Sunday, March 29, 2020

As All Domestic And International Flights Are Grounded, Here's What Happens To Your Air Tickets

Thousands of air passengers across the country are in limbo. The government has suspended all international and domestic air operations till April 14. Whether the air operations will resume post-April 14 remains uncertain even as the number of coronavirus cases in India continues to rise.

Every flyer wants to know if she would get a full refund on cancellation of her ticket.

India's aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has assured that it will try its best to protect the interest of passengers.

“We will take care of cancellation once the situation returns to normal,” Arun Kumar, Head, DGCA, told Outlook.

As of now, none of the airlines has offered to refund money. They have announced various options -- from rescheduling dates to offering credit notes -- on their social media accounts and websites.

Anxious passengers have been making frantic calls to airlines or the booking agencies for an update. Many passengers rue they fail to get through.
Airlines, on the other hand, say that an unexpected increase in calls and complaints have choked their system. They promise to protect customers’ interest in the best possible manner.
Industry experts believe that except IndiGo, which is cash-rich, none of the airlines can refund. However, they believe the DGCA or the Ministry of Civil Aviation should have issued a clear directive on March 24 when the lockdown came into force.
29/03/20 Jeevan Prakash Sharma/Outlook

DGCA suspends breath analyser tests for aviation personnel

New Delhi: Aviation personnel, including pilots and cabin crew, have been temporarily exempted from breath analyser (BA) tests in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Sunday said this test is temporarily suspended at all airports till further notice.
The regulatory move comes after a SpiceJet pilot tested positive for corona on Saturday, after which pilots of Air India sought relaxation from this test due to fears that the apparatus used for the same could spread the infection. Pilots of other Indian carriers also backed this demand.

".. due to the extraordinary circumstances in view of the outbreak of COVID-19 and also in view of the directions issued by High Court of Delhi and High Court of Kerala (for air traffic controllers), the conduct of breath aralyser test in respect of all aviation personnel as required under subject Civil Aviation Requirements in force is temporarily suspended at all airports till turther orders," a DGCA order issued Sunday said.

"However every aviation personnel, who is reporting for duty, is required to submit an undertaking in respect of the fact that he/she is not under the influence of alcohol and that he/she has not consumed alcoholic/ psychoactive substance in the last 12 hours from the time of reporting for duty. The undertaking must also contain a warning that in case of violation of the undertaking, the licence/approval will be suspended for a period of three years," it adds.

Airlines have been asked to conduct random tests. BA test is mandatory for flight crew. The DGCA clarifies this "direction/arrangement is purely a temporary measure in view of the extraordinary circumstances due to outbreak of COVID-19. The restoration of provisions of respective Civil Aviation Requirements on the subject will be reviewed from time to time."

The Air India pilots had on Sunday written to the DGCA that the “machine/ apparatus for BA test remains the same, and that droplets/ aerosols of infected pilots may further infect the healthy.”
29/03/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

IATA agents urges Civil Aviation Minister to allow full refund of air tickets

Kochi: IATA Agents Association of India has requested the Civil Aviation Ministry to allow passengers full refund of the ticketed value (including basic fare and fuel surcharges) of unutilised tickets as well as rescheduling travel dates by utilising total ticketed value or EMD as credit.
Considering the worldwide spread of Covid-19, majority of the domestic and international passengers in the country are not in a position to prepare for a new travel plan immediately due to the prevailing uncertainty.
Biji Eapen, national president, IATA Agents Association pointed out that many Indian and foreign carriers including OTA’s are arbitrarily and illegally using the technical term “non-refundable” by taking advantage of force majeure clause as outlined in the Air Passenger Charter Act 2019. Worldwide governments encouraged flexibility for air passengers so that they can postpone or cancel their tickets with nil / less financial loss, he said.
The air passengers in India are facing the hardship of the extraordinary situation and consequential suspension of all domestic and international flights. The majority of the air tickets issued by travel agencies or directly bought by passengers through airline websites or Online Travel Agency (OTA) websites, usually fall under the lowest fare category with several terms and conditions including the “non-refundable” tag. And for processing the cancellation/refund/date change, passengers have to approach the same booking channels.
29/03/20 V Sajeev Kumar/Business Line

Flight from Calcutta for stranded foreigners

Calcutta: The federal foreign office of Germany has arranged an Air India flight from Calcutta to evacuate its nationals stranded in eastern India because of the cessation of international flights in India to fight the spread the coronavirus.

Citizens of other European Union nations and the UK will be allowed on board as well.

The plane is expected to fly out from Dum Dum airport with more than 150 passengers on Tuesday morning.

“The embassy signed a contract with Air India on Saturday morning in Delhi. This repatriation programme is for short-term visitors who do not have back-up to stay on as well as Indians who hold permits of residency in Germany,” deputy consul general Jurgen Thomas Schrod told Metro.

The flight will stop at Delhi for refuelling before flying onwards to Frankfurt.

There will be about 100 Germans on board, along with citizens of Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Finland. “Since this is a special flight, flyers will not get a boarding pass but will have to sign a form to pay a fare equivalent to normal economy class ticket rates.”

The flight has a capacity of 238 passengers but will carry only about 150 to ensure social distancing. “We still have a few seats available to fill up,” Schrod said.

