Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Will AirAsia be the next Airline to Fold?

Singapore: The fascinating story of AirAsia's rise to become one of the most admired carriers in the region is well known in Southeast Asia.
It began with the purchase of the bankrupt airline from Malaysian government conglomerate DRB- Hicom back in December 2001 by legendary and flamboyant founder, Tony Fernandes. It was a gutsy move so soon after the September 11 tragedy in America which devasted the airline industry. Although he ostensibly paid 1 Malaysian Ringgit (now 23 US cents) for the airline, he had to take on USD 11 million of debt and in order to finance the operations, he had to mortgage his house and plough his entire savings into the venture since no banks would lend him money as he had no prior experience running an airline. Before taking this big spin of the roulette wheel, he had a cushy high-flying job as a Warner Music executive which he joined as an accountant.
He and business partner and old friend, co-founder Kamarudin Meranun, took over two ageing Boeing 737-330 planes and 200 staff after the acquisition and were profitable within one year, flying 200,000 passengers in 2002. Five years later in 2007, they had 68 planes, another 175 on order, and had 5,000 people working for the airline. They flew 23 million passengers that year. That is more passengers than SIA (Singapore Airlines), MAS (Malaysian Airlines), Thai Airways, Emirates or Cathay.
By 2017, it was operating with 220 aircraft, employed 20,000 people, and was carrying 65 million passengers annually. As of 2019, AirAsia had the enviable achievement of winning Skytrax's world's best low-cost carrier for 11 consecutive years in their international travel and airline awards.
AirAsia took on a low-cost carrier business model with a slogan that resonated with regional travellers "Now everyone can fly". It inspired the birth of many Southeast Asian low-cost airlines like SIA's Tiger Airways (now merged with Scoot), Jetstar Asia, Indonesia's Lion Air and Air Mandala, Philippines' Cebu Pacific and Thailand's Nok Air.
Starting in 2004 with Thai AirAsia, the airline started its regional expansion by establishing joint-ventures or other forms of partnerships in various countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and India. Their affiliate in China was closed not long after starting for commercial reasons.
Its airline in India is a joint venture which started in 2013. It owns 49 percent of the venture, with Tata Sons and Arun Bhatia the other shareholders. This partnership saw aviation pioneer Tata Sons' first return to the aviation industry after an absence of 60 years.
Following AsiaAsia's listing in 2004, Tony Fernandes, who is an overseas citizen of India, was listed by Forbes as Malaysia's 28th richest man with a net worth of USD 650 million in 2014. He once owned a Formula One team and is currently co-owner of London football club Queens Park Rangers.
AirAsia is run frugally and with a reported cost of USD 0.0375 per available seat per kilometre (ASK) in 2019 is operating one of the world's lowest cost per ASK for any carrier. In spite of this, it could not escape the carnage the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking on the airline industry as borders closed and flights were suspended.
With little revenue for months, the airline last week unsurprisingly reported a record loss of MYR 803 million (USD 188 million) for the first three months of the year. Before COVID-19, it was already hampered by a net loss of MYR 304 million (USD 71 million) in 2019. At the end of Q1 2020, the airline's current liabilities exceeded its current assets by MYR 3.565 billion (USD 840 million).
Auditors Ernst and Young said in an unqualified audit opinion statement to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange that "travel and border restrictions implemented by countries around the world has led to a significant fall in demand for air travel which impacted the group's financial performance and cash flows." It noted the "existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the group's and the company's ability to continue as a going concern."
Trading of shares in AirAsia was suspended last Wednesday (8 July) morning and had plummeted 23 percent by the end of the day after trading resumed in the afternoon. It has since recovered 10 percent as of at the end of the week.
Earlier, AirAsia had already taken steps to minimise costs, including cutting about 7.5 percent of its 23,000 employees across its businesses. It is also negotiating with suppliers for payment deferrals and has halted aircraft deliveries.
AirAsia is at the moment exploring various means to inject cash into its ailing business. Analysts say that a combination of funding options would probably be required especially since banks are unlikely to lend without shareholders supporting a capital-raising exercise. Some think that they can at best raise MYR 1.4 billion from a rights issue while Malaysian equities research firm CGS-CIMB believes they will need MYR 3 billion (USD 700 million) in new funding to maintain a healthy cash position.
One potential investor is South Korea's conglomerate SK Corp who are ready to make a small private placement. However, this is likely to be subject to the securing of government and bank loans of about MYR 1 billion. Financial institutions have already indicated that they are willing to provide conditional loans.
Their subsidiaries in Indonesia and the Philippines have also applied for loans.
One other possible source of funding is a sale of their stake in AirAsia India to Tata Sons and discussions have already been set in motion based on a report by Business Standard.
AirAsia boss Fernandes remains optimistic that his firm can survive what he said is the toughest challenge they have faced since they began in 2001. He said in an interview with news agency AFP on Thursday (July 9) that the budget carrier would emerge "stronger" from the coronavirus pandemic, and said the airline was hopeful of raising a sizeable cash injection.
13/07/20 Lee Kah Whye/ANI/NewKerala.com

Passengers panic and scream as aircraft shakes violently before landing

It was a terrifying moment for passengers aboard an IndiGo flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Kashmir, India, as the aircraft rocked violently minutes before landing at Srinagar's Sheikh-ul-Alam airport.

A video taken from inside of the cabin, shows the plane jolting up and down and backs of chairs wobbling violently due to severe turbulence. The footage captures terrified passengers screaming and crying in panic as they begin to fear for their safety.

"A couple of times it shook dangerously, which panicked passengers - especially the elderly who lost their balance despite having seatbelts on," a passenger aboard the plane was quoted as saying in Mirror.co.uk.

Passengers later said that although the cabin crew desperately tried to keep people calm, fear spread through the cabin as the plane shook for around two minutes.
"A couple of times it (the plane) shook dangerously, which panicked passengers, especially the elderly who lost their balance despite having seatbelts on," the passenger said. "Many recited verses from the Holy Quran. (Those on board) were seen loudly praying and amongst them women cried when the plane shook heavily," the passenger added.

A spokesperson for the airline told Sun Online, "An IndiGo flight 6E 9822 experienced turbulence while flying from Riyadh to Srinagar shortly before landing. The cockpit crew followed the laid down standard operating procedures to ensure safety of all passengers on board. There were no injuries reported and the passengers were safely de-boarded at Srinagar."
13/07/20 Khaleej Times

Gold smuggling: Probe against Air India SATS former vice president Binoy Jacob

Thiruvananthapuram: An investigation will take place against Air India SATS former vice president Binoy Jacob. Swapna Suresh was appointed in Air India SATS when Binoy Jacob was working there. The gold smuggling cases during this period also will be investigated.
Currently, the probe is focusing on Binoy Jacob who faces allegations regarding the smuggling case. The probe team had received clues regarding a lobby in the airport that works for gold smuggling. Following this, the NIA and the Customs collected details of the same.
The investigation is leading to Binoy Jacob, because Swapna Suresh was appointed when he was the vice president of Air India SATS. Later, Swapna resigned the job but continued to visit the airport, a former staff had revealed the other day.
Binoy Jacob was invloved in two criminal cases. One was related to a fake complaint case and another was based on the complaint of a former staff named Merin Mathew.
Trial of this case is under progress. However, he managed to get clearance certificate using influence in police force and entered the airport. First he worked in Air India SATS and then in Bhadra International.
As per the evidences Mathrubhumi News received, Binoy got clearance certificate from Kottayam in 2013 and from Kochi in 2019. He has been living in Thiruvananthapuram since 2012. But the clearance issued from Kochi states that he lives in Kochi since 2014. It also states that no cases exists against him. A similar certificate was issued from Thiruvananthapuram also.
Currently, investigation is leading to how Binoy received the airport entry pass. The involvement of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and the security wing in airport also is suspected. Though the authorities were aware that Binoy was living in Thiruvananthapuram, he received entry pass. This shows that no scrutiny was conducted before issuing the pass and the clearance certificate.
14/07/20 Mathrubhumi

