Tuesday, April 20, 2021

COVID-19 Second Wave Stalls Indian Aviation Industry's Hope for Recovery During Summer Schedule

COVID-19’s second wave in India has cast a dark shadow on the Indian aviation sector. Airlines were looking at a good summer recovery but the rising number of cases and the consequent restrictions, curfews have led to a sharp decline in passenger traffic. Industry experts believe the coming weeks could be a big setback to airlines which had just about started a gradual journey to pre-Covid numbers.

Air Vistara feels good that this time around, at least, there’s no shutdown of aviation operations like last time, but recovery to pre-Covid numbers has been delayed.

“We have had a setback in the last few days if not weeks considering the rising number of cases in the country have seen a decline. However we do recognise that air travel is very safe, it is something that we are very confident about. Air travel is still permitted and we are thankful to the ministry and the govt for this. We saw growth through January and February and we were looking at going back to pre-Covid numbers this summer, but it may not materialise because of the second wave,” said Vinod Kannan, Chief Commercial Officer, Air Vistara.

In a meeting with Ministry of Civil Aviation last week, airlines urged the government for a financial assistance package for the aviation sector. There has been no financial aid from the govt for airlines since the pandemic began last year.

India’s daily domestic passenger traffic is now below 2,00,000 for the first time since November, 2020. Industry sources say bookings are down by at least 50% and some airlines are bleeding. The present 80% cap on domestic flights is unlikely to be extended to 100% and could be brought down to 60% due to fall in demand amidst rising Covid cases. Sources say most airlines asked for the cap to be reduced instead of being increased to full capacity.

20/04/21 News18.com

Aviation regulator warns airlines of predatory pricing

The aviation regulator has warned airlines not to indulge in predatory pricing to prop up air travel hit by the second wave of the coronavirus.

Officials of the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) said they would intervene if airlines were selling tickets lower or higher than the fare cap in place till the end of this month.

In their meeting with the civil aviation ministry, airline representatives complained that some airlines were selling tickets below the minimum cap, thereby engaging in predatory pricing to prop up passenger load.

After touching a high of about 300,000 in February, daily passenger traffic has fallen below the 200,000-mark on account of a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases, necessitating several states to make the RT-PCR test for passengers mandatory, leading to decline in bookings. The daily passenger traffic before the pandemic was 400,000-450,000.

In February, the government had increased the minimum and maximum fares that airlines can charge in the domestic sector by 10 to 30 per cent, while extending the cap on airfare.

The government has set a price band for airfares since May. The increase is in the region of 10 per cent for a one-way fare at the minimum fare level for a flight of less than 40 minutes to about 30 per cent for a maximum fare for a flight of between 180 minutes and 210 minutes.

Rating agency Crisil said the industry would post Rs 9,500-10,000 crore losses this fiscal, though it will be lower by 35-40 per cent compared with the previous year.

Crisil said air traffic would continue to remain low amid high fuel prices and only a gradual recovery in international operations.

20/04/21 Telegraph

Air fares from India soar after red list ruling

Within an hour of the announcement that India would join the “red list” from 4 am on Friday morning, all non-stop flights between the country and the UK that would beat the deadline had sold out.

The Independent has searched options on Air India, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Vistara from a range of Indian cities to London Heathrow between now and Thursday, but no availability is showing for any route.

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: “We’re aware that some of our customers may wish to bring their return travel dates to the UK from India forward.

“We are restricted by the number of flights we’re allowed to operate between the UK and India so unfortunately we’re unable to increase our flight or seat capacity.”

The fare comparison website Skyscanner is offering plenty of alternatives – but many of them will not enable returning travellers to avoid 11 nights in hotel quarantine in the UK at a cost starting at £1,750.

From Delhi to London Luton on Wednesday, the cheapest deal on offer is £201 on a combination of Air India Express to Dubai and onwards on Wizz Air via Sofia in Bulgaria.

