Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Airline passenger traffic is up, but so are flight cancellations

We are nearly four months into the restart of domestic aviation services. While the allowed capacity has increased from 33 percent to 60 percent and most rules — either around quarantine requirements or city pairs — are being relaxed, traffic hasn’t returned anywhere near what it was pre-Covid.

But for passengers reeling from having their money tied up in shells with airlines, to be used within a year, there has been no respite from flight cancellations.

Data released by DGCA shows that the flight cancellation rate in August was 4 percent, while it was over 6 percent in July.

In January, before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the cancellation rate stood at 1.7 percent, when there were three times as many flights in Indian skies.

While the cancellation percentage only looks at half the story, the regulator also declares the reasons for cancellations. While traditionally they have been stacked towards weather, technical or reactionary reasons, the last few months have seen a high percentage of cancellations being attributed to Commercial reasons.

In August, 44.6 percent of all cancellations were attributed to commercial reasons, while it was nearly 50 percent in July. Interestingly, in January, the cancellations attributed to commercial reasons were only 2.5 percent, with the major reason for cancellation being weather, followed by technical.

What exactly is a commercial cancellation? More often than not it is a direct indication that the flight was cancelled due to lack of passengers on either the onward or return leg or both. While traditionally, airlines had very few commercial cancellations, the numbers have risen steadily, to around 50 percent of all cancellations.

Global consulting and digital services company ICF came up with an exclusive analysis on the flights scheduled and operated by each of the airlines in India. This analysis was based on published schedules in SRS Analyzer (an airline data analytics tool) and actual flights as reported by real-time flight tracker

Amongst the major airlines in the country, market leader IndiGo flew 93 percent of its scheduled flights and was the topper, while Air India flew only 56 percent of the flights it intended to fly.

AirAsia India and Spicejet operated 81 percent and 80 percent of their planned flights in August.

23/09/20 Ameya Joshi/

Mangaluru airport gears up to handle more flights

Mangaluru: Mangaluru International Airport (MIA) is banking on airlines to start extra flights to bring it out of the pandemic-induced downturn in passenger traffic. SpiceJet has set the ball rolling by reintroducing flights to Delhi, and Bengaluru. This is besides its daily flight to Mumbai. Air India and IndiGo, the other state and private airlines operating to MIA are planning to ramp up services from the airport in a phased manner.

As per the flight schedule that SpiceJet has filed with MIA, the airline started direct flight on Delhi-Mangaluru-Delhi sector on September 22. The flight will operate on Tuesdays and Sundays. SG761 leaves Delhi at 10.10am and reaches MIA at 12.35pm and leaves as flight SG762 at 1.10pm to reach Delhi at 3.55pm.

The fares range between Rs 6,206 for Spice Saver and Rs 7,406 for SpiceMax as per fare chart on the airline’s website.

The airline has also introduced additional flights to Bengaluru every Wednesday and Thursday starting today. This is in addition to daily flight to Bengaluru.

Flight SG3328 leaves Bengaluru at 9.45am and reaches here at 10.30am. Flight 3329 leaves MIA at 11am and reaches Bengaluru at 11.55am. The fares are Rs 2,529 for SpiceSaver and Rs 3,730 for SpiceMax. This is in addition to daily flights SG 1035 and SG 1027.

Air India too has re-started flights from Mangaluru. It is operating a flight — three days a week on Mumbai-Mangaluru-Kochi-Mumbai sector. Flight AI 681 leaves Mumbai at 2.45pm and reaches here at 4.20pm. This flight leaves for Kochi at 5.20pm and reaches there at 6.20pm. On the return leg, the flight leaves Kochi at 7.20pm and reaches Mumbai at 9.30pm. The average occupancy between Mumbai-Mangaluru and Kochi-Mumbai is around 95%.

23/09/20 Jaideep Shenoy/Times of India

‘Air connectivity in Jagdalpur, Ambikapur, Bilaspur will provide impetus to economy’

Raipur: The Government of India has sanctioned Rs 108 crore for up-gradation and development of airports in Jagdalpur, Ambikapur and Bilapur under UDAN scheme. Rs 48 crore sanctioned for Jagdalpur, Rs 27 crore for Ambikapur and Rs 33 crore for Bilaspur, of which, Rs 45 crore has been spent in Jagdalpur, Rs 27 crore in Ambikapur and Rs 20 crore in Bilaspur, said Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation (I/c) Hardeep Singh Puri. MoS Puri further added that this air connectivity will fulfill the aspirations of people of the region and provide impetus to the local economy.

 He further informed that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has planned for investment of about Rs 900 crore to develop and expand Raipur Airport that includes expansion of the terminal building. Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had approved the bid of Alliance Air for the operation of RCS Flight from Bilaspur to Bhopal under UDAN 4.0, which is expected to commence shortly. Air India’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Alliance Air was awarded this route under the UDAN 3 bidding process.

23/09/20 Hitawada

SpiceJet passengers can book entire row on flights for a 'contactless, stress-free flying experience'

“A contactless, stress-free flying experience”: that is the promise from the leading Indian airline, SpiceJet – but only for passengers who pay extra to leave adjacent seats empty.

Travellers who believe “hell is other people,” or wish to increase social distancing, are invited to select an aisle or window seat, and then add one or two additional seats.

The message is: “Book from window to aisle, for your safety and smile.”

The pricing on a test booking made by The Independent indicated that the empty seats are sold at about 60 per cent of the “human” price.

Between Delhi and Mumbai, the first flight of the day on 24 September is priced at 4,305 rupees (£46) for a single traveller and a seat assignment.

The two extra seats are priced at 2,664 rupees (£28) each. A “private row” costs a total of £102, which represents a premium of 125 per cent.

Passengers who choose the option are told: “Just sit back, relax and enjoy a contactless, stress-free flying experience.”

SpiceJet is also offering passengers Covid-19 insurance, covering “tests, medication and consultations during hospitalisation for positive diagnosis of Covid-19,” for the equivalent of £5.

Following the collapse of Jet Airways in 2019, SpiceJet became the nation’s second-largest airline, after Air India. Its slogan is: “Red. Hot. Spicy."

23/09/20 Simon Calder/Independent

Coimbatore airport has handled more passengers than its capacity: Data

Coimbatore: In another reminder to the state government to complete the process of land acquisition for expansion of the city airport as soon as possible, data from last year shows that the Coimbatore International Airport is already handling more passengers than its capacity. The civil aviation ministry says the airport, which has domestic and international flights, had handled 28.4 lakh passengers, compared to handling capacity of 20 lakh passengers. The numbers have also been steadily increased by 10% to 20% a year.

Replying to a question raised by member of Parliament Vishnu Prasad MK, minister of state for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri admitted that many airports, including Coimbatore, was handling more passengers than it was capable of. He said the ministry had a budget outlay of Rs 25,000 crore to expand multiple airports, but the process was getting delayed due to land acquisition issues.

Until last year, when Jet Airways shut operations resulting in the number of passengers being handled falling by 6.7% or from 30 lakh people a year to 28 lakh people a year, the Coimbatore International Airport has been seeing a steady growth in passenger traffic. From handling 15 lakh passengers in 2014-15, it doubled to 30 lakh passengers in 2018-’19, which is 50% higher than its passenger handling capacity.

