News in brief from across the globe... This week, authorities in the UK and US adopted sweeping measures banning carry-on laptops and tablets on flights from certain countries in the Middle East. Elsewhere, European Union officials have reiterated familiar warnings to UK-based airlines including Ryanair and easyJet that they will need to relocate or sell shares to European individuals if they want to continue operating within Europe following Brexit.
⇒ The US Transportation Security Administration has introduced an indefinite ban on certain carry-on electronic devices on direct flights operated by nine airlines flying from eight countries in the Middle East to the US. The ban applies to Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudia, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. The directive was implemented on 21 March, following apparent intelligence indicating that terrorist groups are looking to smuggle explosive devices onto aircraft in consumer electronics equipment, such as laptops, tablets and e-readers. Marc Garneau, Canada's minister of transport, is reportedly deciding whether to introduce similar measures.
⇒ Avianca minority shareholder Kingsland has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to block a deal between Synergy Group, the Colombian airline’s controlling stakeholder, and United Continental. The request for injunctive relief, which was filed on 15 March, follows a lawsuit filed by Kingsland in the New York State Supreme Court on 28 February. Kingsland said it is seeking injunctive relief so as to prevent “the cabal of insiders that controls Avianca” from proceeding with their “unlawful attempt to ram through the egregiously one-sided United Transaction in order to divert hundreds of millions of dollars to themselves in violation of their fiduciary and contractual duties.”
⇒ Azul Brazilian Airlines has commenced an initial public offering, with a total of 72 million shares for sale on the New York Stock Exchange, worth approximately $478 million. Shearman & Sterling advised the São Paulo-based carrier on the deal.
⇒ Canada has introduced new recreational drone rules for aircraft that weigh between 250 grams and 35 kilograms. Transport minister Marc Garneau announced the new regulation last week, which requires operators to include their contact details on drones. The rules also prohibit the flying of drones at night, above 90 metres, within 75 metres of buildings or people, or within nine kilometres of an airport.
⇒ Following the introduction of similar measures in the US, the UK has adopted its own sweeping cabin ban on all laptops and tablets on flights to the UK departing from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. UK carriers affected by the ban include British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook and Thomson. Foreign carriers affected include Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Atlas-Global, Middle East Airlines, EgyptAir. Royal Jordanian, Tunisair and Saudia. A government spokesperson said: “The safety and security of the travelling public is our highest priority. That is why we keep our aviation security under constant review and put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate.” Other European countries are reportedly considering similar restrictions.
⇒ European Union officials have reiterated familiar warnings to UK-based airlines including Ryanair and easyJet that they will need to relocate or sell shares to European individuals if they want to continue operating within Europe following Brexit. Senior executives at easyJet, IAG, Ryanair and TUI Group met the EU’s Brexit taskforce last week, according to the Guardian newspaper, following a meeting the week before with representatives from Air France-KLM, Finnair, Lufthansa and SAS. “EU officials in the meetings were clear… about the rigidity of the rules, amid concerns at a senior EU level that too many in the aviation industry are in denial about the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the bloc,” the Guardian reported.
⇒ Finnair has called on its government to amend legislation that requires the state to own a majority shareholding in the national flag carrier. Klaus Heinemann, who chairs the board of directors at Finnair, said the government should change existing ownership rules to mitigate risk and allow the airline to combine with other European carriers.
Middle East and Africa
⇒ Nigeria’s Federal High Court has issued an arrest warrant against senior executives at Turkish Airlines, including the chair of its board and commercial manager in Nigeria, for failing to turn up to a court hearing regarding breaches of the country’s Consumer Protection Act, according to Nigeria’s This Day Live. The airline is accused of failing to cooperate with requests from the Consumer Protection Council, which asked for reports detailing alleged regulatory breaches.
⇒ The chief executive of Pakistan International Airlines is being investigated for alleged corruption and has been banned from leaving the country. Bernd Hildenbrand has been added to the country’s “exit control list” following confirmation of an anti-corruption probe by the country’s Federal Investigation Agency, which is examining allegations that Hildenbrand and other executives at the state-owned airline engaged in embezzlement, bribes and mismanagement when leasing an Airbus A330-300 from SriLankan Airlines.
⇒ The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has provisionally cleared a partnership between Virgin Australia and Chinese aviation conglomerate HNA Group, which owns stakes in over a dozen Chinese airlines. “Interim authorisation commences immediately and remains in place until it is revoked or the date the ACCC’s final determination comes into effect,” the ACCC said, justifying the interim authorisation because the tie-up was likely to confer “some public benefit and limited public detriment”. A final decision is expected later this year. Virgin Australia notified the alliance in February, asking for interim authorisation in order to begin selling tickets for proposed flights to Hong Kong.
⇒ Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications has announced proposed amendments to the country’s Civil Aviation Law, tightening drone regulations, following recommendations by the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Under the proposed new rules, owners will have to register drones that weigh more than 250 grams, while operators of drones that weigh more than 25 kilograms will be required to pass pilot practical and theory tests. The new regulations also set a maximum flying altitude of 400 feet.