Thursday, June 10, 2021

Reasoning behind Delhi High Court order telling Air India to reinstate 41 pilots

In a rather unparalleled decision, the Delhi High Court on May 1 directed Air India Limited to reinstate its 41 pilots who were dropped by the company last year and pay them the outstanding amount within 6 weeks.

Justice Jyoti Singh of the High Court quashed Air India’s orders pertaining to acceptance of resignation, even after withdrawal of resignation application and directed to reinstate pilots, both Permanent Employees (PE) and the Fixed Term Contract Employees (FTCE) with a continued service even post expiry of the six-month notice period served by them and the pilots (PE) are entitled to wages from the date of expiry of their notice period until they are reinstated. Further, the pilots (FTCE) will be paid wages at par with their counterparts and according to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA. It was also mentioned that due to the ongoing pandemic, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order reducing certain allowances, etc. therefore the pilots will not receive what they were receiving before the passing of the said order.

The court also directed Air India to reinstate Pilots (FTCE) till the period mentioned in their contract agreement and their period of service by 5 years albeit it will depend on their performance and credentials and expects Air India to refund the excess amount back to the Pilots on the Bank Guarantees taken.

Multiple petitions were filed against Air India. The pilots (PE) tendered their resignation followed by a six months’ notice period in 2019. But the resignations tendered were withdrawn within the notice period, and before acceptance. After serving notice, the PEs continued to perform their flying duty; they were regularly deputed, rostered, and assigned flights. The PEs eventually withdrew their resignation, as the resignation served by them was not accepted at that time. The petitioners enquired about their resignation status but received no response. After the expiry of the notice period, the company accepted their resignations overlooking the fact that the resignations stood withdrawn. Thus, the petitioner (Pilots) alleges that the act of accepting the resignation, even after it is withdrawn, that too within the notice period is illegal and arbitrary.

Pilots (FTCEs) were recruited on a contract basis for 5 years, which could extend to 10 years. Selected candidates were trained for A-320s. The cost of training was recovered from the petitioners in 60 monthly instalments from their salaries. A bank guarantee was also extended by such petitioners. A service agreement and security bond were executed by the employees to cater to the respondent for a minimum period of 5 years and extendable by another 5 years subject to their performances. The FTCE sought directions to release the excess amount taken in lieu of Bank Guarantees.

The case of one of the pilots, he performed his duty with utmost sincerity but the respondent failed to meet its obligations; delayed payments of salary and allowances. Therefore resignation was served by him but on account of positive development, he withdrew it. The respondents accepted the resignation overlooking the fact that the resignations stood withdrawn. 

One common contention of Pilots (Both PE and FTCE), according to the rules issued by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (“DGCA”), a pilot is required to serve a 6 months’ notice whenever he/she presents his/her resignation. The resignation tendered is invariable and indisputably prospective. It is a settled principle that an employee has the power to withdraw his/her resignation but before its acceptance or before the expiry of the notice period. The right of withdrawal ceases if the jural relationship ends between the employee and the employer. Since withdrawal was made before acceptance or expiry of the notice period, the respondents had no right to accept non-est resignation.

The counsel for the petitioners stated that the mandate for accepting a resignation is not stilted. It further submitted that there is no statutory rule, regulation, or service condition which restricts the pilots from withdrawing their resignation. It is not essential to extract prior permission from the company to withdraw resignation nor that there exists a provision in the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) or rules which mandates a resignations’ approval.

It was argued by Air India that defending its decision, AI had then told the court that after lockdown, 90 percent of the company’s regular pilots are sitting at home as most of its fleets were grounded and faced huge losses of Rs 1300 crore every month. The company was already under immense financial strain and the pandemic affected the financial crisis furthermore. This is because the commercial functions of the Company were reduced. As compared to the pre-Covid level, there has been a significant fall in its operation and it is unlikely to spur in the immediately foreseeable future due to which there are significant losses thereby making the Company financially weak to pay emoluments. Also, the Company is no longer accepting any withdrawals or resignation and the action aligns with the judgment of the Supreme Court Case, 17 SCC 129.

The Court observed that the resignation was accepted after the notice period elapsed. Resignations tendered by petitioners are only prospective in nature as it bears a future date from which it will take effect and therefore cannot be said that the offer to resign was in praesenti. It reasoned that these resignations are “inert, inoperative and ineffective and cannot be said to have caused any jural effect. Keeping all this in mind, the court found their withdrawal legitimate.”

10/06/21  Anisha Mimani/India Legal

Airlines to pay for not informing passengers before cancelling flight

Chandigarh: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission here has directed an airline operator to pay a compensation of Rs 17,000 to a consumer for not informing her before cancelling the flight.

Terming the act as “deficiency of services”, the commission also ordered the operator to refund the cost of the ticket – Rs 11,796 – to the consumer.

Sector 21 residents Garima Garg and Latika Garg had approached the commission after the operator allegedly failed to address their grievances.

