Thursday, January 21, 2021

AAI lines up concessions to attract aircraft repair firms to its airports

Mumbai: Government-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to abolish royalty and offer steep discounts in lease rent to encourage maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) units to set up facilities at its airports.

Around 85 per cent of the $1.4 billion maintenance work of Indian airlines is carried out overseas and the government hopes that policy sweeteners will attract investment in the sector, generate employment and reduce import dependence.

Last year, the government cut goods and services tax (GST) rate on aircraft repair and maintenance work from 18 to 5 per cent. To further incentivise the industry, it will lease out land at airports at discounted rates to repair units. Airports such as Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad (Begumpet), Juhu, Kolkata and Tirupati, among others, have been identified for the purpose. Also, AAI has land parcels in Delhi that are also being considered for lease.

Airports in India charge a minimum 13 per cent royalty on MRO firms’ annual revenue, thus reducing their profit margin.

The civil aviation ministry has in-principle approved the MRO policy and is awaiting AAI board’s nod.

“We are working on a policy to attract MRO investments in India. We have already issued expressions of interest for setting up flying training schools at six airports. We are creating an enabling policy environment for both MROs and training schools. These will lower costs for trainee pilots as well as airlines and reduce foreign exchange outgo,” a senior AAI official said.

21/01/21 Aneesh Phadnis/Business Standard

Total outstanding dues of major domestic airlines to AAI rise to Rs 137.16 crore

The total outstanding dues of major domestic airlines to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) as of January 1 stand at Rs 137.16 crore, CNBC-TV18 has learnt. AAI charges airlines for using air navigation services, landing, parking among other facilities.

The highest pending dues are of SpiceJet and GoAir at Rs 33.74 crore and Rs 33.13 crore, respectively, sources said. While SpiceJet is making daily payment of Rs 60 lakh to settle the outstanding amount, GoAir made the latest payment to settle dues on November 25 of Rs 90 lakh.

GoAir and SpiceJet have been on cash and carry mode since August 11 and August 1, respectively.

It is important to note that GoAir had submitted a two-step plan to settle dues whereby it was to start making regular payments since October 2020 but it seems like that has been delayed a bit, sources said.

In fact, both GoAir and Alliance Air have not been making any payments to AAI to settle the pending dues. For Alliance Air, the regional arm of Air India, the total dues stand at Rs 12.22 crore, of which Rs 10.14 crore are dues up to June 2020 and Rs 2.08 crore are for the period with effect from July 2020.

AirAsia India is believed to have settled its dues up to June 2020 and its current dues to AAI stand at Rs 4.09 crore.

National carrier Air India is making payment of Rs 25 lakh daily to AAI on working days and its total dues stand at Rs 50.38 crore, of which Rs 4.32 crore are for period before July and Rs 46.06 crore are for the period with effect from July 1.

Its subsidiary Air India Express has cleared past dues up to June 2020 but its dues of the period starting July 2020 stand at Rs 3.59 crore.

India’s largest airline IndiGo and full-service carrier Vistara are the only two airlines which have cleared their dues up to June 2020 and current dues as well.

21/01/21 Anu Sharma/CNBC TV18

Centre mulls permitting domestic airlines to operate at full capacity: Report

The government and airlines are discussing the possibility of the latter operating their domestic services at full capacity.

However, airlines have requested the government to delay the permit since they will not be able to operate any more capacity profitably, Business Standard reported. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has currently permitted carriers to run domestic flights at 80 percent capacity, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The government intends to take things back to normalcy and that's why it is seeking suggestions to remove the cap on capacity from the middle of January. A decision will be taken soon," an official told the publication.

All airlines, except IndiGo, have asked the government to postpone such a decision till March, since forward-booking for the next three months is weak, the report said.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the story.

Domestic flight operations had resumed on May 25, 2020, after a gap of two months due to COVID-induced travel restrictions. The Centre had initially allowed airlines to operate at 33 percent capacity, which was subsequently increased in a staggered manner.

According to DGCA data, SpiceJet’s passenger load factor (PLF) was 78 percent in December 2020, while IndiGo's was 71.5 percent. Air India and Vistara recorded PLF of 66.9 percent and 66.8 percent respectively.


Privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport imminent

Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram airport has been privatised disregarding the protests by the airport staff and the state government, which had later lost steam. Now it’s only a matter of months before the winning concessionaire, Adani Enterprises Ltd (AEL), takes over the airport’s reins from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). 

A senior AAI officer said as per the request for proposal (RFP), AEL has to take over the airport within six months of signing the agreement. “AEL and AAI will then run the airport jointly for a year after which AEL will have to fully take over the control of the airport. It should offer at least 60 per cent of the jobs in the airport to existing AAI employees, who can either accept it or look for deputation to other AAI-controlled airports in India after rejecting AEL’s offer. It’s their choice,” said the officer. 

The government has been saying it would not cooperate with AEL as the airport was handed over disregarding the state’s request to retain it in the public sector or run it in PPP mode. AEL will have to make the government sign the state support agreement as it is vital for ensuring basic requirements like water, power and other utilities needed for the functioning of the airport. 

The state’s threats, however, will not pose a headache for AEL at least for now, for various reasons.First, the government cannot disconnect the basic services to the airport as it is currently functioning. Second, if the state insists that it would not sign the support agreement, AEL can take the legal route to get the required basic facilities. The state cannot go on stalling the deal as it would affect the airport’s operations and invite the wrath of people in southern districts. 

Moreover, a confrontation will not bode well for the airport. It urgently requires 18 acres of land from the Vallakadavu-Karali area for a new domestic terminal, the acquisition process of which is halfway. The airport, which only has a temporary licence now, has to extend the runway’s width by 150m on both sides. It requires around 13 acres of land from the BrahMos and Travancore Titanium Products sides for threshold lighting and increasing the length of Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs). For setting up a parallel taxiway, it requires land from the Chakka fire station side. These urgent needs require a coordinated effort from various Central and state agencies. 

21/01/21 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

IndiGo tightens grip in India and targets growth abroad

New Delhi/Sydney: India’s IndiGo has emerged as one of the world’s biggest airlines by capacity, aided by a swift recovery in the domestic aviation market to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels and the financial strength to boost market share as rivals struggle.

The airline is now the world’s seventh biggest by capacity and the largest outside the United States and China, according to data firm OAG. It is a rare bright spot in a battered global aviation industry, providing a lifeline to squeezed lessors and aircraft manufacturers by paying bills on time and in full.