23/09/20 Times of India

Airlines on verge of collapse, may shut if situation doesn't improve: GoAir to SC

New Delhi: A day after aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), informed the Supreme Court (SC) that passengers who booked tickets during lockdown were eligible for refunds, the government recommended that airlines pay 0.5% interest for delayed refunds. 

While both Vistara and AirAsia opposed the levy of interest stating that many of their customers prefer credit shell, country's largest airline IndiGo said it refunded the tickets for the lockdown period in full. 

The government also said it is open to considering the interest of any particular segment of passengers if adversely affected.

Meanwhile, GoAir pleaded with the apex court that many airlines were on the brink of collapse and might shut down if If the situation doesn't improve.

SC has deferred the hearing on airlines' fare refund case for September 25.


Air India’s flights to nowhere to take Indians on scenic sightseeing joyride: Report

Taking cue from Australian national carrier Qantas Airways, Air India is planning to start its own ‘flights to nowhere’ that will take off and land at the same airport, giving passengers a scenic view of major sights in India, officials familiar with the matter told Hindustan Times.
Pricing and modalities are yet to be finalised but airline officials told the publication that these flights will fly low giving passengers an aerial tour of famous locations in India. 
 “Yes, we are exploring the possibility of starting a scenic flight service. Other details are to be decided,” an Air India spokesperson told the news agency, adding that wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 747, a jumbo jet will be used to fly these routes. Low-level flying would mean flying at Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude (MOCA), which is the lowest safe flying level without hitting buildings or natural obstacles. This varies based on the city and region. 
“For example, for Mumbai, the MOCA is about 3,000 feet. In such cases the air traffic control takes the call and allows an aircraft the level it can fly lowest at,” Aviation expert Mark Martin told the publication. A Boeing 747 aircraft can fly as low as 500-1,000 feet at an air speed of around 250 knots which is about 460 kmph. However, flying at such a low altitude would require safety approval from Air Traffic Control depending on the region it plans to fly in. 
 However, health experts and doctors have sounded alarm and cited risks of such flights as Covid-19 cases in India continue to rise. Dr T Jacob John, a retired professor of clinical virology told the publication that there are some risks but if people are properly screened, it is a good initiative. 
 23/09/20 Deccan Herald

Air tickets: SC asks Centre to clarify on modalities of refund to passengers, agents

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to clarify by Friday the modalities of refund of air tickets to be made to the passengers and travel agents in view of cancellation of flights during the COVID-19 induced lockdown period.  

The top court asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit by September 25, with regard to issues relating to modalities of ticket refunds on which Solicitor General Tushar Mehta conceded that the instant affidavit is poorly drafted.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah said that it is only concerned with refund and non-refund of money for tickets booked during the lockdown period.  

It was hearing a plea which has raised the issue of air tickets refund owing to cancellation of flights due to COVID-19 induced lockdown which had commenced from March 25.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for NGO ‘Pravasi Legal Cell’, said that if one books tickets in airlines like Air India, Indigo etc and fly out of India then the affidavit filed by Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) is applicable.  

He said that the DGCA should also cover people for refund, who have booked flights on these carriers to come back to India like in the Gulf Countries and therefore the issue needs to be sorted.  

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA, said that the government has taken a decision of refund keeping in mind the welfare of all and an appropriate solution has been worked out.

Mehta said that a holistic view has been taken keeping in mind the interests of passengers and the airlines.  

The bench asked the Solicitor General that suppose prior to one day before the lockdown, a passenger has booked a flight ticket for travel during the period of lockdown, then what about his refund.

Mehta replied that he would not get the refund immediately.  

The bench then asked Mehta what happened to the refunds of a travel agent, who has already paid to the airlines for the tickets booked.

23/09/20 PTI/Outlook

AirAsia India strengthens its connectivity from Mumbai Srinagar

Srinagar: Identifying the demand forecast in the holiday season and driven by its mission to enhance the air connectivity in the country, AirAsia India has launched two new routes, connecting Mumbai with Guwahati and Srinagar. The airline expanded its network by commencing operations on these new sectors from 19th Sept 2020 with fares starting from ₹5,192 and continues to deliver on its goal of providing connectivity between various cities in its network in India. The airline expanded its network and continues to deliver on providing connectivity between various cities on its network of 20 stations in India.

The airline has embarked on a steady growth path as the travel industry recovers, to stay ahead of the curve. As per DGCA reports, The number of daily passengers flown continues to soar with the numbers trending at over 90K per day on an average in the month of August. With offerings such as ‘Flex Fares’, allowing guests the flexibility to change their travel dates unlimited number of times at no additional cost, AirAsia India is focussed on ensuring a convenient and hassle free travel.

23/09/20 Kashmir Reader

Tata vs Mistry: Shapoorji Pallonji Group's comment on Tata's aviation business may have touched a nerve, but is it correct?

On September 22, when the Shapoorji Pallonji Group talked about separating from the Tatas, the statement mentioned the aviation business.

It said: "Be it the operations of Tata Steel UK, where over the last three years alone the operational losses have increased by an additional Rs 11,000 crore, or the group’s aviation businesses. These actions, or lack thereof, have meant that the total debt in the major Tata group companies has increased by approximately Rs 100,000 crore in the last three years. Excluding Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the last quarters losses of all the listed group companies of approximately Rs 14,000 crore cause great concern."

The statement is right in pointing out the losses incurred by the Tata group's aviation business, which also includes Vistara, the joint venture with Singapore Airlines.

But is it a fair conclusion? >>

Ras Al Khaimah International Airport repatriates 53,000 Indian citizens since June

Ras Al Khaimah: Ras Al Khaimah International Airport today announced that it has helped secure the return home of more than 53,000 Indian citizens since the beginning of June, in part thanks to His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, who issued a directive to cover the full cost of transport to the airport for any Indian expatriate who is looking to return home as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Operating special repatriation flights in conjunction with the Indian government and Indian carrier SpiceJet, RAK Airport’s efforts to assist Indian nationals to return home on completion of their employment contracts have propelled it to the fore of the UAE’s repatriation efforts.

"The UAE is sparing no effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all its people and Ras Al Khaimah is part of the country’s drive to be at the forefront of the global response to this pandemic," said His Highness Sheikh Saud.

"Our emirate is a longstanding friend of the Indian government and its honourable people and we are always ready to help. With this in mind, Ras Al Khaimah International Airport has been playing an important role in the Indian Government’s initiative to repatriate its residents. SpiceJet and RAK Airport staff have shown great dedication in their work and for this, I am truly grateful," he added.

"RAK Airport commenced special charter evacuation flights at the beginning of June and to date has flown back Indians and their families in almost 300 flights operated by SpiceJet. The tremendous support we have received from His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the Indian Ambassador and Consul-General, and our airline partner SpiceJet, has facilitated us to serve stranded Indians and enable then to travel home seamlessly and effortlessly," said Sanjay Khanna, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.

23/09/20 Emirates News Agency

The Golden Girl: Rafale squadron’s 1st woman pilot is Varanasi’s Flt Lt Shivangi Singh

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Rafale squadron’s first woman fighter pilot is Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh.

