Thursday, January 23, 2020

Vistara Considers Adding More Boeing Jets in India to Fight Emirates

Singapore Airlines Ltd. is preparing to add planes in India to take on Emirates in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.
Vistara, Singapore Air’s Indian joint venture, is considering ordering more 787 Dreamliner jets — whose sticker prices start at about $250 million each — from Boeing Co. to add flights to destinations as far away as the U.S., people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing a confidential matter. The carrier is also mulling buying more A320neo-family planes from Airbus SE, including the longest-range A321XLR model, they said.
For Vistara, which counts top Indian conglomerate Tata Group as its majority shareholder, the move would be part of plans to loosen Emirates and Etihad Airways PJSC’s grip over the lucrative market of flying passengers between India and Europe or the US Singapore Airlines has reason to look to India as it faces intensifying competition from budget carriers in its home market of Southeast Asia.
As part of its expansion plans, Vistara is also considering buying some of London Heathrow airport’s prized slots — which can cost as much as $70 million each for about two decades — and that may determine the scale of the carrier’s plane orders, one of the people said.
While India’s aviation market is growing fast, it’s notoriously difficult to make money there as fares often sell below cost. Jet Airways India Ltd., once the country’s largest airline by market value, has been grounded after it ran out of money and the government has been struggling to find a buyer for unprofitable Air India Ltd.
Still, international routes have been among the few profitable flights out of India, with Emirates and Etihad leading the way for foreign carriers by accounting for about a fifth of total passenger traffic.
23/01/20  Anurag Kotoky and Siddharth Vikram Philip/Bloomberg

Emirates to Not Participate in Air India Sale, Says COO

Talking to BloombergQuint Emirates’ chief operating officer (COO), Adel Ahmad Al Redha, said that the airline is not planning to bid for the national carrier Air India as there are difficulties to entering India.

“As far as investment (in Air India) is concerned, there’s nothing yet on the table,” he said, adding that the middle-eastern airline lacks the management bandwidth to go out of its “comfort zone”.

He also said that there were positive trends in traffic movement in the last two months and that no drop in traffic was recorded despite the escalations in the middle east.
23/01/20 Quint

14 new flights planned for better air link to Odisha

Bhubaneswar: A total of 14 new flights are planned to several national and international destinations to improve connectivity with Odisha. Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said the new flights to and from Odisha have been planned after holding discussions with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.“The flight between Bhubaneswar and Bengaluru (Air India), which commenced on January 20, was also the outcome of the meetings held in New Delhi in the last one month,” Tripathy said on the sidelines of a high-level meeting here on Wednesday on ‘Enhancing Air Connectivity for Odisha’.

The Chief Secretary also said that Bhubaneswar-Surat flight (operated by Air India) commenced from January 20, while Kolkata-Jharsuguda flight (Alliance Air) will start from Wednesday, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi flight (Alliance Air) will start from January 31, Varanasi-Bhubaneswar flight (IndiGo) will start from February 29 and Jharsuguda-Mumbai flight (SpiceJet) will start by the end of winter schedule this year.

Similarly, Prayagraj-Bhubaneswar flight (IndiGo) will start from July 1,  Delhi-Bhubaneswar flight (AirAsia) is expected to commence operation during the upcoming summer schedule, Bhubaneswar-Rourkela (Alliance Air) flight will likely start by May and flight operation between Bhubaneswar and Kalaikunda by Alliance Air is also expected to start during the summer schedule. The winter schedule will continue till March 27, while the summer schedule will commence from March 28, sources said.“We have declared not to charge VAT on fuel from airlines operating international flights,” Tripathy said.
23/01/20 New Indian Express

Diminishing Returns: Calculated Misery in Air Travel

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

If there comes a point when people will decide not to fly, the issue may well be less to do with any moral or ethical issue with climate change than the fact that commercial flights have become atrocious. They are naked money-making concerns with diminishing returns on quality.  The key factor that plays out here is what economists like to term inelastic demand.  Prices can be raised; service quality can be reduced, but customers will keep coming.  The demand remains, even if the supply leaves much to be desired.

The phenomenon is distinct over the long-haul carriers, which have, at least until recently, been spared the stripping phenomenon.  Singapore Airlines, which prides itself for an almost aristocratic bearing towards its customers, proved skimp its Melbourne to Singapore leg.  An insulting sampling of “toasties” was offered as a starter, a culinary outrage that did not go unnoticed.  Indian passengers who had selected special meals in advance were on the money; pungent curries and dhal filled the cabin as this ridiculous excuse of a meal was handed out to customers.  A few desperate, and disgusted punters asked the flight attendants if there were spare vegetarian options.

Budget airlines may have something to explain in this regard.  The revolution of the cheap fare came with the reduction of expectations.  No frills travel came with a certain contempt on the part of the service providers: food and drink would no longer be gratis; seat allocations would have to be purchased in advance and check-in or carry-on luggage would have to be paid for.  A turning point was Dublin-based Ryanair’s attempt to go easy on toilet numbers – one per aircraft – and charge customers for their use.  As the company’s penny-pinching CEO Michael O’Leary said at the time, “We rarely use all three toilets on board our aircraft anyway.”  Bladders be damned.

Instead of aspiring to a higher level of service, the traditionalists have voted to go down a notch or three.  What budget airlines do badly, we can do worse.  The law of diminishing returns is pushing all air travel carriers downwards in what has been seen to be an exercise of “calculated misery”.  The experience is appalling and unpleasant, but need not necessarily be intolerable.  The result is a curious revision of the term “upgrade”.  As Alex Abad-Santos laments in Vox, passengers upgrade their seats, not to get a more spectacular service or experience, but “to avoid hell.”

Managing such misery is hardly original, though Tim Wu of Columbia Law School can be credited for giving a good overview of it when writing in 2014 for The New Yorker.  “Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs to be something worth paying to avoid.  That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as ‘calculated misery’.  Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it.  And that’s where the suffering begins.”

Nothing says such suffering than crammed economy seats on a long-haul flight.  Shoulders and arms are jammed; legs can barely move.  The trend was such that Bill McGee, a writer with more than a passing acquaintance with the airline industry, would note, referring to the United States, that the most spacious economy seats “you can book on the nation’s four largest airlines are narrower than the tightest economy seats offered in the 1990s.”

Things are not much better in terms of the European market.  Mediocrity mixes with indifference, even on flights which are half-full.  A flight from London Heathrow to Copenhagen with Scandinavian Airlines was characterised by a certain snooty indifference on the part of the flight attendants.  Much babbling was taking place in Finnish – why would you want to assist passengers?  Little by way of interest in the customers was afforded.  Curt instructions were issued; requests for coffee were received with glacial stares.  Naturally, to receive a meal and drink that wasn’t water that had seen better days required forking out of the plastic fantastic.  Gone are the days when international airlines behaved as such, wishing to make matters decent, comfortable and even pleasantly bearable; the European air space finds itself populated by the stingy and the tight-belted.

Commercial airlines from SAS to Singapore Airlines have taken whole sheafs of extortion from the budget airline book of making customers pay for selecting seats.  The stress here is budget service at caviar prices.  This cheeky form of thieving imposes a cost on the act of jumping the queue for a better place on the flight.  And this is not all.  You book a ticket with a flight, only to find at the airport that you had purchased a “light” version, meaning that you have to pay for carryon luggage. 