But anyone booking this deal would immediately be subject to hotel quarantine because even changing planes Dubai – or nearby Abu Dhabi – makes the traveller subject to red list rules. The UAE, as well as Qatar, is on the high-risk register. 

20/04/21 Simon Calder/Independent

Thousands could fly to England from India before it joins Covid travel ‘red list’

Thousands of people could fly from India to England before it is added to the travel “red list” from Friday, amid growing criticism that the government acted too slowly to restrict the spread of a variant which may be more resistant to vaccines.

In a move announced hours after Boris Johnson bowed to pressure to cancel a key trip to India to boost economic ties, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said most travel from the country would be banned from 4am on Friday. Only British citizens and residents will be allowed in, and all must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

There are 16 direct flights from India to the UK scheduled to land before the deadline and many more indirect ones.

Some 103 cases of the new variant first identified in India have been found “geographically dispersed” across the UK, according to Public Health England (PHE). Hancock said the “vast majority” had links to international travel.

As India faces a deadly surge of the virus, recording more than 250,000 cases a day, UK scientists are working to see if the variant has any “concerning characteristics” such as being more transmissible or resistant to vaccines, Hancock said.

Asked whether current jabs are effective against the variant, known as B1617, Hancock said: “We simply don’t know that … that is the core of my concern.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said it was “not good enough to try and shut the door after the horse has bolted, by adding countries onto a red list when it is too late”. Labour has called repeatedly for all travellers arriving in England to be subject to hotel quarantine.

The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said B1617 was responsible for India experiencing “one of the world’s steepest surges right now”. He called for it to be classed as a “variant of concern” by PHE, rather than a “variant under investigation”, adding: “We already know this variant carries mutations of concern in other variants, and if we have learnt anything in the last 12 months, it is that this virus ruthlessly exploits ambiguities, that we must act fast when the situation is controllable because in a few weeks time it might not be.”

19/04/21 Aubrey Allegretti/Guardian

UK puts India on travel 'red list' hours after Boris Johnson cancels official visit

The United Kingdom has added India to the travel 'red list', country's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on April 19. The announcement was made hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his scheduled visit to India.

The red list, which includes 39 other countries along with India, denies entry to anyone who has visited the listed nations in the past 10 days. The British and Irish citizens, however, are allowed to return but would be mandatorily quarantined for 10 days from the time of arrival.

India will be added to the stringent red list from 4 am on April 23, Hancock told the Parliament. "We must protect the progress that we've made in this country," the Health Secretary said, adding that 103 COVID-19 cases of the "Indian variant" - B.1.617 - have now been found in the UK.

"We’ve recently seen a new variant first identified in India. We’ve now detected 103 cases of this variant, of which again the vast majority have links to international travel and have been picked up by our testing at the border," the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Hancock added that he "understands the impact of this decision" - to put India under red list - but the "House would concur with his view" that it is necessitated considering the coronavirus health crisis.

The move is expected to significantly hurt the business operations of Air India and Vistara - the two airlines operating a number of planes between the UK and India.

Currently, five weekly flights of Air India, two of British Airways and three of Virgin Atlantic are operational between the Mumbai and London's Heathrow airport.

Between the Delhi airport and Heathrow, six flights a week of Air India, three of British Airways and two weekly flights each of Vistara and Virgin Atlantic operate while three weekly flights of British Airways and two of Air India also operate between the Heathrow and Hyderabad airports.

19/04/21 Moneycontrol

India-Dubai passengers must have a PCR test result done within 48 hours

Passengers flying from India to Dubai will now have to follow revised regulations on PCR Covid-19 tests, Indian airlines announced on Monday.

Starting April 22, at 12am, all passengers travelling from India to Dubai airports must hold a valid Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours from the time of collecting the sample, budget carrier Air India Express stated. A similar advisory was issued by India's flag carrier Air India and private airline Spice Jet.

Currently, passengers are required to undergo RT-PCR 72 hours before departure.