The duo told the commission that they had booked online tickets for a GoAir flight from Chandigarh to Hyderabad on November 2, last year. The flight was scheduled to leave for Hyderabad at

However, on December 13, 2020, when the duo logged on to the GoAir website for to opt for specific seat numbers, they were shocked to know that the flight had been cancelled.

A notice was sent to the airline operator seeking its version of the case. However, nobody appeared before the commission on their behalf.

After hearing the arguments, the commission noted that the airline operator had “certainly indulged in unfair trade practice” by not informing the consumer regarding the cancellation of the flight.

The commission directed the operator to refund Rs 11,796 to the complainants and also pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to them for deficiency in service, unfair trade practice and for causing harassment to them.

The commission further ordered the company to operator to pay a sum of Rs 7,000 to the complainants as litigation expenses.

10/06/21 Ramkrishan Upadhyay/Tribune 

BJP wants Navi Mumbai airport to be named after late PWP leader

Alibaug: Amid a proposal to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the BJP on Thursday formed a human chain in Alibaug town in Maharashtra’s Raigad district to press for its demand to give late PWP leader D B Patil''s name to the project. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), which is the nodal government agency for the project, had earlier passed a resolution to name the project after Bal Thackeray. However, the BJP is against that proposal. On Thursday, the saffron party formed the human chain to press for its demand to name the airport after D B Patil. The local unit of the BJP formed the human chain from the Raigad district collectorate in Alibaug town, in which around 200 workers and leaders participated. 

10/06/21 PTI/Outlook

India situation significantly influenced UK's red listing of UAE and Qatar: IATA's Willie Walsh

Dubai: Airlines from the UAE and Qatar have seen a “significant” impact on their passenger traffic numbers from the closing of India's aviation market, says Willie Walsh, Director-General of IATA.

“The traffic flows from India and the Subcontinent over the Middle East and into Europe and beyond had been one of the great successes for carriers in the region,” said Walsh. “It's understandable that some restrictions have been put in place, but again, evidence shows that the situation is coming under control.

"But there's still some distance to go. It was probably one of the factors that influenced the British government to put Qatar and UAE on their 'red list'.”

Walsh said that authorities in UK were concerned about the ‘Delta’ variant of the COVID-19 virus, first identified in India. “These issues really do need to be addressed on a scientific basis. The scientific evidence that we have shows that all the vaccines are effective against these variants.”

Flights from India to UAE are suspended until July 6, as per the latest update from an Indian airline. UAE airlines are yet to announce any further extension to the suspension of flights.

In 2020, the share of Middle East airlines in international traffic rose to 15 per cent. This was largely due to Emirates airline and Qatar Airways operating a lot of their routes. Qatar Airways, in particular, continued to operate “significant networks” during the pandemic and facilitated a lot of international connectivity, where other airlines were either unable to operate or stopped operating for financial reason, said Walsh.

10/06/21 John Benny/Gulf News

Two women army officers selected to undergo helicopter pilot training

New Delhi: For the first time, two women Army officers have been selected to train as helicopter pilots at Combat Army Aviation Training School at Nashik in Maharashtra.

This development comes months after army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane cleared a proposal for allowing women officers to opt for the army’s aviation wing. Till now, women officers were assigned only ground duties in the Army Aviation Corps.

Women officers in the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy fly helicopters while the Army Aviation Corps only inducted male officers until now. Pilots have to go through a stringent selection process.

Fifteen women officers volunteered to join army aviation, however, only two officers have qualified through the stringent selection process to include the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT) and medicals.

The two women are among the 47 army officers who began their training at the Nashik training school on Monday, said a second officer. On successful completion of training at Nashik, they will join front-line flying duties on completion of their training in July 2022.

09/06/21 Manish Prasad/India TV

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Adani Group is reportedly planning to launch IPOs of its airport and food businesses

The Adani Group is now reportedly planning to list two more of its businesses on the Indian stock exchanges, after the market capitalisation of its six listed companies surged by over 5 times in the last year.

According to media reports, the airport and food businesses of the Adani Group could go public in the near future. The airports business is owned by Adani Enterprises as Adani Airports Holdings, while Adani Wilmar is a joint venture between the Adani Group and Singapore-based Wilmar International.

Currently, the Adani Group has six listed companies with a combined market capitalisation of over ₹8.5 lakh crore, skyrocketing from a little over ₹1.6 lakh crore last year.

If listed, these two companies could help Gautam Adani beat Mukesh Ambani as the richest Indian. According to Forbes’ real-time billionaires list, Ambani is the richest in India with $85 billion wealth, while Adani is second with $75.4 billion wealth.

A report by The Economic Times stated that the airports business will be hived off into a separate entity before the listing process is undertaken. The report further adds that before the initial public offering (IPO) is launched, the Adani Group will raise $500 million (approx. ₹3,600 crore) for the business on a private placement basis.

