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Hawaiian airline to suspend its Beijing flight from October

Monitoring Desk

HAWAII: Hawaiian Airlines said on Tuesday that it has decided to suspend its thrice-weekly non-stop flight between Honolulu and Beijing after the National Day Golden Week holiday in October.

Passengers with tickets for after the end of regular scheduled service will be offered a full refund, or the option of traveling on earlier dates on available flights, the airline, a unit of Hawaiian Holdings Inc, said in a statement.

Hawaiian, which gave no reason for the suspension, said it intends to return to China and would maintain its sales partnership, sales agent, and its representative office in the country.

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Empty hotels, idle boats: What happens when a Pacific island upsets China

KOROR, Palau (Reuters): Empty hotel rooms, idle tour boats and shuttered travel agencies reveal widening fissures in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, which is caught in an escalating diplomatic tug-of-war between China and Taiwan.

Late last year, China effectively banned tour groups to the idyllic tropical archipelago, branding it an illegal destination due to its lack of diplomatic status.

As China extends its influence across the Pacific, Palau is one of Taipei’s 18 remaining allies worldwide and is under pressure to switch allegiances, officials and business people there say.

“There is an ongoing discussion about China weaponizing tourism,” said Jeffrey Barabe, owner of Palau Central Hotel and Palau Carolines Resort in Koror. “Some believe that the dollars were allowed to flow in and now they are pulling it back to try and get Palau to establish ties diplomatically.”

In the commercial center of Koror, the Chinese pullback is obvious. Hotel blocks and restaurants stand empty, travel agencies are boarded and boats which take tourists to Palau’s green, mushroom shaped Rock Islands are docked at the piers.

Prior to the ban, Chinese tourists accounted for about half the visitors to Palau. Of the 122,000 visitors in 2017, 55,000 were from China and 9,000 from Taiwan, official data showed.

Chinese investors had also gone on a buying frenzy, building hotels, opening businesses and securing large swathes of prime coastal real estate. The decline since the ban was announced has been so sharp, charter airline Palau Pacific Airways announced in July it would terminate flights to China, four hours away, from the end of this month.

The Chinese government was “putting an effort to slow or stop tourists going to Palau”, said the Taiwanese-controlled airline, which has experienced a 50 percent fall in bookings since the China restrictions began.

China has previously used its tourism clout as a diplomatic tool, last year halting tours to South Korea after Seoul installed a controversial U.S. missile defense system.

Asked if designating Palau an illegal destination was a way of putting pressure on it to move away from Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said relations with other countries had to happen under the framework of the “one China” principle.

“The one China principle is the pre-condition and political foundation for China to maintain and develop friendly cooperative relations with all countries around the world,” it said in a statement to Reuters, without specifically addressing the Palau issue. The “one China” principle is a core government policy that states Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says China has lured four countries to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the past two years by offering generous aid packages and investment.

“While Taiwan faces serious diplomatic challenges, the government will not bow down to pressure from Beijing,” the ministry said on its website. “Taiwan will work with friendly nations to uphold regional peace and stability and ensure our rightful place in the international community.”

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said there had been no official communication from Beijing on the tourism restrictions.

“It is not a secret that China would like us and the diplomatic friends of Taiwan to switch to them, but for Palau it is not our choosing to decide the one China policy,” he told Reuters in an interview in Palau’s second biggest city, Meyuns.

Remengesau, whose second and final term as president ends in January 2021, said Palau welcomed investment and tourism from China but the current administration’s principles and democratic ideals aligned more closely with Taiwan.

Palau was adapting to the China pullback by focusing on higher spending visitors rather than mass tourism, which had taken a toll on the environment, said Remengesau, dressed in a lemon colored shirt and white shell necklace.

One of Palau’s key tourist attractions, the saltwater Jellyfish Lake, was shut in 2017 after large numbers of swimmers were blamed for contributing to plummeting jellyfish numbers.

“The reality is that numbers did not mean big revenues for Palau. It actually made us more determined to seek the policy of quality versus quantity,” said Remengesau, who in 2015 declared most of Palau’s territorial waters a marine sanctuary the size of California.

