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Airhelp, the air passenger rights company has announced the results of its 2018 evaluation of the world’s airlines and airports. Airhelp rates the airlines and airports on quality of service, on-time performance, claims processing and online consumer sentiment.
Qatar Airways tops the list of airlines beating Singapore Airlines, last year’s winner. This was achieved with improvements in on-time performance and claims processing. Singapore Airlines continues to have the highest score for quality of service, but drops to 4th overall this year.
Lufthansa is in second place, matching Qatar Airlines on customer service, but was let down by a modest record in on-time performance. Etihad in third place scored well on quality of service, marginally behind Qatar and Lufthansa and had good on-time performance, but did not score as well for claims processing. South African Airways rounded out the top five.
The highest placed UK airline was Virgin Atlantic in 10th place followed by Flybe in 14th. There were no US airlines in the top 20 with American Airlines coming in 23rd. With 72 airlines ranked, United Airlines at 37 and Delta at 47 were both in the bottom half of airlines.
The airlines with the lowest ratings include Air Mauritius, easyJet, Pakistan International Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines and WOW Air. Ukraine International Airlines achieved the lowest score for quality of service by a significant margin, but were rescued by one of the highest ratings for on-time performance and a good score for claims processing.
Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, heads the list of airports with high scores for on-time performance and quality of service, but with a lower score in customer sentiment. Athens International Airport and Tokyo Haneda International Airport are ranked second and third.
London Heathrow comes in at 80th as the highest ranked UK airport. Birmingham (96) and Bristol (99) are the only other UK airports in the top 100 with Gatwick coming in at 123. London Stansted came 140th out of 141 beating only Kuwait International Airport.
Seattle-Tacoma (34) and San Francisco International (46) were the only US based airports in the top 50 and overall only six were ranked in the top 50%. Newark Liberty International was in the bottom 10%.
Offshoreonline report that when expat house buyers return in the busy summer buying period they will have a significant negotiating edge due to the recent falls in expat mortgage interest rates and the effect of a weak housing market in the UK.
“The availability of lower expat mortgage rates, whilst at the same time, many regions in the UK are reporting softer domestic housing demand and falling prices opens up opportunities for overseas buyers who are not affected by domestic UK economic pressures,” said Offshoreonline spokesman Guy Stephenson.
As the threat of an increase to UK Base Rate recedes, Offshoreonline reports several lenders have begun to cut expat mortgage rates and reduce bank administration fees. They report that variable rate loans are available for expat buy-to-let purchases from 2.89% from experienced lenders in the market, whilst 2 year fixed rates start at 3.19% and 5 year fixed rate at 4.19%.
Offshoreonline, the UK based specialist expatriate and international broker, offer advice on UK, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish mortgages. They believe that expat buyers remain concerned about possible mortgage interest rate rises, but as Stephenson points out, these may end up being far more modest when the UK Base Rate does eventually increase. “The period since the financial crisis has been one of abnormally low UK Base Rates, but equally unsustainably high bank margins, as banks have rebuilt their balance sheets”, thinks Offshoreonline. “Before the 2008 financial crisis, many mortgage providers would typically aim for a margin of anything from 0.75% to 1.25% over UK Base when setting mortgage interest rates, but today many lenders are still achieving nearly three times this level of mark up on loans,“ explains Stephenson. “As and when UK Base rates do rise therefore, lenders will have the ability to trim margins, so the impact on borrowers can be softened.”
British buyers overseas can be faced with a daunting task when trying to buy in the UK, as loans now have to meet strict affordability criteria, whilst many lenders will cherry pick the countries where they will lend to expat buyers. Using an established and experienced broker who will match buyers to lenders is important and will save time and money in the long term in such a complex and evolving market.
Greenback Expat Tax Services’ 2018 US Expat Opinion Survey based on input from over 3,800 expats highlights the unpopularity of the requirement for US expats to file US taxes while living abroad as well as concerns about their representation in the politics back at home.