Passengers must also ensure that the 'date and time' of sample collection and time of reporting (result date and result time) are accurate. "The certificate must indicate a 'negative' test result, described either in Arabic or English, issued from a certified lab at the original point of destination where the passenger is travelling from," read the advisory from the airlines.

Furthermore, it is mandatory that the report includes a QR code which is linked to the original report for verification by the airline. "At arrival, the Dubai Health Authority will verify the same," said the airlines.

At present, only India's flag carriers and Spice Jet have issued revisions to the existing pre-departure testing policies, according to travel agents in the UAE. Other Indian airlines and UAE carriers continue to have the PCR test validity at 72 hours before departure.

The Spice Jet advisory said: "The PCR test will be valid no later than 72 hours, 48 hours in case of Dubai, with effect from April 22, 2021, before departure. The stipulated time frame for accepting the negative Covid-19 reports should start from the date of sample or swab collection, and not the issuance date of the report."

TP Sudheesh, general manager of Deira Travel and Tourist Agency, said: "The change in timing does make travel a little more complicated for the traveller as 48 hours is too less a time in case the passenger has any kind of last-minute emergencies."

19/04/21 Dhanusha Gokulan/Khaleej Times

Pakistan bans travellers from India for 2 weeks amid spread of new coronavirus variant

Pakistan on Monday imposed a ban on travellers from India through air and land routes for the next two weeks, citing the spread of a new variant of the novel coronavirus in the neighbouring country.

A statement issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said the decision was taken during a meeting of the forum today, presided over by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar.

The forum was briefed about the spread of the new Indian variant of the coronavirus — a double-mutant variant — which was considered responsible for the recent surge in infections in the neighbouring country.

"The forum decided to place India in the list of Category C countries for two weeks. There will be a ban on inbound passengers coming from India via air and land route," the statement said.

The forum will carry out a review of countries placed in Category C on April 21 in view of the presence of the Indian variant in other countries, the statement added.

19/04/21 Naveed Siddiqui/Dawn

Astral Aviation’s maiden flight from India takes off to Yemen

Today at 04.50 a.m. GMT, Astral Aviation took off its inaugural flight from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport Mumbai, India to Sanaa International Airport, Yemen with three different vaccine shipments. The aircraft loaded with 19.5 tonnes of vaccines were from Serum Institute of India.

The Nairobi-based airline's B727-200F received clearance from India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to carry vaccines for UNICEF (around 4 tonnes) and Expanded Program On Immunization (EPI) MOPH (over 15 tonnes) in collaboration with Kuehne Nagel. The ground handling was done by Celebi Aviation.

On March 31, Astral carried 360,000 doses of vaccines to Aden via Nairobi. The shipment was handled by Air India from Mumbai to Nairobi.

Commenting on the inaugural flight, Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO and founder, Astral Aviation, stated, "Astral has never operated any flights to and from India which has been served via interline partners. During the pandemic, due to lack of direct capacity and connectivity between India and Africa, Astral has received a number of requests for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines and pharma to and within Africa which are originating from Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Today's inaugural flight offers new opportunities for Astral's clients to move freight from India via Astral's Nairobi hub, and we look forward to operate more charters in 2021 due to the high demand for medical cargo."

The aircraft arrived in Mumbai on April 18 at 16.00 hrs GMT from Nairobi via Muscat. On return, the routing will be from Mumbai-Djibouti (Ambouli International Airport)-Sanaa. As Ambouli airport is close to Yemen, all planes flying humanitarian cargo is expected to make a security stop before flying to Yemen.

Astral has performed in excess of 300 charters for the humanitarian sector into Aden and Sanaa, using a combination of B727-200F, DC9F, CRJ200PF and Fokker 27.

20/04/21 Shalini Nair/Logistics Update Africa

Amid surging cases and 'double mutant' variant, flights from India touch down in Canada

Flights from Delhi continue to land in Canada despite India’s daily tally of COVID-19 infections surging to a record over the weekend — and amid the emergence of a new “double mutant” variant in the country. 