IndiGo took 44 planes from Airbus SE last year - the most of any customer and topping Delta Air Lines Inc and China Southern Airlines Co Ltd - as it replaced older planes with more fuel-efficient newer models. It is also gearing up to expand its fleet further from 2023.

With a 52% domestic market share in 2020 versus 47% in 2019, and profitability in sight after a loss last fiscal year, IndiGo is expanding its reach to smaller Indian cities such as Ranchi, Patna and Gorakhpur to replace a fall in business travel on larger routes like New Delhi-Mumbai, CEO Ronojoy Dutta told Reuters.

It is also betting that faster growth and higher margins will come from non-stop flights to international destinations like Moscow, Cairo and Manila which it can reach with its narrowbody planes, eliminating the need to complicate its fleet with widebody aircraft.

“As things stabilise, I’m very optimistic that by the end of 2021, I think we’ll be totally back to normal,” Dutta said, referring to the calendar year rather than the financial year ending March 31.

“And I think 2022 will be a great year for us in terms of growth and profitability,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought global air travel to a halt, plunging airlines into the red. India imposed one of the toughest lockdowns and even now airlines can only fly 80% of their total capacity on domestic routes.

IndiGo already had free cash of 89.3 billion rupees ($1.22 billion) as of March 31, 2020, a week after India went into lockdown, which it bolstered by raising more than 30 billion rupees over the next six months through the sale and leaseback of some assets and other cost-cutting measures.

Once IndiGo can operate at full capacity, it wants to ramp up its utilisation rate to a breakeven level of around 12 hours per day, compared with 10 hours currently, said Dutta, adding it would also be able to fill more seats and reduce unit costs.

Parent Interglobe Aviation Ltd’s shares have doubled from pandemic lows in March 2020 to trade within 10% of their October 2019 record high.

Before the pandemic, IndiGo deployed around 25% of its capacity on international routes, where flights are now often restricted to certain countries or charters. This means it is currently operating only about 20% of international flights.

The international business typically offer margins around 10% higher than the price-sensitive domestic market, Dutta said, adding that for now IndiGo would expand using its narrowbody fleet, meaning places like London, where it has slots, are out.

IndiGo’s strong financial position relative to domestic and regional rivals like SpiceJet Ltd, Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd and Indonesia’s Lion Air should help it dominate flights within a seven-hour radius, some analysts say.

21/01/21 Reuters

2 million Covid vaccine doses from India reach Dhaka airport

Dhaka: Two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India arrived in Dhaka on Thursday as a gift from New Delhi.

The Air India charter flight 1232 from Mumbai carrying the consignment landed at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka at 11.20 a.m. on Thursday.

In a tweet, Indian Minister of External Affars S Jaishankar said: "Touchdown in Dhaka.

#VaccineMaitri reaffirms the highest priority accorded by India to relations with Bangladesh."

The vaccines which came as a gift will be handed over at a formal ceremony at State Guesthouse Padma on Thursday afternoon.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, Health Minister Zahid Maleque, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami and other high government officials will be in attendance.

The Serum Institute of India has produced the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drug maker AstraZeneca.

On January 8, Bangladesh approved the procurement of 30 million doses of Covishield vaccine from India.

"So, there would be plenty of vaccines in the country, we're quite assured now. We can start the vaccination programme ahead of the schedule," Momen told IANS.

Momen added that more countries including Russia and China, were interested in providing vaccines.

21/01/21 IANS/Times of India

Vistara Airlines Set To Launch Two Routes To Sharjah

Vistara is launching two new routes to Sharjah, UAE, expanding its presence in the country. The carrier plans to add flights from Delhi and Mumbai starting this week, in addition to its services to Dubai. Let’s find out more about these new flights and why Vistara is focusing on the Middle East.

Vistara officially inaugurated its first route to Sharjah yesterday, flying from New Delhi. Later this week, on January 24th, the airline will also begin operating its Mumbai-Sharjah route. Notably, both routes will operate every day, even more than Vistara’s current flights to Dubai (which are four-times-weekly).

Sharjah is the third-most populous city in the UAE and less than an hour away from the bustling Dubai. The city is home to over a million expatriates, many of whom are from India, making the city a prime market for both business and leisure travel. The last year has seen extremely high demand for flights between the Middle East and India as many expatriates return to or leave countries.

While Sharjah may have strong demand, it also comes with tough competition. Air India Express, a major operator to the Middle East, flies to Sharjah from 11 cities across India, including Delhi and Mumbai, giving it favorable connectivity. Additionally, IndiGo, GoAir, and Air Arabia also operate flights to Sharjah. Clearly, there is no shortage of competition on this route.

As mentioned, Vistara will operate one daily service each from Delhi and Mumbai to Sharjah, starting from this week. 

As international travel remains highly restricted due to the border closures, airlines have focused on routes from India to the Middle East. India currently has travel bubble agreements with several countries in the region (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and more), allowing for flights to operate relatively normally.

21/01/21 Pranjal Pande/Simple Flyhing

Second lot of Covid-19 vaccine reaches LBS airport

Varanasi: The second consignment of the vaccine against Covid-19 reached the district on Wednesday while the district administration and health department officials remained busy in finalizing preparations for the second round of vaccination to be conducted on Friday, Januray 22.

The consignment, containing 1,77,500 doses of the vaccine in 15 boxes reached LBS International Airport by a Vistara flight at 11.40am and was taken to the regional drugs warehouse amidst tight security arrangements. The officials started dispatching the share of each of 14 districts of Varanasi, Prayagraj, Mirzapur and Azamgarh divisions by late evening.

Talking to TOI, the district magistrate Kaushal Raj Shrama said, “With the arrival of the second lot of the vaccine, the district has now the stock for vaccinating 18,000 beneficiaries. As per the schedule finalised for vaccination, the next round of vaccination will be conducted on January 22 (Friday), 28 and 29. The number of sites and sessions for vaccination has been finalised with a target of administering Covid-19 vaccine to 3,000 on Friday while 7,500 beneficiaries will be covered on January 28 and 29, each.