The deputy consul general worked a 10-hour shift on Saturday, attending calls on three phones and answering emails, and was back at his table on Sunday at the consulate general with his colleagues. “We are a small consulate but this needs to be done. My colleagues in other European consulates in the city are also working hard to make this a success. We want to ease the burden on society and the government here in the midst of the pandemic.”
29/03/20 Sudeshna Banerjee/Telegraph

BIAL appeals RWA not to evict airport employees

Bengaluru: Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) the managers of Kempegowda International Airport has appealed to the Residents Welfare Associations (RWA) to stop evicting Airport workers as it needs to maintain a certain level of critical manpower to continue to handle cargo flights despite the shutdown of passenger operations The staff of KIA complained that the landlords are asking them to vacate their residences due to fears that they would spread the deadly Covid-19 disease among the community.
BIAL Managing Director and CEO Hari Marar said in a letter to the Bangalore Apartments Federation, General Secretary. Cargo operations continue to ensure that people across the country are able to receive their essential commodities like medicines, medical equipment and kits, and household parcels, among others. Besides this, relief aircraft and evacuation flights are also operating from the airport on a need basis”
 29/03/20 UNI

Young man who flew out of Dublin Airport hospitalised with COVID-19 symptoms

A young person who travelled from Dublin Airport to India was immediately rushed to hospital upon landing with suspected coronavirus symptoms, it has been revealed.
The Health Department in India announced that a 21-year-old man had travelled to the state from the capital but was immediately rushed to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital after showing signs of the deadly COVID-19 bug.
Indian health chiefs were able to confirm on Friday that the young patient had completely recovered from his symptoms and was being released after two subsequent mandatory tests came back as negative, reports The News Minute.
They added that the young man will remain home quarantined for the next 14 days.
Health chiefs at home confirmed more tragic news last night as three more people lost their lives to coronavirus in Ireland.
As well as this, Ireland has another 302 confirmed cases bringing the total number of patients to have contracted the deadly bug to 2,121.
28/03/20 Darragh Berry/DublinLive

Air crew & returnees face flak, rumours but no empathy

New Delhi/Mumbai: As fears of coronavirus spread grows, air crews are often faced with stigma and not salute for their contribution in rescuing Indians, mainly pilgrims or students, who were stranded abroad. It's a phenomenon that often repeats across metros, when air crews, doctors and even journalists and their families face the ordeal of being ostracised on a daily basis. Lately, Air India and IndiGo's air crew faced such situations, as many of them were asked by neighbours to vacate their homes, just out of fear that they might be asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. This, even while many of them were on a self-imposed quarantine or are currently working as essential services providers.
The problem, says a senior Air India commander, who faced such a situation recently in one of the posh localities of South Delhi is "the lack of understanding and rumour mongering that is going on, especially on certain mobile-app based chat groups".

"I was under a self-imposed quarantine, after completing a tour from Europe. Understandably, local administration placed a poster outside my house which mentions that the flat is under quarantine. Within a few hours pictures of that poster were all over many chat groups."

"What's worse is the fact that my family members weren't even allowed to take our dog out for walks or the fact that daily supplies which are meant to be delivered at our door steps under the provisions of the quarantine rule was not facilitated by my neighbourhood association."

This experience is of a senior commander who was instrumental in operating some of the last few flights to major European capitals to bring stranded Indians back home.

However, without holding any animosity, the Commander added: "At the end of the day, they are just people who are scared. After all this is over, I really wish they collectively realise that empathy is the real motivation that drives air crews to go for such rescue ops."
29/03/20 IANS/daijiworld

Air India plans nine charter flights in Indian cities to send stranded German nationals back home

Air India is planning to operate up to nine charter flights from various India cities such as Delhi and Mumbai and then on to Frankfurt in the coming days. These charter operations could begin on Monday.
During the current Covid-19 crisis, while Air India has operated several relief flights to get Indians stranded abroad back, this will be the first time that the national carrier will pick up foreign citizens from around India and take them to Germany.
Plans include getting mostly German nationals stranded in various Indian cities including Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and Thiruvanthapuram into Delhi and Mumbai before transferring them on to the wider Boeing 777 and B 787 which will depart for Frankfurt. Air India will make use of its varied fleet size to do these operations. The plan, which is in the final stages, will see Air India operate the smaller Airbus A-320 aircraft to various cities to evacuate the foreign nationals to Delhi and Mumbai from where the bigger aircraft in the national carrier’s fleet will be used to fly the Germans back home. There is also a possibility of a government from across the Atlantic chartering Air India aircraft to get its citizens home through London in this week.
Sources do not rule out Air India operating more charter flights to ferry out foreign nationals. The airline could also possibly evacuate foreign nationals of a friendly country to India from a third country other than India or the country which is seeking to get its citizens back home.
29/03/20 Business Line

Employee of Air India subsidiary tests positive

Mumbai: An employee of the Air India''s ground handling subsidiary has tested positive for novel coronavirus, sources said on Sunday.

The female employee of the Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATSL) has been admitted to the BMC hospital in the western suburb of Jogeshwari, according to the sources.

AIATSL is the ground-handling arm of national carrier Air India. AIATSL chief A K Sharma could not be contacted despite several attempts.

Sources said the female employee had handled the last arriving flight of Air India before all domestic air passenger flights were temporarily suspended by the government from last Wednesday.
29/03/20 PTI/Outlook

Amid Lockdown, Indigo Operates Flight From Delhi To Jodhpur For Iran-returned Indians

Mumbai: In-line with its commitment to provide support to the nation in the current scenario, IndiGo operated a relief flight from Delhi to Jodhpur on March 29, 2020. India is currently under a 21-day lockdown till April 14 to curb the spread of the coronavirus and consequently, all international and domestic commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.