Commissioned into the IAF in 2017 as part of the second batch of women fighter pilots, Varanasi native Flt Lt Shivangi Singh is currently undergoing conversion training and will shortly become a formal part of the 17 Squadron, ‘Golden Arrows’ in Ambala.

India Today was the first to report on Monday on the development that a woman fighter pilot of the IAF was selected to join the newly inducted Rafale fighter fleet as one of its crew flying the multi-role air dominance aircraft.

Since her commissioning in 2017, Flt Lt Shivangi Singh has been flying MiG-21 Bisons. She arrives in Ambala from a border base in Rajasthan where she has flown alongside one of India’s best known fighter pilots -- Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman -- who was credited with shooting down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter on February 27 last year near the LoC before being shot down himself and taken captive.

Flt Lt Shivangi has had aviation dreams from a young age.

After school in Varanasi, she joined the prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU), where she was part of the 7 UP Air Squadron in the National Cadet Corps. She then proceeded to the Air Force Academy for training in 2016.

Flt Lt Shivangi’s conversion training is unique. She will be converting from the IAF’s oldest jet, the MiG-21, to its newest jet, the Rafale. Also, Flt Lt Shivangi’s 2017 coursemate and fellow woman fighter pilot Flt Lt Pratibha is understood to be flying Su-30 MKI kegs at this time.

23/09/20 Shiv Aroor/India Today

DGCA under radar for probe lapses in Cessna crash report

Hyderabad: An independent aircraft accident investigation body has pointed out glaring inadequacies in Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) team's aviation academy audit after the 2019 Sultanpur Cessna flight crash. Though a second pilot was in the aircraft, which was on a solo flight, DGCA failed to capture "procedural anomalies and safety lapses", it pointed out.

Trainee pilot Amanpreet Kaur (21) from Punjab and commercial pilot licence holder Prakash Vishal (21) from Delhi lost their lives when the Cessna 172 S aircraft of Wings Aviation Pvt Ltd crashed in agricultural fields of Sultanpur village in Vikarabad district on October 6, 2019.

Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), which works under the aegis of the ministry of civil aviation, conducted the investigation into the incident and completed the final report in June 2020.

Stating that aircraft encountering downward wind shear while flying at low altitude was the reason for the mishap, the AAIB's two-member team - RS Passi and K Ramachandran - in their report made specific remarks about the DGCA's audit of the Wings Aviation Academy Pvt Ltd after the accident. DGCA is the nation's apex regulatory body in civil aviation, primarily dealing with safety issues, including investigation into accidents.

Deeper and closer look into the report of the audit team indicates that the purpose of this audit was not proactive but rather was to restart the flying activities of the flying training organisation (FTO) at the earliest,” the AAIB report said.

“Surveillance/Audit carried out by DGCA were not in true letter and spirit. Procedural anomalies and safety lapses observed during investigation could have been easily captured during the audit,” the AAIB report said, indirectly referring to DGCA audit not specifically mentioning about the presence of second pilot Prakash Vishal in the aircraft, which as per the records was on solo cross country flight with trainee pilot Amanpreet Kaur on board.

The report also mentioned, “DGCA should carry out its safety oversight function over FTOs in a more meaningful manner covering all the aspects of operational procedures and flying training. DGCA should advise all chief flight instructors (CFIs) to ensure that the pilot training is conducted strictly as per the laid down regulations and without any deviation.”

As per the report, the crosscountry flight planned for 0200 UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) was revised to 0500 UTC due to visibility below 5,000 metres and deputy chief flight instructor (Dy CFI), Raunak Cyril, authorised the trainee pilot for solo cross-country flight from Begumpet overflying Gobur. It was Amanpreet Kaur’s second solo cross-country flight.

23/09/20 Mahesh Buddi/Times of India

‘Testing multiple pilots with same breath analyser risky’

Two pilot unions have lodged complaints with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) demanding that its September 4 order for resuming breath analyser (BA) tests for air crew personnel be kept in abeyance, alleging that using the same instrument without disinfection could make them vulnerable to Covid-19. 
 The Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP), a pilot union with 5,400 members, along with Executive Pilots Association (EPA), a union of senior Air India pilots, have written letters to the regulator, pointing out “discriminatory” procedures laid down for air crew and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs). In a September 7 order for ATCOs, DGCA mandated that at least five per cent of Air traffic Controllers at a station should undergo the BA test daily before commencing duty. 
The order said that the tests should be conducted as per the guidelines issued by Director General of Medical Services (DGMS) on June 16. “The machine used for such random tests shall not be used for next 12 hours after the conduct of one test. Besides the random test, the authorities may also test any person suspected to have consumed psychoactive substance,” the order said, mentioning the guidelines. However, pilots say the same condition was not mentioned in DGCA order asking pilots and cabin crew to resume BA tests. 
The order only mandated 10 per cent random pre-flight examinations for domestic operations, and 100 per cent BA tests for international operations per day. The FIP letter said the DGCA suspended BA tests for all aviation personnel on March 29 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic when the total number of cases in India was approximately 1,000 cases. However, the number of cases have now crossed 5 million in India, and several crew members have tested positive in the past five months.
23/09/20 Satish Nandgaonkar/Mumbai Mirror

Why Did Pakistani Air Force Jet Shoot-Down Indian Civilian Aircraft In 1965 Indo-Pak War?

During the 1965 India-Pakistan war that was fought for 17 days and caused thousands of casualties on both sides, another dark day went down in history when a passenger airplane carrying Gujarat Chief Minister Balwantrai Mehta was shot down by a Pakistani Air Force pilot.

Mehta, who was accompanied by his wife, three members of his staff, a journalist and two crew members, was on board a commuter aircraft piloted by an Indian Air Force pilot named Jahangir Engineer.

The plane was heading to the Mithapur district of the Gujarat state, where Balwantrai Mehta was to address a rally. It was shot down in the area between the district and Kutch border lying between India and Pakistan, killing all on board.

The plane was the first civilian aircraft to be shot down in the India-Pakistan war.

Decades later, the Pakistani Air Force Pilot, Qais Hussain penned an apology letter to the daughter of the Jahangir Engineer, as to how the actual events transpired and why he shot down the aircraft.

Qais, who had back then just returned from the United States after finishing a flight training course, was instructed to get on board his US-made F-86 Sabre fighter jet and track a plane, which had appeared on the radar.

     “At an altitude of 3,000 feet, I saw this Indian plane heading towards Bhuj. I intercepted it over a remote village. When I saw that it was a civilian plane, I did not immediately shoot at it. I reported to my controller that it was a civilian plane,” said Qais, while speaking to the BBC.

It is reported Qais was so close to the eight-seater aircraft that he could read the letters “Victor Tango” inscribed over it, and he constantly asked for instructions from the Pakistan Air Traffic Controller.

     “They told me to stay there and wait for our instructions. Three or four minutes passed while waiting. I was flying low enough, so I was worried I would run out of fuel on the way back. But then I was ordered to shoot this plane,” said Qais.

However, Qais did not immediately follow the orders and rather asked the control room for confirmation regarding whether they really wanted to shoot the plane down.