21/01/21 Times of India

Airlines to reconnect Seychelles from March

Mumbai: From March-end, the Seychelles archipelago is set to be reconnected with India with airline flights flying non-stop between Mumbai and Mahe twice a week, said an Air Seychelles official, adding that an air travel bubble between the two countries has been signed. That would add another outbound destination to the teeny list of foreign destinations that Indian tourists, who rely solely on airline flights, can travel to during the pandemic.

Currently too Seychelles is open to Indian tourists -- those who fly into the island country onboard chartered flights or private aircraft with a negative RT-PCR test report in tow, that is. Tourists from India flying in on airline flights from March-end onwards too would need to carry a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate with the test taken maximum of 72 hours prior to departure, said a Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) official.

Seychelles, which recently launched its Covid vaccination programme, announced on Wednesday that the island country has “re-opened borders to all countries worldwide with immediate effect”. In the coming months, the country will be simplifying and relaxing some of the restrictive measures to relaunch its tourism industry.

21/01/21 Times of India

Qantas eyes direct flights to India for post-COVID growth

Qantas could launch direct flights to India as part of a new international network reshaped by COVID-19 as the airline seeks to tap into fresh opportunities in the post-COVID world.

Buoyed by a growing population and rapid economic development, India's middle class is set to soar from around 80 million today to a staggering 580 million people - or some 40% of the population – by 2025.

And while the country has in the past posed a challenge for Qantas, the tide – and the profit margin – could be turning.

"India is always a hard market to service, because Indian traffic is spread through so many different cities in India," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce reflected at the recent Reuters Next online forum.

"We've tried to serve it in a number of different ways previously – we had Sydney-Mumbai direct, and Sydney-Darwin-Mumbai at one stage when I was running the network for Qantas, and it never made any money."

"But we are always keeping an eye on it," Joyce said. "We think at some stage, India – with the traffic levels, the economic activity and the links with Australia – will get to a sustainable service, and we think when it reaches that points we’ll add it on."

Joyce said that as part of Qantas' flight path out of COVID-19 "we’re going to be looking for new international opportunities, and India’s just a matter of time... (but) we have to wait and see what happens after the COVID outbreak, which markets respond and grow back."

India is within reach of Qantas' Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 jets, and Qantas has already flown the Boeing 787 to New Delhi as a special charter service to bring home Australians stranded in India as international borders closed.

"Qantas is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities internationally, and we will have the flexibility to add capacity to markets where we think those opportunities are," he added.

Before the coronavirus, Air India offered the only direct link between Australia and India with flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New Delhi, while Oneworld member SriLankan flew between Melbourne and Colombo, with over a dozen onward flights across India.

21/01/21 David Flynn/ExecutiveTraveller

Five flights cancelled, 15 delayed

Ahmedabad: Fifteen flight departures were delayed from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International (SVPI) airport in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. These include flights to Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Bangalore, Goa, Hubli, Patna, Dehradun, Chandhigarh and Kishangarh.

That apart, flights were cancelled from the city airport. These include flights to Dubai (UAE), Sharjah (UAE), Mumbai along with those to Jammu and Darbhanga.. Flight operations, as is learnt from sources were hampered due to operational constraints as well as bad weather conditions in certain parts of the country.

21/01/21 Times of India

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sikkim: SpiceJet only airline to operate from Pakyong airport from January 23

Gangtok: Greenfield Airport in Pakyong, which has been stalled from operations since end of 2019, has been declared open for operations from January 23. SpiceJet, so far, is the only airline that has been onboard in Pakyong and for the future as well, it seems like it will the only airline catering to Delhi and Kolkata as declared earlier by the airline.

There is a specific technical reason for the same. With its high-altitude, table-top runway, Pakyong has for long struggled with visibility concern, resulting in air operations being stalled after a year-long operation since October 4, 2018. Now, to ease the visibility concern, Airport Authority of India has reached a consensus with Directorate General of Civil Aviation to introduce Required Navigation Performance System, specific to Pakyong Airport only in the country.

Required navigation performance (RNP) is a type of performance-based navigation (PBN) that allows an aircraft to fly a specific path between two 3D-defined points in space. A navigation specification that includes a requirement for on-board navigation performance monitoring and alerting is referred to as an RNP specification. Therefore, if ATC radar monitoring is not provided, safe navigation in respect to terrain shall be self-monitored by the pilot and RNP shall be used. RNP also refers to the level of performance required for a specific procedure or a specific block of airspace. An RNP of 10 means that a navigation system must be able to calculate its position to within a circle with a radius of 10 nautical miles.

According to Airport Authority of India, RNP is a metric of system navigational capability. "The Airports Authority of India is moving towards a performance-based national airspace system. In the future, your ability to fly in certain areas may be governed by ability to achieve precise navigational performance within specific tolerances. RNP 0.1 will be used for approaches, and it refers to 0.1 nautical mile accuracy. This accuracy may be achieved through various means (GPS, GAGAN, flight management system using automatic DME updates), but aircraft will be certified to a particular RNP. There are other requirements beyond accuracy that will be defined for each RNP operation before it is implemented".

"The same to be implemented for Pakyong Airport, requires 5 km of air region", informed AAI Director for Pakyong Airport Ramtanu Saha following a meeting with Indian Air Force Officials, AAI officials and officials from DGCA at Bagdogra Airport on Tuesday. "Pakyong is a dangerous place to have an airport, undoubtedly. It is a hilly area that is border sensitive. We have not been given the air region. We have approached for 5 km of the area with navigation through our own Air Traffic Control. Concerning the same the Limit of Authority agreement had to be signed. There were officials who had come from Eastern Region along with officials from Guwahati, Airport Authority of India. There are 2-3 air regions that will come in concern, with all their consent it was finally approved for RNP".

20/01/21 Pankaj Dhungel/EastMojo

Why The Next Round Of Airport Privatisation Will Be Different

The pandemic notwithstanding, at the end of 2020, the Government of India signalled its intentions towards the next round of privatisation.

This time, 12 airports are likely to be in the list. There have also been indications that the privatisation bids will be solicited where the airports could come coupled as six packages of two airports each.

The shortlist includes the airports of Amritsar, Bhubaneswar, Tiruchirappalli, Raipur, Indore and Varanasi which will be clubbed with airports at Barmer, Jharsuguda, Salem, Jagdalpur, Jabalpur and Kushinagar.

Even beyond this, this next round of airport privatisation promises to be different from the previous ones.

The current wave of privatisation will build on the PPP model and, perhaps, attempt to correct past mistakes where the outcomes have been very different from the objectives.