Greenback report that 67% of US expats do not believe there should be a requirement for filing US taxes marginally up from last year. This number has remained relatively consistent over the past four years, and it’s not hard to understand why: the US remains only one of two countries with a citizen-based taxation system.
The survey showed that for 57% of US expats the tax issue they most want addressed is the repeal of citizenship-based taxation. The second issue of concern is a simplification of the tax process and just under 20% of expats said this would be the most helpful step the American government could take to aid them in filing US taxes.
Overall 4.3% of expats surveyed are planning to renounce their citizenship, 17.5% are seriously considering renouncing their US citizenship and 43% are not currently considering renunciation but would not rule it out. The major driver to expats considering renouncing their citizenship with 38% doing so because of the tax burden imposed on US citizens. Another consideration is the direction of the US government with 18% citing this as their reason for considering renouncing their citizenship.
Adding to expats’ overall disappointment with the American government is that the tax reform has been enacted with no major simplification to their reporting requirements. Of the expats surveyed, 64% intend to vote in the upcoming November 2018 elections. American expats make up approximately 2.7% of the US population and are very frustrated as a group about how the US government treats them. If expats can turn out in great numbers, they could feasibly have a big impact on the upcoming elections.
6% of expats were not familiar with FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Reporting). Greenback point out that if the survey data is representative, that could mean over half a million expats are at risk of prosecution for failing to comply with requirements of which they were not aware. This includes facing civil monetary penalties of up to $12,459 per violation judged to be non-wilful. And for wilful violations, the penalty may be $124,588 or 50 percent of the balance in the account – whichever is higher.
The Streamlined Filing Procedures, an IRS amnesty program that helps taxpayers become compliant without facing penalties, also does not achieve a high awareness score with 46.5% of expats saying they had not heard of it. 33.5% of expats said they would like to use the procedures to get caught up.
In addition, Greenback say that as The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program will end on September 28, 2018, anyone who has not come forward to voluntarily disclose a wilful failure to report foreign assets has only a few months left to do so. The closing of the OVDP may be tied to a more stringent crackdown by the IRS using FATCA records. This also indicates that the Streamlined Filing Procedures may be closed, which could affect expats considerably. The IRS most recently published statistics for individuals filing the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (form 2555) and the Foreign Tax Credit (Form 1116) in 2011. At that time, there were 449,277 Form 2555’s filed and 8,065,020 Form 1116’s filed. Greenback indicate that this implies that a significant number of Americans living abroad are still not compliant with the IRS and many individuals may not even be aware of the difficulties they will face if caught.
There is a clear indication from the survey that US expats do not feel that the US government represents them (86.3% of those surveyed) and of those expats who are seriously considering renunciation, 17.9% are doing so because their opinions differ so vastly with the current direction of the government.
The issues that US expats thought were most important were gun control (37.7%) and healthcare (34.5%). Expats also generally agree on the solution on these issues with 96.0% believing America needs to enact more regulations on gun control and 88% either agreed or strongly agreed that the US government should guarantee healthcare for its citizens.
The survey clearly indicates the unpopularity of the US tax system and how most do not feel in line with the current direction of US politics.
Father’s Day is a special day for families and one which is celebrated all around the world.
Tom Wilkinson, CEO of AXA – Global healthcare, draws on his experiences as an expat to share with us a range of different Father’s Day celebrations, stretching from Finland to Japan.
During my time as an expat, I found experiencing different cultures to be one of the most exciting parts of living in another country. Witnessing the unique festivals and celebrations that take place around the world can, in particular, be hugely enriching.
Such events might include La Tomatina, fiestas of San Fermin and cheese rolling. It’s easy to forget though, that some of the celebrations we might take for granted in the UK where I live now, are also observed in other countries, but in very different ways. Celebrations such as Father’s Day, for example.
