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Omicron ushers in holiday hurt as thousands of flights cancelled

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Severe weather in the US west is due to wreak havoc on roadways and other routes after airline staff called in sick after exposure to Covid.

More than 6,000 flights have been cancelled worldwide over the long Christmas weekend and thousands more were delayed, a tracking website reported.

Compounding the travel chaos in the United States, severe weather in the country’s west is due to wreak havoc on roadways and other routes there although it may well bring a white Christmas weekend to northwest cities Seattle and Portland.

According to Flightaware.com, nearly 2,800 flights were scrubbed around the globe on Saturday, including more than 970 originating from or headed to US airports, with over 8,000 delays as of 0130 GMT.

On Friday, there were around 2,400 cancellations and 11,000 delays, while Sunday cancellations have already surpassed 1,100.

Pilots, flight attendants and other employees have been calling in sick or having to quarantine after exposure to Covid, forcing Lufthansa, Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and many other short-staffed carriers to cancel flights during one of the year’s peak travel periods.

“Help @united flight cancelled again. I want to get home for Christmas,” one exasperated traveler from the US state of Vermont tweeted to the airline early Saturday.

Flightaware data showed United cancelled around 200 flights on Friday and nearly 250 on Saturday – about 10 percent of those that were scheduled.

A scramble to reroute pilots and planes and reassign employees was underway, but Omicron’s surge has upended business.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United said in a statement Friday.

“As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” the airline said.

Similarly, Delta scrapped 310 flights Saturday and was already cancelling several dozen more Sunday, saying it has “exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying.”

“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” the company said.

The cancellations added to the pandemic frustration for many people eager to reunite with their families over the holidays, after last year’s Christmas was severely curtailed.

Chinese airlines accounted for the highest number of cancellations, with China Eastern scrapping more than 1,000 flights, over 20 percent of its flight plan, on Friday and Saturday and Air China also grounding about 20 percent of its scheduled departures over the period.

READ MORE: In pictures: World celebrates Christmas under pall of pandemic

Treacherous’ snow conditions

According to estimates from the American Automobile Association, more than 109 million Americans were scheduled to travel by plane, train or automobile between December 23 and January 2, a 34 percent increase over last year.

But most of those plans were made before the outbreak of Omicron, which has become the dominant strain in the United States, overwhelming some hospitals and healthcare workers.

The state of New York announced Friday that it recorded 44,431 new daily positive Covid tests, a record, while new cases surged nationwide as well.

On the weather front, while unseasonably warm temperatures were bathing eastern states, the National Weather Service announced winter storm warnings including a deep freeze for significant parts of the west.

“Anomalously cold conditions and a barrage of Pacific moisture results in prolonged periods of mountain snow and coastal/valley rain, some of which may fall heavy at times,” the NWS said in an advisory.

An eye-popping two to four feet (61 to 122 centimeters) of snow was forecast to fall this weekend, with higher accumulation in some spots, in the northern and central Sierra mountains of California and Oregon.

Travel will be “treacherous to at times impossible” from the Sierras to the central Rocky Mountains at the weekend due to whiteout snow conditions, the NWS added.

READ MORE: Christmas weekend sees thousands of flights cancelled globally

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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UK inflation hits almost three-decade high as living costs soar

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The cost of living in Britain is forecast to increase even higher in April owing to a tax hike and further planned increases to domestic energy bills, analysts say.

The annual rate of inflation in Britain has risen to a near 30-year high in December, stoking fears about a cost-of-living squeeze as wages fail to keep pace.

Inflation accelerated to 5.4 percent in the 12 months through December, up from November’s 5.1 percent, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday.

Last month’s annual figure is the highest since March 1992, when inflation stood at 7.1 percent.

“Food prices again grew strongly while increases in furniture and clothing also pushed up annual inflation,” said ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner.

The Bank of England (BoE), whose chief task is to keep inflation close to 2.0 percent, is now expected to raise rates again at its next meeting in February amid easing concerns over economic fallout from the Omicron coronavirus variant.

On Wednesday, the pound hit a near two-year peak versus the euro on increased expectations of another rate rise, while the European Central Bank has yet to follow the BoE in tightening monetary conditions.

READ MORE: Explained: Europe caught in highest inflation in nearly 30 years

Surging costs

Economies worldwide are battling decades-high inflation that is forcing central banks to lift interest rates, including the BoE which last month raised its key borrowing cost — to 0.25 percent from a record-low level of 0.1 percent — for the first time in more than three years .

The cost of living in Britain is forecast to soar even higher in April owing to a tax hike and further planned increases to domestic energy bills, according to analysts.

National insurance, paid by workers and employers, is being increased to help fund social care for the elderly. Analysts expect more painful tax increases to foot the vast bill for Covid.

In addition, electricity and gas prices are set to rocket higher when the UK government shortly lifts a cap on energy bills amid record-breaking wholesale costs.