NIA probes into Swapna's connections in Thiruvananthapuram

Thiruvananthapuram: The NIA team is scrutinizing the contacts of gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and Sarith in the capital of the state. The team is camping at Thiruvananthapuram to inquire about the phone calls, friendships, business deals and night parties linked with the accused  The investigation team collected details from Swapna's family members and distant relatives. Wedding of Swapna's brother, reception after wedding and the clashes that occurred during the event also are being probed. The video footage of the event was collected. The probe team is checking if any suspects or officials involved in gold smuggling had taken part in the ceremony.
The probe team also collected information from IT Space Park where Swapna was working. She had a wide range of friend circle including IPS officials. She made these friendships while working in the consulate. The officials have made recommendations at many places as requested by Swapna. Meetings and journeys with former IT secretary Sivasankar also are being investigated.
Swapna's colleagues in Air India SATS also were approached by the NIA. Swapna had filed a fake complaint against a higher official during this period. Her former colleague Merin had revealed that Swapna is involved in gold smuggling.
14/07/20 Mathrubhumi

Air Passengers Association of India president D Sudhakara Reddy dies in Chennai

Chennai: Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) national president D Sudhakara Reddy, who fought for the rights of passengers, died in Apollo Hospitals in Chennai on Monday following a cardiac arrest. He was 72.
He is survived by his daughter Deeptha Reddy.
Reddy founded APAI in 1990 and was at the forefront of several measures that helped make aviation in the country passenger-friendly.
After helping frame standard operating procedures (SOP) for restarting aviation post lockdown, Reddy, through APAI, had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for full refund of tickets for domestic and international flights cancelled during lockdown period.
In a message, APAI said, "Greatly knowledgeable, passionate in his endeavours, strong in perseverance yet mild in demeanour, Reddy had dedicated himself to the cause of APAI. To lose him at this critical juncture is more saddening. We mourn his death and celebrate the cause he lived for."
Behram Mehta, chairman, APAI Gujarat, said, "He was an industrialist, hotelier, owned a flight kitchen and was from the establishment side but still he stood for the passenger rights."
He said Reddy was instrumental in bringing about the free sky policy of the 90s and successfully campaign against the 5-20 rule that required an Indian airline to have 20 aircraft and five years service to fly abroad.
13/07/20 V Ayyappan/Times of India

Dilli dur ast? Lost at Kolkata airport, recused pup awaits reunion with legal owner

Fifi, a seven-month-old female Indie puppy, who disappeared from the Kolkata airport two weeks back, was found curled up in a parking lot in Baguiati. Little Fifi was flown down from Delhi on June 24 so she could settle into her forever home in Kolkata. But as fate would have it, she separated from her parents at the airport and strayed into the big city and is now waiting to reunite with her legal owner.
Read what really unfolded >>

Jammu, Srinagar Airports receive 21 domestic flights with 2,454 passengers

Jammu: On Day 50 of resumption of operation of routine domestic operations in Jammu and Kashmir, 21 domestic flights with 2,454 passengers on board today arrived at Jammu and Srinagar Airports.
A total of 562 passengers aboard 8 regular commercial flights arrived at the Jammu Airport while 13 domestic flights with about 1892 passengers on board landed at Srinagar Airport today.
Pertinently, Jammu Airport Authorities have received a total of 358 domestic flights with 26,491 passengers while Srinagar Airport Authorities have received 584 domestic flights with 75,818 passengers since 25th of May till date.
Also, the Jammu and Kashmir government has brought back about 3,240 passengers from various countries to the Union Territory through special evacuation flights in the wake of global pandemic till date.
After arrival, all the passengers were tested for the COVID-19 and transported to their destinations at both the airports amid strict observance of all necessary preventive protocols.
14/07/20 India Education Diary

UP govt issues notification to acquire 48 hectare land for Jewar airport

Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has issued a notification for acquiring more than 48 hectares of land to relocate 3,600 people affected by construction of the Jewar International airport project.
The move is an attempt to fast-track the construction of the airport.
The notification issued under section 19 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act on July 11, also paves the way for compensation to the people affected by the greenfield project. This is seen as an alternative to New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport for the people living in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The notification was issued by Special Secretary, Civil Aviation, Surendra Singh, and is for the acquisition of 48.097 hectares of land in Gram Jewar Bangar for which the Uttar Pradesh government had issued the preliminary notification on April 13, suggesting identification of land for relocation of the affected farmers.

The land acquisition in Jewar had hit uncertainty in 2018 after farmers objected to it, citing reservations over the amount of compensation.

The then Yamuna Expressway and Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) Chairman, Prabhat Kumar had said that if farmers did not accept the terms and conditions then the project may have to be shelved.

Subsequently, the farmers were offered the rate ranging from Rs 2,300 to Rs 2,500 per square meter for the agricultural land that was to be acquired for an international airport project in Jewar, along the Yamuna Expressway.

The state government will now have to get the notification published in the state gazette besides two newspapers, of which one would be in the local language. The notification would also be circulated in local language through District Magistrate, Panchayat, and urban local body.

Earlier, the Gautam Buddha Nagar administration had set August 15 as the deadline for completing the process of acquisition of 48 hectares of land for the development of a township for those affected by the airport project.
13/07/20 IANS/Business Standard

Additional Air India Express tickets go on sale in UAE

As part of the Vande Bharat Mission, the Consulate General of India, Dubai, urged stranded Indian nationals wanting to fly back to New Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and Mangalore, to book Air India tickets starting 9:00am (UAE time) on 14 July, 2020.

The CGI announced on their Twitter account that tickets can be booked through http://airindiaexpress.in

The additional Vande Bharat Mission flights from UAE to India will fly back Indian nationals registered with Indian Embassy/CGI website at normal repatriation fares at www.airindiaexpress.in or through authorized UAE travel agents.
The tweet also stresses that to book tickets, passport information and passenger contact details are mandatory.

Earlier this month, tickets for AIE flights from Sharjah to various South Indian cities went on sale.
14/07/20 Khaleej Times

‘Last minute disappointment’ for Australians in India as Air India cancels tickets for five flights

Australian citizens and permanent residents who remain in India will have to wait even longer to return home after the High Commission announced that Air India will not be carrying passengers in five out of the six flights scheduled to land in Melbourne and Sydney this week.
Read what Australians India are going through >>

Air India brings back 101 passengers stranded in Ukraine to Indore

Indore: An Air India flight under Vande Bharat Mission brought back 101 stranded passengers from Ukraine to Indore on Tuesday.
The flight landed at Indore’s Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport at 5:15 am today.
The Nodal Officer for COVID-19, Dr Amit Malakar said, “At the airport, the health department team did a preliminary examination of all the passengers, no symptoms of COVID-19 were found in any of the passengers.” “Among these passengers, 20 passengers are from Indore who are being quarantined at a hotel. The remaining passengers are from other cities, arrangements are being made to send them to their native places,” he added.
14/07/20 ANI/Telangana Today

Covid-19 crisis triggers new debate among Air India unions

Mumbai: Days after two pilot unions of Air India wrote to Air India CMD on tackling financial stress during the coronavirus pandemic, two other bodies — Aviation Industry Employees Guild and All India Service Engineers Association — have termed the suggestions as “thoughtless”.

They have also asked the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association and Indian Pilots Guild to withdraw the letter.

“We are shocked and surprised to read the letters written by both of you, the ICPA and IPG wherein to protect your wages you have suggested various costs cutting measures including a reduction in employee strength and compulsory leave without pay and percentage cut on total earnings across all categories of employees most of whom aren’t covered by your Union,” said the counter letter by two bodies.
“As a trade union you must be aware that services conditions of the workmen cannot be changed without serving the notice of change under section 9A of the ID act,1947 and therefore your suggestion is illegal,” said the letter to the pilots.

“We understand that the issues raised by you were only because management has put you under notice to reduce your flying allowances paid in US dollars, to actual flying hours as the operations have shrunk to the bare minimum and the and company is facing serious financial crisis due to pandemic,” the letter added.

“As the union representing the highest-paid category of employees in India you should have protected your own interests rather than suggesting unwarranted and unlawful cost-cutting measures affecting employees belonging to our category/unions.”
14/07/20 Pankaj Upadhyay/India Today

Stranded Indian expats rush to get back on first flights to UAE

Expats stranded in India for months are rushing to book flight tickets back to their 'second home'. This came as the UAE and Indian civil aviation authorities signed an agreement to allow special repatriation flights to take Indians home and for residents currently in India to return to the UAE.

Starting July 12, passengers will be flying on flights operated by the UAE carriers and the Indian government's Vande Bharat Mission for 15 days. Eligible passengers travelling on India-UAE flights will need to carry a Covid-19 negative test result, conducted not more than 96 hours before departure.

Shariq Khan, who went for a family wedding, had not imagined that his return would be so difficult. "I came to India in February. I have finally booked my tickets and am returning on July 20. I feel the anxious wait is finally over. My mother and I are returning to my father who has been alone all this while. That has been quite a matter of concern for us, apart from the fact that my business has also been suffering," said Khan, a Dubai resident and founder of Gravity Events Management.