    “The controller told me to shoot him (the plane). I fired at (the plane) from a distance of 100 feet. I saw something fly off the left side of the plane. Then I slowed down and fired a little longer and then I saw flames coming out of its right engine.”

      The plane then took a 90-degree-step dive to the ground. As soon as it fell to the ground, it was in complete flames and I found out that all the people on board were dead.” said Qais.

23/09/20 EurAsian Times

Could The Indian Aviation Industry Have A Speedy Recovery?

India’s aviation recovery has been sluggish for now, with domestic capacity rising slowly and international flights nascent. However, continuing growth, even with record-high daily cases, and a potential vaccine by the year-end has many excited. So, could Indian aviation have a speedy recovery?

Any speedy recovery of the Indian aviation industry is based on a robust domestic market. There are already signs that we could see this soon, with steady growth in daily passenger numbers. This growth has come even as India clocks around 90,000 COVID cases every day, the highest in the world. Other countries have cut back capacity when a spike in cases occurs. However, Indian aviation has seen no such slowing in growth.

Over 149,000 passengers took to the skies on Sunday, representing a 50% recovery to last year’s passenger figures. With strong growth during the height of the pandemic, we could see passenger numbers continue to rise if cases drop off.

In the optimistic scenario of a vaccine being available by early 2021, it is likely the domestic market will quickly recover to 2019 levels. This could mean the Indian market makes a speedy domestic recovery. However, a lot has to go right for this to happen, and international flights are a whole other story.

While domestic flights might be picking up steam, international flights are at just a fraction of pre-pandemic levels. This mainly due to border closures around the world and the potential risks of international flights. However, India has also banned all scheduled international flights, only starting a handful of travel bubbles and operating repatriation flights instead.

Without India lifting its ban on international flights and countries opening up borders, international flights will struggle to recover. The only potential path to a speedy recovery would be a widely-available vaccine, but it would still take at least a year for that to reach a majority of people. For now, a quick recovery for the international market seems unlikely.

23/09/20 Pranjal Pande/Simple Flying

Air tickets refund case: Govt recommends 0.5% interest on delayed refunds, airlines oppose

The government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that the maximum it can do in the case related to delayed ticket refunds is ask the concerned airlines to give 0.5 per cent interest on refunds to affected passengers.

Representing DGCI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that passengers can get 0.5 per cent interest on delayed refund from concerned airlines. “Given the circumstances, this is the maximum we can do after balancing all equities,” he said.

He went on to say that the “situation is not exceptional” and added that “someone will have to bear the brunt”.

However, airline companies including Vistar and AirAsia opposed the additional interest and said that main customers prefer credit shells instead. Credit shells are refunded credit points that have been refunded to customers whose flights were cancelled due to Covid-19 flight restrictions.

Meanwhile, the country’s largest carrier IndiGo said it has already refunded tickets for the lockdown period in full.

23/09/20 Aneesha Mathur/India Today

Pandemic effect: AAI revenue records 90 per cent drop during April-June

New Delhi:  The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has reported a sharp decline in its revenue during  April and June this year. Revenue recorded nearly 90% decline as it fell from `2,973 crore during April-June 2019 to `239 crore during April-June 2020.

Air transport was suspended from March 25 till May 24 which rendered zero traffic at AAI airports. Even after the resumption of flights, traffic is yet to pick up at airports due to quarantine measures implemented by states and an overall fear of flying.

It is expected that the traffic will reach its normal level only by the end of this year or even after that.

Officials said despite a fall in revenues, the airport’s authority will not reduce its capital expenditure plan as all public sector enterprises have been asked by the Finance Ministry to continue with the proposal to revive the economy.

The AAI has earmarked around Rs 20,000 crore to be spent in the next five years. Recently, the Civil Aviation Ministry said the revenuer of the airlines recorded a sharp reduction as it fell by nearly 86%during the pandemic.

23/09/20 New Indian Express

Covid-19 has spiked demand for charter planes in India: Rahul Mucchal, CEO, Accretion Aviation

Unlike other major industries associated with travel and tourism, the charter plane business has seen a favourable demand due to Covid-19. 

With the full unlock on its way, personal safety while travelling has become of utmost importance. Even after following all necessary protocols during commercial air travel, there is fear that it might lead to contracting the virus, though there is little data available to support such claims.

Rahul Mucchal, CEO, Accretion Aviation speaks about the spike in the demand of charter planes and more >>

Evacuation flight from Dubai carrying 86 passengers arrives at Chandigarh

Mohali: An evacuation flight, under the Vande Bharat Mission of the Union government to evacuate stranded Indian nationals abroad, carrying 86 passengers from Dubai landed at the Chandigarh International Airport at Mohali on Wednesday.

The IndiGo operated Air Bubble flight carrying the 86 stranded passengers from Dubai amid COVID-19 outbreak arrived at the local airport at 2.28 pm.

All repatriated persons, who mostly belong to different parts of Punjab, Haryana 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. 

Processing of passengers went smooth at the airport with joint efforts of all the authorities/agencies which were involved in the processing of passengers which were governments of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, CISF, Immigration, Customs and Punjab Police etc., along with Chandigarh International Airport.

A health department spokesman said that during the screening the health officials took utmost precaution and the passengers also maintained social distancing.

He informed that no passenger was suffering from fever, cough, cold etc and all were asymptomatic for coronavirus.

23/09/20 Tribune

Diwali gift for Uttar Pradesh as international flights to start from this district

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced that from Diwali this year Kushinagar Airport will begin operating international flights. 

Terming it as a special Diwali special gift to the people, the airport is very likely to begin operations soon.

The Kushinagar airport is also known as Padrauna Airport and it is located 52 kilometers from Gorakhpur, ??Yogi Adityanath's constituency.

The decision to make Kushinagar an international airport was taken in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June. 

The Yogi Adityanath-led government believes that there is a lot of potential for tourism in this eastern UP region as this airport is located on the international border.

The entire area of ??Kushinagar is part of the 'Buddha Circuit'. With the start of international flights, there will be a rise in tourist activity in the area which will greatly benefit the tourism sector.

Therefore, officials have been ordered to prepare an action plan to make it an international tourist hub. 

Apart from this, a large number of youth of Bihar and eastern UP turn to Gulf countries for employment. With the start of this airport, their international flights will be very smooth.

23/09/20 ZeeNews

India to start work on Maldives airport expansion next year; runway will allow A320s, Boeing 737s to land

Days after India announced 250 million USD loans to the Maldives to deal with COVID's economic impact, New Delhi has started work on the expansion of Hanimaadhoo International Airport in the northern Maldives, which is billed as the largest infrastructure and connectivity project in that part of the Indian ocean country.

While the project will formally begin next year after tendering by the Maldives government, an Airports Authority of India (AAI) team visited the airport earlier this week for assessment and initial survey. The AAI team is preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) and will submit it within 2 months.

The team also met with Maldives Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail and officials from the Maldives Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

The expansion of the airport includes-- an extension of the runway to 2200 metres which will allow A320s, Boeing 737s to land and up-gradation of terminals, fuel farms, cargo terminal, fire station. India has extended 800 million USD Line of Credit for the development of the project.