However, the ongoing Covid-19 crisis could temporarily play spoilsport.

“Discussions were held between top company officials and potential investment bankers. At least half a dozen global banks and a bunch of domestic bankers have met top officials recently. However, the group is awaiting better air passenger numbers as the Covid pandemic significantly reduced passenger traffic,” the report said, quoting an unnamed source, adding that the airport business listing is being targeted for the year-end.

09/06/21 Rounak Jain/Busiess Insider

IndiGo promoters spat: Hearing in London over, arbitration outcome soon

A legal outcome is in sight in the matter of dispute between the two promoters of India's largest airline IndiGo.

"Arbitration procedures were going on in London, I think the hearings are over, we are waiting for the outcome but for us, it is business as usual," IndiGo Chief Executive Officer Rono Dutta told CNBC-TV18 in an exclusive interaction.

"I think we have very active and articulate board members. We all focus on the business. What happens in London happens in London, nothing to do with us," Dutta added.

"I would almost say I don't know and I don't care. It is a sideshow for me," Dutta said when asked about the exact timeline of the outcome.

The promoter rift at IndiGo reached London in 2019 as co-founder Rahul Bhatia submitted an arbitration request in relation to the differences between him and Rakesh Gangwal on shareholders' agreement and articles of association.

The arbitration request, dated October 2019, was submitted to the London Court of International Arbitration under the shareholders' agreement dated April 23, 2015.

While Bhatia and his group InterGlobe Enterprises Pvt Ltd are claimants, Rakesh Gangwal, his wife Shobha Gangwal and their associated entity—the Chinkerpoo Family Trust—and IndiGo are named as the respondents.

"This dispute relates to claims of the IGE Group against the RG (Rakesh Gangwal) Group regarding, inter-alia, compliance with the Shareholders Agreement and the articles of association of the Company and damages," IndiGo had informed the exchanges in October 2019.

In the exchange filing, IndiGo had also clarified that the arbitration requests have not sought any relief against the company. It had also added that while IndiGo has been named as a necessary and proper party to the arbitration, presently, monetary claim, including any compensation or penalty, has not been sought against the company.

09/06/21 CNBC TV18

Work on Jewar airport picks pace, PM Modi, CM Adityanath to perform bhoomi pujan in August

Noida: With Covid-19 cases on the decline and unlocking picking pace, a bhoomi pujan for the proposed fourth largest airport in the world at Jewar of Greater Noida will take place in August with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as chief guests.

With Uttar Pradesh assembly elections slated early next year, the state government is mulling to launch the "much-awaited" Jewar airport project as soon as possible.

"Foundation stone laying of the proposed fourth largest airport in the world will be done in August. Search for a good location for this event is on. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be doing the bhoomi pujan ceremony," said Jewar MLA Dhirendra Singh.

Relocating those who will be displaced by the construction of Jewar airport has started and construction of their houses has begun at the allocated land. Compensation for their lands has also been paid to a great extent.

"As the unlock process begins, we have sped up the process of the airport construction. All relocations and compensation are being closely monitored," said Arunveer Singh, CEO of Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA).

The UP government has allocated 5,845 hectares of land for the upcoming international airport project and once constructed, it will be the fourth largest airport in the world.

09/06/21 Abhishek Anand/India Today

Air India Express to operate special flight from Male to Trichy

Due to overwhelming demand, Air India Express (AIE) has decided to operate a direct flight on June 25 to Trichy, Tamil Nadu, from Maldives.

Times of India reported that this would be the first time AIE will be operating a flight from Maldives, even though other Indian airlines fly out of Maldives.

There are over 10,000 Tamils in Maldives, working as teachers and in other occupations. The Tamil community conducted a Facebook survey, in which over 200 people answered that they were ready to travel immediately if flights were to be arranged for them.

One of the main concerns raised were a lack of direct flights, which often resulted in Tamils that fly out of Maldives to arrange secondary transportation.

The flight is scheduled for the day after the academic year ends in Maldives, providing the teachers more than six weeks of vacation. Schools will reopen on August 12.

AIE has said this flight will be a cargo flight. After dropping the cargo to Maldives, the flight will carry the passengers to Trichy.

09/06/21 Lamya Abdulla/Edition

His Daughter is Waiting For Her Dad: Wife Of Air India Captain Harsh Tiwary Breaks Down

Wife of Air India Pilot breaks down: Captain Harsh Tiwary, who passed away from COVID-19 in Delhi on May 30, said that even almost ten days after his death, his five-year-old daughter is still waiting for him. She hasn’t been informed yet, Mridusmita Das Tiwary told NDTV, recalling how he should have been treated as a frontline worker and vaccinated against the disease.

Five senior Air India pilots – Captain Amitesh Prasad, Captain Prasad Karmakar, Captain Sandeep Rana, Captain G P S Gill and Captain Harsh Tiwary – succumbed to COVID-19 in May, 2021. The youngest of them, Tiwary, was just 36.