However, as per an official statement,  the flight 6E-9121 operated by 2 captains and 4 cabin crew, carried 139 Indian passengers to Jodhpur to be shifted to the Army isolation centre. All passengers were certified as being corona negative prior to the flight. These passengers had arrived from Iran to Delhi on another flight as part of the evacuation process of Indian citizens from the Covid-2019 impacted countries.

Furthermore, the statement apprised about the precautionary measures while checking in and operating the flight, including overall staff, crew and aircraft maintenance engineers using personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, spraying disinfectant on all the bags prior to loading, meal boxes placed on seats prior to boarding and passenger disembarkation in lots of 20 and x-ray treatment of all check-in baggage.
Meanwhile, Indian airlines are currently in "grave and immediate danger" of insolvency as a result of disruption in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic that can reduce about 5.75 lakh jobs in the Indian aviation industry, global airlines body IATA has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
29/03/20 Prachi Mankani/Republic World

IndiGo, SpiceJet operate special Delhi-Jodhpur flights

New Delhi: Airline majors IndiGo and SpiceJet on Sunday operated two relief flights from Delhi to Jodhpur.

Accordingly, these independent flights of the two airlines were operated to ferry 136 (SpiceJet) and 139 (IndiGo) passengers from New Delhi to Army Isolation centre in Jodhpur. These passengers had come back from Iran to Delhi.

As per SpiceJet, it operated a special flight from Delhi to Jodhpur for 136 Indian nationals evacuated from COVID-19 hit Iran who have been taken to a government quarantine facility in the city.

"This special flight SG 9001 was operated as per the Government of India''s request and the airline had deployed its Boeing 737 aircraft fo r this purpose," the airline said in a statement.

On its part, IndiGo said that its flight 6E-9121 operated by two captains and four cabin crew, carried 139 Indian passengers to Jodhpur. These passengers are to be shifted to the Army Isolation centre.

"All passengers were certified as being corona negative prior to the flight. These passengers had arrived from Iran to Delhi on another flight as part of the evacuation of Indian citizens from the Covid-2019 impacted countries," the airline said in a statement.
29/03/20 Outlook

Air India pilots union asks DGCA to temporarily suspend pre-flight and post-flight alcohol tests

New Delhi: After SpiceJet stated on Sunday that one of its pilots has tested positive for COVID-19, an Air India pilots union requested aviation regulator DGCA to temporarily suspend breath analyzer (BA) test as it can lead to spread of infection.
Referring to the Spicejet pilot's case, a letter by Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) stated that "continuing BA Tests in these circumstances is extremely dangerous" as the machine for the test remains the same and droplets or aerosols of infected pilots may infect the healthy.
The BA test involves blowing into a machine to check alcohol content. All flight crew are subjected to mandatory BA tests prior to operating a flight as well as post the flight in case pre-flight test is not possible, according to the rules.
CPA represents an Air India union that represents pilots who fly domestic flights and short-haul international flights.
"As a responsible association which has demonstrably believed in the efficacy of the Preflight and Post Flight BA Tests, all we ask is that safety of our pilots be considered by you and appropriate orders be passed," it added.
29/03/20 PTI/Economic Times

The airlines most in danger of going under during the crisis

The global airline industry has never had it so bad. Not even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Airlines could lose a quarter of a trillion dollars in revenue this year, according to the International Air Transport Association, as travel comes to a standstill with countries locked down to fight the coronavirus. Most carriers will go bankrupt by the end of May if they can’t find support, Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation said last week.

“In this very difficult period, it will only be the survival of the fittest” – Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

Which airlines are most at risk? Like the virus, the crisis is indiscriminate, affecting everyone from budget operators to national flag carriers. Aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers also are under immense pressure, with Boeing Co. calling for billions of dollars in state support and Airbus SE extending credit lines and canceling its dividend.
Using the Z-score method developed by Edward Altman in the 1960s to predict bankruptcies, Bloomberg News filtered out listed commercial airlines to identify the ones most at risk of going bust, based on available data. The calculations don’t take into account government bailouts or other funding sources that could help keep operators alive.
While the list is concentrated in Asia, mostly due to high debt levels, European carriers aren’t immune, as the collapse of U.K. regional airline Flybe Group Plc proved. According to Altman, scores of 1.8 or below indicate a risk of bankruptcy and scores over 3 suggest sound footing. Indebted low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA and Air France-KLM both landed below the threshold, as did American Airlines Group Inc. and SkyWest Inc.
29/03/20 Indian Express

SpiceJet offers transport to migrant labourers from Mumbai, Delhi to Patna

Indian budget carrier SpiceJet has offered its services to help stranded migrant workers in Mumbai and Delhi who are attempting to go back to their homes amid 21-day coronavirus lockdown.
Thousands of workers have been fleeing cities like Mumbai and Delhi, some on foot, to their homes in different parts of the country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday to stop the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement on Friday, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said, "We are already flying food, medicines and medical equipment for the government every day. We would love to alleviate the suffering of these migrant workers especially those from Bihar by flying some flights between Delhi/Mumbai and Patna."
The airline had operated a special charter flight from Delhi to Coimbatore on Friday on the government's request.
"This flight was operated at very short notice and carried a Hazmat suit. This will help local authorities replicate and start local manufacturing," Singh said.
SpiceJet has offered our aircraft and crew for any humanitarian mission that the government needs us to fly, he said.
28/03/20 Ahamad Fuwad/DNA

CRISIL downgrades ratings for SpiceJet to 'B' as business takes hit

Mumbai: Rating agency CRISIL has downgraded the rating for Spicejet Ltd’s short term loans from "BB-" to "B" on significant deterioration of business risk profile.

