Virgin Holidays ordered to meet refund deadlines or face court action

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 23rd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Virgin Holidays has been ordered to meet refund deadlines following Covid-related cancellations or face court action by the regulator.

The company has agreed to pay refunds by 30 October for any holidays cancelled before September.

Those cancelled last month or this month will be refunded by 20 November.

By law, package holidays cancelled by an operator should be refunded within 14 days, but some people have waited three months to get their money back.

‘Unreasonable'

Virgin Holidays has received 53,000 refund requests since the start of March, totalling £203m – a situation which it said had put the company under “extraordinary pressure”. The company said it had 1,300 claims left to process.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had received hundreds of complaints that people were not receiving refunds for holidays cancelled owing to the pandemic.

It said many customers had been forced to wait for an “unreasonably long time”, with some told the refunds would take three months.

If Virgin Holidays fails to hit its deadlines, the regulator said it was prepared to take the company to court. This included refunds for Virgin Holiday Cruises.

Your Virgin refund nightmares

Holidaymakers have spoken to the BBC in recent months over the stress of getting refunds from Virgin Holidays.

Newlyweds David and Natalie Rogers, from Dudley, saved for two years for their dream honeymoon safari trip in Kenya but coronavirus ruined their plans.

“We were quite angry about having to wait on hold [to Virgin Holidays] for over eight hours, and a message on the line saying that travellers should have already received a voucher for their missed holidays. It just felt like we'd been forgotten about,” they said.

Lynn and Martin Fox had remortgaged their home to pay for a holiday of a lifetime with their two children in Florida.

“If only they [Virgin Holidays] would have been honest with us and communicated with us, we would have been happy. If they put a date on the refund, we could have planned. But the phone cut off calls and emails were ignored,” Mrs Fox said.

Hannah Nash and her family paid nearly £7,000 for a holiday to Disney World in Florida but struggled to get a refund.

“The stress is making me ill. These are not small amounts for normal people,” she told the BBC in June.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA, said: “Our action means that Virgin Holidays customers should receive all their money back without further delay.

“We are continuing to investigate package holidays in relation to the coronavirus crisis. Should we find that any business is not complying with consumer protection law, we won't hesitate to take action.”

The regulator has issued similar warnings to other companies including Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals.

A spokesman for Virgin Holidays said: “We have gradually reduced refund timeframes and are now 98% through the refund queue.

“Our focus now is on rebuilding trust with our customers, recognising that it has regrettably taken much longer than normal to process their refunds. We thank them sincerely for their patience throughout.”

What are my rights?

If you have a package holiday cancelled by the provider, then a refund should be provided for the whole holiday within 14 days

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days, although many airlines are struggling to meet that deadline. You can accept, or refuse, vouchers or a rebooking but a voucher will probably be invalid if the airline later goes bust

If you decide against going on a future flight, which is not yet cancelled, then there is no right to a refund. Different airlines have different rules over what you can do, but many are waiving any charges for changing to a later flight or having a voucher instead. Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you

Regulation of holidays and flights is divided between the CMA and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA has now announced that refund credit notes (RCNs) will have greater protection than normal until the end of the year.

RCNs were handed out by some companies instead of refunds early in the coronavirus crisis, as the businesses found themselves stretched by the level of claims. Customers must be given a cash refund if they ask for one.

RCNs can be used to book another holiday, or a refund is given when the note expires.

They have been temporarily protected under the Atol scheme, which is government-guaranteed and administered by the CAA.

Protection has been extended to cover any issued between 1 October and 31 December. It will apply to all relevant vouchers issued by Atol holders operating within the UK.

This means that the refund will be honoured, and can be drawn from a central pot, even if the provider goes bust.

By Kevin Peachey

Airlines could have covid ‘test-and-release’ system in place by December

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 20th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Grant Shapps hopeful over timeframe but critics say plan ‘not going to cut the mustard’

A ‘test-and-release system’ to cut the quarantine period for international arrivals to the UK should be in place by 1 December, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps said he was “extremely hopeful” that the system, which would require a single coronavirus test to be taken about a week after arrival and paid for privately, would be ready in six weeks’ time, depending on sufficient tests being available through the private sector.

Speaking to the aviation industry Airlines 2050 summit, Shapps said the government travel taskforce he chairs had been “working extensively with health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities” of such a regime, as well as discussing possible pre-departure test and isolation schemes with partner countries.

He said the taskforce was in contact with more than a dozen firms about different rapid tests. The taskforce is due to report to the prime minister at the start of November on a reformed entry regime.

Asked if the test-and-release system could be running by 1 December, Shapps said: “As long as the [testing] capacity is there through the private sector to do it, I’m extremely hopeful.”

However, the new boss of British Airways signalled that even a seven-day quarantine period would not do much to restart travel.

Sean Doyle, who replaced Álex Cruz as BA chief executive last week, said: “It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.”

He said BA wanted to see pre-departure testing, particularly to restore major transatlantic routes. BA is now flying two planes a day between London and New York, instead of the normal 12, carrying just 200 passengers, Doyle said.

Doyle quoted recent research by the global airline body Iata that showed there had been only 44 confirmed cases of aircraft passengers contracting Covid-19 onboard, including in the period before wearing face masks was mandatory. He said: “I find that pretty reassuring. That’s one in 27 million, and mostly before people wore face masks.”

Speaking to the summit, Doyle said: “We do not believe quarantine is the solution. The best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying.

“If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries. We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.”