Delhi-based Tiwary, who was serving as the first officer in the airline, is survived by his wife, a five-year-old daughter, parents and sister. Das Tiwary breaks down while talking to NDTV and said that she is currently in Haridwar to perform the last rites of her husband. “My in-laws are old. They are retired. I have a five-year-old. We had just started our lives,” she talks about the crisis her whole family is facing now.

“I’m only sad that due to a lack of vaccination, he had to lose his life in the line of duty,” she said. Captain Tiwary was in charge of operating the Boeing 777 fleet since 2019 after joining Air India in 2016. He was actively involved in operating flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), flying in stranded Indians from various parts of the world.

The mother said that her five-year-old is waiting for her father to come back. Das Tiwary said she told her daughter that her father is in a hospital, undergoing treatment, although she keeps asking why he’s taking so long. “She’s not used to being without him,” the mother said emotionally. Tiwary last flew on April 21 and was diagnosed with the virus on May 9. On May 12, he was admitted to a Noida hospital.

09/06/21 Ria Das/She The People

'Believe that the worst is behind us now', says IndiGo's Ronojoy Dutta

IndiGo Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ronojoy Dutta said that the airline believes the worst phase during the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

"We are fit & in great form, ready for the future. Middle of May was the worst period for us, believe that the worst is behind us now," he told CNBC-TV18.

While the airline's revenues and bookings are still linked to the number of Covid cases in India, the CEO of India's largest airline believes that the company has tried to become better at everything they do, during the period of lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Dutta said that the company's bookings fell from around Rs 100 crores a day pre-COVID to around Rs 15 crore per day in the middle of May and are currently around Rs 28-30 crore a day.

However, he expects the airlines' revenues to be back to around 80% of their pre-COVID levels by the end of the year. Dutta hopes the government will lift all caps on airline capacity and seat fare pricing by the end of July and COVID-19 cases will also drop by then. He also requested the government to lower tax rates for the aviation sector and remove the fare cap on a seating capacity and seat fare pricing.

Dutta said that while seat fares have been slowly rising, the passenger load factor of airlines is still quite low, but is expected to recover soon.

The airlines' international markets, however, are frozen at the moment with COVID-19 cases in India still very high.

"(IndiGo is) anxious for the international market to open up, no visibility yet...We are focussing on the domestic market. Once the Indian numbers come down, other governments will also welcome additional flights," Dutta said, adding the airline was constantly working with the International Air Transport Association for long-term procedures.

Dutta said that Interglobe Aviation Ltd run IndiGo airline is currently focusing on remaining cash positive.

"Have a number in mind w.r.t. minimum cash to be maintained at all times. Communication w.r.t. leave without pay, cutbacks, etc was communicated very well to employees," Dutta said. He added that IndiGo's employees have been very mature with cost-cutting measures.

Speaking about the airline's plans to raise Rs 3,000 crore, Dutta said that the fund raising was not something IndiGo desperately needs but it was to ward off any future shocks.

IndiGo is also looking to phase out the older inefficient aircraft, bringing in Neos & the A-321 planes, which are much more efficient, to drive fuel consumption. The airline's fuel consumption, which is its biggest cost item, is down 10% on year, Dutta said.

09/06/21 Moneycontrol

India and Brazil drag down domestic air travel recovery worldwide

Dubai: International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Director General on Wednesday said that the strong recovery in domestic markets is proof that removal of travel restrictions will lead to a surge in demand.

“Unfortunately, that freedom still does not exist in most international markets. When it does, I’m confident we will see a similar resurgence in demand,” said Willie Walsh, in a statement.

Total demand for air travel in April 2021 - measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs - was down 65.4 per cent compared to April 2019. That was an improvement over the 66.9 per cent decline recorded in March 2021 versus March 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in most domestic markets.

Domestic demand was down 25.7 per cent, compared to pre-crisis levels (April 2019). All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to March 2021, with both China and Russia reporting traffic growth compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Domestic traffic - once a major lifeline for Indian airlines such as Indigo, Spicejet, and Wadia Group-owned GoFirst (earlier known as GoAir) - has dried up due to state-level lockdowns. Passengers carried by domestic carriers between January and April fell nearly 12 per cent year-over-year to 291,000.

International passenger demand in April was 87.3 per cent below April 2019, little changed from the 87.8 per cent decline recorded in March 2021 (versus two years ago).

Meanwhile, Middle Eastern airlines posted an 82.9 per cent demand drop in April compared to April 2019, which was weaker than the 81.6 per cent decline in March, versus the same period in 2019. Capacity declined 65.3 per cent, and load factor fell 41.1 percentage points to 39.6 per cent.

09/06/21 John Benny/Gulf News

Halwara international airport to be operational by October 31

Ludhiana: Come November, Ludhiana, known as the Manchester of India, will have its own international airport. Coming up at the Air Force Station in Halwara, which is one of the oldest frontline airbases of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the facility will be made operational by October 31.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by the Chief Secretary, Vini Mahajan, recently.