A federal government website that lists flights where someone has been confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19shows that from April 4 to April 16, there were 120 flights with a COVID-positive passenger or passengers.

India banned international flights last month, but Canada is one of 13 nations exempted through an “air bridge” arrangement between the two governments. 

When asked whether Canada was considering banning flights from India on Wednesday, federal minister of health Patty Hajdu said that the challenge with country-by-country approaches is that “COVID spreads in ways that we can see and ways that we can’t.”

On Friday, the U.K. government is to add India to its travel ban list. The ban is necessary to “protect the progress we’ve made in this country in tackling this awful disease,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Monday.

19/01/21 Emma Sandri/Northern News

Kolkata airport opens RT-PCR swab collection facility for flyers

Kolkata: An RT-PCR swab collection facility that will provide the test results to the departing and arriving passengers within eight hours has been introduced at Kolkata airport. However, an onsite laboratory to carry out Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test that was to become operational at the airport last month is still awaiting statutory approvals.

Speaking to TOI, Kolkata airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said passengers travelling to states that require RT-PCR from passengers on arrival could come to the airport early, get themselves tested and wait for the report in the lounge or return home and come back and collect the report before taking the flight.

At present, travel to Port Blair, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Lucknow requires an RT-PCR test. For Port Blair, the test has to be done within 48 hours prior to departure while for the rest, it has to be done within 72 hours before leaving.

The facility provided by Suraksha Diagnostics is available only on a single shift between 10 am and 6pm. "We will extend the timing if the response is good," an official said. While the swab samples are being collected at the airport, the tests are being carried out at a centralised unit in New Town.

A state-of-the-art medical laboratory that has also been set up at the airport is still awaiting clearances. Once functional, it will offer three types of Covid tests: Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), TrueNat and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

"The National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) has given its nod. It now requires the clearance of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation And Transparency) Act, 2017," an official explained.

20/04/21 Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India

Now, Sri Lanka defers air bubble with India amid Covid surge

New Delhi: Sri Lanka is learnt to have indefinitely postponed commencement of travel to and from India under an air bubble formed earlier this month amid the massive surge in Covid-19 cases. The bubble, announced on April 10, was to become operative from Monday (April 26) but now travel under the same will take place when the Covid situation in India improves, say travel industry sources. The island nation was to allow Indian tourists too, like UAE, Maldives and Russia.

The current virus mutant speeding so fast in India is something that other countries want to prevent from coming to their shores — similar to what India and other nations did when a highly infectious strain as found in UK, Brazil and South Africa last December. Accordingly, the list of countries imposing restrictions or tightening rules for travel from India is fast growing.

United Kingdom has added India to its red list of countries. As a result, Indian citizens will not be allowed to enter UK from 8.30 am (India time) on Friday. And British citizens will need have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. “If you have been in or through any of the (red list countries)in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK. If you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK, you will be able to enter. You must quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days,” UK government website says for red list countries.

20/04/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

UK, USA Advise Against Travel to India

As Covid cases, and deaths, continue to surge in India, several countries are executing a ban on travel to the country. 

The US public health agency has warned travellers against heading for India even if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

In case the trip is unavoidable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that travellers should get all vaccine doses. It has also placed India in the highest Level 4 category which implies "very high level of Covid-19".

"Because of the current situation in India, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at the risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India," the CDC has said as part of its "Key Information for Travelers to India".

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has put India on the 'red list' hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his visit to India, UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated on April 19. 

From 04:00 BST on Friday April 23, visitors from India along with 39 other countries will be banned from entering the country. The red list also denies entry to those who have visited the nations on the list in the past 10 days.

Hancock said that there have been 103 cases in the UK showcasing the India variant of Coronavirus therefore including India in the ‘red list’ of over 39 countries, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines considering international travel to be the reason for the spread of the virus.

Only British citizens, people with UK residence rights, (and Irish citizens) will be allowed to return. But they must quarantine mandatorily for 10 days from the time of arrival in a government-approved hotel.