The trade body Airlines UK also questioned the value of the proposed regime. Its chief executive, Tim Alderslade, said: “Eight days, plus one or two days to get the results, isn’t going to have the impact we want. If you look at the average number of days people stay in the UK, from the US it’s about four days. Eight days isn’t going to cut the mustard.”

Shapps said the taskforce was still pursuing an alternative pre-departure testing scheme, but he could give no guarantees of a timescale as it would require international cooperation through the International Civil Aviation Organization.

“We’re talking to the US homeland security and others. We’d like to get trials set up. That could involve a series of tests that could involve quarantine before and after flights – or ultimately no quarantine at all if the technology is there for a rapid tests. But that requires international cooperation.”

Shapps said that the Department for Transport was still working on a long-awaited aviation recovery plan for the sector, which he promised would arrive later in the autumn, setting out more measures to boost air travel.

By Gwyn Topham

Flybe sold to Thyme Opco for an undisclosed sum

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 19th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

The new owners hope to relaunch services next year when the virus-damaged industry hopes to see some recovery in demand.

By James Sillars, business reporter

The first major corporate casualty of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, Flybe, could be back in the air next year.

It was announced that the company, which folded in March as a collapse in demand for air travel exacerbated already deep financial turbulence, had been effectively bought out of administration by a firm affiliated to a former shareholder.

Sky News revealed on Saturday how hedge fund Cyrus Capital had entered talks with the regional airline's administrators.

EY said it agreed to a sale of Flybe's business and assets, including the brand, intellectual property, stock and equipment, to Thyme Opco for an undisclosed sum.

The administrator's statement said: “While the transaction is still subject to certain confidential conditions, the deal is expected to allow the Flybe business to restart operations as a regional airline in the UK under the Flybe brand in early 2021.

“Following today's announcement, the administrators will work together with Thyme Opco, the Flybe management team and the UK Civil Aviation Authority to prepare for the relaunch of Flybe's airline operations.”

Flybe would be expected to emerge from the process a much leaner organisation – focusing on the most profitable routes.

That is because any restart of flying operations would be expected to only follow a recovery in demand as the aviation sector continues to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis by Sky News of the employment landscape shows the industry has so far been worst affected by the disruption, with more than 34,000 jobs lost to date.

Flybe was Europe's largest regional airline, carrying around nine million passengers annually at its peak and accounting for 40% of domestic UK flights.

But a rescue deal early last year failed to stem mounting losses and talks over a £100m state loan floundered.

The collapse led to the loss of 2,400 jobs.

The pilots' union, BALPA, said of Monday's announcement: “A renewed Flybe would hopefully restore the vital air connections in the regions and nations of the UK and boost the economic recovery.

“Flybe staff were the first and most badly affected by the Coronavirus crisis which has gone on to ravage the entire industry.

“This news will give everyone a degree of confidence that recovery is coming soon, and that their skills and knowledge are still going to be vital.”

Alex Cruz steps down as British Airways boss

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 12th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

IAG said Mr Cruz had led the airline “through a particularly demanding period” as the pandemic prompted major restructuring.

British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz is stepping down from the role with immediate effect, owner International Airlines Group (IAG) has said.

IAG boss Luis Gallego said the shake-up came as the company navigated “the worst crisis faced in our industry” – which has seen demand crushed by the coronavirus crisis and thousands of jobs axed.

BA's new chief executive will be Sean Doyle, who is being brought in from Irish carrier Aer Lingus – also part of IAG.

It was one of a series of management changes announced on Monday by Mr Gallego, who took over as IAG chief executive a month ago after the retirement of Willie Walsh.

Mr Gallego said: “We're navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I'm confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position.”

He said Mr Cruz had “worked tirelessly to modernise the airline”, adding that he had also “led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees”.

Mr Doyle, BA's new boss, previously worked at the airline for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus two years ago.

Mr Cruz will remain non-executive chairman of BA for a “transition period” before also handing over that role to Mr Doyle.

BA has been undergoing a painful restructuring as it counts the cost of the coronavirus crisis and slashes flight schedules.Where jobs are being lost across the UK economy

Last month it revealed progress in its negotiations with unions over changes to pay and conditions as it battles to save costs.

But it also said a total of up to 13,000 were expected to lose their roles at the airline, with more than 8,000 having already gone.

BA's handling of the restructuring drew accusations of a “despicable” fire-and-rehire approach, but Mr Cruz told MPs last month that it was on course to secure agreement with trade unions.

He also reiterated that the impact of the pandemic means it is “fighting for its survival”.

Last week, Manchester Airports Group – owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – announced plans to axe nearly 900 roles as the Treasury's furlough scheme comes to an end.

The announcement of a government task force to look at using testing to try to reduce travellers' quarantine periods received a lukewarm response, with no timeframe for a testing regime to be introduced.

Monthly passenger statistics published by Heathrow on Monday underlined the scale of the crisis, showing a decline of 5.5 million in numbers in September – or 82% – compared with a year earlier, to 1.2 million.

Mr Cruz had a tough period in charge of BA even before the pandemic struck, hit by strike action a year ago and a huge customer data breach in 2018 which saw it facing a fine of £183m.

Unions were scathing about his legacy.

Nadine Houghton, national officer at the GMB union, said: “He leaves behind a demoralised workforce during the greatest crisis the aviation industry has ever seen.