"I am paying Dh1,465 for each ticket on Air India Express from Delhi. I did thorough research before booking my tickets as a lot of flights were getting cancelled. It took me a while to make my bookings as it kept saying seats are sold out until I finally managed to do it. I am happy I'll be flying back to the UAE - the country where I was raised and call home."

Anupam Nair, the lead singer of a Dubai-based band, had travelled to Delhi in mid-March for his shows. While his gigs kept getting cancelled one after the other due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his desperate attempts to return also kept failing.

"I had booked tickets on two chartered flights earlier and both got cancelled. There was no communication and no clarity. Luckily, I got my money back. Then we heard about this India-UAE travel pact. I paid Dh3,028 for a business class ticket on a flydubai flight. I am finally due to travel tomorrow and I still can't believe it," said Nair, lead singer of Rooh.

"I have never been so eager to pay for anything ever before. I paid quite a bit of money for my return travel, but it's still far less than what many of the chartered flights were charging. I want this stress to be finally over and can't wait to get to Dubai."

Saniya Wahi, another eager resident, is also waiting to set foot in the UAE. "I came to India for my brother's wedding that also got cancelled. These past few months have only been about searching for ways to travel back and work-related Zoom meetings. Dubai has opened up and I can't wait to get back. Upon arrival, I have lined up work meetings from July 16," said Wahi, a wedding planner.
13/07/20 Khaleej Times/MENAFN

Flight Carrying 101 Students Stranded in Ukraine Arrives in MP

Indore: A special Air India flight carrying 101 Indian medical students, who were stranded in Ukraine due to the coronavirus-induced curbs, landed at the Indore airport in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday morning, an official said.
The flight reached the Devi Ahilyabai Holkar International Airport here at 5.08 am, airport director Aryama Sanyal said.
She said 101 Indian students stranded in Ukraine arrived here. They were screened at the airport and their belongings were sanitised.
During the screening at the airport, none of the passengers were found having coronavirus symptoms, said Amit Malakar, the nodal officer for COVID-19 prevention in Indore.
The passengers included medical students from Madhya Pradesh, as well as from Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Assam and Tamil Nadu who were studying in different institutes in Ukraine, he said.
They wanted to come back home since a long time in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the official said.
The passengers included 20 students from Indore who have been sent to a quarantine facility set up in a city hotel for seven days, he said, adding that the other passengers have also been sent to their native places.
14/07/20 PTI/Latestly

Children under 12 unable to fly back alone to UAE from India

Dubai: The UAE-based parents of children under 12 stranded in India are in a tight spot with multiple airlines refusing to accept unaccompanied minors.

Starting July 12, Indians wanting to return to the UAE have been given a 15-day window to travel back on the condition that they have valid residency permits. They also have to produce a negative Covid-19 test result.

But parents of minors said they are feeling helpless as children are unable to avail of the travel opportunity despite having return permits.
"It has been more than three months since my daughter has been stuck in India. We have GDRFA approval for her but the airlines are not accepting her booking, saying she is under 12," Poonam Sapre, a Dubai-based mother, told Khaleej Times.

Her daughter Eva Sapre, 10, is in Hyderabad and is awaiting a reunion with her parents.

"She is just 10 and it has already taken an emotional toll on her. She is eager to come back and is asking me every day about her return. This is so frustrating."

Barring Emirates and Etihad, other airlines including flydubai, Air Arabia and Air India Express are not accepting unaccompanied minors. With India extending the travel freeze till July 31, normal flights are yet to resume and only special flights are allowed between India and UAE under a bilateral agreement.

Sapre said only flydubai is flying the Hyderabad-Dubai route, and the carrier has restrictions on minors travelling alone. "My daughter is too young to fly through indirect routes," claims the mother.
When Khaleej Times reached out to the airlines for comment, they confirmed that such rules on unaccompanied minors were already in place even before Covid-19 travel restrictions came into effect.
Another Dubai-based distressed parent, who did not want to be named, said her eight-year-old son is in Kerala and is unable to fly due to airline policies on unaccompanied minors.
14/07/20 Anjana Sankar/Khaleej Times

Ten flights with 2310 passengers to arrive at CIAL on Tuesday

Kochi: Ten relief flights with 2310 passengers will arrive at Cochin International Airport here on Tuesday.
Air India confirmed the operation of a flight from Vancouver, Canada with a stopover in New Delhi, a CIAL spokesman said on Monday.
Emirates from Dubai at 0300, 0900, Maldivian Airline from Male at 1100, Air India Express from Bahrain at 1730, Fly Dubai from Dubai at 1810, Air India Express from Dubai at 1945, Fly Dubai from Dubai at 2030, Air India from Vancouver at 2130, Emirates from Dubai at 2200, Air India Express from Abu Dhabi at 2315.
CIAL confirmed the operation of ten relief flights on Monday with three cancellations; one each from Abha (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Riyadh.
The domestic terminals confirmed 25 arrival/departure operations.
13/07/20 UNI

Bengaluru: Scheduled flights won’t be hit

Bengaluru: Flights from Kempegowda International Airport scheduled on the days of lockdown will operate as planned, a government order has said.

Bengaluru police said flyers can travel by road to the airport with a copy of the ticket. Soon after the lockdown was announced on Saturday night, social media was flooded with queries from flyers, both domestic and international, who had flights scheduled during the period. Many are about to fly out of the city and into the city, while some were anxious transit passengers.

KIA authorities said no new flights will be scheduled during the lockdown , while tickets, if available, can be booked for the existing ones.

When Kolkata went into lockdown, domestic flight operations were suspended and it was announced in advance. However, despite Chennai city going into an intense lockdown last month, flight operations were on, including repatriation flights to and from international destinations.
According to airport sources, the Chennai model will be emulated in Bengaluru as passengers with tickets booked prior to the lockdown announcement can fly as scheduled by carrying their boarding pass or copy of their online booking.

“As per the government orders, all scheduled flights will be operational,” said an operations staffer from the airport.
14/07/20 Petlee Peter/Times of India

Flying home to Chennai from Middle East set to get easier

Chennai: Flying home to Chennai is going to be easier for those stranded in the Middle East as foreign airlines and private carriers from India have started to operate flights to Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai and Delhi in addition to flights operated by Air India. The airlines are expected to release schedules to Chennai and Trichy soon after getting permission from the state government this week.

Emirates, Etihad, IndiGo and Vistara have announced more flights to India.

These flights have been scheduled from mid-July as the Union government has decided to allow them to take part in evacuation of stranded Indians in the Middle East following criticism from UAE and other countries that only Air India was being allowed under the Vande Bharat Mission.

Though there is a delay in scheduling of direct flights to Chennai, there are flights to other Indian cities and also to Trichy. This is expected to offer more choice of flights for people who want to return.

Basheer Ahmed of Metro Travels said that “People stranded in Dubai and other cities there can now travel because entry of Emirates will give them more options. The number of flights operated by Air India was not enough. Now, travellers can land in Kochi, Mumbai or Delhi and travel to Chennai till direct flights are introduced.” These airports allow international passengers who land there to continue onward trips by domestic flights.

“The state government was hesitating to give permission as almost two flights land at Chennai airport every day with stranded passengers from different countries,” he added.
14/07/20 Times of India

COVID-19 cover of Go Digit insurance, Spicejet: Premium range Rs 443 – Rs 1564

Go Digit General Insurance Limited, one of the fastest-growing general insurance company in India, has joined hands with SpiceJet, the country’s favourite airline, to offer insurance cover for COVID 19 hospitalization which can be availed by SpiceJet’s passengers. The Digit Insurance cover is for domestic travellers for COVID-19, facilitated by SpiceJet. This insurance offers a cushion against COVID-19, in case of positive detection and hospitalization for the same.

One will be covered for hospitalization expenses if diagnosed with and hospitalized solely for COVID-19. Hospitalization expenses incurred due to being quarantined in a government, military or government approved hospital are also covered, if you are suffering from COVID-19 as an inpatient and hospitalization were solely due to COVID-19 during the Policy Period.

Hospitalization shall be applicable for all hospitals. However, claim will be admissible only after the insured member is tested positive for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) conducted from any of the ICMR Authorized test Centres in India.