It has also cut the outlook in rating from "positive" to "negative".
The rating actions on Spicejet are triggered by discontinuation of international operations till April 30, 2020 and suspension of domestic flights till March 31, 2020 trigged by Covid-19 outbreak.

If the closure is prolonged it may have further impact the credit profile of airline operators, including SpiceJet, CRISIL said in a statement.

Against the backdrop of a modest revenue expectation, the company will have to continue to incur fixed costs such as lease rentals and workforce costs. This will result in operating losses and a weakening of the financial risk profile. Cancellations of existing travel plans because of the Covid-19 scare will further put pressure on liquidity.

The outlook revision reflects the expectation of further deterioration in SpiceJet's business risk profile amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
29/03/20 Abhijit Lele/Business Standard

SpiceJet pilot tests positive for Covid-19

New Delhi: SpiceJet said on Sunday that one of its pilots who did not fly any international flight in March has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"One of our colleagues, a first officer with SpiceJet, has tested positive for COVID-19. The test report came on March 28. He did not operate any international flight in March 2020," the airline's spokesperson told PTI.
"The last domestic flight that he operated was on March 21 from Chennai to Delhi and since then he had quarantined himself at home," he added.

As a precautionary measure, the spokesperson said, all crew and staff who had been in direct contact with him have been asked to self-quarantine by staying at home for the next 14 days.
29/03/20 PTI/Times of India

3 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Andaman & Nicobar take the total to 9

Three new confirmed cases of COVID -19 appeared in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Following this the total number of infected people has reached 9.

The persons who tested positive are also part of the same group which came from the Vistara and Indigo flights from Delhi on 24th March.

The infected persons have already been admitted to GB Pant Hospital at Port Blair for treatment. For listing the contact details of the infected persons, teams have already been mobilised by the Deputy Commissioner, South Andaman.
29/03/20 All India Radio

2.5 tonne of medical equipment shipped from Pune airport in 3 days

Pune: The Pune airport has seen big cargo movement of medical equipment and essential material in the last three days amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 spread. According to officials, of the total 6 tonne cargo movement at Pune airport in the last three days, 2.5 tonne was medical equipment that was sent from the city.

Since midnight of March 25, movement of all civil aircraft has been suspended till April 14. However, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has given permission for cargo operations in the country.
“Only cargo operations are going on from all airports. Around 2.5 tonne of medical equipment besides soybean and computer parts have been delivered from the airport,” said Kuldeep Singh, Pune airport director.

Pune Customs department on Sunday said that testing kits from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune were dispatched via a special flight to Ranchi, Raipur and Jamshedpur.

“…Pune Customs officials coordinated with the Airports Authority of India, Air India, NIV and successfully facilitated smooth transport of COVID-19 testing kits and chemical reagents to Raipur, Ranchi and Jamshedpur,” said a customs official.
SpiceXpress – SpiceJet’s dedicated cargo arm – has been doing doorstep deliveries of essential supplies, medicines and medical equipment across the country, including from Pune, said an official.
“Corona warriors all over the country – be it our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police, volunteers – and our government are doing an excellent job. We at SpiceJet are proud and honoured to help our government and people,” Ajay Singh, SpiceJet’s chairman and managing director, said in a statement.
29/03/20 Indian Express

Cargo, freight services continue to NE

Guwahati: Uninterrupted movement of cargo and freight services of airlines and railways to North Eastern states have been continuing to ensure no scarcity of essential commodities in wake of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19.
Alliance Air operated cargo flights with ATR72 aircraft to several destinations of the country today, including to Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Agartala.
Air India had flown one ATR 72 cargo flight to Agartala yesterday, while a Pawan Hans carrier was used to ferry medical supplies from Kolkata to Agartala the day before.
29/03/20 UNI

151 medical packages airlifted to Imphal

Imphal: Alto-gether 151 packages of medical materials weighing 2600 Kgs were airlifted from New Delhi to Imphal by a special chartered flight of Air India  at the initiative of NHPC Limited, Loktak Power  Station today.
The medical materials shipped to Imphal by air include 1200 personal protection equipment, about one tonne of sanitiser, 40 thermal scanner and about one tonne of mask, according to a press release issued by Loktak Power Station, Senior Manager (HR) Rajesh Kumar.
It said that the chartered flight was hired by NHPC Limited for the Government of Manipur as part of its efforts to contain and prevent COVID-19 pandemic in the State.
28/03/20 Sangai Express

No cancellation policy, air passengers angry

Bengaluru: With all national flights grounded till April 14, what are cancellation options open to those who have booked tickets? But it appears that airlines are going all out to retain passengers rather than give them the option of cancelling tickets free of charge even during COVID- 19 crisis. Most airlines give customers a one-year window to rebook tickets but offer no cancellations.

Airlines on Friday and Saturday were flooded with calls from angry customers demanding full refund for their cancelled tickets. Many complained that the response of airlines was poor. IndiGo created a “Credit Shell” for all existing and new bookings until April 30. The amount of the booked ticket will be deposited in the Shell and details will be shared with passengers in 5-7 days. “This is valid for one year and one can use it to make another booking for the same passenger,” Indi- Go said. For cancellations processed by travel agents or online booking platforms, one needs to contact the travel agent to make a new booking. A customer, Aditi, said, “My flight from Nagpur to Delhi on March 28 is cancelled. Can you process my refund pls? I stay in UK and was in India for a holiday.”