“Cruz is now the scapegoat for BA's catastrophic threat of fire and rehire. His departure should be a stern warning for any other CEO believing it's a tactic they can get away with lightly.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots' union Balpa, said: “He was given a remit to cut costs and found it impossible to do that without alienating BA passengers and employees alike.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

12 Black Owned Luxurious Resorts & Hotels

Source: Black Excellence Excellist

Between versatile AirBnb’s, luxurious resorts, intimate boutique hotels, all-inclusive stays, and cozy bed-and-breakfast properties, Black Travelers have countless options for accommodations when traveling within the states. There is a hotel for every type of experience a traveler could want, and with enough research, you can even support black hospitality entrepreneurs in the process.

UK’s biggest airport group plans to cut 900 jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 8th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Jobs will go at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands, blamed on lack of progress on testing and the end of the furlough scheme.

Britain's biggest airports group has announced plans to cut 900 jobs – as ministers launch a taskforce on COVID-19 testing to try to revive travel.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – which owns hubs at Manchester, Stansted and the East Midlands – said a continuing slump in demand as the furlough scheme ends, and a lack of progress on testing, had prompted it to act.

MAG said it was proposing to cut 465 jobs at Manchester, 376 at Stansted and 51 at East Midlands. Other employment changes will also be made, including to shift patterns.

The announcement came as the Department for Transport said a new taskforce would work with the industry to try to reduce 14-day quarantine times for travellers through the use of testing.

But there was no timeframe for a testing regime to be introduced, prompting a lukewarm response from Virgin Atlantic – another business badly hit by the pandemic – which welcomed the move but warned that “every day counts” as 500,000 aviation jobs are at stake.

MAG said prospects for a revival in demand – down 90% since March – were fading amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases across the UK and Europe, and a full recovery in passengers was not expected until 2023-24.

“Meanwhile, the absence of dedicated support for the aviation sector, coupled with a lack of progress in introducing testing for UK passengers to date, has continued to undermine consumer confidence in air travel for next year,” the group said.

But the furlough subsidy is being replaced by a jobs support scheme, offering a “much smaller contribution to meeting payroll costs” for six months from the start of November, it said.

“The reduction in government financial support, combined with a more challenging outlook, means that MAG now needs to propose further steps to reduce the size of its workforce to secure the long-term future of the business,” the company said in a statement.

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “By now, we would have hoped to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand.

“Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have meant this has not happened.

“With uncertainty about when a vaccine will be widely available, we need to be realistic about when demand is likely to recover.”

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, called for a sector-specific furlough scheme and said industries like aviation had been “left high and dry”.

The aviation industry has been pushing since the summer for the government to “get a grip” and introduce a testing regime to try to shorten the two-week quarantine period for passengers arriving from countries not on the UK's safe list.

Launching the government's coronavirus testing taskforce, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The current measures at the border have saved lives.

“Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.”Tracking the UK's recovery from lockdown

The DfT said the taskforce would look at the feasibility of “proposals based on a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger”.

The chief executives of Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airports Group, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said in a joint statement that it was a “step in the right direction… to restart the economy and protect thousands of jobs”.

They added: “We support the decision to opt for a single test, private sector-led, passenger-funded approach, that does not impact on the NHS in any way.

“But travellers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November.”

The International Air Transport Association, an industry body, said: “The proposals on the table do not go as far as we had hoped.

“A reduction in the length of quarantine is the very minimum needed to restart travel demand.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

UK firms may need to set up an EU office to export goods to European markets

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 2nd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Thousands of UK businesses may need to set up an EU presence if they want to export goods to European markets, according to trade consultants Blick Rothenberg.

Both EU and UK law will require companies to “have a door to knock on” if there are any disputes over payment and compliance with customs changes that will treat the UK as if it were any other non-EU country after 1 January.

Many EU companies do not want the additional risk and cost of being responsible for compliance with customs procedures. Large EU importers of UK goods want the products delivered to their warehouse door, with the UK exporter taking that responsibility.

One other option is to pay an official distributor or a customs and freight forwarding agent in the EU to bear the risk that new paperwork and payment obligations are satisfied.

Given the new complexities, industry sources have told the BBC that few agents will be prepared to take that risk. Those willing to take a risk will likely charge a “king's ransom” to do so.

Simon Sutcliffe, Blick Rothenberg's customs expert, told the BBC: “Any agent will be ‘joint and severally liable' for any customs debt should something go awry or the local fiscal authorities find a problem with the consignment. Understandably, these agents charge a lot of money to bear that risk.”

‘Little time'

The only remaining option will be for UK exporters to set up a registered office in the EU with the staff and technical resources necessary to file the relevant paperwork and keep relevant records.

These requirements cut both ways. EU companies exporting to the UK will face the same problem. EU exporters may have to set up UK offices – both EU and UK law is clear that someone will have to bear the risks of any customs problems. Supermarkets in the UK, for example, will not want to take responsibility for completing customs procedures for thousands of EU suppliers.

Mr Sutcliffe added: “The problem is that thousands of businesses on both sides of the channel just don't realise the implications of trading with each other from 1 January, and they have very little time to work it out.”

He said these issues would present a major challenge to UK-EU trade “unless the company is willing to become ‘established' and set up a presence, maintaining business records, have some form of technical resources and staffing, they will not be allowed submit any customs documents. This is true on both sides of the channel”.

Given that the UK imports far more from the EU than it exports, the onus may fall more heavily on EU exporters to the UK. That may mean jeopardising the flow of critical goods into the UK.

Alex Altmann, who heads Blick Rothenberg's Brexit Advisory Group and is also a chairman at the British Chambers of Commerce in Germany, says: “The government's communication is a disaster. We have 90 days to sort this out now or EU supplies of food, medication, PPE and many other items won't be allowed to enter the UK due to an overseen technically of the new customs code. The UK government needs to comment on this very quickly now.”

