Thursday, August 06, 2020

Air India Express announces pay cuts for employees after 88% drop in revenues

New Delhi : Following a massive decline in revenues of 88 per cent up to July because of the Covid impact, Air India Express has announced a rationalisation scheme for pay cuts for employees, with pilot allowances reduced by 40 per cent.
The scheme is similar to what has been implemented by its parent company, Air India.
In a office circular dated August 5, T. Vijayakrishnan, Chief of HR, said that the company, along with other aviation companies, has been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Consequently, the airline’s revenues up to the month of July have declined as much as 88 per cent,” the circular said.
In order to meet the payment commitments to banks, aircraft lessors and other key vendors, the airline has been forced to increase its working capital borrowings. It has been taking measures to cut costs and fixed charges on the meagre earnings through renegotiation of contracts with all key vendors.
“As you all may be aware, Air India, our parent company, has also implemented a rationalisation scheme to reduce the funds outflow in terms of compensation to employees,” the circular said.
It has received directions from the Civil Aviation Ministry and parent company to implement a similar rationalisation exercise in Air India Express as its situation is no different at this point of time.
“It is therefore necessary for all of us in Air India Express to accept commensurate sacrifice in our monthly remunerations, until the adverse effect of Covid pandemic on our operations/revenues substantially wears off,” Vijayakrishnan said.
The allowances of pilots has been reduced by 40 per cent. These include flying allowances, special pay and layover allowances.
For ground employees, there will be no reduction for emoluments up to Rs 25,000, 5 per cent reduction up to the grade of Senior Officers and reduction of 7.5 per cent of gross emoluments for employees above this level, going up to CEO.
07/08/20 Siasat Daily

India's jet fuel exports seen extending declines on refinery works, weak demand

Singapore: India's jet fuel exports which dropped almost 60% in June from a year earlier are expected to keep falling at least through August as refineries undergo maintenance and global demand weakens, market participants and analysts said.

Register Now India and the rest of South Asia will have refinery outages totaling 1.775 million b/d in August, with 1.425 million b/d of run cuts due to the COVID-19 impact on demand, S&P Global Platts Analytics said in a Aug. 3 report.
India refineries ran at 4.5 million b/d in June to meet increased demand following the end of the lockdown at the end of May, it said. That helped to push India's jet fuel exports down for a fourth consecutive month in June, to 255,000 mt, data from the country's Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) showed July 31.

Refineries under maintenance include Reliance, which has taken a 350,000 b/d CDU offline at its export-oriented second refinery in Jamnagar for one month starting July 20, according to Platts Analytics. The IOCL Paradip refinery (300 MB/D) was scheduled to go offline for two weeks as of July 25, it said. "Thus we would not expect utilization rates to get near to usual rates of 100% during 3Q 2020," Platts Analytics said.

Exports have been falling as domestic refiners maintained low production as international flight capacities remained severely curtailed on the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 31, the country's aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation announced that its existing ban on flights to and from the country would be extended to Aug. 31 due to COVID-19. The suspension of international flights had been due to end July 31.

India's jet fuel output in June was 359,000 mt, down 3.5% from May and the lowest since PPAC began collecting the data in 2010.

"Demand is not looking great," an industry source said Aug. 5. "There are still a number of jet fuel barrels floating around and sellers are holding on the contango value and waiting to sell when it flips [into backwardation]."

As of 0700 GMT Aug. 5, brokers pegged the balance month August/September Singapore jet fuel/kerosene timespread at minus 54 cents/b, widening 3 cents/b from its earlier estimates of minus 51 cents/b at 0300 GMT Aug. 5.

"Apart from this, refineries are reducing jet output because there's hardly any demand," the source said.
Efforts by Indian authorities to bring stranded citizens back from overseas via repatriate flights, otherwise known as the Vande Bharat Mission, could lead to some respite for the jet fuel market.
05/08/20 Ng Jing Zhi, Su Yeen Cheong/S&P Global
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Mumbai Airport scam: HC allows pvt firm''s MD to appear before CBI via video conferencing

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday allowed managing director of a private firm, accused of irregularities amounting to Rs 705 crore in the running of the Mumbai airport, to appear before the CBI for questioning through video conferencing.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru allowed the request after the CBI conceded that Sartaj Ali, MD of Nice Projects Ltd, is not required to travel outside Delhi and the probe agency’s officials will examine him either through video conferencing or at his Delhi residence.

