movable properties affected by the pandemic.

It clarified that if, due to the pandemic, a tenant was unable to use the leased property, in whole or in part, the court would reduce the rent as much as the usually intended benefit was reduced.

A lessor, meanwhile, does not have the right to terminate the contract if a tenant is late in paying rent for the period during which it was impossible to fully or partly use the property due to the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHT

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

The new regulations also cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic.

If the pandemic causes an increase to the cost of materials and labor wages, etc., the court shall increase the value of the contract while ensuring the obligor can afford to bear the expense. The obligee, upon increasing the obligation, has the right to request the termination of the contract. If the increase in the cost of materials is temporary, the court reserves the right to temporarily suspend the contract.

If the pandemic causes a shortage of material in the market, the court can reduce the quantity to the extent it deems sufficient to protect the obligor from harm.

Moreover, if the shortage of materials is temporary, the court can temporarily suspend the contract if the person obligated to it is not severely affected by this suspension. If he is harmed, he may request termination of the contract. If the materials were not available at all, leading to the impossibility of implementing the contractual obligations or some of them, the court will terminate the clauses that are impossible to implement upon the request of one of the parties to the contract.

If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. If the other party fears unusual damage due to the suspension, he may request termination of the contract.

In addition, the court also stressed the need to carefully assess the damages on a case-to-case basis, and that one or more experts should do the assessment. While assessing damages, it should be made clear what losses were incurred directly due to the pandemic and had nothing do to with seasonal upswing in certain activities.

The Supreme Court explained that a court is bound, when considering cases arising from contracts and obligations affected by the pandemic, not to apply penalty clause or fines in whole or in part — depending on the case.

In the event that a contract includes a clause of exemption from liability for one of the contracting parties when an emergency or force majeure occurs, the condition has no effect, and the party that breaches the obligation must provide evidence that the pandemic was the reason for the breach.

The affected contracts that are not covered by the provisions of this principle shall be subject to the legal and statutory litigation principles, said the court.

Commenting on the decision, Talal Albotty, the regional director of the Central Region, Salama Insurance Co., said there is a type of insurance called “suspension of operations” because of continuous epidemics, and falls under property insurance.

“This type of insurance can be found in European countries and some Asian countries but it is not applicable in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “The insurance against projects does not exist because when the project stops, insurance stops.”

Regarding the rise in prices of commodities, or the increase in prices because of pandemics and suspension of imports, a condition must be added stating that the value of property or project must increase by 10-25 percent, he added.

“Now most reinsurance companies around the world stopped offering insurance related to pandemics and contagious diseases in most countries, including COVID-19, because their impact was huge and the companies sustained huge losses,” he said.

Saudi lawyer Reem Alajmi said the resolution aims to treat and remedy the losses incurred by parties to the contract in terms of obligations.

“The parties could not fulfil their obligations because of a lack of sufficient resources or suspension of working hours during the pandemic. Fulfilling the obligation fully or partially was difficult because COVID-19 pandemic was a force majeure,” she told Arab News.

According to Alajmi, the effects or damage caused by the pandemic must not be covered by other laws. “Proving the occurrence of damage is the responsibility of the plaintiff and the defendant based on evidence submitted to the court,” she added. “The contracts and obligations are amended accordingly.”