Whether it is the cost-overruns, the inequitable partnership or the fact that the consumers have paid for much of the infrastructure by ways of fees and charges, in essence, airports which function as geographic monopolies have been guaranteed a rate of return — much of which has been serviced by an increasing burden on the travelling public — which in turn has led to a feeling of profits being earned rather than deserved, in addition to the unwanted phenomenon of cartelisation.

No doubt, we have better airports, yet the development model has been a mismatch for the market.

Over the last 20 years, the levy of higher User Development Fees (UDF), Airport Development Fees (ADF) or in some cases “arrival fees” has left much to be desired.

Concurrently, investors have fared well as terms have progressively improved over the years — almost totally in favour of investors.

20/01/21 Satyendra Pandey/Swarajya

Over 500 sensors to ensure social distancing at Delhi airport when flights increase

New Delhi: A new passenger tracking system has been put in place at Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi to ensure social distancing even when more flights start operating.

The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), a GMR-led consortium, has installed 513 sensors at nine places in T3, including in all check-in rows, domestic and international security check areas and emigrations in the departure areas. Another 16 sensors will be installed at the entry gates.

These sensors will alert 200 marshals and ground staff personnel at the terminal when physical distancing norms are flouted.

“This has been done keeping in mind the anticipated increase in air traffic after air bubbles are broken and normalcy is restored,” a representative of DIAL, who didn’t wish to be named, told ThePrint.

The sensors have been installed to add to Delhi airport’s existing Xovis Passenger Tracking System (PTS), a queue management system that provides live forecasts of waiting time to passengers at various places like check-in halls, arrival pier junction, security check area, immigration, and inside the terminal. 

20/01/21 Shubhangi Misra/Print

KIA gets Health Accreditation by Airport Council International

Bengaluru: The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) run by Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) has received Airport Health Accreditation by Airport Council International. 
 The BIAL said the certification was a recognition of the commitment to the safety of passengers, employees and the general public. The AHA certification was established to restore confidence in travellers about the safety of airport facilities and the effectiveness of the precautionary measures implemented to prevent risk to their health while passing through an airport. 
 The BIAL had introduced contactless processing and hygiene measures for a sanitised experience at the airport. Cargo volumes at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) touched 33,053 Metric Tonnes (MT) in December 2020, the highest tonnage for the month since the airport commenced operations in 2008. This was achieved by working in close coordination with the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), the Ministry of Finance and cargo partners – Air India SATS and Menzies Aviation Bobba Bengaluru Pvt Limited, BIAL said in a statement. 
 20/01/21 UNI

Low fare carriers extend special fares to bolster demand

Low fare carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and AirAsia India have extended the date of special sales, as they try to bolster demand in the upcoming lean travel season.

IndiGo’s website showed domestic fares as low as Rs 877. Bookings for the sale are open between Jan 13 to 24 (extended from the earlier last date of Jan 17) for travel between April 1 to September 30, 2021. IndiGo also offered a fee as low as Rs 500 on the first change for travel during the travel period. 

AirAsia India and SpiceJet’s website showed all inclusive fares of Rs 899 for a similar booking (Jan 22) and travel period. SpiceJet also offered vouchers equivalent to the base fare amount or up to a maximum of Rs 1,000 per customer, per flight. AirAsia India is also selling other routes such as Kochi to Bangalore at ₹1,281, Mumbai to Goa at ₹1,875, Delhi to Kolkata at ₹2,501 and Delhi to Mumbai at ₹2,576.

20/01/21 Anirban Chowdhury/Economic Times

Ex-Desert Knight 21: Rafale to roar over Jodhpur skies during Indo-French air exercise

Jodhpur: The Indian Air Force has deployed its Rafale, Sukhoi and Mirage 2000 combat jets besides other key assets in a five-day mega air exercise with French air and space force that begins near Jodhpur on Wednesday. The Indian Air Force (IAF) said its deployment at the 'Ex-Desert Knight 21' will also include IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft as well as airborne warning and control system (AWACS).

"The French side will participate with Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft," it said, adding around 175 French personnel will be part of the exercise.

The IAF deployment in the exercise will include Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft and the AWACS.

The drill is taking place at a time the IAF has been keeping all its frontline bases across the country in a high state of operational readiness in view of the Sino-India border row in eastern Ladakh.

"The exercise is unique as it includes fielding of Rafale aircraft by both sides and is indicative of the growing interaction between the two premier air forces," the IAF said in a statement.

"As the two detachments commence their air exchange from January 20 onwards, they will put into practice operational experience gained across terrains and spectrums and endeavour to exchange ideas and best practices to enhance interoperability" it said.

20/01/21 PTI/India TV

UAE-India flights for as low as Dh300 announced

Sharjah: Sharjah carrier Air Arabia is offering flight tickets to India for as low as Dh300 one-way all inclusive.

The discounted fares come at a time when forecasts for the rebounding of UAE's travel and tourism sector continue to strengthen.

The airline also recently announced a free global Covid-19 cover for all passengers travelling on its flights from Sharjah.

This cover is automatically included with the booking and no additional documents are required from passengers.

Valid for 31 days from the day of departure on the itinerary, it also includes medical expenses and quarantine costs.

20/01/21 IANS/Gulf News

NDMA begins training for AAI stafff

Chennai: Chennai Airport, in collaboration with NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), has launched a three-day training on CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) emergency management for Airport Authority of India (AAI) staff and its stakeholders on Tuesday.

GVV Sarma, member secretary, NDMA, inaugurated the programme in the presence of CV Deepak, airport director, Chennai, KVK Sriram, deputy inspector general, CISF, the senior officials of AAI, and the TN Fire and Rescue Services. 

Sarma, while delivering the inaugural address, stressed on the importance of effective disaster response based on immaculate theoretical and practical know-how and ways of communicating to the media and the public. 

20/01/21 New Indian Express

India- The future Drone Hub of The World

The Indian commercial UAS market is expected to touch $885.7 million, making it about 4% of the nearly $21.47 billion global market. At the same time, it accounts for 20% of global imports of UAS, making it the fifth-largest importer of drones. This indicates the presence of demand beyond the military.

With steady progress in the regulatory framework in India, the demand for Drone Solutions and Services are rocketing upwards. The requirement of skilled pilots is ever-growing in this industry. Indian Institute of Drones provides the nation’s highest quality drone training with a simple yet comprehensive model for enterprise clients, government agencies, public safety departments, and individuals.