Former Palau government officials say Beijing is trying to cement its influence in the region ahead of the expiry of the Compact Funding agreements between the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau in 2023 and 2024.

The United States provides around $200 million a year on average to the Compact states and is responsible for the defense of the three countries, which each hold a seat at the United Nations.

Last December, the U.S. belatedly approved $124 million in assistance for Palau through till 2024, but has not announced any plans to extend the Compact agreements.

“The United States and China are not zero-sum competitors,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “However, we have concerns about the sustainability of debt loads for countries highly indebted to China, as well as the environmental, social, or labor conditions that often come along with Chinese-financed projects.”

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Turkish Airlines breaks daily passenger record

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Turkish Airlines broke a new daily passenger record on Saturday, according to the chief executive office of the Turkish flag carrier.

Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi tweeted on Sunday the density of passengers using the airline before the Muslim holiday Eid-al Adha remains continuing.

“Yesterday, we made a historic record, we flew 253,000 passengers via 1,547 flights to their loved ones with 75 percent on-time departures,” Eksi said.

He added that they are trying to serve better in this high season and thanked the passengers for choosing Turkish Airlines. AA


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United to charge more for Economy seats

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: United Airlines will soon begin charging extra for seats toward the front of the economy cabin, Travel Weekly reported. The change comes with the introduction of new corporate perks for business clients.

Preferred corporate clients as well as passengers United’s Mileage Plus Premier status will have access to booking the front economy seats without paying a fee, according to Travel Weekly. But regular economy passengers will now see these seats available only for an additional fee. If they don’t want to pay, they can select a seat toward the back of the plane.

United, of course, isn’t alone in charging more for “select” economy seats. Budget airlines like Norwegian Air and Spirit Airlines charge an additional fee to select a specific seat ahead of time, as do legacy airlines like American when passengers buy a basic economy ticket. Etihad Airways now charges more for people to select their seats in economy class. With that airline, passengers can expect to pay $25 to select a standard seat.

United has not yet announced pricing for the front economy seats. However, according to Travel Weekly, if the seats are not yet filled by the time passengers are checking in, they will be available first come, first serve, no extra fee required.



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No Canadians: Air France unions want French CEO

PARIS (AFP): Trade unions at Air France called Thursday for the company to name a French chief executive amid reports that the board is set to nominate Canadian Ben Smith at the helm of the group.

Nine out of ten unions issued a joint statement saying it was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor”.

The statement appeared to be referring to Delta Airlines, the US airline which owns 8.8 percent of the capital of Air France-KLM, the parent group formed out of the merger of Air France and KLM of the Netherlands in 2004. The union statement, which said the new boss needed “intimate knowledge… of the French social model”, said that the board was expected to hold a teleconference on Thursday to discuss the nomination.

The Franco-Dutch airline has been searching for a new boss since Jean-Marc Janaillac resigned in May, having gambled his job on getting Air France staff to accept a new pay deal after months of strikes.


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Turkey’s tourism rises 30 percent on yearly basis

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s tourism rose 30 percent on the yearly basis and the country could gain $32 billion foreign currency inflows by the end of the year, according to Turkey’s top tourism association.

“If nothing serious or negative happens, we expect 40 million tourists by the end of 2018,” Firuz Baglikaya, head of Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), told Anadolu Agency’s Finance Desk.

Baglikaya also said they have targeted eliminating half of the country’s current account deficit in the coming year. “We have a contribution target for the tourism to reduce the current account deficit by around 50 percent in the coming year,” he said.

Noting that the tourism is among the most contributing sectors in lowering the current account deficit, Baglikaya added that the sector contributed $21 billion for reduction of the current account deficit last year.

He said the association has welcomed the 100-day action plan of the government, especially the parts pertaining to China. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier in August unveiled first 100-day action plan of Turkey’s new presidential cabinet in the capital Ankara.

The president said over 1,000 projects will be completed within 100 days but announced most important are 400 in the program.

Mentioning that China declared 2018 the Year of Turkish Tourism, Baglikaya said the number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey jumped 97 percent in the first seven months of this year, compared to the same period in 2017. Highlighting the importance of Chinese market, Baglikaya said China sends the highest number of tourists abroad.