Confirming the development, the Chief Secretary told The Tribune that based on the advice of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the Punjab Civil Aviation Department, two separate tenders — one for the construction of new terminal building and other for the apron — will be floated.

“The PWD has been directed to float the tenders immediately and the same will be awarded after requisite approval from the AAI,” she said.

Mahajan disclosed that the entire funds of Rs 43 crore estimated to be spent on the new airport terminal and apron would be spent by the GLADA and later reimbursed by the AAI.

“Operations from the new airport will be started at the earliest in consultation with the AAI,” added the Chief Secretary, who reviewed the progress of the project at a virtual meeting of the Public Investment Management (PIM) committee on the infrastructure development projects under implementation in the state.

She directed the officials concerned to ensure that the project was completed as per the approved specifications and within the stipulated timeframe.

Sharing the progress report of the ongoing work on the project, which has been marked as project of key concern on the directions of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Deputy Commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma said over 95 per cent construction of boundary wall at the Halwara airport had been completed and it was expected to be completed on schedule by June 10.

09/06/21 Nitin Jain/Tribune

Dream project drawn up for free landing and parking at Kochi airport, says outgoing chief

The Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) has drawn up a master plan to transform the Kochi airport into a zero landing and parking fee airport by 2030, said V J Kurian, who stepped down as CIAL MD on Wednesday.

“The plan is to convert the 100-acre land near Nedumbassery railway station into an airport city with outlets of international food chains, electric vehicle charging system and malls. We were almost at its launching stage when the lockdown changed everything. If the new MD takes up the project, Kochi will be the first airport in the world to provide free landing and parking. At present, landing charge constitutes about 25 per cent of our income,” Kurian told reporters.

Kurian said Covid has taught them that airports should not be dependent on passenger revenue alone.

“We should be able to survive even if there is a decline in passenger arrivals. The airport city project is one step in this direction. It will make the airport competitive as other airports would be charging Rs 70,000 for a small aircraft. Our aim is to attract more flights and ensure high turnover offering low cost,” he said.

He said Kochi will be the only airport to have rail, highway, and water connectivity. The inland waterways project will provide connectivity to Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kannur airports. CIAL will provide 1 acre of land and the railway station building for the high-speed rail project. Terminal 2 of Kochi airport will provide passengers a facility where they can rest for four hours for just Rs 500, he said

Kurian said Kochi airport decided to waive the user fee to ensure the lowest fare to passengers. The airport did not cut employees' salaries despite the slump in revenue due to lockdown.

“If we receive 60 flights a day, we will achieve break-even and each additional flight will bring profit. In 2019-20, Kochi received 142 flights a day. During the Covid period, our revenue dipped by Rs 80 crore. Still, we made a cash profit of Rs 16 crore though our operations were severely affected,” he said.

09/06/21 New Indian Express

Extension work begins at Goa Airport, over 30 new terminals to come up

In a bid to cater to the increasing count of air passengers, the construction of the extended terminal building at Goa Airport kickstared on Monday. Reportedly, the Airport Authority of India and Goa International Airport together initiated the extension project. As per, the initiative will augment the count of air travelers at the facility and it is expected that the Goa Airport will witness close to 13 million yearly footfalls, once the new building is operational.

According to reports, the current joint terminal will be expanded on the eastern side. While the internal infrastructure shall be altered and improved, it has been reported that the expanse of the facility will also be increased. Being implemented with an objective to deal with the bigger aircraft, the project will help in the accommodation of new vehicles, upon completion.

Further, reports state that the existing terminal for national and international flights will be interchanged and proposals have been formed in this regard already. As per reports, the airport will house over 30 more check-points and the passenger dealing will be increased to more than 3,000 people after the extension work is finished. Ensuring quick commissioning of the new facility, the authorities have deployed ample efforts and it is anticipated that the project will be completed by the end of 2022.

With the rapid developments, the travel infrastructure is facing huge demands for amplification across the country. Thereby, such interventions are needed progressively to make sure that a large count of commuters is benefitted.

According to reports, the current joint terminal will be expanded on the eastern side. While the internal infrastructure shall be altered and improved, it has been reported that the expanse of the facility will also be increased. Being implemented with an objective to deal with the bigger aircraft, the project will help in the accommodation of new vehicles, upon completion.

Further, reports state that the existing terminal for national and international flights will be interchanged and proposals have been formed in this regard already. As per reports, the airport will house over 30 more check-points and the passenger dealing will be increased to more than 3,000 people after the extension work is finished. Ensuring quick commissioning of the new facility, the authorities have deployed ample efforts and it is anticipated that the project will be completed by the end of 2022.

09/06/21 Ankur Verma/Kncok Sense

Aviation Ministry permits Survey of India to use drones for mapping villages under SVAMITVA scheme

New Delhi: The Civil Aviation Ministry on Wednesday gave conditional permission to the Survey of India to use drones for mapping of inhabited areas of villages under the central government''s SVAMITVA scheme, according to an official statement.