A release by the Indian mission in the Maldives said, "Transparency and partnership are cornerstone principles of Indian Line of Credit projects. Capacity building of local companies and officials will be a priority even while the project is being implemented to assure sustainability."

23/09/20 DNA

Smiths Detection installs baggage scanners at 11 Indian airports

Smiths Detection has delivered and installed 34 units of the CTX 9800 DSi checked baggage Explosive Detection System (EDS) at 11 airports in India.

This includes ten airports managed by the Airports Authority India (AAI) and one Chandigarh International Airport (CHIAL)-managed airport.

The company has also completed the necessary operational training of airport staff at all the sites.

The CTX 9800 is a ECAC Standard 3-approved and Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-certified device developed to offer high-resolution 3D images of luggage to support accurate decision-making and improve airport security standards.

The technology also expedites the baggage screening process, improving operational efficiency at airports.

Smiths Detection India managing director Vikrant Trilokekar said: “At this time, airports need to maximise cost efficiencies through technologies that enable accurate detection and seamless flow of baggage.

“We’re confident that our security solutions, technical expertise, and experience will help AAI meet the industry’s highest security standards and get ready for the future of travel.”

In addition, the company secured another contract to deliver six further baggage scanners to five domestic Indian airports by the end of next March.

23/09/20 Airport Technologies

Dehradun Airport's first phase upgradation to be completed by next month: AAI

Mumbai: The first phase of AAI-run Dehradun Airport's upgradation work, including construction of a new domestic terminal building, is expected to be completed by next month, an official release said on Wednesday. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is investing Rs 353 crore for the airport's facelift to enhance its peak passenger handling capacity by eight-fold to 1,800 passengers, as per the release.

The first phase of development work includes the construction of a domestic terminal building along with utility block, car park, sewage treatment plant, rainwater harvesting structures and other ancillary structures, the AAI said.

Almost 80 per cent of the development work of the first phase is completed and the project is likely to be ready by October, it added.

With an area of 42,776 sq metre, the new terminal building will have a concourse, check-in area, security hold and arrival lounge at ground floor. It will also accommodate various offices on the mezzanine floor.

Equipped with 36 check-in counters and four aerobridges, the new terminal will have all the modern facilities like self-check-in kiosks and in-line baggage screening facility, the AAI said, adding ample retail space spread in an area of 6,465 sq metre is also planned to help accelerate the generation of revenue and employment.

The design height of the building is optimally done to reduce the cost of construction and operation, it said.

23/09/20 PTI/Economic Times

Ahmedabad: 11 flights cancelled from Sardar Vallabhbhai International airport

Ahmedabad: Eleven flights from Sardar Vallabhbhai International (SVPI) airport in Ahmedabad were cancelled on Tuesday. These included four to Delhi, three to Hyderabad and one each to Nagpur, Pune, Goa and Bengaluru. Sources said these flights operations were cancelled due to operational constraints as heavy rains lashed many parts of the country.

Flights cancellation have become common ever since flight operations resumed at the city airport. Airlines sources said that due to inadequate passenger load, they are forced to cancel flights. Apprehensions about travelling amid the pandemic have hit passenger footfalls at SVPI airport and data from Airports Authority of India shows domestic passenger footfalls here declined by 84% in July 2020.

23/09/20 Times of India

3 cases of smuggling reported at Mumbai airport

Mumbai: Smuggling activities at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) seems to have picked up as the airport customs detected three cases since last Friday.

In the latest case on Tuesday, the Mumbai Airport customs seized 1127 grams of wet gold dust, worth ₹44.29 lakh, concealed inside the body cavity of three intercepted Indian passengers who arrived from Dubai, the customs stated. The gold dust is difficult to trace in hand-held detectors and scanners and hence smugglers are trying to sneak in the precious metal in dust form.

On Sunday, one Indian passenger was intercepted at departure airport who attempted to travel to Dubai. He was found in possession of undeclared $30000 equivalent to ₹21, 87,000 which were concealed in black pouches in a hand bag. The passenger was placed under arrest.

The recovered foreign currency was seized under the reasonable belief that the same was attempted to be smuggled out of India and hence liable for confiscation under the provisions of the Customs Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act.

Similarly on last Friday, one Indian passenger who arrived from Dubai was intercepted which resulted in recovery of wet gold dust, which was concealed in body cavity, weighing 676 grams and valued at Rs.27.06 lakh. The passenger was placed under arrest.

23/09/20  Pratik Salunke/Free Press Journal

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

SP Group highlights value destruction through Tata aviation biz and Tata Steel UK

New Delhi: SP Group in its decision to separate from the Tata Group has highlighted the value destruction from Tata Steel, UK and the group's aviation business.

SP Group said that it is a matter of public record that several issues identified years earlier, continue to plague the group. Be it the operations of Tata Steel UK, where over the last three years alone the operational losses have increased by an additional 11,000 crore, or the Group's aviation businesses. These actions, or lack thereof, have meant that the total debt in the major Tata group companies has increased by approximately Rs 1 lakh crore in the last three years.

Excluding TCS, the last quarters losses of all the listed group companies of approximately 14,000 crore causes great concern.

It is said that Cyrus Mistry as Tata Group chairman had been opposed to the aviation business and ventures of Vistara and Air Asia.

Now again, Tata group has been talked about as a potential bidder for Air India which is up for sale.

After the SP Group announced its intent to separate from the Tata Group, calculators will be out to establish a notional value of the SP Group's holding in Tata Sons.

SP Group is the largest minority shareholder owning an 18.37 per cent stake in Tata Sons. Purely on a market capitalization basis, considering the value of these 28 companies, the SP Group stake would be worth a little more than Rs 2 lakh crore going by the March 2019 figures. SP Group has talked about reaching at a fair and equitable solution reflecting the value of the underlying tangible and intangible assets.

The Tata group is a global enterprise, headquartered in India, comprising 30 companies across 10 clusters. The group operates in more than 100 countries across six continents.

Tata Sons is the principal investment holding company and promoter of Tata companies. Sixty-six percent of the equity share capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts, which support education, health, livelihood generation and art and culture. In 2018-19, the revenue of Tata companies, taken together, was $ 113.0 billion (Rs 792,710 crore), as per the Tata Group.

These companies collectively employ over 720,000 people. Each Tata company or enterprise operates independently under the guidance and supervision of its own board of directors. There are 28 publicly-listed Tata enterprises with a combined market capitalisation of over $ 160 billion (Rs 11.09 lakh crore) as on March 31, 2019, as per the group. The market cap as on March 31, 2018 was Rs 9.45 lakh crore.

22/09/20 daijiworld

Air India sale: Allow bidders to quote own terms, says panel

Given the fresh uncertainties caused by Covid-19, an inter-ministerial group (IMG) on Air India privatisation plan has favoured allowing bids for the loss-making carrier on the basis of its enterprise value, sans any pre-determined level of ‘sustainable debt’ for the potential bidders to reckon with.

Under the current plan, the buyer is required to take over the airline’s estimated residual debt of  Rs 23,286 crore.

EY, the transaction adviser (TA), in a presentation to the IMG, said the winning bidder may have the leeway to cut its workforce immediately after the acquisition – the current expression of interest (EoI) provides for a one-year job protection for the state-owned airline’s over 9,600-strong permanent workforce. Also, the adviser sought removal of the Rs 1,000-crore cap on asset sale in the first year post-acquisition of AI by the buyer.