To illustrate, I wanted to share 10 of the most unique Father’s Day celebrations from around the world:
Finland: In Finland, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of November, and is marked by children participating in their fathers’ favourite activities and offering home-made cards. It’s also customary to fly the national flag throughout the day.
France: La Fête des Pères is observed on the third Sunday of June, and was introduced in 1949 by – believe it or not – lighter manufacturer, Flaminaire, in the hope that the occasion would boost the company’s sales in France. The holiday was officially decreed in 1952, when a national Father’s Day committee was established to award prizes to the most deserving fathers. Today, lighters have typically replaced with drawings or small gifts as children look to honour their fathers.
Germany: Father’s day is always celebrated in Germany on Ascension Day, the first Thursday to fall 40 days after Easter, and is often known as Herrentag – or ‘Gentlemen’s Day’. Groups of men will often embark on a hike, pulling wagons filled with wine, beer and traditional food from their respective regions. It’s believed that this tradition dates back to the 18th century when men would assemble in the plaza of a local village where the mayor would award a prize – usually a large piece of ham – to the father who had the most children.
Italy: Father’s Day is celebrated in Italy on 19th March, St. Joseph’s Day. The festivities that take place on Festa di San Giuseppe include street parades, feasts and bonfires. In parts of the country, donkey races are sometimes held to symbolise Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem.
Thailand: Father’s Day is marked in Thailand on the birthday of the king, currently falling on 5th December. People in Thailand would traditionally celebrate by gifting their father a canna flower, however, it’s more common today to light candles and wear yellow as a sign of respect for the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Mexico: El Dia del Padre is celebrated in Mexico on the third Sunday of June. Children will commonly give handwritten letters to their fathers, or cook meals. Some might even walk or run the 21 kilometre race in Mexico City together, known as the “Carrera Día del Padre 21K Bosque de Tlalpan”, which is meant to encourage a bond between children and their fathers as they run side by side.
Russia: Falling on 23rd February, Father’s Day is actually known in Russia as ‘Defender of the Fatherland Day’, and has evolved from a military tribute to Russian soldiers to become a celebration of all father figures. The cities of Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Orenburg host festivals to mark the occasions, while St. Petersburg’s annual Daddy-Starts celebration includes sports tournaments and concerts.
South Africa: In South Africa, Father’s Day is celebrated with a feast of regional dishes, such as bobotie (a rich meat pie), biltong (salted, curated meat), and boerewors (grilled sausage). Families across the nation will come to together to participate in street performances, sports tournaments and concerts.
Japan: Father’s Day in Japan celebrates family and food. It’s customary that families host a big seafood banquet for all to enjoy, with the fathers at the centre of attention. At the end of the meal, fathers are then toasted with beer or champagne and presented with presents – often in the form of beer glasses to aid the toast itself.
Whether it be with a national flag, a prize ham, donning a yellow outfit or simply making breakfast in bed, here’s to a happy Father’s Day. However – and indeed, wherever – you’re celebrating this year.
ABOUT AXA – GLOBAL HEALTHCARE
AXA has been protecting the healthcare needs of globally mobile citizens for more than 50 years. Offering cross-border health insurance to businesses and private individuals, we support customers living in more than 190 countries. Our constantly evolving propositions build upon decades of experience in global healthcare and the local knowledge and capabilities of AXA’s healthcare businesses across the world. We offer customers care and support though a 24/7 health information helpline, second medical opinion and personal case management services as well as evacuation and repatriation assistance. And to make sure customers get speedy access to medical treatment wherever they are in the world, they have access to AXA’s global medical network. Trading under the AXA PPP International, AXA Global Protect and AXA Healthcare Management brands, we are part of the AXA Group – a global insurance company with more than 107 million customers worldwide.
Katia Vlachos, born of Greek parents in Cameroon, has lived as an expat in Paris, LA, the Netherlands, Vienna and Zurich and so is well placed to write on living the expat life. At the London book launch of her new book, A Great Move, she outlined her top seven tips for a successful expatriate assignment.