"This permission grant will allow large scale mapping by Survey of India using drones. The aerial surveillance would generate high resolution and accurate maps to confer ownership property rights," the ministry''s statement noted.

"Based on these maps or data, property cards would be issued to the rural household owners," it said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has also granted conditional permission to the Survey of India on this issue.

The Civil Aviation Ministry said it has granted conditional exemption to the Survey of India from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, and it is "valid for a period of one year from the date of approval or until further orders".

SVAMITVA, or Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas, Scheme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 24 last year to create accurate land records so that citizens of rural India can use them to take loans and other financial benefits.

09/06/21 Outlook

Aviation badly needs clear, transparent rules to accelerate return to normalcy

Arlines are grappling with multiple challenges. They have to manage scheduling and routing. There is also the issue of managing layovers for the crew or taking a decision to dead-head them back to their base. While against the free market, the aviation minister has been supportive of the idea of caps so as to ensure that all airlines continue to remain in the field and a dominant carrier does not undercut the market and lead to fall of weaker ones. But amid this pandemonium, there is an urgent need to get rules in black and white to ensure that neither the airports, passengers or airlines are left guessing on when the capacity will be back.

Why have a path laid out? Read >>

In Japan hospital for 8 months, Gujarat man brought back home in Air India ambulance

Mehsana: A man from Gujarat, who was in a Japanese hospital for TB and stroke treatment for eight months, was brought to Ahmedabad via Delhi in an air ambulance after his family raised over Rs 40 lakh from donors online to facilitate his journey back home, his family members said on Tuesday.

Jayesh Patel (33), a resident of Bhesana in Mehsana district, was in Japan's Ota city on a work permit when he contracted tuberculosis (TB) in October last year and later suffered a stroke (caused due to poor blood flow to the brain), his friends and family members said.

He was admitted to a hospital in Shibukawa and undergoing treatment for the last eight months, they said.

Jayesh Patel was residing in Japan alone as his wife, who had gone with him to work there, returned home for the birth of their child, they said.

When his father visited his hospitalised son, all he wanted was to bring him back to India for treatment but could not afford the cost for the same, Jayesh Patel's friend Mukund Patel said.

"His family and local friends made an appeal on social media to raise Rs 1.25 crore required to bring him back by an air ambulance and get him treated here.

"They ran campaigns on various social media platforms, created a page 'I support Jayesh Patel' on Facebook, and received an overwhelming response from the public," Mukund Patel said.

"As per conditions put by the hospital in Japan, a team of doctors from India was required to go there to accompany him in the ambulance.

"A team of doctors from Ahmedabad went to Japan and under their observation, Jayesh Patel was brought to Delhi in an Air India ambulance on Monday.

"From there, he was flown to Ahmedabad where he was admitted in a private hospital for treatment," said Mukund Patel.

Mukund Patel said Jayesh Patel's family was overwhelmed by the support they received from common citizens, who donated generously.

09/06/21 PTI/India Today

Varanasi airport handled transportation of 1,800 kgs of Covid-19 vaccine: AAI

New Delhi: The Varanasi airport has handled transportation of 1,800 kgs of Covid-19 vaccine till date, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said on Monday.

"Movement of more than 128 oxygen concentrators from various cities e.g. Delhi and Mumbai and movement of Covid patients through charter and medical flights to major cities (was also handled at Varanasi airport) till date," the AAI's statement said.

India has been badly hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic during the last couple of weeks and several states across the country have been facing shortage of Covid-19 vaccine and oxygen.

09/06/21 Tribune

Private airport operators send SOS to govt, say operations unsustainable

New Delhi: India’s private airport operators have sought urgent relief from the government to ensure sustaining operations at airports and save jobs.

The Association of Private Airport Operators (APAO) on Wednesday issued a statement saying they “are not generating sufficient cash flows to sustain operations, and meet debt obligations.” Further, their downgraded credit ratings “have made it impossible to take further financing support from financial institutions” and “there is a worry that many (sectoral) jobs will be lost.”

APAO counts operators of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore airport as its members

Airport apex body says aeronautical revenues have reduced by 75-80 per cent. Hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian airport operators are struggling with a severe cash crunch, according to APAO. In a letter written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA), the airport apex body, requesting help, said that the aeronautical revenues have reduced by 75-80 per cent whereas, the non-aeronautical revenues have dropped by 85-90 per cent.

Over 85 per cent of the total costs incurred by the airport operators are fixed costs. The association said this issue makes it difficult for the operators to survive.

“Due to Covid-19, airports had to incur additional operating expenses and capex due to re-designing of infrastructure and SOPs for containment of Covid-19 and processing of passengers in a safe and convenient manner,” a statement said.