“We will use our efforts to increase the number of Chinese tourists to 2 million in the coming years,” he said.

He also added that they plan to end the year with 500,000 Chinese tourists visiting Turkey. AA


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Ryanair pilots go on strike in 5 countries

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair’s pilots went on strike Friday in five countries to enforce improvements in pay and working conditions.

The strike, which started at 03.01 am on Friday, will end at 02.59 am on Saturday, in Germany, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Cancellations of flights due to the strike are expected to affect over 55,000 passengers. Among the five countries, the strike will hit Germany the worst with 42,000 passengers. Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), the association of airline pilots and flight engineers in Germany, on Wednesday called on all pilots the company to support the strike.

VC’s Chairman Martin Locher said, “Improvements are inconceivable without an increase in personnel cockpit costs. During negotiations, Ryanair categorically ruled out any such increases.”

“At the same time, Ryanair has not shown any interest to find solutions. It is only Ryanair, which is responsible for the escalation which has now taken place,” Locher said.

In Ireland, Irish Airlines Pilots’ Association, which represents 25 percent of all Irish pilots, joined the strike.

The airline announced that it canceled 250 flights in Germany, 104 in Belgium, 42 in Ireland and the Netherlands.

Pilots have ‘excellent’ working conditions

Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, said Wednesday that the company regretted the “unnecessary” decision to strike.

He claimed that the pilots working for Ryanair have “excellent working conditions” and paid higher salaries than in most of the other companies.

“Ryanair pilots earn at least 30 percent more than Eurowings and 20 percent more than Norwegian pilots,” he said. He also said the union did not inform Ryanair about the strike in advance despite an earlier request was made to VC.

“We asked VC to provide us with at least 7 days’ notice of any planned strike action so that we could notify our customers of cancelled flights in advance and offer them alternative flights or refunds, but they have refused to do this and instead call an unnecessary strike in Germany in just two days’ time,” he said.

20,000 flights are canceled

The airline was already in trouble even before the pilots’ strike as its cabin crew had walked out of job end of July in Italy, Portugal, Spain and in Belgium, causing some 600 flight cancellations in these countries with over 100,000 affected passengers.

In December, VC called all pilots directly employed by Ryanair for a 4-hour strike.

VC said its negotiations for Ryanair pilots in Germany broke down without any result. The pilot union said the strike would affect all Ryanair flights planned for German airports. The company has canceled 2,000 flights in September 2017, costing the company some €25 million (nearly $30 million).

The Ireland-based airline also announced 18,000 more cancellations in October 2017, and these cancellations affected travel plans of around 400,000 passengers.

Ryanair blamed the cancellations on pilot holiday rosters but the British news media claimed pilot shortage caused the cancellations.

Ryanair carried 120 million passengers last year, up 13 percent on a yearly basis, and its profit after tax reached €1.3 billion.

The low-cost airline flights to 86 destinations in 37 countries in Europe.


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Over 43m passengers chose Turkish Airlines in Jan-July

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Turkish Airlines carried 43.2 million passengers from January to July this year, the airline announced Thursday.

According to a statement, the total number of passengers carried by the Turkey’s national flag carrier saw a 15.2-percent hike on a yearly basis, up from 37.5 million passengers in the the same period in 2017.

“Increase in the number of passengers carried in domestic and international lines are 17.0 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively,” Turkish Airlines said.

In the seven-month period, the airline’s passenger load factor — seat occupancy — increased by 3.8 percentage points to 81.2 percent.

“Number of landings (passenger aircraft) of 262,964 for the period of January-July 2017 increased by 8.9 percent to 286,360 in 2018,” the company said. “Cargo/mail carried during the period of January-July 2018 increased by 26.3 percent to 779,626 tons from 617,458 tons in 2017.”

In July alone, Turkish Airlines recorded an 85.3-percent seat occupancy rate. The airline carried 7.5 million passengers last month, a 3.8-percent yearly hike.

“Increase in passengers carried in Africa, Europe and Middle East are 10.0 percent, 9.5 percent and 8.0 percent respectively,” the airline said.