Equipped with a highly trained staff that have many years of experience in the aviation industry and also in the drone industry, primarily from the defence background with certifications from the Ministry of Defence through their respective wings (Army, Navy or Air Force) the instructors aim at nurturing the rapidly growing UAV (Drone) market in the civilian sector. Drones are going to use the same airspace which is used by manned aircraft and hence it is important to have trained pilots who have expertise in the application-based use case of drones.

The Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation has repeatedly mentioned his goal of making India the Drone Hub of the world, which will require a self-sufficient ecosystem to be created in the country.

With an increasing number of drone projects and government tenders, an estimated 70,000 drone pilots will be needed by 2022.

Indian Institute of Drones with its headquarters in Delhi NCR has expanded its training centres to 13 franchises across India covering Noida, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Dehradun, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Bharuch, Guwahati, Vijayawada, Vishakhapatnam and Kozhikode.

Indian Institute of Drones strives to enhance the future of the youth with unprecedented

standards in interactive teaching and practical training in the field of unmanned systems

technology. IID invites individuals and organizations to get trained on drones at any of our centres.

20/01/21 Suas News

SpiceJet ties-up with Adani Ahmedabad International

Kolkata: With the launch of the biggest vaccination drive in India in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, SpiceJet, the country’s favourite airline, has taken yet another step forward and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Adani Ahmedabad International Airport Limited (AAIAL) which operates Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to provide seamless transportation of Covid-19 vaccine. 
 As part of this association, AAIAL will handle the acceptance, warehousing of Covid-19 vaccines and provide temperature controlled facility, plug points in the warehouse and airside and maintain the cold chain from acceptance to the airside and vice versa ensuring smooth handling of vaccines. 
 On the other hand, SpiceJet’s cargo arm, SpiceXpress, will provide rapid and secure transportation of Covid-19 vaccine in India and international markets with proper temperature-controlled mechanism under the MoU. Ajay Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet, said, “The success of the biggest vaccination drive largely depends upon the transport, storage and distribution of vaccines to every part of the world without any major challenges.
 At SpiceJet, we are ensuring no stones are left unturned in making this drive a remarkable success and our latest tie-up with Adani Ahmedabad International Airport Limited is another step in that direction which would help in the seamless transportation of the Covid-19 vaccine.” Behnad Zandi, CEO – Adani Airport Group, said, “We are humbled to be part of this vaccination drive by utilising our core competencies in the logistics sector and infusing innovative solutions as cargo terminal operators at SVPI Airport. We are committed to ensuring seamless transportation of vaccines through our terminal.”  
As part of its continued efforts to take up the responsibility of transporting Covid-19 vaccines to every part of the country as well as outside India, SpiceJet has partnered with Brussels Airport, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo, Om Logistics Ltd., Snowman Logistics among others. 
 With a network spanning 54 domestic and 45 international destinations and a fleet of 17 cargo planes, SpiceXpress is capable of flying over 500 tonnes of cargo per day to both domestic and a wide list of international destinations. The airline has also tied up with global leaders in cold chain solutions offering active and passive packaging with dedicated equipment to perform seamless cold chain operations. 
20/01/21 UNI

'Give priority to airport staffers for Covid jabs'

New Delhi: The Association of Private Airport Operators (APAO) has asked the health ministry to include all airport employees in the priority list for Covid vaccination drive “to ensure the wellbeing of both the staff members as well as the traveling public.”

Pointing out that people working at airports “have been frontline warriors … even as they faced dual risks of infection and social ostracism given the panic in the broader society during the time (early months of Covid),” the association has told the government “inoculating airport staff would help minimise possible risk of infection during air travel due to asymptomatic carriers.”

Scheduled domestic air travel is beginning to revive and international operations are happening under air bubble arrangements wither 20 countries and Vande Bharat Mission. “With the government’s focus on unlocking the broader economy, there has been an increasing trend in air travel as well… daily footfalls at the nation’s airports (are) consistently exceeding 4 lakh in recent days,” APAO secretary-general Satyan Nayar has said in a letter to Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

APAO members are the PPP airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin, and greenfield airports coming up in Navi Mumbai and Mopa in Goa. These airports together handle over 60% of India’s total air passenger and 70% of air cargo traffic.

20/01/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

Business travel has structurally changed: IndiGo CEO

United Airlines, Air Canada, US Airways, and Air Sahara were Ronojoy Dutta’s stamping grounds, before taking over as chief executive officer of InterGlobe Aviation, which owns IndiGo, in January 2019. Since then, it hasn’t been clear blue skies for the 68-year-old: the airline’s promoters fought and Covid-19 stalled air travel. But Dutta now sees tailwinds emerging. Edited excerpts >>

Revamped plaza premium lounge opened at Hyderabad Airport

Hyderabad: A revamped plaza premium lounge has been opened at Hyderabad Airport on Tuesday. It is spread over 773 square meters.

As per the Hindu report, the lounge that is located at the domestic departure section provides a view to the airport runway. It can accommodate 222 passengers.

The lounge has facilities such as Wi-Fi, seating arrangement for VIPs etc. It also has facilities to relax such as massage, shower etc.

In the dining area, passengers can avail the services provided by live food counters.

In the lounge, passengers can view the flight information on the screens.

As per the press release, the plaza premium lounge at Hyderabad Airport is not only safe and hygiene but also secure as it is monitored 24×7 through CCTVs.

Apart from the revamped lounge, the airport has recently, introduced the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled smart baggage trolleys. It is the India’s first Airport to deploy IoT for tracking and maintaining the availability of baggage trolleys for passengers in the real-time across the airport.

Meanwhile, the airport is leading the revival of the aviation sector in India post the Covid-induced lockdown. It is witnessing a steady increase in the number of passengers and air traffic.

20/01/21 Sameer/Siasat Daily

COVID-19: Vaccine shipment from India arrives in Maldives

The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines extended by the Indian government, on Wednesday, arrived at Velana International Airport (VIA) at approximately 1440 hrs.

The Indian consignment, delivered via an Air India flight, contained Oxford Astrazeneca's COVISHIELD vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India, which are intended to cover frontline health workers and senior citizens.

Indian High Commissioner to Maldives Sunjay Sudhir handed over the shipment of vaccines in a special ceremony held at VIA.