The court was informed that Ali was 67-year-old and had various health issues and due to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, he be allowed to join the investigation only from his house.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, representing Ali, submitted that he was a senior citizen and susceptible to contact COVID-19, if mandated to travel from Delhi to Mumbai as it will include transit at airports and flights and shall involve him to stay there.

In the petition filed through advocates Urfee Haider and Kunal Srivastava, Ali has challenged the CBI notice directing him to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), EOW branch, Mumbai and produce certain documents.

The court, which disposed of the petition, was informed that he has already submitted the documents to the CBI.

Advocate Anupam S Sharma, appearing for the CBI, told the court that the agency officials were ready to examine Ali through video conferencing.

Regarding the petitioner’s plea that a lawyer shall be permitted to be present at the time of interrogation by the CBI, the court said as Ali was being made to join through video conferencing and not being made to appear physically in Mumbai, hence this question of law is kept open.
05/08/20 PTI/Outlook

Panaji: Air travelers to compulsorily carry COVID negative report

Panaji: The Goa airport on Wednesday, August 5 issued advisory for the inbound passengers making it mandatory to carry COVID-19 negative certificate during their travel to the coastal state.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI), which manages the facility, has also said that those who do not carry COVID-19 negative certificate from ICMR certified labs, will have to undergo 14 days home or paid quarantine upon their arrival in the state.

The AAI said, “COVID-19 test shall be done for all symptomatic passengers and they will have to undergo institutional quarantine till the test results are available.”

The passengers will have to produce a COVID-19 negative certificate issued by ICMR recognized lab, not older than 48 hours prior to their arrival in Goa, the advisory reads.

The passenger can also opt for swab test upon arrival at a cost of Rs 2,000 and remain institutional or home quarantined till the results are declared.
05/08/20 Rupesh Samant/daijiworld

Domestic Flights: Planning Your Domestic Air Travels? Keep These Quarantine Guidelines, Health Protocols in Mind

To keep a check on the spread of coronavirus, all state airports have issued various quarantine guidelines and health protocols for domestic air passengers. Starting from downloading Arogya Setu app to follow all the dos and don’ts, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has from time to time issued guidelines for the safety of passengers at this critical time of coronavirus.
See the guidelines >>

Rapid exit taxiway at Chennai airport ready, to help aircraft leave quickly

Chennai: In a major relief for flyers from Chennai, the work on the construction of a rapid exit taxiway at the city airport has come to an end. The rapid exit taxiway, the construction of which was carried out by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), will link the main runway to the taxiway to help the aircraft leave faster. 

The work on the taxiway project was finished in the last week of July. The Airports Authority of India said the site was also inspected by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials.

According to a report in The Hindu, the construction of such rapid exit taxiways in the airport is part of phase II of modernisation project.

"The DGCA officials raised some queries and we responded to them. This is an inspection relating to safety and other parameters. As soon as the approval comes from DGCA, this can be put to use. If an aircraft lands, using this rapid exit taxiway, it can seamlessly leave the main runway," the report quoted an official as sating.
05/08/20 TimesNowNews.com

TAAI Alleges Air India Plays Dirty With Travel Agents

Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has voiced its dejection on Air India’s social media post as well as communications to travellers to book on their website and verify airfares with the airlines before booking with the agents. The airline has also stated that agents block the inventory on the GDS.
Writing to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and CMD of Air India Rajiv Bansal, TAAI informed the National Carrier to withdraw the same.
Excerpts from the communication dated 30th July produced below:
“We refer to the circular issued by Air India to travel agents as well as to media, including posts on social media, informing travellers to not pay more than the fare mentioned on the website of Air India, if booked through the travel agents.
We strongly condemn this and request you to withdraw the same.
It shall be appreciated that travel agents members guide and update the passengers on all formalities, assist in documentation, filing complicated declarations, assist in updating on registration on AI website and also provide allied services to travellers, update of validity of visas and visa categories permitted etc.
Sirs, our member agents provide services to the traveller/customers, who feels secure by dealing with us. During these pandemic and testing times, our trade is the most impacted, with all airlines, including Air India not refunding the amounts of tickets for services not rendered. For over 4 months the refunds are pending and the travellers are chasing our member agents to refund their monies. After our multiple requests to your goodselves, the same has begun but still the process is terribly slow. We have never blamed or criticised the airline or their practices. We also understand that the airline too is facing a cash crunch but with no clarity from the Government and the National Flag bearer, this had become out of control.
We have been in constant touch with MoCA/Air India Management on a regular basis and such communications are demeaning to our member agents in the trade who you call “Travel Partners”.
We demand and appeal a clarity be issued instantly in this regard, which should inform of malpractices and manipulations, but should ensure that the agent and customer have direct relationship in their conditions of additional services and charges being levied thereon for providing the same.”
Further on 5th August’20, Air India once again communicated adversely against booking through travel agents.
06/08/20 Travel Trends Today