On the both these suggestions, the IMG, according to a note circulated within the government and reviewed by FE, holds the view that a decision could be taken during the actual signing of share purchase agreement (SPA) or at the request for proposal (RFP) stage.

The current EoI was prepared in January. With Covid-19 hitting the aviation sector hard, Air India has estimated that its cash losses would climb 80% on year to Rs 6,000 crore in FY21.

Keeping in view the prevailing situation in the domestic and international aviation industry and a worsening of AI’s performance, the TA has presented four options to the IMG for AI’s strategic disinvestment.

Under the Option 1, no change in its debt level (residual debt to remain Rs 23,286 crore) will be allowed and only extension of timeline be given for bidders to submit the EoIs. Alternatively, it said, the debt level may be cut to Rs 17,464 crore, with associated changes in timelines but without additional changes in bidding construct.

Under Option 2, which the IMG favours – there won’t be a pre-fixed debt level; bidders can quote combined debt plus equity value (enterprise value) with associated changes in timelines and employee-related flexibilities mentioned above.

The third option mooted is that the government would continue to run AI for 2 years without privatisation, which could cost the exchequer Rs 15,435 crore. The fourth option is to close down the national carrier, which would entail that the exchequer absorb all debt and loss of jobs for all employees.

The core group of secretaries on disinvestment and the ministerial panel on AI disinvestment would take a final decision in this regard.

The Centre had floated EoI and preliminary information memorandum (PIM) on January 27 and EOI was sought by March 17 (extended to October 30 and may further be extended by up to 60 days with likely modified bidding conditions).

22/09/20  Prasanta Sahu/Financial Express

Travel bubbles 'complex to implement': Is it time to wave goodbye to the era of cheap flights?

When the COVID-19 first arrived on India's shores, the swift closure of the nation's borders coupled with the implementation of a stringent nationwide lockdown had many hopeful that India would manage to flatten the curve so that domestic and international travel could resume without much delay. As we now approach the end of the year, and as daily COVID-19 cases continue to hover around the 80,000 mark, the optimism of six months ago seems foolhardy.

It isn't just India that is suffering though. All across Asia, countries are facing persistent difficulties in preventing localised resurgences of the virus, disabling them from opening borders and kickstarting a regional tourism industry that has been among the worst affected by the pandemic. The concept of the 'travel bubble' originally proposed by Australia and New Zealand has also proved difficult to adopt. “Travel bubbles are extremely complex to implement, much greater than what people may have thought originally,” said CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Mario Hardy to CNN. 

From Thailand to Australia to Malaysia to Vietnam, governments have come under increasing pressure to relax border restrictions but given the huge risk of importing the virus from abroad, planes continue to remain grounded and skies clear. Even countries like South Korea and Singapore that have lead the way in curbing the spread of the virus remain cautious in their approach to opening borders. 

While travellers may have been optimistic in March and April, the airline industry could see the writing on the wall. Speaking in late April, CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Alexandre de Juniac made a grim prediction that, with the mandated implementation of social distancing on flights, airlines would be staring at millions in losses if they operated under their original pricing models. 'If social distancing is imposed, cheap travel is over. Voila,' he said. 


181 tonnes of Pomegranates exported from B'luru airport

Bengaluru: Nine global freight carriers shipped 181 tonnes of Pomegranates to 12 overseas destinations from Kemegowda internatational airport (KIA) on the city's northern outskirts from April to August, an official said on Tuesday.

"By shipping 181 tonnes (180,745 kg) of Pomegranates from April to August to 12 overseas destinations in nine cargo flights, KIA emerged as the leading airport for the fruit from India," said the operator in a statement here.

KIA is the third busiest airport in the country after New Delhi and Mumbai.

Categorised as a berry, Pomegranate is a rich nutritious red fruit grown on trees as a deciduous shrub with a flower-shaped stem.

According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) of the Union Commerce Ministry, the city airport accounted for 99 per cent of the fruit's export from Karnataka.

22/09/20 IANS/daijiworld

Karanvir Bohra Boards Flight Amidst COVID-19; Says It Was An 'eye-opener'

Qubool Hai fame Karanvir Bohra recently took a flight to Delhi from Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal, Mumbai. The actor took to his social media handle to post a video of his travel experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the video, the Shararat actor can be seen taking his fans around the airport which shows security personnel diligently doing their duties and taking good care of everyone. Read on >>

Spicejet resumes flight services between Mangaluru-New Delhi

Mangaluru: Spicejet resumed its operations from Mangaluru to New Delhi from Tuesday after gap of few months due to the covid lockdown According the Spicejet sources, the first flight was taken off at 1310 hours after receiving the flight from New Delhi which arrived at 1235 hours. 
However, these services were only available on Tuesdays and Sundays. Meanwhile, the services would also commence between Mangaluru-Bengaluru from Wednesday and the service would be available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. 
 22/09/20 UNI

India Implements Cargo Restrictions For Foreign Carriers

India has amended its Open Sky agreements this week, placing restrictions on foreign cargo airlines operating flights to India. Non-scheduled foreign carriers can now only operate freight services to six major cities in India, with permissions required for others. The move is likely aimed at boosting operations for Indian freight carriers.

The Tribune reported this week that the DGCA, India’s aviation regulator, has amended the 1990 Open Sky agreement for the first time. Under the amended agreement, non-schedule foreign airlines can only operate unrestricted cargo flights to six major airports: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. To land in any other airport, these carriers will have to request DGCA clearance, which could be denied.

Before this change, foreign carriers could land at any airport which offered customs and immigration services, subject to operational and safety requirements. This amendment comes at a time when the airline freight industry is rapidly growing due to a drop in overall cargo capacity.

Since the original agreement in 1990, India’s non-schedule operators have grown considerably. From 11 operators will 98 planes in 1991, the industry now has 98 operators with 317 planes. However, despite this exponential rise, non-scheduled carriers did not fly any international cargo flights in 2018-2019.

22/09/20 Pranjal Pande/Simple Flying

Average daily airline passengers grow close to two times in the past three and a half months

In the past three and a half months ending September 20, the number of daily passengers who travelled by air, on the average, grew close to two times. According to the latest data released by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the number of daily passengers, on the average, grew to 1,24,609 in the period between September 1 and September 19 from 64,396 in June in the present year.

According to analysts, this growth is largely because of discretionary or need-based travel. An analyst with a leading brokerage who wished to be unnamed said, “This is a pent-up demand. It includes travellers who were stranded in a particular location due to lockdown restrictions. It also includes travellers who planned visits to their relatives. This growth in average daily passengers does not include leisure or business traveller.”

The government’s decision to allow Indian airlines to increase the number of domestic passenger flights to 60% of their pre-COVID services also played an important role in improving the daily passengers’ growth.

Among airlines, at the end of August, low cost carrier InterGlobe Aviation maintained its dominant position with market share of 59%, followed by SpiceJet NSE -4.24 % and Air India, which had market share of 14% and 10% respectively in the same period.