20/04/21 Outlook

Routine flight ops to resume from Tuesday at Jammu Airport

Jammu: The routine flight operations, which were suspended in view of runway expansions and other allied works, will resume from Tuesday at Jammu Airport. Airport official said that routine flight operations will resume as per earlier watch hours from April 20, unlike restricted flights for the last more than one month in view of runway resurfacing and other allied works, which have been completed. 
 "With effect from April 20, the Jammu Airport will be available for routine operations with last flight departure at 1620 hrs as flight schedule in this regard was issued today by the Airport Authority," Director Jammu Airport, P R Beuria said. 
 He added that from Tuesday, 25 flights of different airlines will land and take off every day with the arrival of the first flight at 0735 hours from Delhi and the last flight depart to Srinagar at 1620 hours.
19/04/21 UNI

Rajkot airport gets nod for air cargo service

Rajkot: In a major boost to trade and industry in Saurashtra region, Rajkot airport has got the nod to start air cargo service there on Monday. According to the Airport Authority of India (AAI), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has approved the application of AAI Rajkot to start cargo service. The passenger aircraft that don’t get sufficient passengers can fill the income gap by handling cargo.

Digant Borah, Rajkot airport director said, “Two airlines are ready to start air cargo service and third airline operating from Rajkot has also shown interest. This is going to boost trade and industry in the Saurashtra region.”

About 10 passenger flights currently operate from Rajkot airport. The destinations of these flights include Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangaluru. These passenger aircraft have permission to carry limited cargo. But if the number of passengers are less, the carrier is allowed to can carry more cargo to compensate for loss of income for lack of passengers.

Saurashtra is home of several key industries like Rajkot’s imitation jewellery and gold jewellery making, Morbi’s ceramic industry and brass industry of Jamnagar. The traders and manufacturers can now send samples to the customers using air cargo service. The courier services operators can also use the cargo service for faster delivery. According to sources, the airlines which started operation recently from Rajkot airport had surveyed about the cargo service and found a potential market in Saurashtra region.

20/04/21 Times of India

Goa flights cancelled as states impose curbs

Panaji:  With Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and several other states imposing lockdowns and night curfews, airlines have begun to feel the impact. According to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), 33 flights to Goa were cancelled on Sunday and at last count, 38 were cancelled on Monday.The restrictions imposed by several states has prompted many travellers, particularly families, to cancel their travel. Goa airport director Gagan Malik expects airlines to cut down the number of flights from metros to Goa in the coming days.

“On Sunday, 33 flights to the state were cancelled and the passenger inflow was 3,000 instead of 11,000 passengers that we receive on a weekend. On weekdays, at least 9,000 passengers arrive in Goa each day,” said Malik.

Sources in the airline industry said that most of the flights to Goa were from metros where the number of Covid-19 cases have surged. Even though the government has not put any restrictions on flights, many such fliers were hesitant to take flights at night in places where night curfews have been imposed.

The reduction in arrivals may provide the state government with some breathing space as it was under tremendous pressure to restrict the entry of tourists. “With so many states imposing curfews and flights being cancelled, there is nothing left for Goa to do,” said a government officer.

20/04/21 Newton Sequeira/Times of India

Air passenger detained for refusing to wear face mask

Chennai: The Indigo Airlines flight from Kannur, Kerala, was scheduled to land at Chennai airport at 11 pm with 49 passengers on Sunday. When the flight was midair, a flight attendant noticed Pradeep Kumar (46), an engineer, had removed his mask. When she instructed him to wear it, he refused. This lead to him arguing with the cabin crew and co-passengers. 

Soon the flight attendant notified the pilot and when it landed in Chennai around 11.30 pm, security officials detained Pradeep Kumar. He was handed over to the airport police. 

During inquiry, Pradeep Kumar said he lost his face mask and that’s why he couldn’t wear it. Pradeep apologised for his behaviour and later the police collected a fine of Rs 200 and released him after a warning on Monday morning.