To which Indigo replied that it was not possible. Air India is allowing all passengers who booked tickets between March 23 to April 30 to rebook their tickets up to September 30. “Air India will waive No-Show charges (ticket will be protected at full value),” it said. No date change or travel change fee will be charged. Charges for changes in date, flight or route too are waived.
29/03/20 S Lalitha/New Indian Express

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Seven flights transport medical supplies

The Air India and the IndiGo operated seven flights to 13 destinations to transport medical supplies, according to a senior official co-ordinating relief efforts along with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The Air India flew a Boeing 787 from Mumbai to Delhi and back and an Airbus A 320 from Delhi to Imphal carrying medical equipment and medicines, according to the airline’s spokesperson.

Its subsidiary Alliance Air also operated three flights on its smaller 72-seater aircraft including Delhi-Raipur-Bhubaneswar-Delhi sector, Kolkata-Tripura and Mumbai-Pune-Raipur.
The IndiGo also operated a flight from Delhi to Bengaluru with four stops in between, which included Kolkata, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru. It carried 3 tonnes of cargo for medical requirements.
28/03/20 The Hindu

Lockdown: Cargo aircraft with essential commodities land at Agartala airport

Agartala: A cargo aircraft loaded with essential commodities landed at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport here on Saturday, the first since the 21-day lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, officials said.

The cargo flight operated by Air India landed at 1.40 pm carrying essential items weighing 457 kg from Kolkata, an airport official said.

A helicopter landed at the airport on Friday carrying 33,000 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), 7,000 N 95 masks, hand sanitisers and other medical items from Kolkata, he said.

Meanwhile, state Health Secretary Debasish Basu said no COVID-19 case has been detected in the state so far, adding there is no dearth of medical equipment.

On the other hand, Airports Authority of India Regional Director for Northeast, Sanjeev Jindal said the AAI has started a cargo flight to the region.
28/03/20 PTI/Outlook

Vistara Airlines announces leave without pay, defers annual increment

Mumbai: Vistara Airlines will implement one to three days of leave without pay for 30 per cent of its employees in April and has deferred its annual increment to July, following the suspension of all domestic operations till April 14.

"While we are doing all possible, including a recruitment freeze, we have to look at other means to further reduce our cost," the airline's chief executive officer Leslie Thng said in an email to employees today.

Air India, GoAir and IndiGo have already announced salary cuts to tide over cash crunch caused by suspension of operations.

In Vistara the leave without pay will be implemented between April 1-14 and will cover all employees except junior ground staff and the cabin crew.
28/03/20 Aneesh Phadnis/Business Standard

AI to conduct 9 flights from Mar 31-Apr 3 to transport essential items

 New Delhi: Amid a 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat coronavirus, Air India will conduct nine special flights between March 31 and April 3 to transport essential items such as medicines, test kits and equipment to various cities across the country, senior airline officials said on Saturday.
"On March 31 morning, one B787-8 aircraft would be operating a flight on Mumbai-Bengaluru route. The plane would return to Mumbai in morning itself," the official said.

Another B787-8 will be used to conduct a flight on March 31 between Mumbai and Chennai, the senior official noted.

"These planes would be carrying essential items such as medicines, test kits and equipment," the official added.

More than 900 people have so far been infected by the coronavirus in India and 19 fatalities recorded, according to the central government.

A second official told PTI that Air India would be conducting special flights on the Mumbai-Goa, the Mumbai-Trivandrum, the Mumbai-Chennai and the Chennai-Hyderabad routes.
28/03/20 PTI/Outlook

Air India would operate Special cargo flights to Northeast to ferry essential commodities

Guwahati: Air India would operate special cargo flights to the northeastern region of India to ferry the commodities required to deal with the novel coronavirus treatment and other public emergencies, top AAI official said on Friday.

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has also been operating freight trains in most of the northeastern states, including Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram to maintain the availability of the essential commodities in the hilly northeastern region.

Airport Authority of India (AAI) Regional Executive Director (NER) Sanjeev Jindal said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation took the decision considering the situation of urgent need to transport medicine, medical emergency equipment, protective gears, accessories in small quantities, even water and essential commodities.

He said that to address the seamless movement of air cargo, a high-level committee has been constituted with secretaries of various Central Government ministries.

“The committee is empowered to hire dedicated charter flights for the air cargo purpose,” Jindal said.
28/03/20 Sentinel

Air India pilots seek January allowance dues

New Delhi: Air India pilots, who are being praised across the world for rescuing stranded passengers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, are yet to receive a major portion of their January salary. 
An AI pilot, who requested anonymity, said they have written to higher officials to release flying allowance for January, which accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the salary.

“Like everyone, we also need financial support during this difficult time. We are okay with the management deciding to cut allowances and paycheck to limit the Covid-19 impact on the airline, but not clearing previous months’ dues is too much,” he said. Indian Commercial Pilots Assosiation has recently written to Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal to immediately release flying allowance for January.
28/03/20 New Indian Express

Government allows passenger flights to ferry medical items, essential goods

In view of the unprecedented crisis due to the spread of coronavirus, the union civil aviation ministry has allowed passenger flights to transport essential items and medical supplies across the country.