HM Revenue & Customs did not dispute Blick Rothenberg's analysis and issued the following statement: “The UK has a well-established Customs Agent community and government has invested more than £80m in building further capacity, supporting the customs intermediary sector with training, new IT and recruitment. We urge people to go and talk to a customs expert to find out what they need to do to get ready.”

These issues will arise whether or not the UK and EU strike a free-trade agreement as both sides have insisted they would prefer.

HMRC estimates the cost of filling in 200 million customs declarations alone – deal or no deal – will cost UK business more than £7bn a year.

What seems clear is that the UK's departure from the EU single market and customs union will not mean less cost and paperwork, but more when it comes to dealing with the UK's closest and largest trading partner.

By Simon Jack

Rolls-Royce to raise $6.5 billion to shore up balance sheet

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 1st Oct, 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Rolls-Royce RR.L plans to raise a total of 5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion), including 2 billion from shareholders, to cope with a “worst case scenario” as the coronavirus travel crisis crushes the British engine maker's cashflow.

Airlines pay Rolls based on how many hours its engines fly in their larger jets and worries over a long-haul travel slump have knocked more than 80% off its shares this year, reducing its market value to just 2.5 billion pounds.

Rolls, whose engines power the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350, said in May it would cut 9,000 jobs as a result of the pandemic and its finances have come under intense scrutiny, which its chief executive said should end with Thursday’s plan.

“This is a comprehensive package which will take any liquidity questions off the table through this crisis,” CEO Warren East told reporters on a call.

“We wanted this package to provide sufficient headroom even through our worst case scenario,” East said.

A rights issue has been mooted as an option since July, but East said Rolls had to first demonstrate its restructuring plan was working before it could tap shareholders.

“We couldn’t really have done this much quicker,” he said.

Rolls faces what East called a “pinch point” towards the end of 2021 when 3.2 billion pounds of debt needs to be repaid. To pay for the crisis, Rolls’s debt will jump to over 3.5 billion pounds this year from 993 million pounds last year.

Worries about its finances have prompted speculation of a government bailout of Rolls, which was nationalised in 1971 and later privatised.

But Chief Financial Officer Stephen Daintith dismissed this, saying: “That’s not part of any of our plans”.

Britain’s best known engineering firm is a key supplier to the country’s military programmes, invests heavily in research and development and helps sustain smaller suppliers.

Rolls shares were down 11% to 116 pence at 1118 GMT, their lowest level since 2004, after it said that it would raise about 2 billion pounds through a 10 for 3 discounted rights issue.

This was fully underwritten at 32 pence per share, it said, a 41% discount to the theoretical ex-rights price, which analysts calculated at 54.6 pence.

“The raise is coming at a deeper discount than expected and the recovery scenarios presented were more optimistic than the market is currently thinking,” Investec analyst Ben Bourne said regarding Thursday’s share price fall.

LONG HAUL AHEAD

On the flying recovery, East said Rolls was now able to withstand a downturn which would involve 2021 flying levels at less than half last year’s levels. But long distance flying remains in the doldrums with a second wave of the coronavirus across Europe and airlines cutting back already reduced schedules.

Rolls said if long-haul travel did recover, then despite a cash outflow of 4 billion pounds this year it expected to return to positive cashflow during the second half of next year and was targeting 750 million pounds of free cashflow in 2022.

Shareholders will vote to approve the rights issue at a general meeting expected to be held on Oct. 27 and conditional upon its completion, additional debt options will open up.

Rolls said it intended to begin a bond offering to raise at least 1 billion pounds, while UK Export Finance has indicated it was ready to support an extension of its 80% guarantee of Rolls’ existing 2 billion pound five-year term loan and would support a loan amount increase of up to 1 billion pounds.

Rolls also said it had commitments for a new two-year loan facility of 1 billion pounds.

Yields on Rolls' bonds edged off their highs, with a 500 million euro May 2024 note trading at 4.93%, well off this week's high of 5.25%. GB181957506=.

The new debt follows a plan announced in August to raise at least 2 billion pounds from the sale of Rolls’ Spain-based turbine blade maker ITP Aero and other assets.

In July, Rolls’s debt rating was cut to junk by Moody’s, but with the equity raising and disposals, Rolls said it should be able to return to an investment grade rating in the medium term, helping boost airline customer confidence in contracts.

“A strong financial position matters a lot to our customers,” said East.

($1 = 0.7729 pounds)

Reporting by Sarah Young and Abhinav Ramnarayan

Uber ride-hailing service wins appeal and granted a fresh licence to operate in London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 28th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Uber to get London licence as court rules it ‘no longer poses a risk'

Ride-hailing service wins appeal a year after TfL refused extension over safety concerns

Uber has been granted the right to a fresh licence in London after an appeal found it was a “fit and proper” firm to run private hire car services.

Westminster magistrates court ruled in favour of Uber almost a year after Transport for London refused the ride-hailing firm a licence extension over safety concerns.

The deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said he had “sufficient confidence that Uber London Ltd no longer poses a risk to public safety … despite historical failings,” after hearing three days of arguments this month.

He said Uber had tightened up review processes to tackle document and insurance fraud and it now “seems to be at the forefront of tackling an industry-wide challenge”.

TfL’s safety concerns included the discovery that up to 14,000 trips by Uber passengers had been served by non-licensed drivers fraudulently logging on to the app using other people’s IDs.