Key highlights
Passengers can opt for the insurance cover ranging between Rs 50,000 to Rs 3,00,000 at a premium for starting from Rs 443 to Rs 1564 a year (including GST). The insurance covers hospital expenses and pre and post-hospitalization expenses for 30 and 60 days respectively.
Covers hospitals (private, government, army), tests, medication & consultations as recognized by Government upon testing positive for COVID-19
Offers No limit on ICU or room rent charges until the insured sum lasts
Digit offers a completely “zero-touch” enabled by Audio Claims, Soft-copy Document submission & 24*7 customer care assistance.
13/07/20 Sunil Dhawan/Financial Express

Indian aviation, linked sectors could see over 30 lakh job losses this year: IATA

New Delhi: Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region will be the hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). APAC airlines are likely to lose $29 billion in 2020, accounting for more than a third of the $84.3 billion industry losses globally.
IATA has estimated India could see over 30 lakh job losses in aviation and sectors dependent on aviation as its airlines could see a 49% fall in passengers flown this year over last and a revenue fall of $ 11,610 million in the same period.
“The Asia-Pacific region was the first region to feel the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. The region’s airlines will see passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, RPK) collapse 53.8% this year, while capacity (in available seat kilometres, ASK) will be reduced by 39.2%,” the global body said.
13/07/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

Passenger demand for air travel to contract by 49 per cent for Indian airlines in 2020: IATA

The passenger demand for air travel will contract by 49 per cent this year for Indian carriers in comparison to last year due to the COVID-19 crisis, said global airlines body IATA on Monday. In a statement, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the Indian carriers’ revenues will decrease by USD 11.61 billion this year in comparison to last year due to the pandemic.

It said the airlines of the Asia-Pacific region will see passenger demand collapse by 53.8 per cent this year in comparison to last year. The passenger demand or RPK (revenue passenger kilometers) for a flight is calculated by multiplying the number of passengers sitting in the flight to the distance travelled by that flight.
“This is the worst year in aviation history and airlines are in survival mode. The carriers in Asia-Pacific will experience the largest losses at USD 29 billion. That’s a loss of USD 30.09 per passenger,” Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific, said.

“It will take a few years for the industry to get back to 2019 levels of activity,” said Clifford.

India resumed its scheduled domestic passenger flights from May 25 after a gap of two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country.
13/07/20 PTI/Financial Express

Want to take a flight? Be corona-free for 3 weeks

New Delhi: Air-passengers will have to submit a self-declaration form that they have not tested positive for Covid-19 during the three weeks prior to the departure date to be allowed to take their flight. Earlier, passengers had to submit a self declaration form that they did not tested positive during last two months.

Sources said that the Union Civil Aviation ministry has asked the airlines to follow the updated guidelines. Earlier, on May 21, the Centre had made it mandatory for all passengers to submit the self-declaration form before a flight stating that they did not test positive for Covid-19 during two months prior to the departure date.

Officials said that the update has been made keeping in view the fact that as there are a large number of people in India now who have recovered from the deadly virus and the updated form will only help them.
“Persons who have recovered from Covid-19 and who fulfil the three-week criteria will be allowed to travel by flights if they show a Covid-recovery or Covid-discharge certificate from their hospital,” they mentioned.
13/07/20 New Indian Express

Meet the real pilots of Indian politics

Whether it’s a political fight or a routine flight, turbulence can take you by surprise. In both cases, you need a cool, calculative mind to weigh the options and ride out the rough weather. No wonder some Indian politicians also started as top-notch aviators. Some flew bombers and fighter jets, but a vast number are hobby pilots. Like, Congress MP from Rajasthan Sachin Pilot, who holds a private pilots’ licence (PPL) from a flying club in the US. Former Railways Minister and TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi is also a passionate aviator. And last we heard, former BJD MP from Odisha Kalikesh Singh Deo was also earning his wings. The list is longer, but for now, here is a look at five prominent Indian politicians who clocked some serious airtime:

Bhubaneswar’s international airport is appropriately named after Odisha’s two-time chief, and a man with some serious flying cred. Bijoyananda Patnaik, an alumnus of the Delhi Flying Club, joined the Royal Air Force in the 1930s. During the World War, Patnaik flew missions for the British campaign against the Japanese in Burma. He even made an appearance in the European theatre, flying sorties during the German siege of Stalingrad. When he returned home, even while he was flying for the RAF, Patnaik remained a nationalist at heart. He supported India’s independence movement by covertly flying leaders of the struggle across the country. Eventually, the British caught on and jailed him from 1942-46. But his story was not to end there. In 1948, Prime Minister Nehru deployed the ace pilot on another rescue mission. He flew Indonesia’s besieged Prime Minister and President out of Dutch hands to India. Both Russia and Indonesia honoured Patnaik for his services. Patnaik eventually went on to set up Kalinga Airlines. You wouldn’t believe who the Chief Pilot was!

Here’s a man who loved flying so much, it went on to become an indelible part of his identity. Rajeshwar Prasad Singh Bidhuri was drafted into the Indian Air Force as a pilot in 1966. In the 1971 war against Pakistan, Flight Lieutenant Bidhuri flew several missions as a bomber pilot in a modified de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou. In 1977, he went on to become a squadron leader before being talked into active politics a couple of years later. What about the name? It came at the advice of an election officer when he was filing his nomination papers. It would work with the voters, he was told. Not a bad punt—as a Congress leader, Rajesh Pilot went on to hold several ministries at the Centre. But you couldn’t keep a man like that out of the cockpit for too long. Despite health concerns, in 1988, he went on to fly the supersonic F-16, and later, the MiG.

India’s most prominent politician-pilot was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. A 22-year-old Gandhi earned his wings at the Delhi Flying Club. In 1970, he joined state-owned Indian Airlines as a commercial pilot, where he flew for over 15 years. Gandhi typically flew on the Delhi-Jaipur sector, and drew a monthly salary of Rs5,000. In 1980, when brother Sanjay—also a pilot—died in a plane crash, Rajiv was advised by a seer to give up flying and take up active politics. Gandhi gave up his job as a pilot, but continued flying every now and then to keep his flying permit alive.

On 25 May, when domestic flights resumed after a two-month lockdown, the first IndiGo flight from Delhi to Patna had a VIP in the cockpit: BJP MP and first officer Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Though his political work doesn’t let him fly full time, Rudy has been flying regularly for the past 10 years, usually with IndiGo on an honorary basis, as a way to keep his credentials active. Earlier in May, he also flew medical cargo to Dhaka. His experience in the cockpit must have helped when he served as the Minister for Civil Aviation in the early aughts.

This BJP leader from Odisha has a serious passion for the skies. Skydiving stints apart, he is qualified to fly aircraft and helicopters–and has clocked over 1,800 hours in a chopper. Panda also reportedly owns his own bird, which he flies for work and pleasure and sometimes, to surprise his followers, as one man from Rourkela found out. In 2017, when a Twitter user said he’d love a chopper ride but couldn’t afford one, Panda took him for a spin in his “personal chopper”. A politician generous with seats? Commendable.
14/07/20 Conde Nast Traveller

Mumbai airport quarantine rules: Things to know if you are arriving or departing

Domestic flights resumed operations from May 25 in India. And although the domestic flights have been operating in a limited capacity, this has not deterred people from travelling. However, during the current times, most of us are apprehensive about our safety. Apart from this, quarantine rules are different in each state, thereby creating a lot of confusion among the travellers.
To sort this out, keep this article handy if you are arriving at Mumbai airport.
Here are all the quarantine details applicable in Mumbai that you need to know >>

Team visits proposed Mandi airport site for project report

Mandi: A six-member team from WAPCOS Limited today visited the site in the Balh valley where an international airport is proposed to come up. It will now prepare a detailed project report on the ambitious project.

The company is an accredited public sector enterprise under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India.

The team was assisted by the Mandi administration to conduct a detailed survey of this proposed greenfield airport. The team members visited different locations of the site to prepare a ground report on this project.

It is the dream project of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who wants to execute it as soon as possible to promote high-end tourism in the region.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, all development works have come to a halt. However, with the nation now in the unlock phase, the state government is planning to give impetus to development projects across the state.

Pankaj Sharma, District Tourism Officer, Mandi, said. “The team will now prepare a detailed project report on the proposed airport and submit the same to the Centre and the state government.”
13/07/20 Dipender Manta/Tribune

As Covid-19 cases rise, air travel takes a hit in Bihar

Patna: With the rise in number of coronavirus cases in the state, footfall of passengers at Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport here has fallen drastically in the last few weeks. Occupancy of seats has come down from earlier 80-85% to 45-50% in incoming as well as outgoing flights.

Executives of different airlines said only migrants and people who have urgent businesses are flying in and out of the city.