Having spent a period as an expat in Vienna struggling to settle while surrounded by people enjoying the life she questioned why some people thrive and others do not. She spoke to many fellow expats to get their experiences and views and these formed the foundation of her new book, A Great Move. At the London book launch sponsored by Santa Fe Relocation Katia gave her top seven tips on how to have a great move:
1. Look before you leap
Lack of planning, hasty decision making and lack of information can be fatal when moving to a new country and culture. Getting your partner on board and having a clear idea of their own ‘why’ for the move ensures that they are invested in the move and reduces the probability of failure.
2. Know what to expect
A move abroad impacts a wide range of areas in your life, including family, friends, lifestyle and career. It is important to know what the implications are for all of these areas and ensure that there are no deal breakers.
3. Prioritise your family
It is well established that one of the major reasons for the failure of international assignments can be where the family has problems settling in. The family can make or break the assignment and it is vital that the impact on their lives is considered and prioritised.
4. Identify what you need to feel at home.
If you are clear on what is important to you and your family in getting the best out of the life you will be more targeted in the transition to your new life. This is likely to include things like the level of routine you are comfortable with, your need to be surrounded by a wide or close group of friends. Routine can be established quite quickly, but building a new circle of friends, especially close friendships can take time to achieve.
5. Do not do it alone
Moving to a new country, culture and lifestyle is always going to be challenging and getting the support of others helps to ease the burden. Your own personal and business networks can be a great source of help and you need to find your ‘tribe’ and lean on the wider community.
6. Anticipate the adjustment process
If you go in to such a major disruption of your life thinking it will all be easy, you are likely to face greater difficulties as you adjust to the change. As in all major change even if you are lucky enough to have an initial honeymoon period when you first arrive, there are likely to be periods of crisis before you begin to adjust to the new lifestyle. If you are expecting the changes and see them as a natural part of the process, you are more likely to be able to navigate your way through them quickly and successfully.
7. Take care of yourself
It is easy to get carried away with the challenges of settling in to a new country, job, home and lifestyle and forget to sleep, eat and relax. It is important to look after yourself even while dealing with your own and your family’s challenges.
Katia Vlachos’ book, A Great Move, is available and over the next few month’s we will be featuring a series of articles sharing her experiences and advice.
MMQSMace, Mace’s joint venture cost consultancy business in South Africa, has been appointed as quantity surveyors for three aviation projects worth more than $70m by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).
ACSA owns most of South Africa’s major airports, as well as a number of other aviation facilities across the globe, including in Sao Paolo and Mumbai. MMQSMace has been appointed to work on Johannesburg’s O. R. Tambo International Airport, Africa’s largest airport for regional and intercontinental flights, and Cape Town International Airport, the second-busiest airport in South Africa and the third-busiest in Africa.
MMQSMace was appointed to the ACSA three year quantity surveying framework earlier in 2018, and has now been awarded three separate projects.
The three projects combined will see MMQSMace and the client work together with the rest of the project team to deliver more than $70m of improvements to the two airports. These improvements include refurbishment of part of the airside corridor and construction of five new passenger seating nodes at the airport at O. R. Tambo Airport.
Mace is one of the world’s leading aviation project delivery experts, having worked on aviation construction and extension programmes across the globe. These have included projects in India, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the UK.
Tshepiso Raletsemo, Group Manager Portfolio Management of ACSA said: “First I would like to congratulate MMQSMace on its appointment to these three key airport upgrade projects. We welcome MMQSMace to the team and really look forward to building a great working relationship as these projects move forward.”
SNC-Lavalin has signed an exclusive agreement with Florexx International Investments LLC for the extended basic engineering and subsequent design and delivery of an Advanced Topping Refinery in the UAE.