In his speech, the high commissioner stated that the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines marked another milestone in India-Maldives bilateral relations. He emphasized the fact that Maldives had received the vaccine within 96 hours of its country-wide rollout in India.

High Commissioner Sudhir concluded his address by expressing hope that the vaccine would help Maldives to save lives, ameliorate the suffering of the Maldivian people and facilitate economic recovery.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid and Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem also spoke at the event, expressing gratitude to Prime Minister Modi and Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar for the generous donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Maldives.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih welcomed the donation from India in a video message broadcast across the nation ahead of the delivery, describing it as a step forward in Maldives' efforts to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president conveyed gratitude to the Indian government, people and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on behalf of himself and the Maldivian government.

He went on to express hope that all citizens and foreign individuals in Maldives would be immunized for free in the upcoming months.

20/01/21 Mariyam Malsa/Edition

AirAsia India extends its Flash Sale with fares as low as ₹877

Kolkata: Encouraging forward bookings with a #TimeToTravel campaign while announcing new domestic routes, AirAsia India today announced the extension of its Flash Sale with attractive fares with fares starting from ₹877. 
 The Flash Sale booking period has been extended till 22nd January with special fares for travel between 1 April and 30 Sep 2021. Guests can also pick from a host of other popular destinations with attractive fares such as Kochi to Bangalore at ₹1,281, Mumbai to Goa at ₹1,875, Delhi to Kolkata at ₹2,501 and Delhi to Mumbai at ₹2,576. 
 AirAsia India recently conducted a travel intent survey to unearth travel trends and analyse ‘Travel Behaviours, Preferences and Intent’ based on responses from over 2500 individuals. Expressing confidence in air travel, respondents ranked travel by flight as one of the lowest Covid risk activities. As an even more gratifying testament, risk levels were rated even lower by those who have flown recently and experienced the evident efforts by airlines and airports to ensure safe and contactless travel. Interestingly, Goa had topped the list as the most preferred holiday destination. 
AirAsia India has been on an expansion spree, adding three new Airbus A320neos and new routes, with the latest being a new connection between Pune, Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. As part of its efforts to make travel safe and convenient for its guests, AirAsia India launched a host of services for its guests, the latest being, ‘Extra Seat’, allowing guests to reserve an additional seat to enjoy a hassle-free and comfortable flying experience. 
 20/01/21 UNI

GoAir airlifts 15,91,000 doses of COVID vaccine to various destinations

Wadia Group-owned no-frills airline GoAir has airlifted 15,91,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to various destinations from Mumbai, Pune and Chennai on Wednesday in the second phase of vaccine transportation amid the on-going inoculation drive in the country.

GoAir is operating flights carrying the vaccine doses to Lucknow, Chennai, Cochin, Port Blair and Kolkata on Wednesday, it said.

In the first phase, which started from January 13, the city-headquartered air operator transported a total of 7,20,000 doses to five destinations.

"Vaccine transportation continues our on-going work since the beginning of the first movement to keep critical supply-chain operating, meet the increased level of domestic delivery and ship more than seven lakh across India,” GoAir Chief Executive Officer, Kaushik Khona said in a statement to PTI.

According to the airline, it transported 18,000 doses of the vaccine to Goa from Mumbai on its flight G8-308, which landed in Goa at 6.30 am and another flight carrying 94,000 doses arrived at Lucknow from Mumbai at 8.20 am on Wednesday.

20/01/21 PTI/

Vaccine flights: SpiceJet freighter arm adds two more wide body planes

New Delhi: Betting big on carrying Covid vaccines and medical supplies from India to distant parts of the world, SpiceJet has added two more wide body aircraft — a Boeing 767 and an Airbus A330 which can carry up to 45 tonnes of cargo — to its cargo fleet. The low cost airline’s freighter arm SpiceXpress now has 19 cargo planes including five wide bodies.

SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh said: “The need for wide body planes to deliver vaccines and other important cargo has never been more important than today. To cater to this increased demand on long-haul routes, we have inducted two more wide-body jets taking our total cargo fleet size to 19 including five wide-body aircraft.”

“With a mix of wide-body, narrow-body and turboprop cargo aircraft, SpiceJet has ensured seamless delivery of cargo supplies to both international and remote domestic destinations and we will work towards further strengthening our cargo operations in the times to come,” Singh added.

The airline says the two more wide-body freighters have been inducted “primarily for transporting cargo goods, medical and essential supplies on long-haul routes including to destinations in Europe and North America. With the latest induction, SpiceXpress aims to further strengthen its cargo fleet while providing a seamless and secure transportation of Covid-19 vaccine.”

20/01/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

A pilot and aviation safety expert talks about volunteering for phase 3 trial of Chinese vaccine Sinopharm

Safety, and the importance of effective communication, comes naturally for Amit Singh, a veteran pilot. Also an aviation safety expert, Singh is an avid blogger, who investigates aircraft incidents and accidents, including the Kozhikode air crash in August last year.

That is why when an opportunity came to volunteer for the phase three trial of a COVID-19 vaccine, Singh made the most of it. Based in Bahrain, Singh had in September last year taken part in the third phase trial of Sinopharm, the vaccine from China.

"It was volunteering for a good cause, and is like part of the other things I do around safety. For something that has impacted the globe, this was my way of contributing," says Singh, who is also a Fellow of London's Royal Aeronautical Society.

Bahrain, like other countries in the Middle East,  had approved the use of the Chinese vaccine after third phase trial on over 40,000 participants. Singh was one of them.

"It is also good for overall safety, to have antibodies, rather than have nothing. And even though it was a trial, I didn't expect things to go bizarre," says Singh, who runs NGO Safety Matters in India.  He was duly informed about the process and the possible side-effects, and was strictly monitored.

"I was told I may feel fatigued. But I didn't feel a thing," says Singh. Pilots are not allowed to fly for 48 hours after they get a jab. The process is repeated after the second dose. "There were many swabs taken and blood tests conducted. All parameters were tracked," he says.

Like in any trial, Singh wasn't told if he was given the vaccine or the placebo. But the fact that he didn't get the rudimentary call at the end of the trial  - which is done if one hasn't developed antibodies after a shot - Singh understood he has got the vaccine. Once the vaccination drive began, his family too got the doses.

Was the family worried about the adverse reaction incidents related to vaccines across the world, including in India?