Flights to smaller towns hit due to Covid-19 restrictions in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Flying to small towns has been hit as Covid-19 restrictions have affected regional connectivity.
Flights from Chennai to Cuddapah and Salem are causing a lot of loss for the airlines and Airports Authority of India (AAI) because passenger patronage is low to sustain operation of flights and the airports. There is a flight to Tuticorin though it is not under the scheme but airlines are hesitant to fly to small towns because Covid-19 restrictions are keeping passengers away.
An AAI official said the aviation ministry is pushing airlines to fly on small routes as part of reopening domestic flights in a limited manner but airlines suffer loss operating on these routes. "It's time to suspend Udan scheme for sometime, at least till domestic aviation picks up. Ten staff are stationed at each small airports like Puducherry though no flights are operated."
Airlines are now focusing only on routes that bring them revenue. They will first increase frequency, add bigger flights on popular routes connecting metro cities and tier 2 cities before they focus on small towns. Already domestic carriers have been asking AAI to allow them to start more flights to big cities.
06/08/20 Times of India

Worried about physical distancing while flying? Here’s what airlines are offering

Even as the importance of physical distancing is constantly emphasised to prevent the spread of coronavirus, domestic airlines not keeping the middle seat empty has further raised fears of lack of physical distancing while travelling by flight.
But airlines are now offering a possible solution to that. See what that is >>

CISF takes over security of Leh's Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on Wednesday took over the security of Leh's Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport with a sanctioned strength of more than 180 personnel. The unit will be headed by a Deputy Commandant rank officer. With this induction, total units under CISF security cover raised to 349 including 64 airports across the country.
The airport is located in Western Himalayas of the Ladakh region and serves as the main airport of entire Ladakh. During the winter, Leh airport is the only gateway of Ladakh as there is limited connectivity by road due to heavy snowfall. This is the highest altitude airport of India and operates in extreme weather condition. This is the most tourist intensive airport in India.
05/08/20 Jitender Sharma/ZeeNew

Air India Express Opens Booking For Flights From Sharjah, Dubai to India

As part of the Central government’s Vande Bharat Mission phase 5, the country has started flight operations to a number of countries including the UAE, to repatriate stranded Indians from there.
Making the announcement, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had earlier said that India is connecting connect with the US, Canada, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Singapore, UK, Frankfurt, Paris, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, New Zealand , Philippines and more countries under Vande Bharat Mission Phase 5.
Notably, the 5th phase of ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ began from August 1 till 31 to repatriate Indians stranded from abroad. Also Read - International Flights August 4: Delhi to London, Bahrain to Chennai; Check Out Air India's Repatriation Schedule For Today
People who are interested to come back to India from Sharjah and Dubai can book their tickets with Air India Express as the airline has opened bookings from today.
The booking for flights to India from Sharjah was opened today at 2 PM (UAE time). Indian nationals registered with the Indian Embassy can book the tickets at normal repatriation fares on the website of the airline.
Similarly, people who are interested to come back to Kozhikode and Kochi from Dubai can book their tickets with the airline today. The airline said the booking is open from 2 PM UAE time on August 6.
06/08/20 India.com

Air India manager, Malini Vaidyanathan bids adieu to Chicago

Chicago: Ms Malini Vaidhyanathan Manager Midwest in Chicago has handed over her charge as Manager Midwest of Air India to Shri Vikash Shahal, Airport Manager ORD, with effect from July 31 2020 In a talk to this paper she said that. she would be joining Air India the New Delhi office after reaching India.