20/04/21 DT Next

Monday, April 19, 2021

Trujet has survived in the world’s toughest aviation market, but what next?

Last week, Interups fund from the USA talked about investing in Indian regional carrier Trujet. While investments are not new in Indian aviation space, what would make any analyst take note is the interest expressed in a smaller jet.

Trujet took to the skies in July 2015 and with seven aircraft has managed to do something which many of its compatriots in the regional space haven't been able to— surive. The history of Indian aviation is littered with dead airlines. The list includes recent casualties such as Air Costa, Air Pegasus, Paramount and Air Carnival.

Trujet’s six years have been eventful. True, Trujet had an advantage in the form of subsidy under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) under the aegis of UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) . But Indian aviation is too brutal for airlines to surive on the basis of subsidy alone. Remember, the subsidy too is restricted to three years after which competition will either gobble up routes or they would become unsustainable.

The airline also benefited from the demise of Jet Airways but UDAN 1.0 was helpful because it secured monopoly on some routes. This helped the airline establish some good routes like those to Salem from Chennai, Cuddapah and Vidyanagar. Not only were these monopoly airports, but they also boasted immense tourist or commercial importance.

Trujet also showed the smarts to stick to only two bases—Hyderabad and Ahmedabad— as opposed to going all out and being scattered all across the country. This focussed apprach has helped it consolidate sales and distribution efforts, which is a significant cost for airlines and could make or break its revenue stream.

19/04/21 Ameya Joshi/Moneycontrol

47 COVID Positive Passengers Were Found On A Single Vistara Flight

Vistara has this weekend set a new record, but it’s not one that the airline will be proudly sharing around. A massive 47 passengers on a flight to Hong Kong tested positive for COVID, despite requirements to test before travel. India has now been banned from flying to the city.

Hong Kong has maintained a low level of COVID infections, largely due to its strict criteria for arrivals. Only residents or those meeting a few specific exemptions are allowed to enter. Even then, they must follow a strict testing and quarantine process before being allowed to move freely around Hong Kong.

Passengers who are allowed to travel to Hong Kong must have a PCR test within 72 hours of travel. On arrival, they must undergo additional testing and stay in a government-mandated quarantine facility at their own expense for 21 days.

Despite these strict requirements, some cases are still slipping through. In June last year, an Emirates 777-300ER brought 26 COVID-positive passengers to Hong Kong. A further four tested positive later, most of whom had arrived via Dubai from Pakistan. Now, that record number has been exceeded by an Indian airline.

Vistara’s flight 6395 from Delhi to Hong Kong, operated by an A231neo, had 188 seats on it. While it flew relatively light on passengers, given the restrictions in place, those who did fly had taken a PCR test prior to boarding. The tests had all come back negative.

On arrival in Hong Kong, the passengers entered the mandatory quarantine as normal. Six reportedly tested positive at the airport. However, soon after, more passengers began testing positive.

A total of 25 passengers tested positive for COVID to the end of last week. On day 12 of the quarantine period, all travelers were tested again. Incredibly, 22 more passengers tested positive.

This brings the total positive passengers to an astounding 47, the most ever recorded on a flight to Hong Kong. A seat map of positive cases shared online shows a cluster in the middle of the economy section, but also other cases spread throughout the aircraft, even in first class.

19/04/21 Joanna Bailey/Simple Flying

Covid mutant fears: Hong Kong bars India flights till May 3

New Delhi: Hong Kong has barred passenger flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 14 days from Tuesday (April 20) over Coronavirus mutant fears. Passengers who have stayed in these places for more than two hours to board a transit flight to Hong Kong have also been barred for 14 days.

These three countries “will at the same time be specified as extremely high-risk (Covid) specified places… so as to restrict persons who have stayed in these places from boarding for Hong Kong,” a Hong Kong government statement said late on Sunday night.

This special administrative region of China has a “place-specific” mechanism under which if five or more passengers from a place test positive on flights from there — irrespective of airline — in a seven-day period, that place will have passenger flights barred to Hong Kong for 14 days.