"Just like a crash in a million flights doesn't stop anyone from flying, one adverse reaction shouldn't hold anyone back from taking COVID-19 vaccines, says Singh.

In India, however, the vaccination drive has seen many health professionals backing out, with many citing reservations on Covaxin, the vaccine that was approved without completing third phase trial. Some of the volunteers who were part of an ongoing trial alleged they weren't duly informed about the vaccine.

20/01/21 Prince Mathews Thomas/Moneycontrol

How a 'gentle soul' ended up living in a US airport security zone for three months

After coming to the United States five years ago to complete a master’s degree program, Aditya Singh said goodbye to his friends in California on October 19 and boarded a Chicago-bound flight from Los Angeles to begin his journey home to India.

He never made it. In a troubling series of events that raises security questions at one of the world’s busiest airports, authorities allege Singh lived undetected for nearly three months at O’Hare until this past weekend, when someone finally noticed and alerted police.

On Monday, he remained in the Cook County Jail on charges alleging felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft. He is due in court January 27.

Singh, 36, lived in the secure area with access to terminals, shops and food at O’Hare International Airport until his arrest Saturday after two United Airlines employees asked to see his identification, prosecutors said. He showed them an airport ID badge that an operations manager had reported missing on October 26.

Police said Singh told them that the coronavirus pandemic left him too afraid to fly and so he instead remained in the airport, often relying on the kindness of strangers to buy him food. His arrest made national headlines, with comparisons to the 2004 Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal.

In a statement, the Chicago Department of Aviation said on Monday that there is “no higher priority” than airport safety and security, which is maintained by a “coordinated and multilayered law enforcement network”.

“While this incident remains under investigation, we have been able to determine that this gentleman did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the travelling public,” the statement read. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners on a thorough investigation of this matter.”

An airport official told the Tribune it is unclear if Singh stole the badge or found it. After it was reported missing, the badge would have been deactivated, according to the official, who said if Singh attempted to use it to enter a restricted area, his access would be denied and an alarm would trigger.

There is no indication that Singh left the secured side of the airport, the airport official said.

Singh completed a master’s programme at Oklahoma State University and had been living since summer 2019 in Orange, California, southeast of Los Angeles, in the home of Carl Jones, who said he offered Singh a place to live in exchange for helping him care for his elderly father and other odd jobs.

Jones told the Tribune that Singh’s visa was expiring, so he planned in October to return to India, where his mother lives. Jones described Singh as a “very gentle soul” who often volunteered helping the homeless. The two last spoke October 19 when, Jones said, Singh confirmed he had arrived safely in Chicago and was on his way to India.

“I’m kind of flabbergasted,” Jones said when told about Singh’s arrest. “Maybe he got to Chicago and due to some sort of hiccup couldn’t get any farther or just freaked out about having to go back to India, I don’t know. But, as far as I know, he was supposed to be just laying over and going to India.”

The two met through Mary Steele, who said she has known Singh since 2018, when she travelled between Oklahoma and California for various religious and political activism events. Singh, whom she described as deeply spiritual, had another year left after graduation before his visa expired and wanted to “go west,” and so she connected him with Jones.

Steele also lived in Jones’ house, but she said she last saw Singh in August because she was travelling. The two spoke on the phone and texted several times since October, and Steele said she did not believe her friend when he told her in late November that he was living in the airport as part of a spiritual awakening of sorts.

“I believed him the first couple weeks after I found out, but then I was thinking to myself it’s just not possible with all the security that he was in that airport that long,” she said.

Steele shared a series of texts with the Tribune that she said were exchanged between her and Singh as she repeatedly offered him support to return to California. He even snapped a couple of photos that he sent her, including one of himself wearing a face mask and one of passengers sitting in a United Airlines terminal.

On December 1, he wrote: “I need to complete my karmic lessons that I’m learning here. Then I’ll be able to go back home to India.” Singh said he enjoyed speaking to other people in the airport, sharing his Buddhist and Hindu beliefs on healing and trying to help improve their lives, according to Steele.

Shortly before his arrest, she said, Singh told her he planned to return to California with the goal of getting to India. The two discussed bus fare prices, and Steele offered to help. In a January 3 response, Singh texted: “I’m actually growing spiritually due to this experience and I know I will come out stronger.”

Singh does not have a criminal record, authorities said. It is unclear if he actually had a plane ticket to India after reaching O’Hare, but Steele said he told her his plan was to call his mother after arriving in Chicago, and that she would arrange for his continued journey back home.

20/01/21 Christy Gutowski/Chicago Tribune/Stuff

Flight ops at Patna airport hit due to dense fog

Patna: As low visibility conditions continue to disrupt schedule at the Patna airport, two flights each of IndiGo and SpiceJet could not take off due to fog late on Monday evening. On Tuesday, the first flight landed at 11.58 am, owing to poor visibility.

With the minimum runway visual range visibility dropping below 500m at 9 pm on Monday, SpiceJet’s SG 768 Bengaluru to Patna was diverted to Kolkata first, however, it reached Patna at 9.45 but the flight (SG-767) could not take off for Bengaluru, forcing its passengers to spend the night at the airport. IndiGo’s flight 6E- 5373 Mumbai-Patna also failed to operate due to bad weather. Both flights left the city for its destination on late Tuesday afternoon.

Irked by the cancellation, several flyers vented their anger on social media. One flyer Siddharth wrote on Twitter, “Extremely chaotic situation at Patna Airport. Now SG 767 has been called cancelled. No alternate solution provided by the airlines (sic).”

Another flyer, Rahul Kumar, who hails from Jehanabad said he spent the night at Patna airport as he got no accommodation in Patna. “No arrangement was made by SpiceJet for the passengers. The IndiGo airlines provided a facility to stay for their passengers, but we were left on our own to deal with the situation as if it was our fault. The flight departed on Tuesday at 1 pm for Bengaluru,” he complained.

The airport’s deputy general manager (air traffic management), Santosh Kumar said two flights were diverted on Monday due to fog while the flight operations were also affected on Tuesday morning owing to poor visibility.

According to weathermen at the Patna Meteorological Centre, the minimum visibility dropped to 50metre at 8.30 am while it was around 500m at 10 am and 600m at 11 am on Tuesday. “The required RVR visibility of 1,000m (800m general visibility) was achieved after 11.30 am and the flight operations started at 11.50 am,” a weatherman Kamal Singh Gupta said.