High time for a customer revolt, but the industry is distinctly programmed.  Even when airlines have been well disposed to their customers, such as JetBlue, the corporate monsters of Wall Street have howled.  It’s bad form to provide decent service within reasonable expectations.  Efficiency, and filling the seats, is what matters, whatever the quality.  Fee-free services, being conscious of the brand and a “customer-focussed” approach was simply not on.  Eventually, JetBlue caved in and joined the market of calculated misery.

 Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Selloff target may be raised


New Delhi: Buoyed by the prospect of a strategic sale in BPCL and Air India, Budget 2020-21 could set an ambitious stake sale target even though the Modi government may fail to meet the current fiscal’s Rs 1.05-lakh-crore selloff mark.

Finance ministry officials said it is now certain that the strategic sale of BPCL, Air India, Container Corporation of India Ltd (Concor) and Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) would be held in the next fiscal.

“This would give the leverage to go for ambitious numbers as they would garner enough money for the government next fiscal. The exact target would only be known on February 1.. it would certainly be ambitious numbers,” sources said.

They indicated that the strategic sale of these state- owned firms would at least yield Rs 1 lakh crore, and there would be follow-on public offers by PSUs, which could result in the target being set anywhere between Rs 1.30 lakh crore and Rs 1.50 lakh crore.
While the government plans to privatise Air India by selling its 100 per cent ownership in the airline, it will divest its entire 53.29 per cent stake in BPCL and 30.8 per cent of its current 54.8 per cent stake in Concor and 63.75 per cent stake in SCI.
Madan Sabnavis, chief economist of Care Rating, however, said: “The divestment target for 2020-21 is likely to be Rs 1 lakh crore, Rs 0.1 lakh crore lower than the budgeted target for 2019-20 as the timelines for the divestment are yet to be specified.”
23/01/20  R. Suryamurthy/Telegraph

LOT Polish Airlines increases frequency from New Delhi to Warsaw

New Delhi: After the successful launch of its New Delhi – Warsaw operations in September 2019, LOT Polish Airlines will increase its frequency from 5 weekly to daily.
LOT Polish Airlines, one of the fastest growing airlines in Europe and a Star Alliance Member, commenced operations out of India on 12th September 2019. Based on strong demand from the Indian Point-of-Sale and latest booking forecasts for flights from India to Europe and North America, as well as high demand from corporate travellers and leisure guests from Europe to New Delhi, the airline has decided to increase the number of weekly Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights from five to seven effective 14th September 2020.
Schedule in local time:
Delhi-Warsaw      LO-072:                 departure Delhi at 11:05h, arrival Warsaw at 15:20h
Warsaw-Delhi      LO-071:                 departure Warsaw at 22:45h, arrival Delhi at 09:15h (next day)

India-originating passengers can now further benefit from the new codeshare agreement between Star Alliance members LOT Polish Airlines and Air India, offering seamless connectivity via New Delhi’s terminal 3 from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.
In Warsaw, passengers have access to LOT Polish Airlines’ global network and can easily connect to key business and leisure destinations such as London City Airport, Paris, Vilnius, Brussels, Frankfurt, Cracow, Geneva, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Hanover, Oslo, Paris, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Billund, Prague, Budapest, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Toronto.
Furthermore, India-originating passengers will greatly benefit from the airline’s new US destinations: San Francisco (effective 5th August 2020 and Washington, D.C. (effective 2nd June 2020) as following (in local time)
Delhi 11:05 – 15:20 Warsaw 17:20 – 20:15 San Francisco
Delhi 11:05 – 15:20 Warsaw 16:50 – 20:30 Washington

On its Delhi-Warsaw route, LOT Polish Airlines features Indian meals in all three cabins (LOT Business Class, LOT Premium Economy Class, LOT Economy Class), complimentary beverages including alcoholic drinks as well as inflight entertainment system including the latest Bollywood releases in Hindi.

Amit Ray, Regional Director India and DACH Markets of LOT Polish Airlines: “Our market entry in India has been a great success since the beginning. We have seen strong bookings from corporate and leisure travellers alike. We are therefore very pleased to increase our frequency.”
23/01/20 Press Release/LOT Polish Airlines

22 snags in two years: IndiGo Neo suffers Pratt engine stall, returns safely to Mumbai

New Delhi: Yet another snag-prone Pratt and Whitney engine (PW) of IndiGo A320 Neo stalled soon after taking off from Mumbai for Hyderabad as 6E-5384 in the early hours of Thursday. While passing flight level 23,000 feet, one of the engines experienced the now common high vibration with a loud bang sound, stalled and had to be shut down. Since twin-engine planes can land safely on one engine, this Neo (VT-IJD) with just over 100 people on board made a safe emergency landing in Mumbai at 1.39 am — less than an hour after taking off from there at 12.43 am. This is the 22nd snag of PW engines on IndiGo Neos in last two years.

“During ground inspection, low pressure turbine number 3 of engine number 1 that had done 4,006 hours was found damaged. The Neo is grounded in Mumbai. The other engine was a modified one that had done only 1,198 hours and the plane had landed safely on that,” said a person investigating the latest trouble.
An IndiGo spokesperson said flight 6E-5384 (A320) with 95 passengers “operating Mumbai Hyderabad had an air turn back to Mumbai. During the flight, the pilot observed an engine caution message and followed the laid-down standard operating procedures. The aircraft returned to Mumbai and is under inspection at the Mumbai airport. All passengers were accommodated on another flight to Hyderabad.”
Comments from PW have been sought and are awaited.
In the past few days there has again been a spurt in PW engine snags on A320 Neos. People in the know say that such issues are likely to keep happening till the unmodified and more snag-prone PW engines of the Neos are replaced. But airlines and aviation regulators say they have taken steps to ensure safety till that happens.
“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has insisted and ensured that NO A320 Neo flying with PW engines — a combination used by IndiGo and GoAir — has both unmodified engines. The Neos in India, 106 with IndiGo and 41 with GoAir, have at least one modified engine each under their wings. So while the unmodified PW engine may stall inflight, the modified one will ensure the aircraft lands safely,” said a source.

The decision to allow Airbus A320/321 Neos with IndiGo and GoAir to operate only if they have at least one modified — and hopefully less snag-prone PW engine — has saved the day on multiple occasions as there have been numerous instances on the unmodified Pratt engine going bust and then the Neos landing safely on the one modified engine.
23/01/20 Times of India

Hyderabad bound IndiGo flight makes emergency landing after mid-air glitch in engine

Mumbai: A Hyderabad-bound IndiGo flight returned to the city on Thursday morning when it made an emergency landing in less than an hour of departure from here as one of the A320 Neo engines stalled mid-air, a source said.
The flight, however, landed safely, the source said.

An IndiGo spokesperson confirmed the mid-air incident and said the glitch-hit plane has been grounded for inspection.

"IndiGo flight 6E 5384 operating on Hyderabad-Mumbai route made an emergency landing at the Mumbai airport early Thursday morning after it was diverted back to the city after one of the aircraft''s engine stopped functioning mid-air," the source said.