A GoAir executive at Patna airport on Monday said the footfall of flyers has reduced by 50% following rise in coronavirus cases in Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi. “People are scared to travel due to Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown in Patna and other cities,” he said.

An executive of IndiGo, which operates maximum number of flights from city airport, also expressed similar opinion. “Only the migrants and those with urgent work opt for air travel,” he said.

Some flyers even cancel their tickets following enforcement of fresh lockdown in Patna. Shivam Porwal, who lives in Ahmedabad and was supposed to visit his family in Patna on July 16, cancelled his ticket. “The Covid cases are increasing rapidly in Bihar. It is risky to visit my parents, who live on the outskirts of Patna,” he said.

Md Danish, a city-based travel agent, said air ticket business was badly hit due to rise in Covid cases. “After the enforcement of lockdown, several people cancelled their trips, especially to Mumbai and Delhi,” he said.

Through its twitter handle, the Patna airport has informed the flyers about the precautionary measures being taken by the Airports Authority of India (AAI)-Patna and other stakeholders.

“Whether it is day or night, safety remains top priority for #AAI. Our safety services teams are always on alert round the clock to meet any challenge. Night inspections and safety drills are part of measures to keep the flight operations safe at all times (sic),” the Patna airport tweeted on Sunday.
14/07/20 Faryal Rumi/Times of India

AirAsia India launches the ‘RedSmart’ App

AirAsia India launched an aviation analytics app that helps enhance the operational efficiency of the airline by monitoring and helping manage aircraft turnaround between flights with data analytics in real time. The digital launch had Mr. Sunil Bhaskaran, MD & CEO, AirAsia India, Mr. Shankar Narayanan, President and Global Head Retail, CPG, Travel and Hospitality, Tata Consultancy Services, along with other senior management officials from AirAsia and TCS come together for the occasion.

AirAsia India and TCS collaborated on this project which kicked off with workshops to design a best-in-class system with state-of-the-art technology to capture all the Precision Time Schedule activities, i.e. activities carried out for an aircraft turnaround during base and transit departures, through ‘Program RedSmart’. The RedSmart app, built on the TCS proprietary TCS AvianaTM Suite, is designed to provide the airline with a holistic approach to handling and managing flight operations and driving cost efficiencies. In order to improve operational efficiency and deliver a superlative customer experience, the RedSmart app captures PTS activities in real time on a digital platform. With the launch of RedSmart, AirAsia India’s  Operational Control  Center (OCC) has real-time situational awareness that helps drive  improvements in aircraft utilization and enables improved On-Time Performance to deliver customer delight.

Some of the key features of the RedSmart app include:

  • Real Time Data and visibility on Precision Time Schedule activities for all flights
  • Analytics and insights on improvement opportunities through data driven decisions
  • Improvement in Operational Efficiency and On-Time Performance
  • Increasing the Net Promoter Score (NPS)

14/07/20 Martechseries

Customs seizes narcotics worth around Rs 8.5 lakh from Delhi airport's new courier terminal

New Delhi: Customs preventive officers have seized narcotics, worth around Rs 8.5 lakh, which were being smuggled into the country from the United States at the Delhi airport''s new courier terminal, officials said on Tuesday.
The seizure was made from parcels that had come from the US and were declared to have been carrying N-95 face masks and headphones among others, they said.

In a late evening operation on Monday, the officers seized 650 gms of greenish-brown dried flowers of cannabis/marijuana, five pieces of premium cannabis oil extract, 25 pieces of cannabis oil of different brands, 11 pieces of cannabis concentrates, one aromamizer along with a small amount of exotic indoor flower.

The recoveries were made from three consignments that had come from the US and bound for Mumbai, the officials said, adding that the estimated market value of the contraband is about Rs 8.5 lakh.
14/07/20 PTI/Outlook

Monday, July 13, 2020

Indian airlines to see revenue decline of $11,610 million in 2020

Airlines in India will see a revenue decline of $11,610 million in 2020, besides a $3,060,000 million hit on aviation and dependent sectors due to the coronavirus pandemic, as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

India also saw passenger demand decline by 49 percent year-on-year (YoY), compared to 2019.
Overall, airlines in the Asia-Pacific region will be hardest hit, and are expected to clock close to $29 billion in losses for the year – more than a third of the $84.3 billion industry losses globally.

“The year 2020 is the worst in aviation history and airlines are in survival mode. The carriers in Asia-Pacific will experience the largest losses at $29 billion. That’s a loss of $30.09 per passenger,” noted Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific.

IATA said the region was the first to feel the COVID-19 impact and airlines here saw passenger demand collapse 53.8 percent while running on reduced capacity of 39.2 percent.

Passenger demand is measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), while capacity is available seat kilometres (ASK). IATA represents 290-odd airlines, which comprise 82 percent of all global air traffic.

“In this bleak outlook, the priority is for the region’s governments to facilitate the restart of air connectivity in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Take-off guidance and principles,” said Clifford added.

He further said that it would take “a few years” for the industry to get back to 2019 levels of activity, but financial relief and assistance, besides flexibility in slot usage from governments to airlines would help. “We are also working with airports and air navigation service providers to identify areas of cooperation with a view to reducing costs for airlines,” said Clifford.
13/07/20 moneycontrol.com

Tata group looking to exit loss-making AirAsia India

Days after reports of Tata Sons looking to buy out AirAsia India’s stake from its joint venture partner, Livemint reported on Monday that Tata sons is now looking to exit airline.

AirAsia India is a joint venture (JV) between the Tata group and Malaysia-based AirAsia Berhad, where the Tatas own 51% stake and the remaining 49% is with AirAsia Bhd.
The Malaysian airline group, which has been reporting losses, reportedly approached the Tatas in June to sell its part of the stake. The offer was turned down by Tata Sons because the company doesn’t want to continue investing in AirAsia India.

As per the terms of the JV, Tata Sons has the right of first refusal since it is the majority shareholder.

The Tata group reportedly wants to focus on its full-service carrier Vistara. Vistara Airlines is a JV with Singapore Airlines.

In India, AirAsia holds a 7.8% market share and is in the fifth position, as per the Mint report.
Business Standard reported last week that AirAsia Berhad registered a loss of $188 million in the March quarter, while AirAsia India saw a loss of Rs 330 crore.

On Wednesday, auditor Ernst & Young said that there is a significant doubt over AirAsia Group ability to continue as a going concern as the group’s liabilities exceeded its current assets by $430 million at the end of 2019.

EY had said in an unqualified audit opinion statement that the slump in air travel combined with the airline’s poor financial performance indicate existence of material uncertainties that “may cast significant doubt on the Group’s and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
13/07/20 News Minute

Amid low demand for flights, govt explores funding for Udan scheme: Report

The government is evaluating ways to fund its regional connectivity scheme (RCS) amid low demand on the routes.
Some options being explored to raise funds for the Udan scheme include securitisation of ticket levy and decreasing the number of subsidised seats on routes with higher demand, the Business Standard reported.
Currently, only 136 out of 268 Udan routes are operational, due to low demand, the report said. These flights are operated by Alliance Air, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Star Air, and TruJet.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the story.
"Presently, there is no change in the scheme for collection of RCS levy. The ministry, however, is considering various options and innovative models," the ministry said in response to queries by Business Standard.
Domestic flight operations resumed on May 25 after a gap of two months due to the nationwide lockdown. Airlines are operating less than 30 percent of their RCS flights, though they are allowed to operate 45 percent, the report said.
After domestic flight operations began, airlines were operating 146 RCS routes but cancelled 10 due to low demand, the report added.
Since the RCS was launched in 2017, airlines have been awarded 688 RCS routes, the report said.
13/07/20 moneycontrol.com

Air India's Finance Dept red flagged crores in payment made to pilot

New Delhi: The Finance Department of Air India has red flagged payments running into crores of rupees and foreign exchange in thousands of dollars over several months made to a pilot, Karan Mann in 2018, who was facing complaints of receiving excess payments as he was allegedly not flying.
However, a draft enquiry report by a committee of the northern region of Air India in Delhi in August 2018 came to the conclusion that no excess payments had been made.
"Captain Mann held a valid licence and was medically fit. No enquiry for any technical /non technical reason was pending against him and no specific instructions for grounding issued by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The Bureau of Civil Aviation and Safety (BCAS) did not issue an instructions/communications to Air India or Capt Mann for reason of delay in issuance of his airport entry pass (AEP).
In view of the above, Capt Mann has been paid only the relevant salary and flying allowances for the period under consideration and not paid the layover allowances. No excess payment has been made to Capt Mann.
"Committee has been constituted by Regional Director (Northern Region) to enquire into the charges against Capt Mann for excess payment of allowances", the draft report said.
The Committee members included Capt Rajeev Khurana of CMS, Capt Aditya Singh Dhillon, NR and R K Sikka—Finance. The committee was examining a complaint against Karan Mann for excess payment of allowances.
During the time, these complaints had Air India northern region and headquarters in a tumult with several departments involved. The Northern Region also passed on the issue to Mumbai which it said had made the payments.
General Manager Operations NR in a mail said in October 2018, "It is reiterated that the decision as well as payment for Pay and Allowances was made by CMS Mumbai. Therefore, in the interest of expediting the enquiry and seeking further clarifications, details of payments made to Capt Karan Mann may be directly sought from CMS Mumbai, which will clarify the draft report".