“We have allowed passenger flights to transport cargo as we need to ferry a massive amount of cargo,” a senior government official said.

It is important to note here that so far, cargo movement was taking place through freighters and among major airlines, SpiceJet was the sole carrier with a separate cargo arm called SpiceXpress.

With over 300 aircraft on ground, IndiGo and GoAir had written to the government for permission to ferry essential cargo.

In order to facilitate smooth cargo movement throughout the lockdown period, the civil aviation ministry has created an Air Cargo Management Group for COVID-19 with a dedicated team for smooth movement of cargo.

The ministry is adopting a hub and spoke approach to move essential commodities across the country and Resident Commissioners of States and union territories are part of the group.
28/03/20 CNBC TV18

GoAir offers to fly migrant workers to home states during lockdown

Mumbai: No-frills carrier GoAir on Saturday evinced interest in flying thousands of stranded migrant workers in various states to the airports closer to their homes amid the lockdown across the country, and said it has approached the government on this issue.

With both passenger train and flight services shut till April 14 and no source of income due to the closure of all businesses, these migrant workers are stuck in major cities and looking for means to reach their native places. Some of whom have been forced to even walk to their home towns and villages regardless of the distance.

Due to suspension of air services, the aircraft of all domestic airlines are grounded.

India's millions of migrant workers are the most affected sections of our society during the ongoing 21-day lockdown in view of Covid-19, the airline said.

"In response to their plight and after seeing scenes of workers trying to walk hundreds of kilometres home with their families, including children, GoAir has reached out to the civil aviation ministry and offered its services to fly these workers and their families to the airports closest to their homes," the airline said.
28/03/20 PTI/Times of India

Air India operating cargo flights to move medicines, medical equipment on Saturday

National carrier Air India and its regional arm Alliance Air are operating a host of cargo charter flights -- mostly with medical equipment and medicines - on several routes on Saturday, an Air India spokesperson said. The flights are being operated with a mix of Boeing 787, A320 and regional jets ATRs, he said. On Friday, a civil aviation ministry announced the setting up of an air cargo management group to move essential commodities across the country, which is lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi, Delhi-Imphal-Delhi, Delhi-Raipur-Bhubaneshwar-Delhi, Kolkata-Agartala-Kolkata and Mumbai-Pune-Raipur-Mumbai are the routes where these flighst are being operated, the spokesperson said. Air India has deployed its flagship aircraft Boeing 787-8 (Dreamliner) for Delhi-Mumbai flights, and A320 for Imphal flights, he said, adding the rest of the routes are being operated with Tray Retrieval System (ATRS). The country is under a 21-day lockdown from March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus and all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.

On Friday also, essential items especially medicine and ICMR kits were transported from Delhi to Aizawl, Dibrugarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad on Friday and another flight transported essential items from Mumbai to Pune, Bengaluru and Trivandrum the same day, a civil aviation ministry official had said earlier. Besides, a third batch of air cargo carried essential items from Delhi to Pune and ICMR kits from Pune to Patna.
28/03/20 PTI/Economic Times

Relief materials reach Imphal by air

Imphal: Health materials reached Imphal by air here today at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport, Imphal.
About 191 packages weighing about 2.5 tonnes of relief materials containing 1200 PPEs including a ton of sanitizers, digital infrared thermometers and masks were unloaded at the airport.
The state government has started providing essential commodities by assigning a minister in every district.
28/03/20 UNI

India lockdown: Airlines offer sops to stop passengers from cancelling tickets

New Delhi: If you are among the passengers whose air travel plans have been disrupted due to the ban on flights because of coronavirus, then be prepared for a long wait for getting refunds, or even rescheduling your travel plans for tickets booked during this period.

Technically, passengers should get a full refund if the ticket is fully unused and a partial refund if the air ticket is partially used, but this may not be the case after the coronavirus pandemic is over. Further, the onus of rebooking your flight is on you. If the booking has been made through travel agents or online travel portals, passengers will have to contact their travel agents or portals for making any changes in the tickets.
The reasoning for this is simple: Aviation is a cash flow business, and airlines need the money. Hence, instead of giving refunds, airlines are offering incentives to keep the money you have already paid for tickets during this 21-day lockdown period.
The sops on offer vary. Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, is offering passengers the choice of extending the booking for 24 months from the time that the booking was made by calling their call centres. It is also offering the option of requesting for a travel voucher for trips for up to one year ahead.

Similarly, low-cost airline AirAsia, is offering a one-year window to convert flights to credits, and booking a new flight or free unlimited date changes. This offer has been extended till May 31.

IndiGo, the market leader with a market share of close to 50 per cent in India, is offering the option of getting full credit, which can be used before September 30, 2020, if a passenger hasbooked to travel before April 30, and the flight is cancelled.

“Aviation is a cash flow business. Just as a passenger needs cash, so do airlines. The mantra of every airline is to conserve cash,” said an India-based senior executive with a foreign airline.

Industry watchers also believe that it is up to individuals to rebook their flights, and the airlines are likely to follow a ‘first-come-first-serve’ policy once operations resume.

In effect, what this means is that the person who makes the booking first will be given priority. This policy does not take into account of the fact if the passenger is stranded due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“We are not moving people ourselves,” a senior official of a domestic airline said when asked whether airlines are moving passengers whose flights have been cancelled during the 21 day lockdown to another flight.