The flight returned to the airport in less than an hour of its  departure for Hyderabad, he said.
23/01/20 Outlook

DGCA starts training schools audit after more accidents

New Delhi: Accidents at flying training schools in 2019 have spiked to five from three the year ago and two in 2017 prompting the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to start auditing these institutes to ensure that number of accidents fall to 2016 levels.
During 2015 and 2016, no accidents were reported at these flying training institutes. “The primary reason for incidents is operational, which happens by violating standard operating procedures (SOPs). We have also asked all regional teams to not just audit but also work with flying schools and bring down the number of accidents to zero,” said a senior DGCA official, who did not want to be identified. 
According to DGCA data, three reasons have been blamed for accidents at flying training institutes in the past four years. Data showed operational reasons account for 70% of the total accidents at flying institutes followed by 20% by engineering and the rest 10% for other reasons.
23/01/20 Mihir Mishra/Economic Times

India: Drone Law & Policy Developments In India – Welcoming Drones In 2020

Year 2019 kept a majority of stakeholders in the Indian drone ecosystem busy with the task of achieving new technical standards to become compliant with the regulatory framework for drone operations, put forth by the Indian Government with effect from December 1, 2018. In 2020, the Government seems to be determined to overcome the hurdles to enforcement of the regulatory framework.
Here is an update that brings to you the various drone ecosystem related developments in India, which may be of interest to the organizations doing or looking to do drone-based business in India - Harshil Agarwal , Prashant Prakhar and Huzefa Tavawalla writes for 'Mondaq' >>

SpiceJet to induct more aircraft on a short-term lease due to delay in return of Boeing MAX

The delay in the return of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is "disappointing" and will mean induction of more aircraft on a short-term lease for SpiceJet, chairman and managing director Ajay Singh told CNBC-TV18.

The reaction from the Indian customer of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX comes as the timeline for the return of MAX to service has been postponed to mid-2020 from early 2020.

While SpiceJet is still expecting an early return hoping that the timeline of mid-2020 is "more cautionary than real", Boeing has cautioned its customers about "rigorous scrutiny" by regulators.

"It (timeline) is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process. It also accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 MAX's flight control system and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board process which determines pilot training requirements," Boeing said in a statement on January 21 after reports emerged of a discovery of a new flaw in the MAX.

The fastest-selling aircraft of Boeing has been grounded worldwide since March 2019 after two fatal accidents occurred within a period of six months in B737 MAX due to a flaw in its flight control system.

The grounding of MAX, which promised better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs, has put a financial strain on its customers as airlines implement alternative options by inducting aircraft on a short-term lease to continue expansion.
23/01/20 CNBC TV18

That was just unbelievable: VVS Laxman recalls standing ovation in Air India flight after Eden heroics

New Delhi: Former India batsman VVS Laxman has revealed that the standing ovation the Indian team received in the Air India flight after the famous Eden Gardens Test win in 2001 vs then world champions Australia was just unbelievable for him.

India's historic win against mighty Australia in 2001 is a part of cricketing folklore and so is Laxman's innings of 281. In 2001, Laxman made headlines after he scored a knock of 281 against Australia at Eden Gardens.

Laxman's knock and the record stand with Dravid, set up a stunning victory for India after they were asked to follow-on by Steve Waugh.

VVS Laxman can be seen having a candid chat with India Today Consulting Editor, Sports, Boria Majumdar in a teaser for the much-awaited episode of India Today Inspiration.

In the 9th episode of India Today Inspiration, Laxman said that he was confident to see through the tough page but the only challenge was not to feel the pressure based on the situation India was back in 2001 against Australia during the Kolkata Test.
"I was confident to see through the tough page but the only challenge was not to feel the pressure based on the situation we were in. One thing which I will fondly remember is once we entered into that Air India flight, the entire aircraft, all the people, all the passengers in the aircraft stood up and gave us a standing ovation and that for me was just unbelievable," Laxman told India Today Consulting Editor Sports Boria Majumdar.
22/01/20 India Today

How equipped is an Indian airport to screen for coronavirus?

On our arrival at the Kochi airport, we saw a health desk that was managed by two persons wearing masks. We went to them and said we were from China and want to be examined. "Go ahead to the immigration counter and you can move out. You don't need to be examined," said one of them, much to our astonishment.
Read what Anirudha Karindalam (The Week) found out on returning from China >>

Jharkhand Leads The Way, Puts Off Plan To Build Airport To Save Important Elephant Corridor

In what could be termed an important step towards saving crucial wildlife in the country, the state of Jharkhand has chosen to not build the Dhalbhumgarh airport to save forests and animals.

The habitat of the elephant, an endangered species and India’s national heritage animal, are regularly threatened by developmental projects. The Dhalbhumgarh airport sought nearly 100 hectares of land from forests in Jharkhand that serve as a corridor for elephants migrating between Jharkhand and the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
According to a report by Huffpost India, “An expert panel of the Indian government’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has deferred the project while noting that the project could lead to an increase in human-elephant conflict in the area. It has sought further information for reconsidering the proposal.”
The Dhalbhumgarh airport site is an abandoned World War II airfield situated 60 kilometres from the industrial city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. Currently, the surface of the runway is not suitable for operations and no other facility is available at the airport.
22/01/20 Shweta Sengar/India Times

Watch a movie at the Chennai International Airport as PVR prepares to open a five-screen theatre

Chennai: While we can safely say that the types of airport entertainment have increased by leaps and bounds over the past few years, we can always have some more. So the Chennai International Airport is all set to get five PVR movie screens. The facility would be the first of its kind in India.
The theatre is going to be in the multi-level car parking complex that is already under construction, and is just the right kind of entertainment for those who have a lot of time to spare before boarding. It is going to cost INR 250 crore and is being built by the Olympia Group. The theatre will also have numerous food and beverage options for guests. According to reports, the five screens will seat about 1000 people and should be completed by the end of 2021. PVR is expecting 20 per cent of the theatre-going population here to be transit passengers.
While this is the first of its kind in India, movie theatres are already trending in the rest of the world. Singapore’s Changi Airport has two movie theatres, located in Terminals 2 and 3, and are free of charge.
23/01/20 Times Travel

India to Singapore: How airlines, passengers are responding to China virus

Airlines and passengers are on guard against a new flu-like virus that originated in Wuhan, China.
Here's an explainer on the airline industry's response to the outbreak so far and its potential financial exposure compared to SARS in 2003, which killed nearly 800 people
- Jamie Freed's (Reuters) story >>

Piyush Goyal says he would have bought Air India, if he could; calls it a goldmine

Even as the government desperately tries to sell debt-laden Air India, union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that a well-managed and efficient airline is nothing short of a goldmine. “If I were not minister today, I would be bidding for Air India,” union commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal also told CNBC TV-18. Air India’s losses currently stand at around Rs 80,000 crore.  A few days back, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri asked the disinvestment-bound national carrier to set up an internal mechanism committee comprising members from the management and its various trade unions to sort out privatisation-related issues of employees, news agency PTI recently reported citing unidentified sources. Earlier in 2018, the Modi government proposed to offload 76 per cent in the debt-struck national carrier, while retaining 24 percent with it. However, it didn’t get any bidders for the same.
On January 7, a group of ministers headed by union home Minister Amit Shah approved the draft EoI and Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) for the disinvestment of Air India. At his first meeting with the unions on January 2, 2020, he had said that privatisation was inevitable and cooperation of the employees was necessary for carrying out the exercise.
23/01/20 Financial Express

Domino effect of dense fog in north India delays flights

Pune: Dense fog in north India, especially in Delhi and the NCR region, triggered the delay of 10 flights — both inbound and departing — at the Lohegaon airport on Wednesday morning.
The delay, of more than two hours in some cases, irked passengers. No flights to/from Pune were diverted but the Delhi airport reported diversions of five flights in the morning.