The red flag was raised by R K Sikka, DGM Finance. In a mail to Narayan Koli, Mumbai Allowances, R K Sikka, Dy GM (Finance) wrote on October 16, 2018, "In my opinion, the payment of flying allowances also should not be payable as the payment is based on number of hours flown by a pilot and in this case, Capt Karan Mann has not flown due to not having the valid licence to fly the aircraft.

It is therefore requested that clarification may please be provided whether salary and flying allowances are payable to Capt Karan Mann considering he was not having the valid licence to fly the aircraft and his PIC was also not renewed and he has not done any ground workduring this period as informed by GM (Operations) NR office".
In a mail dated September 4, 2018, Sikka wrote about the draft report into the enquiry against Capt Karan Mann.
12/07/20 IANS/daijiworld

‘Indira Gandhi is PM’: melting French glacier yields old newspapers, likely from 1966 Air India plane crash

The Mont Blanc glacier in the French Alps yields more and more secrets as it melts – this time a clutch of newspapers with banner headlines from when Indira Gandhi became India’s first and so far only woman prime minister in 1966.
The copies of Indian newspapers, the National Herald and The Economic Times, were probably aboard an Air India Boeing 707 that crashed on the mountain on January 24, 1966, claiming 177 lives.
The trove of around a dozen newspapers was found last week by Timothee Mottin, who runs a cafe-restaurant, La Cabane du Cerro, perched at an altitude of 1,350 metres near the Chamonix skiing hub.
“They are drying now but they are in very good condition,” Mottin, 33, said. “You can read them.”
The modest cafe is around 45 minutes by foot from the Bossons glacier where the plane named after the Himalayan peak of Kanchenjunga mysteriously crashed.
Mottin said he was lucky to discover the papers when he did because the ice in which they were encased for nearly six decades “had probably just melted”.
Once the papers have dried out, they will join a growing collection of found items from the crash that Mottin has put on display at the Cabane du Cerro.
He said he preferred to share his finds with visitors rather than “hide them in an attic waiting to sell them” – something he said had become a “business” for less scrupulous climbers.
Human remains were found in the area in 2017 that could have come from the 1966 crash or that of another Indian plane, the Malabar Princess, that came down in the same area in 1950.
13/07/20 AFP/South China Morning Post

Aviation ministry rejects Air India's request for equity support: Report

The aviation ministry has declined to grant equity support to divestment-bound Air India, with the government rejecting the national carrier's request for funds.
"Air India used to get some funds as a part of equity support in the supplementary budget presented every year in September. Like earlier years, a request to fund losses – also being incurred due to COVID-19 – was made, but the aviation ministry rejected the request," an official told The Economic Times.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the story.
The aviation ministry usually forwards such requests to the finance ministry, but did not do so this time, The Economic Times reported.
In the second attempt to privatise the national carrier, the government has put up its entire 100 percent stake for sale. The current deadline for bids is August 31, which was extended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government took over more than 60 percent of Air India's debt to make it more attractive for bidders. Air India's debt had lowered to Rs 23,286 crore from Rs 62,000 crore, according to the EoI document released in January.
But, the airline's debt has risen, since it has been taking working capital loans, the report said.
Air India has been utilising working capital debt, and some dues received from the government, to pay its expenses, the report said.
13/07/20 moneycontrol.com

GCC carries out commendable Mission Vande Bharat for repatriating stranded Goans

Kuwait: Mission Vande Bharat - repatriation flight to Goa took off on July 12 at 1.00 pm from Kuwait International airport.
The flight was arranged through the efforts of the Goan Cultural Centre (GCC) and especially its president Carmo Santos working in close coordination with the Indian Embassy, Directorate of NRI Affairs - Goa, and airline authorities in Kuwait.
It should be noted that the Goan Cultural Centre is the only Goan association registered with the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.
The flight was the first under the Mission Vande Bharat to help people stranded in Kuwait to return home amid the pandemic; GoAir airline based in Mumbai was the flight carrier.
As many as 15 amnesty-seeking Goans confined to camps since March 2020 were on board the flight, apart from a woman who was in prison, and a sick man in hospital.

Most of the other 145 passengers on board had lost their jobs, had their work-hours reduced, or had their businesses affected due to the impact of COVID-19.

The Vande Bharat Mission was made possible mainly because of the untiring efforts of the GCC president, Carmo Santos, and Agnello A S Fernandes, and strong support rendered by Anthony D’Souza – director, NRI Affairs – Goa, Valencio Rodrigues – Goa, Rajesh Venugopal - Kapico Tours & Travels, GoAir and the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.
Ranvir Bharati, a second secretary to the Indian Embassy was present at the airport to monitor the proceedings.
13/07/20 daijiworld

Vistara unveils measures for safe-flying initiative amid coronavirus pandemic

Full-service carrier Vistara on Monday announced a set of measures for its customers as part of its safe-flying initiative amid coronavirus pandemic. The “FlyerCode” initiative comes following a survey conducted by the airline recently in which as many as 55 per cent of the respondents expressed fear of exposure while travelling and apprehension about fellow passengers not following health and safety protocols, Vistara said in a release.
The airline has urged the customers to follow the set of measures for safe-flying and remain careful, observant, distanced and empathetic, whenever they fly. ”At Vistara, we have put together some extremely stringent preventive measures to ensure health and safety of our customers and staff, in line with the new regulatory guidelines. Our teams at every touchpoint are ensuring all these compliances every day,” said Vinod Kannan, Chief Commercial Officer, Vistara.
However, this is not a battle to fight alone. This needs customers’ participation and effort just as much. FlyerCode is made up of some very simple steps and considerations, but it’ll have an enormously huge impact in making air travel much safer, he added.
As part of the FlyerCode, Vistara has urged its customers to provide all their contact information correctly at the time of booking and web check-in to help the airline contact them, if required.
In addition, it also wants customers to keep their travel plans flexible.
13/07/20 PTI/Financial Express

480 Maha students take charter flight out of Russia to Mumbai

After three months of uncertainty, 480 students from Maharashtra are set to return to Mumbai from Russia on a private charter Royal Flight Boeing 777 on Monday morning around 5 am.
The students said they tried to schedule their travel under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ but did not get any response. Therefore, they decided to pool in money and book a chartered flight.
“This is the first private chartered flight exclusively for students of Maharashtra. An earlier flight that carried students from Russia had students from different states. These students were stranded in Russia for the last three months,” said Shiv Sena leader Sainath Durge, who coordinated efforts with Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, civil aviation, Maharashtra, and the Ministry of External Affairs. Dr Nikesh Ranjan, director of Nix Tour India, who arranged the flight, said state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray intervened to expedite the permission process. “Because of ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ and Air India operations, private charters were not allowed. However, the DGCA permission came through three days ago. The Indian Embassy in Moscow coordinated very well and quickly with MEA and the state approvals were fast,” Ranjan told Mirror.
Each student had to pay $400, or Rs 30,400, for the private charter.
Danish Mistry, a 21-year-old finalyear student at North Ossetian State Medical Academy and resident of Bhayandar, told Mirror from Moscow that Indian students in Russia were a well-connected community.
“When we found that there was no response to our emails for ‘Vande Bharat Mission’, we thought of doing the charter. We started a chain and soon there were 480 of us,” said Danish, who is friends with the tour director, Ranjan.
Danish said that the last three months were spent in agony owing to uncertainty. “My family told me to come home. Cases were rising in Russia and it was a helpless situation. I simply can’t wait to get back,” he said.
He will complete the remainder of his course online as his university has given him the option.
The students were scheduled to board the six-hour flight from Moscow at 10.30 pm on Sunday. 13/07/20 Rahi Gaikwad/Mumbai Mirror

IndiGo vs SpiceJet– Which Indian Low-Cost Carrier Is Better For Passengers?