The association wrote that with the steep drop in air traffic, airports are finding it difficult to sustain their operations. “Airports are not generating sufficient cash flows to sustain operations, and meet debt obligations. Poor cash flows and consequently downgraded credit ratings have made it impossible for airports to take further financing support from financial institutions,” it said.

“With stress on the finances, there is a worry that many of these jobs will be lost,” it feared. APAO pointed out that other countries like Germany, and France are providing support by giving part wages to these workers.

09/06/21 Arindam Majumder/Business Standard

After 19 years at helm, V J Kurian steps down

Kochi: V J Kurian, known for his decisive role in building the Cochin International Airport Ltd (Cial) as India’s first public private partnership (PPP) model airport project, will step down from the post of the managing director on Wednesday as he completes the five-year post-retirement tenure.

Ernakulam district collector S Suhas will hold the full additional charge of Cial MD till further orders.

Kurian, a 1983 batch IAS officer, has led Cial for a record period of 19 years over three terms in its 27-year history as the managing director, making the airport one of the most successful PPP model projects in the country and revolutionizing airport operation management.

Kurian was given a five-year stint as the MD of Cial in 2016 by the Pinarayi Vijayan government on his superannuation from the post of the additional chief secretary.

Over the last five years, Cial has invested Rs 2,016 crore for its infrastructure development, which included operationalization of Terminal 3, runway resurfacing, renovation of Terminal 1, implementation of extensive flood mitigation project and the capacity enhancement of solar plants from 14.4 MWp to 40 MWp. It was under Kurian’s leadership that Cial became the world’s first airport fully powered by solar energy.

His futuristic idea of sourcing green energy to operate an airport won him many international awards and accolades, the latest being the ‘Champion of the Earth-2018’ by United Nations Environmental Programme. This is the highest environmental prize instituted by the United Nations.

The government of India introduced Cial’s solar power project as one of the two flagship ventures at the COP21, the global climate change conference, held at Paris.

“After the airport operated by the Indian Navy in Willingdon Island became obsolete, the government asked Kurian, who was the then Ernakulam collector, to find out a solution. Kurian’s proposal of bringing the future beneficiaries of the airport project, viz; non-resident Indians, airlines, common public, high net worth business people, banks and fuelling agencies into a common platform wherein the government machinery could act as a facilitator not only built a world class airport at Kochi but also triggered many huge development projects in both aviation and non-aviation sectors,” said a Cial statement.

09/06/21 Times of India

IndiGo to Start Flights Between Darbhanga and Kolkata, Hyderabad from July 5

IndiGo on Monday said it will start flights connecting Darbhanga with Kolkata and Hyderabad from July 5 onwards. “Being the 6th largest metropolis in Bihar, Darbhanga is also one of the fastest growing cities of India owing to the increasing opportunities in manufacturing and trade across the states," a statement by the airline said.

The Kolkata-Darbhanga flights as well as Hyderabad-Darbhanga flights will be daily flights, it said. This announcement by IndiGo has come at a time when India and its aviation sector have been badly hit due to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Domestic air travel had reached around 3 lakh passengers per day by the end of February this year. However, the second wave of the pandemic has reduced it to around 85,000 passengers per day, which were observed on Sunday.

Domestic air traffic nosedived to 19.20 lakh passengers in May from around 57.3 lakh in April, registering a sharp 65-67 per cent month-on-month contraction on account of the second wave of the pandemic, a report said on Thursday. With such a sharp fall, the domestic passenger traffic reached lower than the June-July 2020 levels, rating agency Icra said. At the same time, the airlines’ capacity deployment for May was lower by around 54-55 per cent 27,700 departures, compared to about 60,300 departures in April this year, indicating the lower demand stemming from averseness of consumers to travel due to the rise in infections, it said.

09/06/21 PTI/News18

Cochin airport to augment non-aero revenues by 2030

Kochi:The Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) aims to be the India’s first airport with zero landing/parking fees for airlines by 2030, said VJ Kurian, who stepped down as its MD on Wednesday after nearly 20 years at its helm. Kurian said the company’s vision is to expand non-aero revenue sources by 2030 so that the airport doesn’t need to collect landing or parking fees, which constitutes around 30% of current revenue from the airlines.

The plan is achieve it by implementing CIAL’s Land Utilization Plan (LUP), which aims to transform around 100 acres of unused land owned by the company along the National Highway into an airport city.

In the first phase, a restaurant hub will be created. Kurian said the matter was already under the consideration of the CIAL directors’ board and the company is hoping to achieve the target within nine years.

“CIAL has been making profit but the pandemic has had its impact on the revenue of the company. Covid has taught us a lesson that CIAL’s income should not be dependent on aero-revenue, which is depended on number of passengers. If the planned airport city becomes real with so many commercial establishments, it will be a major source of income for the company. The restaurant hub, which would feature outlets of all international food brands is one among them. CIAL is already a zero-user fee airport and it aims to be a zero-landing/parking fee airport by 2030. It will only increase the airport revenue as more airlines will be willing to use Kochi airport,” Kurian said.