The statement quotes a government spokesman saying: “With confirmed cases involving the N501Y mutant strain detected for the first time in the community in Hong Kong, for prudence’s sake, the government has applied the criteria of the newly implemented place-specific flight suspension mechanism retrospectively for 14 days on places where there had been imported cases confirmed by arrival tests that carried the N501Y mutant strain. India, Pakistan, and the Philippines all had seven-day cumulative number of relevant cases that reached the relevant criteria in the past 14 days, and the government will therefore invoke the place-specific flight suspension mechanism for these three places.”

Hong Kong and China do not have an air bubble with India. Air India and Vistara operate special flights as per demand after getting permission to meet the requirement of the huge Indian diaspora there. The place-specific suspension mechanism for India, Pakistan and the Philippines will be effective for 14 days from midnight on April 20.

“Relevant restrictions will include the prohibition of passenger flights from these places from landing in Hong Kong, as well as… restrict any person who has stayed in these places for more than two hours on the day of boarding or 21 days before that day from boarding for Hong Kong,” the statement said.

18/04/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

Air India Hunts for CEOs to Head Three of its Subsidiaries

Divestment-bound national carrier Air India Ltd is looking for candidates for chief executive officer (CEO) positions at its subsidiaries Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIASL), Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL), and Alliance Air Aviation Ltd, the airline said in a notification on Wednesday.

The last day for receipt of application is 3 May, according to the notification from the airline's general manager, personnel. A copy of the letter has been reviewed by Mint.

AIASL is the ground handling subsidiary of the carrier, while AIESL is the maintenance, repair, and overhaul unit, and Alliance Air is a regional airline that flies several routes under the regional connectivity scheme.

"Permanent serving employees of Air India Limited and its subsidiary companies, who fulfil the notified eligibility criteria are eligible to apply," the notification said.

This comes against the backdrop of the government initiating the process for inviting financial bids for the sale of Air India, which is likely to be concluded by September, according to media reports.

19/04/21 Rhik Kundu/Mint/AviationPros

Arlines Waive Rescheduling Fees Amidst Pandemic

Change in air travel plans? No worries, for you can now make unlimited changes in the date and time of your air tickets—without paying any extra fees.

With more travel restrictions being imposed around the world and increasing uncertainty around travel plans, several airlines including IndiGo, Air Asia and SpiceJet have said they'll allow free rescheduling of flights.

AirAsia has announced they will not charge any fee for changing time and date on tickets booked till May 15.

IndiGo has stated there no will be no charge on rescheduling of domestic flights booked between April 17 and 30.

SpiceJet has said they will allow flyers to make changes in their travel dates and time from April 17 to May 10.

Under this zero-fee offer, tickets can be booked between this duration for any travel period. It is to be noted that the offer is a one-time waiver considering the ever-changing travel guidelines. 

The ‘zero fees’ offer which was applicable only for changes done at least seven days prior has now been extended to make changes five days prior to boarding the flight.

The airline firms also made it clear that there will be no change in the cancellation fee policy and flight tickets cancelled will be chargeable.

19/04/21 Outlook

AirAsia India announces free rescheduling of flight bookings until May 15

AirAsia India has announced free rescheduling on all flights for bookings until May 15, 2021.

Guests can now make unlimited changes for all bookings made till May 15, regardless of the travel dates, without attracting any flight change fees, the airline said in a statement.

"To ensure that its customers continue to have the greatest flexibility if their travel plans change with increased uncertainty and travel restrictions, the airline has extended this offer on its new website www.airasia.co.in as well as other major booking channels," it said.

According to the statement, the airline also added that it recently introduced a revamped version of its popular ‘Premium Flex’ fares, which in addition to unlimited changes, also offer a choice of seats, pre-booked hot meals for all flights above two hours, and the lowest charges of only Rs 500 for cancellations made beyond 72 hours before the scheduled flight departure.