Between 6am and 9am, three flights of IndiGo, SpiceJet and Air India to Delhi were delayed by 50 minutes to more than two hours. In the same duration, two flights of IndiGo and Air India — coming to Pune from Delhi — were delayed by over two hours.

Between 9am and noon, two flights, one to Delhi and another to Jodhpur, were delayed by over an hour. At the same time, three flights coming to Pune from Delhi were delayed by an hour-and-a-half to more than two-and-a-half hours.
23/01/20 Joy Sengupta/Times of India

SpiceJet Launches Postal & Cargo Delivery Service At Odisha’s Jharsuguda Airport

Bhubaneswar: SpiceJet has launched postal and cargo delivery service at Jharsuguda airport, which is touted as one of the remotest airports in eastern India.

“@flyspicejet has started PO mail & cargo delivery service in Jharsuguda, one of the regional airports. This will help in bringing this region closer to rest of the country. Congratulations to everyone involved in this initiative,” the Civil Aviation Ministry informed in a tweet on Thursday.

On its part, SpiceJet tweeted, “Through such initiatives, we are proud to be transforming postal service delivery to the most far-fetched regions of the country, a testimony of our commitment to bring India closer.”
23/01/20 Odisha Bytes

SpiceJet to strengthen management team as Shilpa Bhatia set to rejoin

New Delhi. India's second largest budget airline SpiceJet Ltd is set to strengthen its top management team with Shilpa Bhatia set to join it as its new Chief Commercial Officer.
 Bhatia has been with SpiceJet as its chief of sales and revenue for few years before moving to IndiGo as its chief sales and revenue officer last year. She quit the firm this month.
 "We are expecting her to join in February" a person aware of the matter who did not wished to be named said, "There are likely to be some other shuffle too including reporting changes."
 Under Bhatia, IndiGo saw its flight occupancy cross 90%. The third quarter revenue numbers are also set to be released on Monday. IndiGo, bracing for an extraordinary general meeting called by one of its promoters Rakesh Gangwal after the board meeting next week, hasn't officially made any personnel announcements so far though its CEO has informed the leadership of the changes.
 23/01/20 Tarun Shukla/Economic Times

Karnataka: Belagavi to get India's first miniature airport

Belagavi: The border town of Belagavi is set to host India's first miniature airport on the lines of Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. The Rs 6-crore project under the Smart City programme is expected to make the district a major tourist attraction in the country. "The decision on miniature airport was taken a fortnight ago. The deputy commissioner will head the planning committee, which will have a member from the Indian Air Force," said Shashidhar Kurer, managing director of Belagavi Smart City.
"The miniature airport will showcase all operations - check-in, boarding, takeoff, landing and parking of aircraft. Children can learn about functioning of the airports. Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy this experience as the Belagavi facility will also have a runway," he added.
Belagavi Smart City Ltd has tentatively identified land near Vaccine Depot Grounds in the city for the project.
23/01/20 Snhreya HS/Times of India

France to train Indian flight surgeons for Gaganyaan mission

France will train Indian flight surgeons to enable them to monitor the health of astronauts selected for the ambitious human space mission Gaganyaan, officials said on Tuesday. The two-week training is a critical aspect of the Gaganyaan project that is aimed at sending three Indians to space by 2022. A memorandum of understanding on the matter is expected to be signed later this week when French space agency CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall arrives in Bengaluru, officials told PTI.
 The flight surgeons, who will be Indian Air Force doctors specialising in aviation medicines and responsible for the health of astronauts before, during and after flight, will be shortlisted soon, an official from India’s space agency ISRO added. Those shortlisted will then undergo two weeks training in France. Brigitte Godard, a flight surgeon with the European Space Agency, was in India in July and August last year to start the training of physicians and engineers.
22/01/20 Hitavada

Azharuddin threatens Rs 100 cr defamation over FIR

Hyderabad: Former Indian cricket captain and former MP Mohammad Azharuddin on Thursday denied allegations of cheating levelled by a travel agency in Maharashtra and threatened to file defamation suit of Rs 100 crore.

"Those who filed the FIR have done it only to be in the limelight. There is no truth in it. The allegations are baseless," Azharuddin said in a video message on Twitter.

Azahruddin, who is now president of Hyderabad Cricket Association, said he would soon seek advice from his lawyer and will file Rs 100 crore defamation case against those who lodged the FIR.

A case was filed in Aurangabad on Wednesday against Azharuddin and two others for allegedly cheating a local travel agent of around Rs 21 lakh.

The complaint was lodged by Shahab Y. Mohammed, 49, proprietor of Danish Tours & Travels here, a former executive with the defunct Jet Airways.
23/01/20 IANS/Outlook

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tax department conducts survey on Air India engineering arm

New Delhi: Public sector companies usually do not attract the attention of the taxman. But officials from the income tax department recently knocked on the doors of a cash-strapped Air India’s subsidiary to check if it was depositing the taxes it was deducting at source, such as those it collected from salary or from payments to suppliers.

The airline, which has been delaying salary payments and even GST, however, said nothing was amiss. “Income tax department routinely conducted TDS survey of AIESL (Air India Engineering Services) recently for past five years. During the survey, certain details were asked, which are being provided,” Air India spokesman Dhananjay Kumar said.
AIESL operates maintenance, repair and overhaul (MROs) at the airline’s major hubs like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Nagpur. A senior official said AI has never defaulted on TDS. “There may have been delays for which we have paid penalties, but never a default,” said an official.
22/01/20 Saurabh Sinha/Sidhartha/Times of India

Air India disinvestment: Airline sets up panel to look into employees' issues

Government-run Air India on Tuesday constituted a nine-member committee to look into staff-related issues in the wake of proposed disinvestment of the carrier, according to a notification.

The panel has been set up a day after discussions between Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and representatives of various Air India unions.

Puri had asked the airline to set up an internal mechanism committee comprising members from the management and its various trade unions to sort out privatisation-related issues of employees, a source had said on Monday.

Air India disinvestment: Airline sets up panel to look into employees' issues.
22/01/20 CNBC TV18

Air India''s plane audit tender out, disinvestment EoI on way

New Delhi: The second attempt to sell Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express has begun with the national career floating tender for physical aircraft inspection of its fleet and data room related matters.

The bid has been invited for technical due diligence, aircraft documentation and physical inspection for the 125 aircraft of Air India and 25 Boeing aircraft of Air India Express.