IndiGo’s 6E- 345 between Bengaluru and Patna was the first flight that arrived at the city airport at 11.58 am, which was supposed to reach at 11.35 am. While six flights before 6E-345 were re-scheduled and landed after 12.30 pm.

20/01/21 Faryal Rumi/Times of India

Second batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrive at Kochi airport

The second batch of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) on Wednesday morning. A GoAir flight carrying 22 boxes of vaccine landed at Kochi airport at 11:15 am carrying 3,60,500 doses of vaccines.

According to the health officials, 12 boxes of the consignment are allotted for Ernakulam district and nine boxes will be sent to Kozhikode. One box is meant for Lakshadweep. The boxes for Ernakulam and Kozhikode were transported by freezer trucks. The box containing vaccine for Lakshadweep was ramp transferred to a Pawan Hans which departed for the Island immediately.

According to sources, each box contains 9500 doses of vaccines. “The doses for the five districts including Palakkad, Thrissur, Idukki and Kottayam will be distributed by evening,” said a health official.

During the first phase, Ernakulam district received 1.80 lakh doses. The vaccine was packed in 15 boxes with 12000 doses each.

The storage facility for the vaccine vials in its required temperatures has been arranged at four centres in the districts. The health department vehicles transported the vials to the storage centres immediately after the consignment was unloaded from the aircraft.

20/01/21 New Indian Express

How wrong side driving is causing road accidents after private airline pilot's death on Dwarka Expressway

New Delhi: In a tragic incident, a private airline pilot died after being hit by a truck coming from the wrong side on the Dwarka Expressway near Chintals Corporate Park. The tragic incident occurred on Sunday night.  According to police, the incident took place around 12.20 am when 38-year-old pilot Anmol Verma was returning from the airport to his residence in Sector 109. 

The pilot had reached the Dwarka Expressway near Sector-114 when a trailer coming from the wrong direction hit his car from the front. The pilot, who was seriously injured, was rushed to a private hospital by some passersby. The pilot’s Honda accord car was completely damaged due to the impact of the collision.

Police said that the accident was so terrible that although the airbags of the car worked perfectly, the pilot was injured critically and later died in hospital during treatment. The trailer truck driver abandoned his vehicle and is still on the run. However, the police have impounded the truck carrying Haryana registration plate. A case of rash driving under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered at Bajghera police station against the absconding driver, the police said.

Zee News editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary, in his highly popular prime time show DNA, raised the issue of deaths due to wrong side driving and rampant violation of traffic rules by people in India.  

The victim was originally from Ambala. The pilot was living in Gurugram along with his mother, wife and two months old son for the last few months.  Anmol had joined the Merchant Navy as an engineer and later became a pilot.

The show highlighted how an innocent family will have to bear the loss of Anmol throughout their life due to careless driving by the accused truck driver. “One truck ignored traffic rules ... and as a result, a family will now suffer,’’ the Zee News Editor said. 

20/01/21 ZeeNews

Constructions company chief caught with Rs 10 lakh cash at Bengaluru airport

Bengaluru: For the second consecutive day, cash running into lakhs was seized by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at Bengaluru airport from the hand baggage of a flyer.

The managing director of a constructions company, who is a native of Karnataka, was caught with Rs 10 lakh in his hand baggage on Wednesday afternoon before he could board a flight to Hyderabad.

According to an airport source, the incident took place at 12.50 pm in the domestic security hold area of the Kempegowda International Airport. The passenger Pitchikala Venkateshwara Rao was supposed to travel to Hyderabad by Flight No AI 0568, which had a scheduled departure time of 2 pm.

"During screening of his hand baggage in the domestic security hold area, a CISF officer got suspicious and diverted the bag for physical check. When the officer checked the bag physically, he found Rs 10 lakh in Indian currency," said the source. The Income Tax department has been alerted about it for further action, the source added.

According to an Air India source, "We do not have a specific limit on cash to be carried on our domestic flight but there needs to be substantial documentary evidence to establish the source of the cash."

20/01/21 New Indian Express

Rs 74 lakh seized from customs officer, wife at airport

Bengaluru: A high drama ensued at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) on Tuesday morning when an off-duty customs officer flying to Lucknow refused to open his cabin luggage for security check and amid his altercation with the CISF personnel, his wife, who was in the queue for frisking, suddenly ran to the restroom complaining of dizziness.

It was subsequently found that the officer was carrying Rs 74 lakh unaccounted cash and expensive gadgets and jewellery and his wife had hidden Rs 10 lakh cash and two iPhones in an airport bathroom to evade the authorities.

KIA sources said the incident unfolded around 9.30am when the man, identified as Mohammed Irfan Ahmed, 35, a customs superintendent posted in Chennai with 11 years’ experience, and his wife Mumtaz Tahzeem, were attempting to clear security check to fly to Lucknow.

CISF officers on duty spotted something unusual inside his handbag and attempted to physically inspect it, but he refused to cooperate. He tried to use his official position to wriggle out of the formality, but the officers did not budge.

20/01/21 Petlee Peter/Times of India

Mumbai: Customs intercepts Dubai passenger with gold worth Rs 18 lakh in luggage wheels at Mumbai Airport

In a unique modus operandi to smuggle gold, the Mumbai customs intercepted a passenger arriving from Dubai while smuggling gold in the wheels of his luggage at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA).

According to the customs, a passenger was intercepted which led to the recovery of sixteen pieces of “washer shaped” and mercury coated gold. The round shaped gold pieces weighing 400 grams and valued at Rs 17.96 lakh which were concealed in wheels of two trolley baggage. In the past, the customs have found smugglers concealing the metal in their footwear, mobile phones, suitcases, undergarments, clothes and even their rectums.

Smugglers keep finding newer ways to hoodwink the authorities at the airport and this method is the latest in a string of hidden-gold hijinks at the CSMIA.

Sources stated that some passengers deliberately avoid paying customs duty while bringing gold from abroad as payment of the duty will offset the cost advantage as gold is cheaper in some other countries.

The agency has been taking actions for possession, carriage, concealment, recovery and smuggling gold into India without payment of proper customs duty and in contravention of the provisions of The Customs Act. Last week, the Mumbai Customs intercepted a passenger who had also arrived from Dubai carrying twenty units of Apple iPhone Pro Max and gold dust worth Rs 83 lakh at the CSMIA.

20/01/21 Pratik Salunke/Free Press Journal