Another former revenue and route management head with a major Indian carrier said that there is “no way any airline can accommodate all the passengers of the flights that have been cancelled.”
28/03/20 Ashwini Phadnis/Business Line

Govt forms ministerial-level committee to resolve supply-chain issues

New Delhi: The government has formed a ministerial level committee to mitigate supply chain problems as India undergoes one of the longest curfews in history.
Headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah, the committee has been tasked with ensuring unhindered supply of essential items during the lockdown. Seven secretaries from the ministries of consumer affairs, road transport, civil aviation, shipping, textile, health and Chairman of the Railway Board are part of the committee which will meet daily at 11 AM through video conferencing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a 21-day lockdown- the most far reaching measure by any government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move, which experts believe is essential, but hastily drawn has thrown the country’s logistics system into disarray as local administrations are confused the over interpretation of the government orders.
“The biggest need is now that all administration work in tandem and implement the orders in unison. Hence the committee has been formed which will collect daily inputs and ensure coordination to solve the issues,” said an official, who is part of the committee.
For instance, according to minutes of the meeting held yesterday, Priyank Bharti, a joint secretary in the road transport ministry raised the issue of truckers facing the shortage of food on their way as all roadside eateries are closed. He also mentioned that local police authorities were stopping goods carriers.
28/03/20 Arindam Majumder,Shine Jacob & Megha Manchanda/Business Standard

Total flights per day now below 100,000; Flightradar24 data shows less than 50K commercial flights operational

New Delhi: With several countries suspending flight operations to contain the coronavirus spread, the aviation sector is one of the worst-hit. Flightradar24, world's leading flight tracker's data reveals that the total number of flights operating per day has now gone below 100,000 and total commercial traffic is below 50,000 flights per day. Normal average at this point of the year is above 1,75,000 according to Flightradar24.
As per the flight tracking data, almost 100 airlines across the globe have grounded their fleet as more countries joined the coronavirus lockdown. This has also created a unique parking problem for airlines, further adding to their costs. In the United States, Airlines service was teetering on the brink of collapse, with near-empty planes and coronavirus outbreaks that have left some air traffic control towers empty. As the demand for air travel dropped, commercial aircraft were parked at facilities that included remote desert airports among others. The situation is no different in many European countries and the Asian subcontinent including India.
According to an Associated Press report, the International Air Transport Association estimated that passenger revenue worldwide could fall as much as $252 billion, or 44%, compared with last year because of the decline in travel. That is based on strict travel restrictions lasting up to three months, followed by a slow economic recovery.
With fading air travels, the Airlines were also forced to cut jobs. In India, airlines have started to announce pay cuts for its employees. Earlier in the week, Air Canada announced that they were laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants as they cut routes amid plunging demand.
The United Arab Emirates suspended passenger transits through Dubai, the world's busiest international airport, for two weeks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Suspending transit through Dubai, which connects Europe with Asia and Australia, affected travellers around the world. India has already suspended all flights until April 15 as the country announced a 21-day lockdown.
28/03/20 Himanshu Shekhar/India TV

Indian grandparents appeal to return home after week in Dubai airport

An elderly couple stranded in Dubai airport have appealed to New Delhi to allow them to return home to India after the country shut off international travel to curb the spread of the coronavirus earlier this week.

Amal Kumar Mandal, 75, and his wife Tripti, 73, have been staying in a hotel inside Dubai International Airport.

The couple were among 11 travellers from Australia who missed the last flight home on March 21 when rain and lightning in Dubai disrupted their transit flight.

Mr Mandal is diabetic and desperate to return to his home town Baroda.

India closed international travel to and from the country on March 22 and has extended the ban until April 14 to contain the disease.

“We are mentally very upset,” said Mr Mandal.
28/03/20 Ramola Talwar Badam/National

What Is Spicejet’s Plan For A Middle East Base?

At the end of October 2019, SpiceJet had announced its plans of setting up a hub at Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates. The Indian low-cost carrier had initially intended to start a five-weekly service from Delhi, with plans to further increase connectivity to other Indian destinations. By the end of November, SpiceJet had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with RAK airport, expressing their increasing interest. However, neither the flight nor the hub has been launched.
Before going further, we acknowledge that RAK is the airport code for Marrakesh Airport in Morocco. Within this article, it is being used as an abbreviation for the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah.
Ras Al-Khaimah, also known as ‘RAK’ is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Located in the Northeastern UAE, it’s just an hour away from Dubai and Sharjah. Being an attractive tourist destination, RAK sees services from European and South Asian destinations. However, since the demise of RAK Airways (Ras Al-Khaimah’s home airline) in 2014, traffic at the airport has been fairly average.
Currently, Air India Express is the only carrier connecting RAK to India. SpiceJet saw this as an opportunity to dominate India-Ras Al-Khaimah passenger traffic. With a fleet of Boeing 737s, it could have easily connected RAK with any Indian city.
28/03/20 Ayush Syal/Simple Flying

Head Constable Deployed at Mumbai Airport Tests Positive For COVID-19

New Delhi: A head constable who was deployed at Mumbai airport has been tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. In a statement, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) informed that the constable was under treatment in a Mumbai hospital for last few days.
Meanwhile, the number of positive cases in Maharashtra rose to 181 today. Presently, Mumbai has 73 positive cases, Pune 32, Sangli 24, Nagpur 11, Kalyan-Dombivali 7, Navi Mumbai 6, Thane 5, Yavatmal and Vasai-Virar 4 each, Ahmednagar 3, Satara and Raigad 2 each.
There is one patient each also in Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Ulhasnagar, Aurangabad, Palghar, Kolhapur, Gondia, besides one from Gujarat.
On the other hand, the death toll of COVID-19 patients in the state increased from five to six including a senior Mumbai medico who died while under treatment at a private hospital on Thursday night.
28/03/20 India.com