"AI (Air India) invites bids from experienced and reputed Aircraft Asset Management companies for carrying out Technical Audit and due diligence of its owned and leased fleet," said the airline in tender document dated January 10.

The move is aimed at facilitating disinvestment of the two carriers.

The tender document said that the technical due diligence is to be carried out on the entire fleet of Air India and Air India Express listed in the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) issued by aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

As per fleet details, Air India has 47 wide-body aircraft and 78 narrow-body jets. Out of 125 aircraft, the airline owns 52 aircraft with remaining planes being on finance lease, dry lease and sale and lease back terms.

Air India has 30 of its aircraft grounded with 15 either not operating or not part of AOC. Air India Express owns 8 aircraft while the remaining being on dry lease or finance lease.
22/01/20 IANS/Outlook

Gov't to use Air India sale to push aviation reform - report

India's government wants to use the divestment of Air India (AI, Mumbai Int'l) to push other reforms in the domestic aviation sector, according to The Hindu Business Line newspaper.

“The government has done a lot to involve the private sector in the domestic airport sector. This experiment has helped provide funds which have been used for the development of other airports,” an unnamed source told the daily when asked about the upcoming attempt to privatise the flag carrier.

Funds generated from the sale - and money that would otherwise have been pumped into the loss-making airline in the future - will be used to develop aviation and other parts of the economy that are priority areas for the government, the source said.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, told the lower house of India's bicameral parliament on June 27, 2019, that the government had injected INR57.8 billion rupees (USD812 million) into Air India during the 2014-15 financial year, INR33 billion (USD464 million) in 2015-16, INR24.65 billion (USD346 million) in 2016-17, INR18 billion (USD253 million) in 2017-18, and INR39.75 billion (USD559 million) in 2018-19.
22/01/20 ch-aviation

Analysis: India's jet fuel demand to emerge from the red as turbulence subsides

Singapore: After a year of negative growth, India's appetite for jet fuel is set to rebound in 2020 amid expectations that economic recovery will lift air travel, while the industry bounces back from flight disruptions following the closure of a leading private airline.
Register Now The grounding of Jet Airways -- once the country's largest commercial airline with a market share of close to 23% -- took a toll on jet fuel demand for the major part of last year as its fleet of more than 100 aircrafts ceased operations following the start of insolvency proceedings.
"We expect India's jet fuel demand to rebound in 2020 as economic growth is expected to recover," said Lim Jit Yang, adviser for Asian oil markets at S&P Global Platts Analytics.
India's jet fuel demand posted an average annual growth of 10.5% between 2016 and 2018, as rising incomes due to robust economic growth and falling airfares on the back of competition between low-cost air carriers boosted air travel.
But in 2019, jet fuel demand contracted by 0.5% year on year to 178,000 b/d, according to data from Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell as well as Platts Analytics. This came on the back of an economic slowdown and the ground of Jet Airways, which struggled due to competition with budget carriers that prompted it to cut fares, resulting in steep financial losses.
22/01/20 S&P Global Platts

Scraping of throughput charge is the biggest reform in aviation in recent times: SpiceJet's Ajay Singh

Budget carrier SpiceJet on Wednesday said throughput charge is the biggest reform in Indian aviation in recent times.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18 at the World Economic Forum in Davos 2020, Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, said, "The larger macro story is extremely strong. The market will start to grow again. The current dip is a temporary blip caused by little imbalance in the capacity. Once the capacity imbalance issues are resolved, you will see growth take off again."

Singh expects double-digit growth in domestic aviation by the end of the calendar year, "A lot of the growth is happening in the international market, so airlines like SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Vistara are increasingly adding to the foreign destinations that they go to. However, this is not being measured. If you take all of it into consideration, the growth is still pretty much in the high single digits."

According to Singh, the Indian economy should see an improvement in the next few quarters as the government is taking several steps to improve it. However, more needs to be done.

"One big issue that all of us are facing is that there seems to be a complete deep freeze as far as credit is concerned. Banks have become extremely risk-averse and they lend only to the safest possible projects. So, we need to get banks to start lending again. We need to remove the element of fear that bankers especially public sector bankers seem to have when lending money," he added.
22/01/20 CNBC TV18

Alliance Air took 44 special children on the dream flight within Bhubaneshwar

Bhubaneswar: Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India added smiles on the faces of children with special needs by turning their dream of flying by air into a reality. The airline took these junior flyers on a 40 minute long ‘Dream Flight’ within Bhubaneshwar.
Almost all children were from the urban poor areas of Bhubaneshwar and a few from a tribal village in Baripada. There were a total of 44 children on the dream flight. Minimum age of children on the Dream Flight was 8 years and maximum 18 years. The children were selected by Swabhimaan- an NGO based in Bhubaneshwar. The initiative was a joint effort of Odisha Govt, AAI, Air India, Alliance Air & Ministry of Civil Aviation.
State SSEPD Minister Ashok Panda, Union Civil Aviation Joint Secretary Usha Padhee and Odia film stars Akash Dasnayak and Sabyasachi Mishra were present at the airport to see off the children.
Prior to the take-off an art exhibition called ‘MY DREAM FLIGHT’ was organised at the Biju Patnaik Airport along with a few cultural performances by the children and celebrations.
22/01/20 Orissadiary

DGCA picks five consortiums to take its drone plan airborne

Bengaluru: Nandan Nilekani backed ShopX and SpiceJet’s cargo unit SpiceXpress are among five consortiums selected by India’s civil aviation authority to conduct experiments of long-range commercial drone flights, people familiar with the matter told ET.
 The move is part of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone experiments, for which it had sought expressions of interest in May last year.
 ET reported in December that DGCA had approved two consortiums – of delivery app Dunzo and drone startup Throttle Aerospace – for the experiments.
 “These agencies will now conduct their tests, based on which we will then develop the entire architecture for the beyond visual line of sight drone operations,” said Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, without either confirming or denying the latest developments.
 “This is just at the experimentation stage, the rules will take at least 6-8 months to be finalised,” Dubey added.
 The second batch of approvals comes ahead of a planned drone pilot training programme that the DGCA is organising on February 4-5 at Begumpet, near Hyderabad. All 30 consortiums that had applied to participate in the BVLOS experiments have been invited.
 22/01/20 Alnoor Peermohamed/Economic Times

No planes to fly, but smaller airports getting ready in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Though the ministry of civil aviation is pushing a regional connectivity scheme to link Vellore, Thanjavur, Neyveli and Ramnad, authorities have said barring Thanjavur, none of the other airports is likely to be opened for flights.
“That too only if low cost carriers like IndiGo or SpiceJet show interest,” the official said.

Another official of Airports Authority of India (AAI) said as the ministry wants to upgrade infrastructure, Vellore is readying to obtain a licence, Neyveli airport is ready and work is on to equip Thanjavur airport.

“But no thought has gone into the fact that airlines don't have small nine seater planes to fly to Vellore and Neyveli... none of the airlines has expressed their intent to buy such small planes,” he said.
Data from the Rajya Sabha show that AAI has spent Rs 150 lakh to spruce up Vellore and Thanjavur airports in the last three years. Of this, Rs 132 lakh was spent for Vellore though no airline in the country has a 20-seater plane to operate a scheduled service. There is no mention of the money spent for Neyveli. AAI has listed this airport as loss-making.