Before the hearing, Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager, said: “We have worked hard to address TfL’s concerns over the last few months, rolled out real-time ID checks for drivers, and are committed to keeping people moving safely around the city.”

The firm argued that it had fundamentally changed in the three years since TfL first refused it a licence, in September 2017, when TfL deemed it not “fit or proper” to operate in the capital. On that occasion Uber won a provisional extension on appeal, but it was again refused a licence last November over the identity concerns.

The exact length of Uber’s next licence and any conditions attached are yet to be decided. Uber had been allowed to continue to run services in London pending the appeal.

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents black-cab drivers, called the decision “a disaster for London”.

He said: “Uber has demonstrated time and time again that it simply can’t be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers and other road users above profit. Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively, but too big to fail.”

Michael Gove warns haulage firms of queues up to 7,000 trucks if they do not prepare for Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 23rd 2020) London, Uk – –

Michael Gove has written to hauliers to warn that if they do not prepare now for Brexit they could face queues of up to 7,000 trucks in Kent, confirming internal cabinet analysis of the potential disruption caused by the UK’s departure from the single market in January.

The letter also warns of two-day delays for cargo travelling to the EU through Dover or Folkestone ferry or Eurotunnel trains in what it is describing as the “reasonable worst-case scenario”.

“The biggest potential cause of disruption are traders not being ready for controls implemented by EU member states on 1 January 2021,” Gove wrote in the letter seen by the Guardian. “It is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities.”

The warnings were contained in confidential government documents revealed by the Guardian earlier this month.

Gove is due to outline the scenario work, which the Cabinet Office stressed was not a forecast, in the Commons on Wednesday.

The letter has enraged industry leaders and the haulage industry, which has been begging for details of the preparations they will have to make as a matter of urgency for the last six months.

It came the day both Logistics UK, which represents the freight industry, and the Port of Dover said the government’s efforts to shift blame for lack of Brexit preparations on to the industry was wrong-headed.

Tim Reardon, the head of EU exit policy, told the Treasury select committee that government funds had yet to be released for vital infrastructure at Dover port.

The money needed to be “issued rather than talked about”, he said.

The chair of the committee, the Conservative MP Mel Stride, said the government appeared to be leaving it “incredibly tight” and questioned why “in the latter part of September” there was still “talk about money being available for spades in the ground”.

While industry leaders were protesting that the technology for hauliers may not be ready for beta-testing until the end of November, a succession of government leaders have been pushing a narrative that it will be industry or the EU that will be to blame if there are queues in Kent.

On Tuesday, the environment secretary, George Eustice, claimed it would be down to “slipshod” EU planning even though France put the first spades in the ground for no-deal Brexit infrastructure 18 months ago.

Dover port confirmed on Tuesday that trucks without the complete paperwork for EU requirements would be turned away and not allowed on ferries, fuelling fears of queues on the British side.

Gove warned changes were coming with or without a deal.

The Cabinet Office document, reported by the Guardian prevrously, states that, in its reasonable worst-case scenario, 30-50% of trucks crossing the Channel will not be ready for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January, while a “lack of capacity to hold unready trucks at French ports” could reduce the flow of traffic across the strait to 60-80% of normal levels.

“This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the documents said..

Such delays could be in place for at least three months, hauliers have been warned, as alternative routes are sought and supply chains get to grips with the new systems and requirements.

In his letter, Gove said: “Irrespective of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, traders will face new customs controls and processes. Simply put, if traders, both in the UK and EU, have not completed the right paperwork, their goods will be stopped when entering the EU and disruption will occur.

“It is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities.”

But sector chiefs have accused the government of failing to do enough in recent weeks over the threat of post-Brexit border delays.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), meanwhile, said its meeting on Thursday with Gove was a “waste of time” as it did not engage with the detailed actions needed to be taken.

Responding to the worst-case scenario document, the RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “We’ve been consistently warning the government there will be delays at ports but they’re just not engaging with industry on coming up with solutions.

“Traders need 50,000 more customs intermediaries to handle the mountain of new paperwork after transition but government support to recruit and train those extra people is woefully inadequate.

“The answers to the questions that we raised in our letter to Mr Gove and subsequent roundtable meeting last Thursday still remain unanswered – and our concern continues to grow.”

Premier Inn owner Whitbread to cut 6,000 jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 22nd Sept 2020) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Premier Inn owner Whitbread WTB.L plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs at its hotels and restaurants as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the travel and hospitality industries and the British government winds down a job support scheme.

The company said on Tuesday it had begun formal consultations on the cuts, which equate to 18% of its workforce, and expected a large proportion of them to be voluntary.

“We expect demand to remain subdued in the short to medium-term and the UK Government’s furlough scheme to come to an end in October,” Whitbread said in a statement, explaining the cuts.

Its shares were down 2.9% to 2,047 pence at 0709 GMT.

Travel and leisure businesses have been among the worst hit by the pandemic, with billions of dollars in business trips and holidays cancelled.

Britain’s pubs and restaurants are also bracing for a new round of restrictions to tackle a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The owner of the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Bar + Block chains, Whitbread had already said last month it would cut around 15%-20% of head office roles.

Holiday-Inn owner InterContinental Hotels IHG.L announced a 10% reduction in jobs at the corporate level last month, while Pret A Manger and PizzaExpress are among food chains to have announced layoffs.

Total sales for Whitbread’s UK and international businesses plunged 76.8% in the six months ended Aug. 27, as it closed hotels and restaurants during national lockdowns.

Since reopening, the company said its UK accommodation sales had been ahead of the market and it had seen strong demand in tourist spots, although demand had remained subdued in metropolitan areas and London.