She said tat the three years that   she had spent at Chicago serving a vibrant local community along with her duties as the Manage Midwest were the most interesting and challenging experience of her career.

“It is interesting because of the great relationships built and challenging because of economic havoc unleashed by the pandemic. However, I am proud to say that Air India rose to the occasion, by organizing Vande Bharat flights at a very short notice and to repatriate a large number of stranded Indians,’ she added.
06/08/20 Ramesh Soparwala/India Post

Air India official who faced fake sexual harassment case suspended

Air India official against whom the gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh had fabricated a false sexual harassment case, has been suspended from service by the airline. The suspension has been ordered citing the reason that this officer "had addressed the media on matters related to the company which is in violation of the company’s instructions".
"The suspension order is unjustifiable as my client has never come before the media and never gave any comments in any media against the company. The accusation levelled by Air India against my client is totally baseless. Moreover, the suspension order has been issued before taking his version," said M R Abhilash, counsel of the Air India officer.
The suspension has come when the Crime Branch is probing the false sexual harassment case against this officer as per the directive from the Kerala high court. The Crime Branch had summoned the top officers of Air India who were part of the ICC for recording their statement. This committee headed by an executive director of Air India, had upheld the sexual harassment case against this officer. But the high court had found that the complaint was a fabricated one and Swapna Suresh had fabricated the documents and signatures against this Air India officer.
The Crime Branch probe into the fake document case had gathered momentum following the gold smuggling case probe. The Crime Branch has also decided to summon the ICC members of Air India for the second time for recording the statement.
The investigation by the Crime Branch had revealed that the ICC had recorded the statement of an impersonated witness, without checking the identity of the witness. The 16 females named in the complaint had revealed during the investigation that the ICC of Air India neither contacted them nor recorded their statements.
However, high court had found the sexual harassment complaint itself as fake and asked the Crime Branch to register a case against Swapna Suresh and conduct further investigation. Along with Swpana Suresh, former AISATS vice president Binoy Jacob is also the co-accused in the false sexual harassment case.
06/08/20 Rajiv G/Times of India

Whistle-blower Air India staffer suspended for speaking to media

Thiruvananthapuram: The travails of an Air India whistleblower official continue as he has now been suspended from service on the charge that he spoke to the media, said his counsel.

Speaking to IANS, M.R. Abhilash, counsel for the whistleblower, said that the suspension order has been served to his client by Air India.

"The charge is that he addressed the media on company matters, which is not right," said Abhilash.

The unexpected suspension comes at a time when the ongoing probe by the Kerala Police's Crime Branch into a fabricated sexual harassment case against the Air India official masterminded by the prime accused in the gold smuggling case involving Swapna Suresh has reached a crucial stage.

A few Air India officials have already been quizzed in connection with the case while a few others are expected to be called shortly.

It all started for L.S. Sibu, who was a union leader in Air India and was working as an officer-apron in the Ground Services Department, Trivandrum, in 2014 when he brought to the attention of the CBI, the Central Vigilance Commission and the Prime Minister's Office the financial shenanigans at Trivandrum Airport.

Starting then, Sibu's life took a turn for the worse, as he was transferred to Hyderabad effective April 2015. He had to wait till June 2015 to know the reason why he was transferred and was shocked to learn that 17 female employees had in a letter levelled complaints of sexual harassment against him.

Presently on leave, Sibu who is in his hometown here, got a mail from Air India that he has been suspended from service for addressing the media on company matters.

It was after a few years of a legal battle that the Kerala High Court directed the Crime Branch to conduct a detailed probe into the sexual harassment case against Sibu.

Incidentally, it was only after the gold smuggling case involving Swapna Suresh came to light that Sibu got some relief.

06/08/20 IANS/daijiworld

India's Buddhist outreach: International Airport at Kushinagar for Buddhist pilgrims

New Delhi: India is establishing an International Airport in Kushinagar for Buddhist pilgrims including those from Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday informed his Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa about the establishment of an international airport in the Buddhist pilgrimage city of Kushinagar, and said that the city looked forward to welcoming visitors from Sri Lanka at an early date.
06/08/20 Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury/Economic Times

Over 9,30,000 stranded Indians returned under Vande Bharat mission: MoS MEA

New Delhi: Over 9,30,000 stranded Indians have returned from abroad after the government launched the 'Vande Bharat' evacuation mission on May 7 in view of the coronavirus pandemic, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said on Thursday.