Turkish Airlines earned some 24.4 billion Turkish liras ($5.9 billion) of total revenue in the first half of this year while the company had nearly 25,000 staff, including more than 4,500 pilots.

Last year, the airline carried 68.6 million passengers with a 79.1 percent seat occupancy rate.

Turkish Airlines, founded in 1933, flies to more than 300 destinations in 121 countries. By the end of July 2018, the airline had 325 aircraft, 92 of them wide-body along with 215 narrow-body aircraft and 18 cargo planes.

According to the airline’s end-year targets, the company expects to carry 75 million passengers — including 33 million on domestic routes, 42 million on international routes — with around an 81-percent passenger load factor.

A total of 50.88 percent of the airline’s stocks are publicly traded on Turkey’s stock exchange Borsa Istanbul while the rest are owned by the Turkiye Wealth Fund.

Turkish Airlines has a nearly 24 billion Turkish lira ($4.54 billion) market value, based on stock exchange market figures, as of market close on Wednesday, Aug. 8.


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Turkish Airlines to take Bosnian pilgrims to Hajj

Monitoring Desk

BELGRADE: Turkish Airlines (THY), Turkey’s flag-carrier air company, has become the designated airlines to take Bosnian Muslims to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, the airlines said Wednesday.

A first of group of 215 Bosnian pilgrims will set off for Medina on Thursday with nearly 1,500 more Bosnian pilgrims to follow in the days to come.

THY is stepping in to replace the Nevada-based Vision Airlines after an agreement between the U.S. charter company and Bosnia’s pilgrimage organization broke down, leading to the cancellation of the flight of the first batch of pilgrims Wednesday. AA

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Turkey: Domestic tourism expenditure up nearly 25 per cent

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Turkey’s domestic tourism expenditure rose 24.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, according to the country’s statistical authority on Monday.

TurkStat reported that domestic tourists’ expenditures — including individual and package tour expenditures — from January to March totaled 6.3 billion Turkish liras ($1.65 billion), compared to spending of some 5 billion Turkish liras ($1.36 billion) in the same period last year.

“In this quarter, while 94.2 percent of domestic tourism expenditure was individual with 5.94 billion Turkish liras, 5.8 percent of it was package tour expenditures with 364.6 million Turkish liras,” the institute said.

According to Turkey’s Central Bank, the average US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate was 3.82 in the first quarter of this year, while one dollar traded for 3.70 liras on average in the same period last year. “In this quarter, domestic visitors made 112.8 million overnights,” TurkStat said, noting that the average number of overnights was 7.3 and the average expenditure per trip was 407 Turkish liras.

According to the official data, nearly 11.9 million residents took internal trips in the first quarter while the number of journeys with one or more than one overnights amounted to some 15.5 million with an annual hike of 22.3%.

Purpose of trips

TurkStat noted that the primary purpose of domestic trips was visiting relatives, accounting for a 68.7-percent share in the first three months of this year. “The secondary purpose of trip was travel, leisure, holiday with 15.9 percent and the third was health with 8.7 percent,” the institute said.

Trips for meeting/conference/courses/seminars and journeys for commercial relations/attending fairs were the other major travel purposes over the same period.

“In this quarter, according to number of overnights by type of accommodation, domestic visitors stayed mostly at ‘house of friend and relative’ with 92.2 million overnights,” TurkStat said, adding:

“While ‘hotel’ took second place with 8.25 million overnights, ‘own house’ took third place with 6.98 million overnights.” Official figures showed that Turkish residents spent most for health tourism with an average per trip expenditure of 641 Turkish liras ($168), followed by culture tourism and travel / leisure/holiday trips.

The institute also noted that transportation expenditures, clothing/giftware spending, and eating/drinking consumption were the top three items under individual expenditures in the January-March period.

According to TurkStat, the number of residents in Turkey was 80.8 million as of December, 31, 2017.

Last year, the country’s domestic tourism expenditure amounted to 35.3 billion Turkish liras (around $9.7 billion), as 77.2 million trips with one or more than one overnights were recorded.

The statistical authority will release its next report on this subject on Nov., 7. AA