It added its UK restaurants were boosted by the government’s Eat Out To Help Out subsidy scheme and hotel occupancy rates had recovered from March lows to average 51% in August, still far short of industry norms from before the crisis.

Whitbread, which sold its Costa Coffee chain to Coca-Cola KO.N in 2018, expects one-off costs from the layoffs to be about 12-15 million pounds.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru

Lockdown fears cause shares to fall sharply in travel, hotel and pubs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 21st Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Leading shares across Europe have fallen sharply in morning trading amid fears that a renewed rise in coronavirus cases will blight economic prospects.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 share index was down more than 3%, with airlines, travel firms, hotel groups and pubs leading the rout.

Worst hit was British Airways owner IAG, which slumped more than 12%.

Similar falls were seen on markets in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Banking shares were affected by an extra set of concerns as allegations of money-laundering surfaced in leaked secret files.

HSBC, the bank at the centre of the scandal, saw its share price fall more than 5% in London, but the revelations dragged down the entire sector, with Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all dropping about the same amount.

The downward trend affected all but a handful of stocks on the UK's 100-share index. Only online delivery service Just Eat, supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons and miner Fresnillo made it into positive territory.

The FTSE 250 index, seen as a better reflection of the health of the UK economy, was down 4% by lunchtime.

One of its biggest fallers was pub and restaurant owner Mitchells & Butlers, which dropped more than 15% as concerns grow that the hospitality industry would have most to lose from a fresh lockdown.

The pound also lost ground against the dollar, falling 0.47% to $1.2863 by lunchtime. It fell marginally against the euro to €1.0910.

Why does all this matter to me?

Many people are more affected by stock market falls than they might think.

There are millions of people with a pension – either private or through work – who will see their savings (in what is known as a defined contribution pension) invested by pension schemes. The value of their savings pot is influenced by the performance of these investments.

Pension savers mostly let experts choose where to invest this money to help it grow and a proportion will be in shares.

Widespread falls in share prices are likely to be bad news for these investments, although pension investors stress these are long-term investments and are designed to ride out bouts of weakness.

Analysis: By Theo Leggett

There has certainly been an element of European unity on the markets today, with the FTSE 100 index in London, the Cac 40 in Paris, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Ibex in Madrid all suffering similar falls.

The reason behind the gloom seems pretty clear. With the number of Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly here and in many European countries, there's a real prospect of new restrictions on daily life. In some regions – such as Madrid, for example – they're already in place.

The fear is that although these measures are unlikely to be as severe as the lockdowns in spring, they will nonetheless weigh on economic activity and could stifle the post-lockdown recovery.

Shares are down across the board, but inevitably, the companies which rely on people being able to get out and about and mingle are among the worst affected.

Airlines, tourism firms and hospitality businesses have already had a dreadful year – and investors know they can ill afford further setbacks.

‘Bitter pill'

Coronavirus cases have been surging in many European countries, as governments strive to avoid another round of national lockdowns.

In the UK, top scientists are warning that the country is at a “critical point” in the pandemic and “heading in the wrong direction”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be considering a two-week mini-lockdown in England – being referred to as a “circuit-breaker” – in an effort to stem widespread growth of the virus.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ”The FTSE 100 is worst hit among its European peers with a storm of pessimistic news swirling, affecting sectors across the board.”

She added that concerns for the travel industry had had a “domino effect”, with aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce hit, as investors saw no end to the falling demand for new planes.

At the same time, the prospect of evening coronavirus curfews, after a summer of recovering sales, was “a bitter pill to swallow” for the hospitality industry,

If you add the prospect of a no-deal Brexit into the murky mix, there is little surprise so many investors seem to have caught a severe case of the jitters today.”

US Richest Zip Code In Miami’s Exclusive Members-Only Island

Source: BI

Just three miles from Miami sits an exclusive, members-only island that's home to millionaires and celebrities. Here, residents drive around in golf carts, lounge on beaches with sand imported from the Bahamas, and easily get COVID-19 antibody tests. Business Insider tours the richest zip code in America, where condos can cost up to $40 million.

Why Eye-catching car colors are still mainly found on sports cars

Source: CNBC

A common complaint in today's automotive press, and often among buyers, is that all cars these days look the same. A few colors are trendy both in the United States and around the world, and they are, well, not colorful. Eye-catching car colors are still found on sports cars, halo vehicles, and limited editions. But they are vastly outnumbered by sober, conservative, achromatic colors. So how did these colors get popular? It has to do with practicality, human psychology, and technology.

P&O Cruises cancel until 2021

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 18th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

P&O Cruises has cancelled all its sailings until early 2021, further extending the suspension of its operations because of the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British cruise line, which is owned by the Carnival group, has repeatedly put its voyages “on pause”, most recently until mid-November.

All P&O’s Caribbean cruises have now been cancelled until the end of January 2021, and all cruises from or to Southampton have been suspended until the end of February. The company had already cancelled its longer cruises, including a round-the-world voyage, which ordinarily would have departed from Southampton in January.

P&O said that evolving restrictions on travel from the UK made the further cancellations necessary. Paul Ludlow, president of P&O Cruises, said the company was monitoring the situation closely and would reintroduce cruises when feasible.

The company was working with scientists and government on new health measures for use on board when cruises resume. “We cannot wait for restrictions to ease, borders to open and for us to once again be able to set sail for a new beginning,” Ludlow added.

Customers who have bookings on cancelled cruises will be notified, and will receive a full refund or a credit worth 125% of their booking for a future cruise.