IndiGo and SpiceJet were at the forefront of growth, as the failure of India’s largest FSC created a vacuum. IndiGo was the largest airline in India and received a majority of empty slots. SpiceJet saw an unprecedented expansion, as it leased many B737s from Jet Airways. By the end of 2019, IndiGo alone accounted for 50% of the market share. SpiceJet was now the second-largest airline in India, with around 15% share in passenger numbers.
Although both the airlines were founded roughly at the same time, the two LCCs are miles apart now. Read how >>

175 Indians repatriated from Kuwait, 152 from UAE

Two separate flights under the Vande Bharat Mission brought back 327 Indians who were stranded in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The GoAir Flight No. G8 7320 carrying Indians from Kuwait landed at Chandigarh International Airport on Sunday evening. The flight carried 175 passengers and arrived at Chandigarh at 07:40 pm.

All repatriated persons, who mostly belong to different parts of Punjab and nearby states, will reach their districts under the supervision of the respective State Government representatives where they will be quarantined as per Government guidelines.

On the other hand, the flight carrying 152 Indian nationals took off from Sharjah in UAE and landed at the Indore airport on Sunday.
All passengers were found to be asymptomatic and will remain under institutional quarantine as per norms of government said Amit Malakar, Indore nodal officer for COVID.
13/07/20 DNA

Trujet suspends flights to Ahmedabad

Nashik: Trujet has suspended its Nashik-Ahmedabad daily flight for five days — from Saturday to Wednesday — citing technical reasons.
The airline, however, has said the services will resume from July 16. “We have sent our two aircraft for C-checks. We are carrying out maintenance of our aircraft and it is expected to be completed shortly,” an official from Turjet said.
The Trujet has also expressed its satisfaction over the passenger load on the Nashik-Ahmedabad route, which is 60% even during the Covid-19 outbreak.
After relaxation in lockdown rules, Trujet had started its Nashik-Ahmedabad flight from May 27. Meanwhile, Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, is operating from Nashik on three routes — Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune. Alliance Air had started its flights from Nashik from June 12, connecting Nashik to the three cities.
13/07/20 Tushar Pawar/Times of India

First flight from Bahrain arrives in Mangaluru International Airport

Mangaluru: Air India Express flight carrying 170 passengers under the Vande Bharat mission left Bahrain at 10 am and reached Mangaluru International airport at 4.45 pm on Sunday, July 12.
International throughout the globe has stopped since four months due to coronavirus pandemic. Indian working and living in gulf wanted to return to their motherland badly. Though Indian expatriates were brought to Indian from gulf nations like Dubai, Oman etc, from Bahrain not a single flight was arranged by government of India thinking that there will not be enough passengers to carry back to India. Due to this several senior citizens, women and people who wanted to return to motherland due to illness had to wait in Bahrain for months together.
Local entrepreneur and president of Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) Mohammed Mansoor, who saw the plight of the hapless Indian expatriates in Bahrain had discussions with the Indian embassy in Bahrain and arranged a special Air India Express flight under the Vande Bharat mission of government of India. Accordingly the flight was arranged on Sunday, July 12.
IOC, along with the cooperation of K H K Heroes organization, owned by local royal family, had arranged meal kits for passengers during their flight to Mangaluru. IOC had also contacted all the Mangaluru-based NRIs who wanted to fly back to India and made a list with the help of Indian embassy to avoid any untoward incidents.
13/07/20 daijiworld

International Flights From August? Air India’s New Flights To Germany, Toronto, Singapore Starts

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had tweeted on July 3, that it is extending the suspension of commercial international flights in the country till July 31.  On the other hand, the Vande Bharat Mission’s phase 4 now will end on July 31 as well wherein Air India has added extra flights to Germany, Singapore and Canada.
The above announcements indicate two possibilities, in August, the Centre will open the skies for scheduled international passenger flights or phase 5 of the mega repatriation mission will commence.
Read on to find out more >>

152 people brought back to MP from UAE in special flight

Indore: A total of 152 people, including a child, who were stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a long time due to COVID-19, returned to Madhya Pradesh on Sunday night, an official said.
Under the Vande Bharat mission, an Air India flight from Sharjah landed here at Devi Ahilyabai Holkar International Airport at 8.40 pm, nodal officer for the prevention of COVID-19 in Indore district, Amit Malakar said.

"A total of 152 passengers, including a child, came back to their home country through this special flight," he said.

Malakar said that during the screening at the airport, none of the passengers were found having symptoms of COVID-19.

But all of them will be kept in isolation for seven days as per the Centre''s guideline.

Among these 152, nearly 50 are from Indore and they were sent to an isolation centre created in a city-based hotel for the next seven days and after that they would be allowed to go home where they have to live separately from other members of the family for another seven days.
12/07/20 PTI/Outlook

Travelling by air? Check updated air travel guidelines

New Delhi: The Civil Aviation Ministry has updated its guidelines for self-declaration forms for passengers who are travelling. The ministry has informed all airlines that passengers who submit a self-declaration form stating that they have not tested positive for the novel Coronavirus three weeks prior to the departure, will be allowed to board the aircraft.

On May 21, the government had made it mandatory for all passengers to submit the self-declaration form before a flight stating that they did not test positive for COVID-19 during two months prior to the departure date. The officials told PTI that as there are a large number of people in India now who have recovered from the deadly virus, a need was felt to update the self-declaration form to avoid any hardships to them.

Therefore, a few days back, the government told the airlines that passengers need to give a declaration that “they have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks” prior to the flight, the officials said.
Persons who have recovered from COVID-19 and who fulfil the three-week criteria will be allowed to travel by flights if they show a Covid-recovery or Covid-discharge certificate from their hospital.

India resumed domestic passengers flights from May 25 after a gap of two months due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country.
12/07/20 PTI/India TV

Longer the flight, lower the mask compliance

Mumbai: While passengers largely keep their masks on through most flights, a different scenario plays out on 14-to 16-hour ultra-long-haul, non-stop flights between India and the US. In the past few weeks, Air India cabin crew operating on these flights have found that the duration of a flight influences passenger compliance with Covid safety norms. Longer the flight, lower the probability of masks and gowns staying on.

“In spite of repeated announcements and reminders, passengers were not wearing masks,” states a remark posted by an Air India cabin crew member in a post-flight form filled up after a recent Mumbai-Newark flight. Another crew member marked “unruly passenger behaviour” on a NewYork-Delhi flight. The DGCA had recently expanded its definition of unruly passenger behaviour to include those who don’t keep their face mask on at all times. Apply that criterion to ultra-longhaul flights and what you have is over a dozen passengers turning “unruly” in the later hours of the journey.

Air India denied that flight duration had an impact on passenger behaviour.

Norm to wear a PPE gown on long flights is ‘impractical’, say staffers

Passengers are sensitised about the safety and health protocols to be adhered to during the flight duration. Generally, passengers are aware and in their own interest conform to the norms,” said an Air India spokesperson.

A flight attendant said: “Walk along the aisle before the flight is about to land and you will see middle-seat passengers without gowns, others with masks removed and kept aside.” A senior airline official, requesting anonymity, said, “Ultralong-haul flight operations during Covid pandemic bring along distinctive, intersectional problems. Passenger behaviour on these flights is markedly different from those on domestic flights. Regulators worldwide need to address the role played by flight time in deciding passenger attitudes towards Covid safety guidelines.”
13/07/20 Manju V/Times of India

Emirates Returns To India

From today, Emirates will return to India to conduct a series of repatriation flights. The scheduled trips are the outcome of talks between India and the UAE to repatriate citizens and transport residents for the next 15 days.
Today, Dubai-based carrier Emirates will return to India with a series of repatriation flights. The airline has not flown to the country since July 4th when the Indian government imposed a ban on UAE chartered flights.
Emirates will offer flights between now and July 26th to five cities within India. Its schedule could see it operate up to 150 flights within those 15 days to bring home stranded citizens. The repatriation is the work of a bilateral agreement that allows Emirates to bring people to India as well as fly them out.
As part of the agreement, Emirates will fly to the following destinations:
Bengaluru, twice per day;
Delhi, twice per day;
Kochi, twice per day;
Mumbai, three times per day;
Thiruvananthapuram, once per day.
Flying from Dubai, Emirates will be allowed to carry only Indian citizens. However, on return trips, Emirates will take UAE nationals and residents with a negative COVID-19 test. This means that many Indian workers who lost their livelihood in Dubai during lockdown will now be able to return to employment within the country.
12/07/20 Laura Ash/Simple Flying

Vistara Domestic Premium Economy vs. Economy – Is The Upgrade Worth It?