Two from Karnataka among 8 stranded at London airport after flights cancelled

London: Eight passengers from India including two from Uttar Kannada are stranded at Heathrow International Airport. They were in transit and were travelling to India when the country suddenly stopped inbound flights due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The eight passengers including an infant and a child boarded flight from Huston on March 18. They boarded a connecting flight from Atlanta Airport and reached Heathrow International Airport on March 19.Speaking to Daijiworld, Ganapathi Shanbhag, a senior citizen and among the passengers stranded said, “We had boarded the 8:30 am flight from Huston and were travelling to India via Heathrow, London, when the Centre made the announcement to cancel all flights from foreign countries. As soon as we realized what had happened, we tried to get in touch with the Indian High Commissioner in London. Yet, we did not receive any positive response from embassy.
28/03/20 Daijiworld

US arranges airlifting citizens stuck in India

New York: The US government was arranging to airlift American citizens stuck in India because of the lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a State Department official.

Ian Brownlee, the official dealing with consular affairs, said on Friday: "We are working directly with both US and foreign carriers to lay on aircraft direct from India to the US," to bring them back.

He said that the flights could start in about three days, "but it's the permitting that takes a while both in India and the US".

Last week, the State Department issued a "Level 4" travel alert advising its citizens not to travel internationally and asking those abroad to return home.

India is under a lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic with all commercial passenger flights cancelled.

Brownlee said that about 1,500 Americans in the New Delhi area, between 600 and 700 in the Mumbai area and 300 to 400 elsewhere had expressed interest in returning home.

He said that a church group has chartered a large aircraft to bring 150 or so Americans from India and the State Department was helping them get the necessary permits for the plane.
28/03/20 Arul Louis/daijiworld

Trivandrum International Airport assigned standby function

Thiruvananthapuram: After screening over 2 lakh passengers who arrived in Kerala after Covid-19 outbreak entered a crucial stage, four airports in the state have ceased operations for passengers. However, Trivandrum international airport has been included in the list of standby airports in the country, along with four other airports, as it is close to the international air route. The airport will be used for refuelling and technical landing of aircraft that use the international route.

Chennai, Kolkata, Varanasi and Ahmedabad airports are the other standby airports. C V Ravindran, Director, Thiruvananthapuram international airport, told TNIE though the normal functioning of the airport has come to a halt, it would function as standby airport due to its proximity to international air route. The aircraft passing through the international air route can land here for refuelling purpose. Aircraft can also make technical landing. For this purpose some skeletal staff have been pressed into service.

Staff deployed in non-essential wings have been asked to work from home, but personnel attached to air traffic control, radar, fire services, operations, ground lighting and other key wings would work as usual as the air space is open for other flight operations. A few cargo aircraft have been operating from here chiefly to West Asia with strict restrictions, he said. The airport has also screened 1,023 aircraft from January 29, subjecting a total of 1.13 lakh passengers to thermal scanning. Of them 34 tested positive for Covid-19, while 210 were recommended home quarantine.
28/03/20 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

Flying out of Hyderabad to pinch less after UDF slashed upto 77% from April 1

New Delhi: Flying out of Hyderabad will pinch passengers less, once the corona pandemic ends and normal travel resumes. The Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) has slashed user development fees (UDF) for departing domestic passengers from Rs 430 to Rs 281, reduced by 35%; and for departing international flyers from Rs 1700 to Rs 393 (without taxes), reduced by 77%.
“The revised UDF shall be applicable for tickets issued issued on or after April 1, 2020,” the AERA order on Hyderabad Airport’s aeronautical tariff for the second control period (April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2021) issued on Friday says.

At the current rate of Rs 430 for domestic departing passengers, airline websites show Rs 507 as with tax figure indicating a rate of almost 18% tax. An international UDF of Rs 1,700 with taxes, show airlines websites, comes out to Rs 2,006 (with 18% tax). So the UDF saving for flyers flying out of Hyderabad will be about Rs 170 and Rs 1,540 per domestic and international departing passenger, respectively.
28/03/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

Govt forms air cargo management group for smoother movement of essential items

 
New Delhi: The Union civil aviation ministry announced on Friday that an air cargo management group has been created to move essential commodities across the country, which is under a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"Private airlines or freighters have been co-opted to link the request of states or union territories for smooth movement of essential items," the ministry said on Twitter tonight.

It said that "additionally, ATR aircraft of Alliance Air have been kept on standby at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru & Hyderabad".

Planes are being chartered at concessional rates for boxes that need a large aircraft, especially to move items of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to states, the ministry said.

"Helicopters are ready in the north-east for intra-region movements. Support is being given to private agencies interested in aiding efforts," it said.

The country is under a 21-day lockdown from March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus and all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.

"An air cargo management group for COVID-19 has been created with a dedicated team for smooth movement of cargo. Ministry is adopting a hub & spoke approach to move essential commodities across the country. Resident commissioners of states/union territories are part of the group," the ministry said on Twitter.

Essential items especially medicine and ICMR kits were transported from Delhi to Aizawl, Dibrugarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad on Friday, it said.

"The second flight of the day transported essential items from Mumbai to Pune, Bengaluru and Trivandrum," the ministry said.
28/03/20 PTI/Outlook