Addressing the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation- National Centre for Good Governance (ITEC-NCGG) Workshop on COVID-19-Good Governance Practices in a Pandemic, Muraleedharan said so far more than 120,000 foreigners belonging to 120 countries have been repatriated from India.

"So far more than 9,30,000 stranded Indians have returned home and now many are going back to the countries where they were working before the pandemic struck. Not only we brought our stranded citizens back but also facilitated repatriation of foreign nationals stuck in India. So far more than 1,20,000 foreigners belonging to 120 countries have been repatriated from India," he was quoted as saying in a statement by the External Affairs Ministry.

He said the government also undertook a number of medical and early responder missions across the world.

"Operation Sanjeevani delivered 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines and hospital consumables to the Maldives. We overcame daunting logistical challenges to supply medicines and medical items to Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Seychelles and the Dominican Republic," he said.

He further said India also deployed Rapid Response medical Teams to help Maldives, Kuwait, Mauritius and Comoros deal with the pandemic.

"India launched Mission SAGAR, under which an Indian Naval Ship Kesari delivered coronavirus related assistance to Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles.

This was the first time that a single operation covered all these countries in the region," he added.
06/08/20 PTI/New Indian Express

Rules to be followed when entering India via Mumbai and Delhi airports

Though the call across the globe at the moment is "Stay Home, Stay Safe", there may be various reasons for which you might end up travelling on either the domestic or the limited international flights (or on both) during the pandemic.
You may also wonder what are the rules to be followed when entering India via Mumbai and Delhi airports.
Here are the official releases on it >>

Arunachal CM asks Airports Authority of India to expedite Hollongi Airport’s work

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu has asked the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to expedite work of Hollongi Airport.
Chief minister on Thursday held a meeting with AAI to review the progress of the construction work of Hollongi Airport.
In the meeting attended by tourism and civil aviation minister Nakap Nalo, the chief minister urged the AAI to continue work on war footing to complete the project by 2022.
Khandu said the work must be carried out 24 hours a day to meet the deadline and said that the project once completed will bring in the much awaited air connectivity for state capital Itanagar.
The chief minister further assured the AAI for all cooperation for the work to continue unhindered.
The Hollongi airport is being built by the AAI over an area of 320 hectares.
06/08/20 Northeast Now

Kuwait approves Indian repatriation flights

Cairo: Kuwait has approved an Indian request to operate flights to repatriate its expatriates wishing to return home amid a ban on air travel imposed by Kuwait on dozens of countries, including India, Al Qabas newspaper reported.
Kuwait’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) agreed to the flights starting from August 10 until October 24. According to the DGCA approval, 1,000 Indians will leave Kuwait daily, to be flown equally by Kuwaiti and Indian airlines.
Indians account for almost 1 million of Kuwait’s 4.7 million population.
“The arrangements proposed by the Indian side are limited to departure only and do not include their return to Kuwait,” the source said. “The decision to ban entry of travellers from 31 countries to Kuwait is still in effect.”
Earlier this week, Kuwait announced suspending flights from 31 “high-risk” countries on instructions from Kuwaiti health authorities due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
These include India, Pakistan, Egypt, and the Philippines, all of whom have sizeable communities in Kuwait.
06/08/20 Ramadan Al Sherbini/Gulf News