Vistara is a unique airline in India, being the only one that offers a premium economy cabin. Featuring larger seats, better food, and priority lanes, it is a comfortable way to travel. But with Vistara’s economy product stacking up as one of the best in the country, is the upgrade worth it? Is it worth paying for premium economy for safety during the pandemic?
Read what Syd Sharma finds >>

Airports aim to go touchless

With Covid-19 ravaging the aviation industry, airlines and airports worldwide are reining in costs and halting new spending, except in one area: reassuring pandemic-wary passengers about travel.
“Whatever the new normal it’s going to be more and more around self-service,” Sean Donohue, chief executive of Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport (DFW), told Reuters in an interview.
The airport is working with American Airlines — whose home base is DFW — to roll out a self-check-in for luggage, and all of its restrooms will be entirely touchless by the end of July with technology developed by Infax Inc. They will have hands-free sinks, soap, flushing toilets, and paper towel dispensers, which will be equipped with sensors to alert workers when supplies are low.
“One of the biggest complaints airports receive are restrooms,” Donohue said.
Dallas is piloting three technology options for luggage check-ins: Amadeus’s ICM, SITA, and Materna IPS.
DFW has become the world’s busiest airport, according to figures from travel analytics firm Cirium, thanks in part to a strategy by large global carrier American to concentrate much of its pandemic flying through its Texas hub.
Last year, DFW rolled out biometric boarding — where your face is your boarding pass — for international flights and is taking advantage of the lull in international traffic to work with US customs and border protection to use the VeriScan technology for arriving passengers, too, he said.
The Dallas airport is also testing new technology around better sanitation, beginning with ultraviolet technology that can kill germs before they circulate into the HVAC system.
But it has also deployed electrostatic foggers and hired a “hit team” of 150 people who are going through the terminals physically sanitising high-touch areas.
“Technology is critical because it can be very efficient,” Donohue said.
13/07/20 Telegraph

As Maldives reopens for tourists, India is likely to create special air bubble

Mumbai: India is considering establishing an air bubble or air travel bridge to the Maldives, which reopens for tourists on July 15 after a four-month shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Maldives government has made a formal request in this regard to New Delhi, and an agreement may be reached in the next two or three days, The Indian Express has learnt.
President Ibrahim Solih announced on June 23 that the atoll nation would reopen resorts on its islands on July 15, and hotels in the populated centres, including in the capital Malé, on August 1. Visas will be free, on arrival, and there will be no compulsory quarantine.
As of July 11, Maldives, which has a population of a little over 500,000, had 2,681 confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which 2,238 had recovered, and 13 patients had died. Since June 2, the country has had fewer than 50 daily positive cases – and even though this number rose to 64 on Saturday, it is considered a low corona-risk country.
Establishing the air corridor will send out a strong signal of solidarity with the Solih government and the Maldives, government officials said.
The economy of the Maldives, located to the southwest of India in the Indian Ocean, is almost entirely driven by tourism, which makes up 70 per cent of its GDP. The air bubble, officials said, would be a “special gesture” to a country with which India has had traditionally warm ties, but where in recent years, it has had to contend with growing Chinese influence.
An air bubble would enable a limited number of flights to operate from select Indian airports to the Maldives even before Indian airports open to regular international flights. Sixteen international airlines have announced flights to the Maldives from July 15.
While it remains to be seen how many Indian tourists might head to the islands at this point, the bubble will facilitate the return of some 6,000 Indians employed in the hospitality, health, and education sectors in the Maldives. They were evacuated by the Indian Navy to India in May.
13/07/20  Nirupama Subramanian/Indian Express

Drop in ticket fares of special flights to UAE

Kozhikode: Fares of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights to enable stranded non-resident Keralites (NRKs) to return to UAE have dropped significantly after more airlines, including UAE-based carriers and other Indian airlines, also announcing schedules in the Kerala-UAE sector.
As many as 52 Air India Express flights are operating from four airports in the state to UAE starting Sunday till July 26, which will have UAE residency permit holders returning to that country as passengers. For instance, the fares of Air India Express flight from Karipur airport to Dubai (for July 17) which stood at Rs 29,650 on Saturday morning dropped to Rs 17,930 by Saturday night. Fares of VBM flights from other airports in the state to the UAE have also dropped.
While Air India and Air India Express had announced repatriation flights as part of VBM from India to UAE on June 9, UAE-based airlines like Emirates and flydubai along with Indian carrier SpiceJet announced flights in the sector on July 11 leading to drop in fares of VBM flights to UAE.
Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai had made available tickets in the Karipur-Dubai sector at a rate of around Rs 18,000, while SpiceJet also announced flights on Saturday from Karipur and Kochi to Ras Al Khaimah in UAE at fares ranging from Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000. Following the fare drop, now tickets of Air India Express flights are available in the Kochi-Dubai sector for around Rs 12,800.
13/07/20 Times of India

They offered benefits to support smuggling, reveals Air India SATS former employee

Thiruvananthapuram: A former employee of Air India SATS has revealed that some people are working like underworld gangs focusing Thiruvananthapuram airport.
Merin Mathew, former administrative officer at Air India SATS, told Mathrubhumi News that it was SATS former vice president Binoy Jacob who appointed Swapna Suresh hiding her ineligibilities and he used to pressurize the staff for gold smuggling. Merin also said that Swapna had received support from some gangs in the gold smuggling case.
 "I have worked in Air India SATS and I can say that an underworld-like environment exists there. I was pressurized to take part in criminal activities. Binoy Jacob told me that I can make money if I obeyed him like Swapna. He might have told the same to other staff also," Merin said. "I had filed a complaint against Binoy Jacob in 2016 in Museum Station. But it was not properly handled. Then I have to meet many officers to charge sections 354 A and D. I have stated in the police and the court that huge irregularities take place in the Air India SATS," Merin added.
 Many ineligible people are appointed in the airport while eligible candidates are not considered. Binoy Jacob was an accused in a visa scam case in 2003. But he has airport entry pass and is smoothly proceeding with his activities. Even after complaints were raised, his airport entry pass was not cancelled. Swapna also has received support from outside and that is how she managed to smuggle the gold, Merin stated.
 13/07/20 Mathrubhumi

Kerala gold smuggling case: Former IT secretary Sivasankar to be suspended

Thiruvananthapuram: More action would be taken against former Kerala chief minister's secretary and IT secretary M Sivasankar as more proof against him has been collected by the investigation team. According to reports, the government is all set to suspend Sivasankar.
After Sivasankar's link with Swapna Suresh, the main accused, came to light, Sivasankar was removed from the post of chief minister's principal secretary and IT secretary.
The customs also found that the accused in the gold smuggling case had discussions regarding the crime at Sivasankar's at. The customs also revealed that Swapna, Sandeep and Sarith used to visit the apartment, which was opposite to the secretariat.
It is also to be noted that the accused used two ats there, which was given for rent. During the search
operation in the two ats, the investigating ofcers received the information about the suspects’ visits.
The ofcers also found that the accused had received help from Sivasankar on many personal needs too. The ofcials added that once when Swapna was about to be questioned by the crime branch for a case related to abuse of Air India staff, Sivasankar had called ofcials and helped Swapna in the case.
According to sources, after questioning Sandeep and Swapna, Sivasankar will be again questioned by the investigation team.
12/07/20 Asianet Newsable

2.3kg gold seized at Karipur airport

Kozhikode: Despite Customs officials maintaining high vigil at the state’s airports, there seems to be no let up in the bids by gold smugglers to sneak in contraband through chartered repatriation flights.
The air intelligence unit of Customs at Karipur Airport seized 2.3kg of gold from four passengers who arrived in a chartered Spicejet flight from Ras Al Khaimah in UAE on Sunday. The seized gold, all concealed in compound form, is estimated to have value of Rs 1.14 crore.
A woman passenger identified as Seena Mol from Thiruvananthapuram was nabbed while trying to smuggle 1.8kg of gold in compound form, which was concealed in her undergarments.
The other seizures involved 388g of gold compound from Abdul Sathar and 390g from Mohammed Faizal, both hailing from Kasaragod. They had concealed the gold in paste form in the waist band of the jeans worn by them.
Also, 387g of gold was seized from another passenger Mohammed Midlaj of the chartered SpiceJet flight.
13/07/20 Times of India