AAI spent Rs 17 lakh in 2016-17, Rs 22 lakh in 2017-18 and Rs 93 lakh in 2018-19 readying Vellore airport.
22/01/20 Times of India

14 new flights planned for better air connectivity to Odisha

14 new flights are planned to several national and international destinations as Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday urged airline operators to improve connectivity with the coastal state. Most of the flights are scheduled to operate between January to the summer of 2020.

According to sources here, the planned destinations are Kolkata-Jharsuguda, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi, Varanasi-Bhubaneswar, Jharsuguda-Mumbai, Prayagraj-Bhubaneswar, Delhi-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Bhubaneswar-Kalaikunda, Bhubaneswar-Bangkok, Bangkok- Bhubaneswar, Singapore-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Abu Dhabi.

The Odisha government on Wednesday discussed with the airline operators and officials of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry about improving air connectivity to the state. More than 25 CEOs of different airlines were invited to the meeting.

The Chief Minister cited the growth story of Odisha, the presence of techno-savvy diaspora in different countries, the emergence of a globe-trotting middle class, growth of tourism and rapid growth in various sectoral economies.

Introduction of more international flights from Bhubaneswar to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Bangkok will provide convenience and comfort to the people of the state, he said.
22/01/20 14 IANS/India TV

Coronavirus outbreak: India screens 43 flights, 9156 passengers arriving from China at 7 airports

New Delhi: Secretary at the Union Health Ministry, Preeti Sudan, on Wednesday informed that a total number of 43 flights and 9156 passengers arriving from China have been screened for novel coronavirus illness at seven different airports across the country so far.

However, no case has been detected through these screening efforts.

The Civil Aviation Ministry, from Tuesday, initiated the thermal health screening of passengers arriving from China including Hong Kong at seven Indian airports, under the directions of the Union Health Ministry.

These airports include Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Cochin, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata respectively.

This is being done as a preventive measure against the outbreak of deadly Novel Corona Virus Disease (nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province of China. All seven identified airports have airports signage displayed boldly at the strategic locations.

According to Sudan, the Embassy in China has informed that till January 22, a total of 440 cases of pneumonia with nCoV were confirmed in China and a total of 9 people have died.

Cases have been reported in 14 provinces (including Taiwan) and municipalities as well.

The Health Ministry has directed travellers to China, in particular, Wuhan city to monitor their health closely. Travellers have been asked to follow simple public health measures and a good standard of hygiene.
22/01/20 ANI/Yahoo!

Telangana HC stays order on Hyderabad airport user charges

Hyderabad: A division bench of the Telangana HC on Tuesday stayed the order of a single judge who had earlier asked the GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited to move Appellate Tribunal on the issue of determination of user charges.

While dealing with the appeal filed by GMR, the bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy found fault with the order saying the authorities concerned have only prepared a consultation paper on the proposed new user charges and not finalised them.

While adjourning the case, the High Court bench directed the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India to file counter affidavits on the issue in three weeks.
22/01/20 New Indian Express

Security beefed up at Trichy airport

Trichy: Security has been beefed up ahead of Republic Day at Trichy International Airport after a bag containing explosives was found in Mangaluru airport. Passengers as well as visitors were checked thoroughly at the airport. Police patrolling also has been intensified at various points at the airport.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has taken full control of the airport along with city police. While city police guard both entry and exit points, CISF personnel were deployed in the entire airport premises with bomb squad. To avert any untoward incidents, the visitors’ gallery has also been closed. All the vehicles were checked by security personnel at various checkpoints at the airport. Passengers will undergo an additional security check just before entering or leaving a flight to ensure the complete safety of flights.
22/01/20 Times of India

AAI team on airport recce

Hailakandi: Silchar in south Assam might become the first place of the Northeast to have two airports.

A five-member committee of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) completed its two-day visit to Silchar on Tuesday to see the land and infrastructure for proposed international-level airport in Cachar district.

If the airport is constructed, the existing Kumbhirgram airport, 25km from Silchar town, will be used to transport goods.

The Kumbhirgram airport is located on Air Force authority land.

The members of the AAI team were Varun Kumar Lau, Manjit Singh, Soumen Podder, Sunil Kumar and Rajpal Lawasia.

They visited Silcoorie, Dolu and Khoril and mainly observed the infrastructure, feasibility, connection with Silchar town, passenger amenities and other technical issues related to an international-level airport.

They will submit a report to the authorities and the findings will be discussed in the AAI meeting, sources said.
22/01/20 Satananda Bhattacharjee/Telegraph

Woman loses phone in Sharjah, gets it back in India

Sharjah: An Indian woman couldn’t believe her eyes when a phone she lost in the UAE was returned to her in her home country after she sought help from the police on Twitter.

The woman had tweeted on Tuesday afternoon saying she lost her mobile phone at the Sharjah International Airport. She also posted pictures of the missing mobile phone.

A Sharjah Police officer, who spotted the tweet, swung into action and search was launched at the airport, He also got in touch with the woman and arranged for the phone to reach her in three hours’ time.

The woman, identified as A.G.B, thanked Sharjah Police for their prompt action.

In a tweet, she said, “I salute Sharjah Police ... Thank you Captain Saeed from Sharjah Airport Police .”
22/01/20 Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

Boeing 747, The Queen of the Skies, turns 50

Since then, it has been a favourite not just with regular passengers, but also celebrities and heads of states. America’s Air Force One is a souped-up version of the Boeing 747, and Air India’s 747 continues to do sorties for India’s President, Prime Minister and the Vice-President under the call-sign Air India One. Over the past 50 years, more than 1,500 of these jets have been delivered to airlines across the world.
The 747’s impact is not to be understated.  The aircraft was designed at the request of Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, who wanted a 400-seat aircraft. His original request was for a double-decker jet, but Boeing convinced him to leave the second deck on the top as a small hump only. The 747, for the first time, offered passengers high ceilings and vertical sidewalls which gave a sense of space in what was known as the metal tube then. The 747 designers also adopted the approach to split the cabin into various sections with lavatories and galleys in between. These choices continue to reflect in the aircraft design of today. Not just that, it slashed the cost of air travel by bringing in modern technology such as the turbo-fan engines we see commonly on aircraft today.
The 747 was designed at a time where it was looked at as a stop-gap till the time supersonic travel came into being. Supersonic aircraft such as the Tu-144 and Concorde came and went, but could not affect the dominance of the 747. However, the designers of the aircraft wanted to future-proof the aircraft, and hence they built specs to be able to make it a freight carrying aircraft as well. One of these design choices was to put the cockpit on the higher deck rather than the main deck of the aircraft. After all, the cargo is loaded on the 747 with the nose opening upwards, so they could not put the cockpit in a mobile section.
22/01/20 Ajay Awtaney/Conde Nast Traveller

India wants to identify fliers using face ID while Google CEO seeks temporary ban on face recognition AI

As part of the Digital India campaign, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has installed India’s first digital system called Digi Yatra for air travellers at the Bengaluru International Airport. The stated aim of the system is to makes things smoother for travellers by enabling faster movement at checkpoints. For example, using Digi Yatra, fliers will be able to get into the airport and clear various checkpoints using a sort of face ID.
As it happens with any technology that involves facial recognition, there seem to be privacy concerns around Digi Yatri, something that experts highlighted.
Ankita Chakravarti writes more on those concerns >>

IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir seek TDS relief for expat pilots

New Delhi: Domestic carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir have pitched for TDS (tax deducted at source) relief for expat pilots.