Kurian said the company has proposed to offer 1 acre to the Thiruvananthapuram–Kasargod Semi High Speed Rail Corridor project and to construct a railway station.

“The proximity of airport to the rail will increase the number of air passengers as people from even Kasaragod will be ready to use Kochi airport. CIAL also plans to avail low-cost accommodation for passengers and crew in the T2 Terminal,” he said.

09/06/21 Anantha Narayanan K/Times of India

GMR Hyderabad Airport Receives Massive Cryogenic Oxygen Shipment From Singapore

The GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) facility on Wednesday, June 9, handled a massive cryogenic oxygen shipment. The consignment arrived at the Hyderabad International Airport on Wednesday evening from Singapore on special Indian Airforce's Boeing Globemaster aircraft. 

The official release noted that special ground handling equipment like scissor lift/high loader and forklifts were used to handle the cryogenic oxygen consignment. Shortly after completing the shipment procedure, the cargo was dispatched. Earlier also the GHAC has handled the shipment of vaccines and oxygen concentrators. The airport facility handled the shipment of 1.5 lakh doses of Sputnik V vaccines that came from Russia on May 1, it was the nation's first Sputnik V vaccine consignment. Later on May 16, 60,000 doses and on June 1, 3 million doses were also handled by the GHAC authority.

Over the period of the next 18-24 months, an estimated 3.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be produced by various manufacturers in Hyderabad. With its temperature-sensitive cargo facility, GHAC is coming out as a significant vaccine handling centre. Since January 2021 the airport facility has handled over 100 tonnes of COVID vaccines that were distributed in Hyderabad along with other parts of the country. 

As large consignments of Sputnik V imported into the country, it is important to preserve them and maintain their potency. According to reports, the Russian manufactured vaccines require a temperature of minus - 18 degrees to keep the vaccines stable and potent. Noting the requirement, Hyderabad-based Rockwell industries is in talks to collaborate with Dr. Reddy's lab to provide World Health Organization- Performance, Quality, and Safety certified COVID vaccine freezers. 

09/06/21 Arisha Dutta/Republic World

Man threatens to hijack planes from Bhopal, Indore airports; detained

Bhopal: Police have detained a 34-year-old man for allegedly threatening to hijack planes from Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal and Indore airports and take them to Pakistan, an official said on Wednesday.

Officials at the Raja Bhoj Airport here received a phone call around 5 pm on Tuesday wherein the caller made the threat, Bhopal's Gandhinagar police station in-charge Arun Sharma told PTI.

Later, the airport management complained to the Gandhinagar police.

"The man, who allegedly threatened to hijack the planes, was caught late Tuesday night from Shujalpur town (about 100 km from Bhopal). He is being extensively questioned as part of the investigation into the matter,” the official said.

Security has been tightened at the Bhopal airport following the threat call, another official said.

On Tuesday evening, a Mumbai-bound flight took off from Bhopal after a strict security check, he said.

09/06/21 PTI/Times of India

Kerala Gold Smuggling Scam: NIA Nabs Key Conspirator Muhammed Mansoor From Calicut Airport

In a key development, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday made their  35th arrest by nabbing key conspirator Muhammed Mansoor, in the Kerala gold scam case that had come to light in 2019 after a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage was busted by the Customs in Thiruvananthapuram. NIA has now arrested Muhammed Mansoor, who had landed at Kochi airport from Dubai on Wednesday morning. 

As per NIA sources, Muhammed Mansoor was intercepted by immigration officials after a lookout notice was issued against him. Mansoor was arraigned as an accused in the gold smuggling case in November last year. "The charge against him is that he was one of the persons who assisted the main conspirators while being in India and UAE," the source added. Besides NIA, ED and the Customs Department are also investigating the case. 

Earlier on Monday, sources had informed Republic TV that the Kerala government is likely to reinstate M Sivasankar, who served as the Principal Secretary to CM Pinarayi Vijayan. This assumed significance amid the LDF's historic win in the recently concluded state Assembly elections after facing flak from the Opposition in connection with the gold smuggling scam. 

As the suspension period of the gold scam accused has expired, the Public Administration Department sought the advice of the Chief Minister's Office for further action, sources revealed. At present, this file is under the consideration of the Kerala CMO. 

The Vijayan-led government in Kerala has also been facing heat in the gold smuggling scam ahead with the opposition seeking the CM's ouster. On July 5, 2020, Customs officials seized 30 kg of gold worth Rs.15 crore at the Thiruvananthapuram Airport from a diplomatic cargo addressed to a person in the UAE Consulate. Sarith PS who worked at the UAE Consulate was apprehended in this regard. Subsequently, Swapna Suresh, an ex-Consulate employee working as the manager of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited and M Sivasankar, the ex-Principal Secretary to Kerala CM were also arrested in this case.

09/06/21 Gargi Rohatgi/Republic World