23/09/20 Rajesh N Naidu/ET Intelligence Group/Economic Times

Centre says 13 Flying Training Organisations approved by DGCA to provide pilot training for drones

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday said that 13 Flying Training Organisations (FTOs) have been approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to provide pilot training for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) or drones.

Singh responded to a query in Lok Sabha asserting that as of September 15, 13 FTOs have been permitted to provide drone pilot training. The basis of granting them such permission was, inter alia, their familiarisation with aviation safety aspects, regulatory mechanisms, experience in the field of training pilots on manned aircraft, the availability of equipment, trainers, requisite infrastructure etc.

Draft Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 7, Series D, Part-I and draft Flying Training Circular (FTC) - 2 of 2020 have been published on the DGCA website for seeking public comments. Once the above-mentioned CAR and FTC are approved, it would encourage more entities to seek permission for providing drone training.

The remote pilot training requirements are laid down in CAR Section 3, Series X, Part - I.  Based on this, the training programme is prepared by each FTO and the training is imparted after due approval from DGCA.

On September 17, the DGCA has accorded in-principle approval for the "Certification scheme for RPAS" submitted by the Quality Council of India (QCI). This will enable third-party testing and certification of drones.  QCI would now empanel Certification Bodies based on the laid down criteria and commence the testing and certification process for drones.

22/09/20 ZeeNews

Govt Sanctioned Rs. 108 Crores Under UDAN For Upgradation Of 3 Chhattisgarh Airports: Puri

The Government of India has sanctioned Rs. 48 crores for Jagdalpur (expenditure incurred Rs 45 crores), Rs. 27 crores for Ambikapur (expenditure incurred Rs 27 crores) and Rs. 33 crores for Bilaspur (expenditure made Rs 20 crores) under UDAN scheme for up-gradation and development of 3 airports in Chhattisgarh, said Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS, I/C, Civil Aviation.

Speaking at the inauguration of flight operations by Alliance Air from Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh) to Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Hyderabad (Telangana) under UDAN scheme yesterday, Puri said that this air connectivity will fulfil the aspirations of people of the region and provide impetus to the local economy.

Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh; Prem Sai Singh, In-charge Minister, Bastar; TS Singh Deo, Chhattisgarh Minister for Rural Development and Health; Deepak Baij, MP, Bastar, and other senior officials also joined the virtual event. The dignitaries interacted with the first-time passengers who seemed to be very delighted with the inauguration of the new air route under UDAN.

Puri further informed that the Airports Authority of India has planned for the investment of about Rs 900 crores to develop and expand Raipur airport which includes expansion of the terminal building. Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had approved the bid of Alliance Air for the operation of RCS Flight from Bilaspur to Bhopal under UDAN 4.0 which is expected to commence shortly.

Air India’s wholly owned subsidiary, Alliance Air was awarded this route under the UDAN 3 bidding process. The airline will operate daily flights and will deploy 72 seater luxury ATR 70 aircraft on this route. With the commencement of the Jagdalpur-Raipur-Hyderabad route, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has operationalized a total of 285 routes under RCS-UDAN.

22/09/20 T3

Polish Airlines to introduce direct flight between Bengaluru and Warsaw

Bengaluru: Polish Airlines would introduce a direct flight between Bengaluru and Warsaw, its regional director Amit Ray said at the opening ceremony of honorary consul of Poland in Bengaluru.

Ray said there is a significant presence of Indians in Poland, especially from Bengaluru, because of the investments Infosys has made in Poland.

The technology giant has about 3000 professionals working in the country. Infosys BPM chief executive Anantha Radhakrishnan said the new flight service will help them expand their workforce in Poland.

Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) chief executive Hari Marar hoped the proposed service will attract a lot of flight traffic between Bengaluru Warsaw.

Alina, director at TZMO Bella, a Polish company based in Bengaluru, hailed the announcement. Poland ambassador to India Adam Burokowski said direct flights will give a boost to tourism in both regions.

Honorary Consul of Poland Raghu Rajappa said the relationship between Poland and Karnataka has also extended into various fields like technology, business, education and tourism. Manipal University, he said, has collaborated with Warsaw University for the last eight years.

22/09/20 Economic Times

UDAN 4.0: Big boost to aviation sector! 78 new routes approved; 100 airports/heliports/water aerodromes to be developed

After three rounds of bidding under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)- Ude Desh ka AamNagrik (UDAN), pre-COVID, 688 valid routes were awarded, out of which 281 routes were operationalized. After suspension of domestic flight operations from 25th March, 2020 to 24th May, 2020, domestic air services including RCS operations have recommenced with effect from 25.05.2020. Airlines are resuming the commenced RCS routes in a calibrated manner.

Further, 78 new routes have been identified and approved under 1st phase of UDAN 4.0. Airports Authority of India, the Implementing Agency is in the process of awarding these routes to the Selected Airline Operators (SAOs)

Details of the routes awarded and commenced under RCS-UDAN:-

Some of the reasons for non-operationalization of few UDAN routes are:

i) Lack of infrastructure at civil airports due to non-availability of land, delay related to compliance of the regulations by the airport operators, lack of road connectivity to the airports.

ii) Non-completion of the process involved in obtaining Scheduled Commuter Operators Permit by the Airlines.

Due to COVID-19, commencement of civil work of airports got delayed. Also, due to suspension of domestic operations, overall commencement of new routes got adversely affected.

4th round of bidding has commenced on 3rd December, 2019. 100 airports/heliports/water aerodromes are to be developed by 2024, awarded in various rounds of bidding under RCS-UDAN.

Total routes commenced: 281

-UDAN 1.0 - 56

-UDAN 2.0 - 118

-UDAN 3.0 - 107

The information was given in a written reply by Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State, I/C, Civil Aviation, in Rajya Sabha.

22/09/20 Prashant Singh/ZeeBiz

Passengers who booked flights during lockdown entitled to immediate refund, DGCA tells SC

New Delhi: Passengers who booked flight tickets during the Covid-19 lockdown shall be entitled for immediate refund of the fare by the airline, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the Supreme Court.

In an affidavit submitted before the apex court Monday, the DGCA asserted that the “airlines were not supposed to book such tickets”.

The affidavit was filed on behalf of the central government and the DGCA after the Supreme Court on 9 September had asked the government to clarify whether it is willing to provide complete refunds of air tickets booked for travel during the Covid-19 lockdown.

All forms of travel, including flights, were halted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March. Therefore, most airlines at the time had placed passengers in a credit shell. A credit shell is an open ticket through which a passenger can travel within the next seven months to one year.

Flights began operating in the country in a calibrated manner, two months later, from 25 May.

According to the submission, the passengers who booked tickets prior to the lockdown till up to 24 May would also get a refund through its credit shell and incentive scheme.

For tickets booked at any time for travel after 25 May, the DGCA said that the refund will be governed by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).

According to the submission, the passengers who booked tickets prior to the lockdown till up to 24 May would also get a refund through its credit shell and incentive scheme.

22/09/20 Apoorva Mandhani/Print

How an 85-year-old is taking on Aviation Ministry, DGCA for Calicut crash

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Just over a month after an aircraft accident in Calicut involving an Air India Express plane that reportedly killed 18 people, a retired mechanical engineer has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court blaming Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) for not installing Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) that could have prevented the unfortunate incident.