Under the exclusive agreement, SNC-Lavalin will carry out the initial basic engineering, master planning, process technology evaluation and selection to support project financial investment decision approvals, expected in Q3 2018. Once the project proceeds to the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) phase, SNC-Lavalin will carry out the complete design and delivery of the refinery, working alongside Emirati contractors to maximize in-country value.
“This project is an important addition to the work that we do in the UAE, further boosting our extensive capability in providing end-to-end solutions in the downstream oil and gas market, as well as contributing to the growth of our business in the region and our continued focus on adding value to all seven Emirates” said Christian Brown, President, Oil & Gas, SNC-Lavalin.
Advanced Topping Refineries use distillation columns to separate crude oil into different petroleum products, including naphtha, diesel, kerosene and fuel. The Inside Battery Limits (ISBL) scope of the agreement between SNC-Lavalin and Florexx includes construction of a 100,000 barrel per day (BPD) capacity refinery complemented by non-process technical and non-technical buildings and support infrastructure.
Founded in 1911, SNC-Lavalin is a global fully integrated professional services and project management company and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure. From offices around the world, SNC-Lavalin’s employees are proud to build what matters. Our teams provide comprehensive end-to-end project solutions – including capital investment, consulting, design, engineering, construction, sustaining capital and operations and maintenance – to clients across oil and gas, mining and metallurgy, infrastructure, clean power, nuclear and EDPM (engineering design and project management). On July 3, 2017, SNC-Lavalin acquired Atkins, one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies, which has been integrated into our sectors.
Master developer Nakheel has signed a contract worth AED66 million for a spectacular, choreographed fountain at The Pointe, its new, AED800 million waterfront dining and entertainment destination on Dubai’s world-famous Palm Jumeirah.
The developer has appointed one of China’s largest fountain specialists, Beijing Water Design, to deliver and operate the fountain, which will cover a 12,000 square metre area of water at the tip of the island, across the bay from Atlantis The Palm.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at Nakheel’s Dubai headquarters today, Nakheel Chairman, Ali Rashid Lootah, said: “Palm Jumeirah, our flagship project, is already one of the most popular, sought-after destinations for Dubai’s residents and tourists. The Pointe, our latest addition to this ever-evolving island, is an iconic, must-see attraction that adds a new dimension to the city’s dining, retail and entertainment scene.
“Today’s signing is a major milestone for The Pointe, as it means work on its centrepiece – the fountain – is now underway, and we are one step closer to delivering this eagerly-anticipated destination.”
Operated by Nakheel Malls, the retail arm of Nakheel, The Pointe features nearly 70 restaurants, shops and attractions, with F&B making up some 70 per cent of the concepts on offer. There is also a cinema, children’s play area, supermarket, gyms and beauty salons.
Located five kilometres out to sea, The Pointe enjoys cool sea breezes and stunning views. Its 1.5km promenade is a destination in itself for residents and tourists to unwind at one of Dubai’s most iconic locations, or snap the perfect holiday pictures against a stunning backdrop.
The Pointe has a car park for 1,600 vehicles, and will have its own Palm Monorail station. There are also plans for boat access from Palm Jumeirah’s hotels and resorts.
HM Land Registry advise how to protect against property fraud in England and Wales when you live abroad. Property is usually the most valuable asset people own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be an attractive target for fraudsters.
If you live abroad your property might be more at risk if it:
is rented out
isn’t registered with Land Registry
The type of frauds Land Registry see are where fraudsters steal your identity and sell or mortgage your property by pretending to be you. If it isn’t discovered promptly, you as the true property owner might find your property has been transferred or sold without your knowledge. Fixing the mess can be distressing, time-consuming and costly.
Thankfully property fraud is quite rare, but if you are the unlucky victim, it can have devastating effects. Prevention is therefore better than cure.
How can you protect yourself?
Ensure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss, you may be compensated. If your property isn’t registered then no compensation is payable. Find out about registering land.
Make sure your contact details are up-to-date so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses on the register including an email address or an address abroad. If your details are not up to date, you may not receive our letters or emails if we need to contact you.