The airlines have claimed that foreign pilots insist on a tax-free salary, knowing that India faces a shortage of experienced pilots at senior level.

In their budget proposal, airline lobby group, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), said that air carriers have to currently gross up salaries of expat pilots and bear the taxes. This results in increase of expense for airlines by 50 per cent on this account.

"It is recommended either not apply section 195A in case of payment to be made to an employee or tax paid by company on behalf of employee should be an allowable expense as business expenditure," the FIA, which represents three private carriers, said.

Section 195 of the Income Tax Act deals with TDS for the non-resident people of India.

With high traffic growth in domestic and induction of new type of aircraft in their fleet, the industry has been facing a shortage of type rated pilot-in-command.

To cover the shortage of type rated pilots-in-command, validation of foreign pilots is done as per rule 45 of Aircraft Rules, 1937. The foreign pilots are phased out by the airlines once the co-pilots inducted by them gain the mandated requirements for being designated as commander.
22/01/20 Outlook

Chandigarh: Fly straight to Goa from March 29

Mohali: The summer flight’s schedule to get enforced from March 29 has brought good news for Tricity residents as direct connectivity to Goa has been announced from Chandigarh International Airport.
The start of 24x7 flight operations has also been declared in the schedule and the IndiGo flight to Goa will depart from the Chandigarh airport after midnight.
The summer flight’s schedule to get enforced from March 29 has brought good news for Tricity residents as direct connectivity to Goa has been announced

Besides this, Chandigarh is all set to get direct flights to other important cities like Patna, Chennai, Surat and Kolkata.

All these flights have been announced in the summer flight schedule of 2020, according to which IndiGo flight 6E-6137 from will arrive at Chandigarh from Goa at 6.40am and depart for Ahmedabad from Chandigarh at 8.10am.

Similarly, another flight, GoAir G8-814, will reach Chandigarh from Goa at 9.45am and will take off for Surat (G8-815) at 10.15am.

IndiGo flight 6E-6147 will arrive at Chandigarh from Bangalore around 11pm and the same flight (6E-6144) will depart from Chandigarh for Goa after midnight at 00:40am. This flight will operate six days a week from Monday to Saturday.

So, tourists have options to board IndiGo flight 6E-6137 and GoAir G8-814 from Goa to reach Chandigarh and those looking to fly from Chandigarh to reach Goa can take IndiGo flight (6E-6144) to the beach capital after midnight at 00:40am.

As per the summer schedule, Chandigarh will also get direct connectivity to holy city of Patna, one of the Takhts of Sikhism, starting March 30. IndiGo is going to operate two flights daily to Patna from Chandigarh. The first flight, 6E-6141, will arrive from Ahmedabad at 11.35am and then depart for Patna (6E-6148) at 12.05pm. The first flight will depart on March 30.

Second flight IndiGo 6E-6926 will arrive from Patna at 6.35pm and depart for the same from Chandigarh at 7.05pm. The flight will make its maiden journey on March 29.

22/01/20 Barinderjit Saluja/Times of India

Taxman orders special audit of Jet Airways

Mumbai: The income tax department has ordered a special audit of Jet Airways, after investigations by its arms found a number of suspicious-looking transactions in the accounts of the now-grounded airline, people in the know said.
 The department has engaged chartered accountancy firm Shah & Taparia to carry out the special audit, the people said.
 “While the investigation wing in its report has detailed out tax irregularities of over Rs 880 crore, the assessment wing has found a lot of other suspicious transactions which amount to over Rs 5,000 crore … these transactions require a thorough probe and a special audit has been ordered,” said an official in the know.
 According to the provision that allows the assessing officer (AO) to get the accounts of an assessee audited by a chartered accountant, such a decision can be made based on the complexity and volume of accounts, where there are doubts about the correctness of the accounts and multiplicity of transactions, and when the assessee is engaged in a specialised business activity. One of the main reasons behind calling for the special audit is the alleged non-cooperation by the airline’s promoter, Naresh Goyal, said the people.
“Goyal has always evaded the questions asked by the AO and has claimed ignorance. He has blamed everything on the erstwhile management claiming that he wasn’t managing the day-to-day affairs of the company and therefore wasn’t aware of the various transactions with which he was confronted,” said an official. “Also, with the erstwhile employees, who were responsible for preparing the audit and managing the affairs of the company, no more associated with the grounded airline, it was difficult to understand certain transactions,” the official added.
 22/01/20 Rashmi Rajput/Economic Times

Rare species of exotic animals seized at Chennai Airport, smuggling racket busted

In what is the first seizure of wildlife that was being smuggled into India via Chennai Aiport in 2020, Air Intelligence Officers have seized rare species such as marmoset monkeys, tamarin monkeys, tricolour squirrels and iguanas that were being smuggled in from Bangkok.

Officials say that in most cases of smuggling be it wildlife or valuables, it is only the courier that is caught, but this case also saw the organiser being nabbed.

Based on the information that wild animals are likely to be smuggled from Bangkok, Air Intelligence officers had been maintaining a special vigil. On Tuesday morning AIU officers noticed that one passenger was moving in a suspicious manner in the arrival area. On close watch, it was observed that he collected his checked-in stroller bag and started to walk hurriedly, after which he was intercepted and questioned at the exit.

The passenger was identified as one Suresh(35), of Chennai who had arrived from Bangkok by Thai Airways flight TG337. His evasive replies prompted the officials to proceed with checking his belongings.
22/01/20 Sidharth MP/DNA

Mangaluru: Bomb scare at international airport is intelligence failure - MLA U T Khader

Mangaluru: “The bomb scare at Mangaluru international airport is nothing but an intelligence failure,” said MLA U T Khader.
Addressing media here on Wednesday, January 22, Khader said, "The first instance of intelligence failure was when the accused planted bomb at Mangaluru International Airport with such ease and second failure was when the accused easily landed in Bengaluru and then he surrendered to police. Where was police despite having CCTV footage and pictures of the accused? How come the accused reach Bengaluru so easily? Planting bomb at the airport is a serious issue and such ant-social elements exist in all religions.
"BJP leaders came to conclusion before the culprit was apprehended. We need to understand what made him to carry out this crime. If he was mentally not stable, then how it was possible for him to know to fix the bomb and escape from the airport and reach Bengaluru without any problem and then surrender to police? He alone cannot do this. I suspect there is a conspiracy behind the incident. The conspirator needs to be identified first.
“Home minister Basavaraj Bommai and union minister Prahlad Joshi need to apologise for their statements made with regards to the bomb scare,” he said.
When asked about H D Kumaraswamy's statement that it was a mock show, Khader said, "Kumaraswamy is a former chief minister, who has handled the Home department. He has his own sources based upon which he has expressed suspicion about the incident.”
22/01/20 daijiworld

Mangaluru bomb scare: Man surrenders, claims he put bag with explosives at airport

Mangaluru: A person, claiming to have placed the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at Mangaluru International Airport, surrendered before the police on Wednesday morning.