Cruising was hit hard in the early stages of the pandemic, when passengers on Carnival’s Diamond Princess were confined to their cabins after hundreds became infected with Covid-19, while other ships also became breeding grounds for the virus.

Carnival cut hundreds of jobs in the UK in May.

Earlier this week, the group reported an almost $3bn (£2.3bn) quarterly loss, as much of its global fleet remains suspended, including its other British cruise line, Cunard.

However, earlier in September Carnival restarted its first cruise in months with a seven-day voyage operated by its Italian subisdiary, Costa. Its German cruise line, Aida, is due to resume sailings in the autumn.

By Joanna Partridge

Tui UK committed to paying outstanding refunds by October

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 16th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Thousands said company was not paying refunds within required 14 days, says CMA

Tui UK has committed to paying any outstanding refunds for package holidays cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic by 30 September after the regulator received a deluge of complaints that the travel company was breaching consumer law.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said thousands of people had complained that Tui UK was not paying refunds within the 14 days mandated by consumer protection law.

Tui, Europe’s biggest holiday company and the biggest tour operator in the UK, will also write to all customers who have accepted credit notes in place of a refund to give them the option of converting it into a cash refund.

Tui has committed to regularly reporting the time it has taken to make refunds to customers over the coming year. The measures apply to all of Tui’s brands, including First Choice, Marella Cruises, Crystal and Skytours.

The pandemic has caused chaos for the global travel industry and has put severe financial pressures on companies as they struggled to refund customers for holidays that were no longer possible.

Tui last month reported a loss of €2bn (£1.8bn) in the first nine months of its financial year after revenues crashed by 98% between April and June, the period of the most intense lockdown restrictions in its main markets. It is cutting 8,000 jobs and has closed 166 UK and Ireland stores to cut costs.

However, the CMA has insisted that companies must abide by consumer protection laws.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “It’s absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund.”

Coscelli also raised the prospect of further action against the package holiday industry as the CMA investigates its response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The regulator has written to more than 100 package holiday businesses to remind them of their obligations to comply with consumer protection law and has opened investigations into a number of operators, it said.

A Tui spokeswoman said: “We remain sorry that holiday refunds took longer to process during the height of Covid-19. The volume of cancellations and customer contacts was unprecedented and at a time when retail stores, contact centres and offices were closed because of the nationwide lockdown.”

By Jasper Jolly

London City airport to cut a third of staff in restructuring plan

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 14th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Airport says loss of up to 239 jobs will help it to bounce back when post-Covid growth returns

London City airport is to make more than a third of its staff redundant in the latest job cuts in the battered aviation sector.

The airport, situated in east London and serving a largely business clientele, has started consulting over up to 239 job losses in what it called a restructuring plan to safeguard its future.

London City shut down for three months at the height of the pandemic and, after reopening in late June, is now operating only 17 routes. Most staff were furloughed and the airport has until now avoided the kind of widespread job cuts seen elsewhere.

The chief executive, Robert Sinclair,said:“The aviation sector is in the throes of the biggest downturn it has ever experienced as a result of the pandemic. We have held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus.”

He said the airport’s focus in the coming weeks would be to help its staff through this period, but added: “We believe that the difficult decisions we are taking now will enable the airport to bounce back in a better shape when growth returns.”

Last month the airport suspended most of its £500m redevelopment programme, including an extended terminal, bar works already under way.

The UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow, has already laid off a third of its managers and told frontline staff to accept pay cuts or further job losses, as its chief executive warned that the surrounding borough of Hounslow risked ending up like a mining town in the 1980s unless flying resumed.

Gatwick said last month it would cut 600 jobs, amid calls across the aviation sector for government help. Airlines are now not expecting passenger demand to return to normal levels until at least 2023 or 2024.

By Gwyn Topham 

IAG owner of British Airways to cut more flights

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 10th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

British Airways owner IAG is cutting more flights over the next three months as it adjusts to the continuing collapse in demand for air travel.

IAG, which also runs Aer Lingus and Iberia, said quarantine restrictions meant capacity this autumn would be 60% below 2019 levels.

The group said it had seen a “delayed recovery”, and did not expect business to return to 2019 levels until 2023.

IAG also said BA had reached the outline of a jobs agreement with Unite.

The union has been in a bitter dispute with BA over redundancies and pay cuts.

The airline, which is aiming to shed up to 13,000 jobs, said that by the end of August some 8,236 employees had left the business, “mostly as a result of voluntary redundancy”.

Unite is expected to hold a ballot on the agreement soon.

Bookings slow

IAG's decision to cut more flights than planned follows its previous forecast of a 46% reduction for the October-to-December period compared with the same quarter last year.

It said it had seen an “almost complete cessation of new booking activity” in April and May due to the pandemic, but the easing of country lockdowns boosted ticket sales in June.

However, since July there had been an “overall levelling off in bookings” as the UK and other European countries re-imposed quarantine requirements for travellers returning from countries such as Spain.

On Tuesday, EasyJet revealed it will have flown “slightly less” than the 40% of pre-coronavirus pandemic capacity it previously said it would operate between July and September following the government's decision to impose quarantine restrictions for seven Greek islands.

Boris Johnson appeal

Airlines are among the firms hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic. British Airways plans to cut up to 13,000 jobs due to the crisis, while EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic are slashing 4,500 roles each.

Operators say the UK's travel quarantine policy – which requires visitors to high risk countries to isolate on their return – is crushing demand and want the government to back testing at airports instead.