“With consumer prices rising at their fastest rate for three decades and wage growth slowing, Britons are being squeezed ever harder by the cost of living,” said Jay Mawji, head of trading provider IX Prime.

Consumers and businesses are struggling with surging costs, ongoing pandemic turmoil and supply chain problems.

At the same time, real wages in November fell on the year for the first time since mid-2020, official data showed on Tuesday.

“More pain lies ahead in the form of tax rises in April and a likely 50-percent jump in energy bills,” said IX Prime’s Mawji.

READ MORE: US consumer prices hit four-decade high in December

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Turkiye, UAE central banks sign swap deal

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The agreement aims to enhance bilateral trade and to further strengthen financial cooperation between the two countries.

Central banks of the United Arab Emirates and Turkiye have inked bilateral currency swap agreement.

According to a statement by the Turkiye’s Central Bank on Wednesday, the nominal size of the deal is mutually 18 billion UAE dirham and 64 billion Turkish liras.

The agreement aims to enhance bilateral trade and to further strengthen financial cooperation between the two countries.

“It will stand for a period of three years, with the possibility of an extension through mutual agreement,” the statement noted.

This agreement demonstrates the two central banks’ commitment to deepen bilateral trade in local currencies in order to advance economic and financial relations between our countries, Sahap Kavcioglu, the Turkiye’s Central Bank governor, said after signing the deal.

READ MORE: A new dawn: Turkey and the Arab world choose cooperation over conflict

Enhancing bilateral cooperation

The chief of UAE Central Bank Khaled Mohamed Balama also said: “Signing this agreement with the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkiye reflects each nation’s desire to enhance bilateral cooperation in financial matters, particularly in the fields of trade and investments between the two countries.”

With this latest agreement, the Turkiye’s Central Bank’s total swap figure with foreign central banks reached $28 billion.

Turkiye and the UAE signed a total of 10 agreements on energy, environment, finance, and trade during a visit by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Ankara last November.

The UAE has also allocated a $10 billion fund for direct investment in Turkiye, the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company also announced.

As of November, the bilateral trade volume stood at $7.1 billion. Turkiye’s imports from the UAE totaled $2.2 billion, while its exports to the country stood at $4.9 billion.

READ MORE: Erdogan vows to fight inflation, higher interest rates

Source: TRT

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Airlines worldwide change flights over US 5G problem

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The 5G issue appeared to particularly impact the Boeing 777, a long-range, wide-body aircraft used by carriers worldwide.

Airlines across the world have rushed to cancel or change flights heading into the US over an ongoing dispute about the rollout of 5G mobile phone technology near American airports.

Dubai-based Emirates, a key carrier for East-West travel, announced it would halt flights to Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, New Jersey, Orlando, Florida, San Francisco and Seattle over the issue beginning Wednesday. It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

The issue appeared to particularly impact the Boeing 777, a long-range, wide-body aircraft used by carriers worldwide. Two Japanese airlines directly named the aircraft as being particularly affected by the 5G signals as they announced cancellations and changes to their schedules.

In its announcement, Emirates cited the cancellation as necessary due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports.”

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” the state-owned airline said.

The United Arab Emirates successfully rolled out 5G coverage all around its airports without incident, like dozens of other countries.

But in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration worries that the C-Band strand of 5G could interfere with aviation equipment.

READ MORE: AT&T, Verizon delay 5G implementation at some US airports

Interfere with aircraft altimeters

Of particular concern in the 5G rollout appears to be the Boeing 777, a major workhorse for Emirates, which only flies that model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet. Its Mideast competitor, Qatar Airways, anticipates “minor delays” on return flights from the US but says otherwise its dozen US routes are operating as scheduled.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. said in a statement that the FAA “has indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters.” Altimeters measure how high a plane is in the sky, a crucial piece of equipment for flying.

“Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have cancelled or changed the aircraft for some flights to/from the US based on the announcement by Boeing,” ANA said. It cancelled 20 flights to the US over the issue to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Japan Airlines Co. Ltd. similarly said that it had been informed that 5G signals “may interfere with the radio altimeter installed on the Boeing 777.”

“We will refrain from using this model on the continental United States line until we can confirm its safety and we regret to inform you that we will cancel the flight for which the aircraft cannot be changed to the Boeing 787,” the airline said. Eight of its flights were affected Wednesday — three passenger trips and five for cargo.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Air India also announced on Twitter it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco “due to deployment of the 5G communications” equipment. It said it would try to use other aircraft on US routes as well.

The cancellations come even after mobile phone carriers AT&T and Verizon will postpone new wireless service near some US airports planned for this week.

The FAA will allow planes with accurate, reliable altimeters to operate around high-power 5G. But planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.

READ MORE: US airlines warn of ‘chaos’ if 5G allowed near airports

Source: AP

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