Sources said the accused, identified as Aditya Rao, arrived at the office of the DGP early Wednesday morning and confessed to have planted the bomb at Mangaluru airport following which he surrendered. He has now been taken to Halasurgate police station.

On Monday, a live bomb was found placed in an unattended bag near the ticket counters at the airport, creating panic. According to police, the bomb was found in the unclaimed laptop bag.

The CCTV footage showed a middle aged man, dressed in formal attire and wearing a cap, placing the bag at the airport.

22/01/20 Nagarjun Dwarakanath/India Today

By flying drones ‘illegally’, UP, Delhi & Punjab police are breaking the law to enforce law

New Delhi: Police in Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have been flying drones for surveillance allegedly without permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), ThePrint has learnt.

Police in some states have even been flying drones made by a Chinese company called DJI, which do not comply with the DGCA requirements, claimed some drone-makers.
Drones were spotted at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University campus after the 5 January campus violence.

On 13 January, the ministry announced that drone owners/operators have to register their drones by 31 January so that the government can know how many and what kind of drones are being operated in the country. The ministry also said that those who fail to register will face action under the Indian Penal Code and Aircraft Act.

Under the DGCA’s Civil Aviation Requirements that came into effect from December 2018, all drone operators/makers need to obtain a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and a permit — known as the Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit — to fly drones.

Ministry officials said that permits to operate drones can be taken on a portal called ‘Digital Sky’.

Only some agencies such as the National Technical Research Organisation, Aviation Research Centre and central intelligence agencies are not required to take permission to fly drones, a DGCA official, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint in an email response.
22/01/20 Regina Mihindukulasuriya/Print

AirAsia’s Fernandes Fails To Show in India for Corruption Probe

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has failed to turn up for questioning in India before the country’s Directorate of Enforcement to address allegations of the Malaysian LCC’s attempt to manipulate government policies in contravention of the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

The directorate filed criminal money laundering charges against several AirAsia officials in May 2018 for allegedly for trying to manipulate government policies to get an international flight license for its AirAsia India venture.

Scheduled to appear on Monday, Fernandes faces arrest and unspecified penalties if found culpable. The situation appears likely to affect AirAsia India’s expansion plans and those of parent AirAsia, which presently operates 1,035 flights every week to India. The airline had expressed an interest to fly to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok as its initial destinations but will likely face further delays as the case drags on. Attempts by AIN to contact senior officials of the airline proved unsuccessful.

Flying a fleet of 29 A320s, AirAsia India operates as a joint venture between majority owner Tata Sons and AirAsia Malaysia. It runs more than 175 daily flights to over 20 domestic destinations and has awaited permission to fly internationally since last year, around the time Indian authorities filed the case.
22/01/20 Neelam Mathews/AIN online

Accused Aditya Rao Brought to Mangaluru by SpiceJet for Further Investigations

Mangaluru: Mangaluru: The accused who placed an explosive device near the ticket counter at the Mangaluru International airport, Aditya Rao was brought to Mangaluru by the ACP of Mangaluru North Belliyappa and his team on January 22.
Aditya Rao surrendered to the Director-General of Police (DGP) office in Bengaluru on January 22. ACP Belliyappa reached Bengaluru to take custody of Aditya Rao. Rao was taken to a state-run hospital for check-up and produced in a local court for his transit custody and interrogation by the Mangaluru police.
At 7:15 pm the police brought the accused to the Kempegowda Airport and the flight  SpiceJet landed at the Mangaluru International Airport at 8:30 pm. Aditya was taken to Panambur police station and he will be produced before the court and remanded to police custody for further investigations.
Speaking to the mediapersons Police commissioner Dr Harsha said, “The accused who placed the explosive device in the Mangalore international airport Aditya Rao was arrested by our investigating team. He was produced before the first ACMM court and requested for transit warrant. Based on the evidence the court ordered the transit warrant to the investigative officer Belliyappa. We have also taken the permission from the Air transit and brought the accused Aditya Rao to Mangaluru.”
22/01/20 Violet Pereira/Mangalorean

Azharuddin booked for allegedly cheating Maha travel agent

Aurangabad: A case was filed former Indian cricket team captain and ex-MP Mohammed Azharuddin and two others for allegedly cheating a local travel agent of around Rs 2.10 million, a police official said on Wednesday.

"We have lodged a first information report against Mujeeb Khan (Aurangabad), Sudheesh Avikkal (Kerala), Mohammed Azharuddin (Hyderabad). No arrests have been made and further investigations are underway," Investigating Officer A.D. Nagre, of the City Chowk police station, told IANS.

The complaint was lodged by Shahab Y. Mohammed, 49, proprietor of Danish Tours & Travels here, a former executive with the defunct Jet Airways.

According to the complainant, between November 9 and 12, 2019, Avikkal booked several international airline tickets like Mumbai-Dubai-Paris, Paris-Turin, Turin-Paris, Turin-Amsterdam, Turin-Munich-Amsterdam, Paris-Dubai-Delhi, Copenhagen-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-Manchester, Amsterdam-Zagreb, etc. in various names.

Two persons travelled - Azharuddin and Avikkal, but they met three others in Paris, from where they booked other tickets, mostly business class, in top airlines.

Though Avikkal didn't have money, he insisted it was an emergency and he would pay the ticket charges to Mohammed, who relented only after Khan - who is the personal secretary to Azharuddin - gave an assurance on his (Avikkal's) behalf.

However, Avikkal said he would make a part-payment of Euro 13,500 (or Rs 10,60,000), for the tickets through his bank account in the Croatian National Bank. He showed Shahab an email to the effect dated November 12, 2019.

"I was instructed to book so many tickets, cancel tickets, re-book fresh tickets, re-issue, reschedule, etc, which I did on the assurance that the payment was coming. But, on November 15, 2019, the Croatian National Bank informed that no payments had been received from Avikkal," Mohammed told IANS.

Saddled with a ticketing bill of over Rs 2 million, Mohammed tried to speak with Azharuddin and Khan, but they evaded him, though Avikkal said on November 24 that he was clearing the full payment of Rs 21,45,000 in favour of the travel agency.
22/01/20 IANS/daijiworld

Customs seize 3.14kg gold at Chennai airport; two held

Customs officers at the Chennai International Airport, seized 3.14kg gold worth Rs 1.3 crore in three separate incidents since last night.

On Tuesday night, Sri Lankan nationals Mohamed Huzaid, 27, and Chandrakumar, 23, who had arrived from Sri Lanka by Air India flight AI274 were intercepted at exit. Upon searching, five crude gold rings and four crude gold chains of 24k purity, weighing 948gm in total and valued at Rs 39.12 lakh, were recovered from their pant pockets and seized.

On the same night, Thanjavur native Madhavan, 21, who arrived from Dubai by flight EK 546, was intercepted at exit. Upon searching his checked-in bag, two long gold wires weighing 398gm and valued at Rs 16.43 lakh, were found concealed inside the beading of the bag, which were subsequently recovered and seized.
22/01/20 The Week