UK government sources have indicated that they are looking at system where the two tests would be eight days apart to further minimise the risk of “false negative” results.

They are yet to approve the idea, however, while the prime minister last week warned testing at airports could give a “false sense of security”.

In a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, Airlines UK, whose members include BA, Virgin, Ryanair and EasyJet, called for an extensions of the jobs furlough scheme and air passenger duty waiver.

“Our industry is in crisis,” the letter said. “In sum, we ask you to act urgently to implement a programme of recovery for our sector.”

Raising money

IAG also announced on Thursday that it was tapping shareholders for €2.7bn (£2.5bn) to help shore up its finances.

The company said the money would be used to reduce debt and help it withstand a prolonged downturn in travel.

Under the fundraising, existing investors will buy new shares at a deeply discounted price – 36% below the closing price on Wednesday.

The group's largest shareholder, Qatar Airways, which has a 25.1% holding, has said it will buy its full entitlement.

Details of the rights issue, which was announced in July, come two days after new chief executive Luis Gallego took over from long-time boss Willie Walsh.

HS2 rail project pledge 22,000 jobs as work officially begins

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 4th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Construction work on HS2 officially begins on Friday, with companies behind the controversial high-speed rail project expecting to create 22,000 jobs in the next few years.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said HS2 would “fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity”.

He endorsed the rail link in February, with formal government approval granted in April despite lockdown.

But critics said HS2 will also cost jobs, and vowed to continue protesting.

HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It is hoped the 20-year project will reduce passenger overcrowding and help rebalance the UK's economy through investment in transport links outside London.

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the reality of high-speed journeys between Britain's biggest cities had moved a step closer.

When the project was mooted in 2009, it was expected to cost an estimated £37.5bn and when the official price tag was set out in the 2015 Budget it came in at just under £56bn.

But an official government report has since warned that it could cost more than £100bn and be up to five years behind schedule.

Some critics of HS2 describe it as a “vanity project” and say the money would be better spent on better connections between different parts of northern England. Others, such as the Stop HS2 pressure group, say it will cause considerable environmental damage.

When will HS2 open and how much will it cost?

The prime minister said HS2 was at the heart of government plans to “build back better” and would form “the spine of our country's transport network”.

“But HS2's transformational potential goes even further,” he added. “By creating hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs, HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come.”

HS2's main works contractor for the West Midlands, the Balfour Beatty Vinci Joint Venture, has said it expects to be one of the biggest recruiters in the West Midlands over the next two years.

Up to 7,000 skilled jobs would be required to complete its section of the HS2 route, it said, with women and under-25s the core focus for recruitment and skills investment.

Other firms hiring include:

Another joint venture partner, EKFB, said it would recruit more than 4,000 people over the next two years for its section from Long Itchington Wood site in Warwickshire south to the Chiltern tunnel portals

Skanska Costain Strabag, Balfour Beatty Vinci Systra, Align JV and Mace Dragados JV, based in Greater London, will collectively recruit more than 10,000

HS2 Ltd itself is already directly recruiting for 500 new roles over the next three months, with the majority based in Birmingham.

HS2 Ltd's Mr Thurston said the railway would be “transformative” for the UK.

“With the start of construction, the reality of high speed journeys joining up Britain's biggest cities in the North and Midlands and using that connectivity to help level up the country has just moved a step closer,” he added.

‘Destructive'

Campaign group Stop HS2 said Boris Johnson and others who hail the creation of 22,000 jobs are “rather less keen to mention that HS2 is projected to permanently displace almost that many jobs”.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “Trying to spin HS2 as a job creation scheme is beyond desperate. Creating 22,000 jobs works out at almost £2m just to create a single job.”

But speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps disputed those figures.

“I can't see how there's an argument that making it easier to get about this country is somehow going to destroy jobs, quite the opposite in fact. It's clearly going to make the economy level up”, he said.

“Find those left behind areas, that have found themselves too disconnected before and join it together.”

Stop HS2 chairwoman Penny Gaines called the project “environmentally destructive” to wildlife: “This is why there are currently hundreds of activists camped out along the HS2 route. We don't expect them to go away any time soon.”

However, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), which fights for investment in the regional economy, said such major infrastructure projects are transformative and called for the planned extensions of HS2 to be started as soon as possible.

“Increasing capacity on the North's rail network and better connecting our towns and cities will be vital in the economic regeneration of the Northern Powerhouse – both now and long in the future,” said Henri Murison, director of the NPP.

Same dispute, new arguments

Analysis: By Theo Leggett

This is an important symbolic move for HS2, but in the real world it changes very little.

Work preparing for the new line – demolishing buildings and clearing sites for example – has already been going on for the past three years. And in some areas, construction work has also begun.

But the arguments over whether or not the railway should actually be built are continuing to rage.

The government has long insisted that it will help re-balance the country's economy, by promoting investment outside London. It now says the jobs created by the scheme will support the post-Covid recovery.

But opponents claim that lockdown has undermined the case for HS2 – by showing how easily people can work remotely, and how little business travel is really needed.

Same dispute, new arguments. But now shovels are – officially – in the ground.

How The Global Elite, Ultra-Wealthy and Billionaires Travel Through Heathrow Airport

Source: Venture Giants

A review on how the Global elite, ultra-wealthy and billionaires, travel through Heathrow Airport. The Heathrow VIP service was bought to our attention by our investors and we thought it would be a good idea to tag along and find out more about how the service operated and how the richest people around the World traveled when flying from Heathrow Airport. Yes you can go from Luton via your private jet – but this level of luxury is really second to none.