Sign up for Land Registry’s free Property Alert service. We send email alerts when there is certain activity on a monitored property e.g. if someone tries to register a mortgage. You can monitor up to 10 properties and if you receive an unexpected alert, you can decide whether to seek further advice. See our YouTube guide to setting up Property Alert.
If you feel you might be at risk you can request a restriction on their property. A restriction is intended to stop activity on your property, such as a transfer or a mortgage, unless a conveyancer or solicitor confirms the application was made by you. There is no fee to home owners who do not live in the property they wish to protect. Request a restriction.
If you are a company wanting protection you can make a request to enter a restriction on up to three properties, free of charge, on form RQ(Co). A solicitor must certify that they are satisfied the company transferring, leasing or mortgaging the property is the same company as the owner before any new sale, lease or mortgage is registered. They must also certify that they have taken reasonable steps to establish that anyone who executed the deed on behalf of the company held the stated office at the time of execution.
If you think you may be the victim of property fraud:
Expats that secure their own health insurance quickly learn that their premiums will rise year-on-year. Health policies aren’t like motor policies where, given you’ve made no claims, you’ll find a discount on your premium for the next coverage period. This article from our sponsor, Pacific Prime Dubai, will help explain why health insurance premiums always seem to increase and what you can do when your renewal time comes up.
When it comes to individual insurance policies, the premiums are generally calculated on two things: the personal information of the person to be insured and the general risk analysis for an insurance provider’s total membership (sometimes categorized by region or by plan/product type). What this means is that what you’re asked to pay for healthcare coverage is influenced partly by you and the rest will depend on the market.
Personal factors influencing insurance costs can include:
Current health status
Any pre-existing conditions
Where you live
A premium increase might be due to you moving up an age bracket (potentially to an age which sees higher claims), a significant personal health issue that may cost a lot in future claims, or simply be because you live in a country where healthcare costs are high.
Market-related influences are less understood by consumers – but are arguably more important when it comes to setting premium rates.
What are the main non-personal drivers of premium inflation for expat insurance?
Expat insurance, or specifically international health insurance, is common for those people living and working away from their home-country. The international insurance market is strongly influenced by a number of global and local price drivers that impact what you pay initially and at renewal time. These main factors are:
The high price of medical technology: The more hospitals and providers pay for new technology and medicines, the higher the cost of healthcare. For insurers footing those bills, the increasing costs are often passed on to insurance consumers.
An imbalance of health resources: In areas where the supply of health services is outweighed by demand, providers (particularly private sector hospitals) are again able to charge a premium for care that’s faster and of a higher quality.
Increased compensation for medical staff: As hospitals seek to raise prices, so too do those whose salaries they pay. Doctors are already among the highest paid skilled professionals, and their salaries and allowances are also still increasing.
Overutilization of health services: With places around the world seeking to address the concerns of ageing populations, care providers are having to invest more in expanding their capacity to avoid overcrowding and long wait times.
In addition to these common influences on insurance pricing, meeting compliance and regulatory requirements (such as the mandatory health insurance laws of Dubai), changing economic conditions, and insurance-industry actions to combat fraud all play a part in determining how much your insurance premiums will rise by annually.
What can I do about premium increases at renewal time?
The first thing you can do to better prepare yourself for premium price discussions is to learn more about the average price inflation rates in your region. A recent report on International Private Medical Insurance Inflation by Pacific Prime can let you know whether or not your current policy’s premium increase is above or below the average for your region and plan type.
Secondly, engaging the services of an experienced insurance broker can help a lot. An intermediary, like Pacific Prime Dubai, can assess your current plan’s premium increase and let you know whether it’s in line with market expectations or not. If it’s good, they’ll handle the renewal process. If you can get a better deal, they’ll negotiate that on your behalf too. Contact the team at Pacific Prime Dubai today to get the best support for your expat insurance needs.