19/04/21 Moneycontrol

SriLankan Airlines welcomes Indian delegation to Sri Lanka

SriLankan Airlines in a bid to recommence Indian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka under the proposed bio-bubble tourist arrival concept successfully completed a familiarization tour for Indian media and travel trade professionals recently. A delegation of tour operators, agents, and senior editors representing influential media institutions concluded a familiarization tour in Sri Lanka.

The delegation spent six nights and seven days touring the country while being subjected to mandatory PCR testing and other health guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Health. Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, the delegation toured the most sought-after local tourist sites including Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Bentota. The tour was initiated by SriLankan Holidays and the ground arrangements for the tour were handled by Jetwing Travels, Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), and Hamoos Travels.

The main purpose of their participation in this fam tour was to restore confidence in visiting Sri Lanka, especially among the Indian tourists to provide them in-depth knowledge on how the country’s tourism industry operates under the bio-bubble concept. Apart from visiting various places, they experienced the stringent health and safety protocols adopted by the country in resuming tourism under the “bio-bubble” concept allowing tourists to roam around without mixing with the local population.

During their stay here, the delegation was hosted for a virtual meet-and-greet with SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage, Chief Executive Officer Vipula Gunathilleka, and Head of Worldwide Sales & Distribution Dimuthu Tennakoon. The discussion focused on the airline’s operations to India, vaccination and quarantine travel arrangements between the two countries, current safety measures, and guidelines pertaining to the bio-bubble concept. They lauded the effort taken by officials to make their trip a memorable one.

19/04/21 Lanka Business Online

Elderly couple move HC for compensation over lack of food, medicine in Air India flight

New Delhi, Apr 19: A petition by an elderly couple on Monday in the Delhi High Court has sought a compensation of ₹five lakh from Air India alleging that in their 16 hour long flight the national carrier was without sufficient food and medical supplies.

Taking serious note of the plea of the couple, both senior citizens, who have also sought a direction that the airline return the ticket fare as there was lack of proper service by it, Justice Prathiba M Singh said "it is scary if this has happened".

The high court issued notice to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Air India, Airport Authority of India (AAI) and GMR Aerocity, which runs IGI airport, seeking their stand on the petition which narrated the ordeal of the couple during the 16 hour long flight from New Delhi to San Francisco on November 11, 2020.

They claimed they were provided one hot meal, which was also stale, during the entire course of the journey despite informing the cabin crew that one of them was diabetic and required proper meals.

The couple - Nivedita and Anil Sharma -- in their petition filed through advocate Suruchi Mittal have claimed that they had to sustain themselves fruit drinks whenever they felt their sugar levels plummet and it was only thanks to food offered by a co-passenger that they were able to sustain themselves during the flight.

They have contended that the airline "has no business to carry 400 plus people on a long haul flight without having sufficient food, water and basic amenities including basic and emergency medicine". 

They have also contended that the airline cannot unilaterally decide that they will serve only one meal without informing the passengers who normally do not carry food on flights and therefore, "endangering their health and life" in such "casual and lackadaisical manner". 

They have sought refund of the ticket cost of ₹2.25 lakh each and a compensation of ₹five lakh for securing their booking allegedly by making false representations and for not complying with airworthiness requirement, as mandated by DGCA CIvil Aviation Requirements, with regard to medical supplies in the aircraft to help counter and tackle emergencies onboard. 

The petition has claimed that not even necessary medications like anti-diarrheal or oral rehydration solution medicines were available in the aircraft for the 16 hour long flight.

19/04/21 One India

Gold Worth Rs 14.45 Lakh Seized From Passenger At Airport

Mangaluru: Gold worth Rs 14.45 lakh has been seized from a passenger who arrived here from Dubai, customs officials said The passenger, Arish from Bantwal in Dakshina Kannada district, has been arrested, a customs release said He had tried to smuggle the 300 grams of gold by concealing the yellow metal in toys, trimmer, water dispenser and juicer, it said.

19/04/21 PTI/Republicworld