While the apex court has asked the ministry and the regulator to file a response to the petition, petitioner Rajen Mehta is seeking an enquiry and appropriate action against the DGCA and MoCA officials for failing to take action, despite having knowledge of such systems.

For the uninitiated, the EMAS system uses the crushable material placed at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft that overruns the runway. The system can stop aircraft going at the speed of 70 knots or less, and is suitable for 10-12 airports in the country, including Calicut, Mangalore, Bagdogra, and Shimla. These systems were first installed in New York in 1996, and are currently used in over 125 airports across the globe. It has been reported that at least 15 crash incidents have been avoided by EMAS in the US alone.

As per Mehta, who used to work with ESCO ASMSS - a company that makes these systems - the existence of EMAS was brought to the knowledge of Airports Authority of India (AAI), DGCA, and MoCA in 2008 but these systems are yet to be installed at the airports which are prone to accidents. "During this time, the aviation industry has seen two horrific incidents at Mangalore (in 2010) and Calicut (in 2020) causing loss of hundreds of lives, which could have been saved by the timely action," the petition says.

In fact, following the Mangalore airport incident, the court of inquiry recommended the installation of EMAS at table-top airports like Mangalore. But despite a series of presentations by ESCO ASMSS officials, they were informed by AAI that DGCA never gave clearance regarding installation of EMAS.

As per Mehta, AAI had given the in-principle go-ahead for installation for EMAS in 2008. But once DGCA got involved in the process, the project never saw the light of the day. He says that the corrupt motives of the DGCA officials should not be spared for the loss of lives of citizens of the country.

22/09/20 Manu Kaushik/Business Today

International flights: Now Indians can fly to Japan, UK, Canada, and 10 other countries. Who is allowed and who isn't?

International flights: Although international flights to India will be suspended until 30 September, the country has arranged bilateral air bubbles with 13 countries Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, UAE, UK. And what about the US.

Announcing on Twitter, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, “Air bubbles are with 13 countries. Others are being finalized. Apart from existing countries, people can also fly between India and Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Maldives, Nigeria, and Qatar. Carriers from India and these countries will work. "

In particular, under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines from both countries can operate international flights with some restrictions. They are called reciprocals, meaning that airlines from both countries enjoy the same benefits.

Indian citizens holding valid visas with a validity of at least one month are eligible to travel to these countries. Apart from this, OCI cardholders can now come to India as well.

22/09/20 DNA

Another six Vancouver flights flagged for potential coronavirus exposure

Another six flights out of Vancouver’s YVR International Airport have been flagged for potential coronavirus exposure.

The BC Centre For Disease Control (BCCDC) announced five domestic flights and one international flight on Tuesday. Of the flights, three of them either arrived or departed from Toronto.

The BCCDC says that anyone who was on a flight that included a coronavirus case should “self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.”

Common coronavirus symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and gastrointestinal issues.

22/09/20 Vincent Plana/DH News

India successfully flight-tests indigenous target drone Abhyas

New Delhi: India on Tuesday successfully flight tested Abhyas, a high-speed target drone for practice of weapon systems with realistic threat scenarios.

For the uninitiated, Abhyas is a high-speed drone that can be targeted by missiles during weapon systems practice.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has achieved a milestone with the successful flight test of Abhyas - High Speed Expandable Aerial Target from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha.

"This can be used as a target for evaluation of various Missile systems. Congratulations to DRDO and other stakeholders for this achievement," Singh said.

22/09/20 daijiworld

Vande Bharat Mission! Over 11 lakh Indians returned to India

As per information provided by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), till 31.08.2020, more than 11 lakh Indians (excluding land border crossings) have returned to India under the Vande Bharat Mission.

Vande Bharat Mission consists of special repatriation flights operated by Indian carriers and chartered flights operated by both Indian and foreign carriers. Country-wise and State-wise number of passengers returned are here.

22/09/20 Prashant Singh/ZeeBiz

Hyderabad airport resumes direct connections with Qatar, UAE in Gulf region

Coming as good news for all travellers, the Hyderabad International Airport has been re-connected with Qatar in the Gulf region after Qatar Airways decided to resume its services under the air transport bubble arrangements. According to the latest report, the airlines had resumed its services from September 13 by connecting Hyderabad with Doha, Qatar twice a week on Saturday and Sunday.

Speaking about the latest development, Karthik Viswanathan, who is the Area Sales Manager-South Asia Sub Continent of Qatar Airways has lavished praise on the airline's resilience during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The entire world was brought to a grinding halt in the aftermath of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

"We are extremely pleased to resume flights to Hyderabad, especially in this distinct case of an air bubble between the two countries. This clearly shows our airline's resilience during this crisis and unwavering commitment to our passengers to reunite them with their loved ones." Karthik Viswanathan was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. 

According to a report filed by the news agency, Hyderabad International Airport has opted to restart its services to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the resumption of Etihad Airways between Hyderabad and Abu Dhabi. As per the report, it has been learned that the connectivity recommenced from September 20. However, the connectivity in the Gulf region is only available thrice a week, that is, every Thursday, Friday and Sunday. 

22/09/20 TimesNowNews

Qatar Airways to soon resume services connecting Doha to Hyderabad

Hyderabad: The QatarAirways now connects Hyderabad with Qatar’s capital city Doha, The Airways has announced that they would restart its services under the air transport bubbles. The Airways would give service weekly twice every Saturday and Sunday.

Qatar Airways resumed its operations from September 13.

Hyderabad International Airport in addition has resumed services to United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well with the resumption of Etihad Airways between Hyderabad and Abu Dhabi, the capital city of UAE. The connectivity recommenced from September 20 and is available thrice a week, every Thursday, Friday and Sunday. International carriers like Emirates, Fly Dubai and Air Arabia have already reconnected UAE.

Passengers can book their tickets for these services through the airline websites, as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India. All passengers will have to adhere to the Covid-19 safety guidelines.

22/09/20 Nihad Amani/Siasat

AIU seizes 1.8 kg gold from Calicut Airport

Malappuram: Air Intelligence Unit has seized 1.866 kilograms of 24-carat gold from Kerala’s Calicut Airport on Tuesday.

As per the AIU, the gold is valued at Rs 95.35 lakh on the international market and was confiscated allegedly from a 45-year-old passenger named Abdul Azeez Mattil, a native of the district.

Mattil had arrived on an Air Arabia flight from Sharah on September 22 at 1 am and had concealed the gold by keeping it in his undergarments, it said.

22/09/20 ANI/

Over 100 MDMA Pills From France Seized At Chennai Airport

Chennai:The Customs department at the airport here has seized a parcel containing 130 MDMA pills — also known as ecstasy—when it arrived from France, officials said on Tuesday. Department sleuths on opening the parcel at the foreign post office here seized Methylenedioxy- methamphetamine (MMDA) tablets worth Rs 4 lakh concealed in a plastic pouch that had arrived from Poulainville, a town in North France.

The parcel was addressed to an individual living in the city. As a follow up, a manhunt was launched to trace the individual but the house was found to be locked.

Enquiries revealed that no one was residing in that house since March,officials added.

22/09/20 News18