Quick holiday via private charter? Leisure travel demand spikes 50%

Even as scheduled commercial airlines are struggling to put extra capacity in the air, there's some glimmer of hope in the private charter space. Private charter operators say that the demand for leisure travel within the country has shot up by over 50 per cent compared to pre-COVID period. For instance, if a private charter operator was getting two-three queries per day for leisure travel, the number has gone up to 9-10 now.
Interestingly, most of these queries are coming from first-time travellers. "People who never travelled in private charters are booking seats as they have become wary of travelling in scheduled flights. A lot of people are trying to travel to places which are safe and where they can take a quick holiday that they have been missing out on for the past few months," says an operator.
The travel industry experts have been talking about the concept of "revenge tourism" for quite some time which is essentially the urge of tourists to make short visits to nearby destinations - places where one can reach in three-five hours. But the fresh demand for private charter services highlights that the tourists are willing to travel longer distances if they find those to be safe.
Operators say that most queries are coming for travel to Goa, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Even though there are international travel requests to Dubai, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand as well but those are restricted since it requires permission from MHA (ministry of home affairs) and immigration authorities. These agencies are largely allowing essential travel on international routes.
Despite the rise in leisure travel demand, the charter operators are still nowhere near the number of flights that they were booking prior to the COVID period. For instance, 70 per cent of the demand which used to come from business travel has shrunk by over 50 per cent. Take Delhi-based operator JetSetGo. If it was operating 12 business-related flights prior to COVID, it can manage just about four-five flights now. "Business is down by 40-50 per cent. That's because everyone is doing meetings over video calls like Zoom etc," says Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and founder, JetSetGo Aviation.
For private charter operator, there's a double whammy of COVID and rise in competition from commercial airlines like IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara, which have also started private charter operations in order to capture the demand from HNIs (high net-worth individuals) and group corporate travel. "Since a large part of their (commercial airlines) fleet is lying idle, they don't want to turn down any opportunity in this challenging phase," says an aviation consultant.
05/08/20 Manu Kaushik/Business Today

SpiceJet, in association with Sonu Sood, operates 2 flights from Moscow and Tashkent to repatriate 295 Indians

New Delhi: SpiceJet said on Wednesday that it operated a repatriation flight each from Moscow in Russia and from Tashkent in Uzbekistan, bringing back a total of 295 Indians.
These flights were operated in association with film actor Sonu Sood, the airline said in a press release.
"The 295 Indian nationals repatriated had been stranded in Russia and Uzbekistan for over two months," it said.
SpiceJet said it used its Boeing 737 aircraft for the Moscow-Chennai flight that was operated on Tuesday and the Tashkent-Delhi flight operated on Wednesday.
The low-cost carrier said it will be operating another repatriation flight from Manila to Delhi on August 7 to bring back 180 Indians from the capital city of Philippines.
05/08/20 PTI/India TV

International flyers in Kolkata want flights to resume as West Bengal government remains mum

Hundreds of people in Kolkata are desperately waiting for the West Bengal government to take a decision on resumption of international flights from the city. Currently, international flights are not allowed at the Kolkata airport owing to the coronavirus crisis which has forced the state government to suspend all overseas operations.

Many who are stuck overseas and want to return back home or those who want to travel outside the country from Kolkata have pleaded to the West Bengal government to consider allowing international flights. The Bengal government had earlier refused to provide no-objection certificate to several international carriers and has not allowed even Vande Bharat repatriation flights operated by Air India.

“My parents are stuck here in the UK for the last several months. My young sister is all alone at home in Kolkata. My father is 65 and my mother is 55. Since they are so stressed, they had even decided to travel up to Delhi but looking at the situation and quarantine protocols, we are still waiting for the Kolkata airport to open and allow Vande Bharat flights to land,” a London resident Moon Sharma from Kolkata was quoted as saying by Times of India.
06/08/20 TimesNowNews.com

Waiting in the wings: A safer, better Kolkata airport

Kolkata: Even as Kolkata airport struggles to come to terms with unprecedented revenue loss owing to frequent suspension of flight operations and the resultant lower passenger movement as the state battles the pandemic, the airport authorities are rolling out new low-cost initiatives to enhance passenger safety and comfort.
Four self check-in kiosks that are present in the domestic wing are being converted into contactless devices that will allow passengers to henceforth print out boarding cards without touching the screen. The airport has entered into an agreement with logistics solution provider SITA to roll out the technology. While Air India and IndiGo has already come on board, the system will be functional once other airlines operating from the city join the initiative.
“Before the airport reopened, we had laid out distance markers for passengers to queue up at the self check-in kiosks. But since operation of the kiosk requires touching the screen, we have turned to a solution that will enable flyers to transport the screen on to their cellphone to print out the boarding card,” Kolkata airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said.
While passengers are now required to do online checkin prior to arriving at the airport, a few passengers still reach the airport without prior check-ins and are guided to the self check-in kiosks to collect their boarding cards. Once the touchless facility is functional, passengers have to switch on WiFi data that will be provided free of charge near the kiosks. Thereafter, the flyer will receive a prompt on the cellphone to scan the QR code on the kiosks. Once that is done, the screen can be accessed on the phone where the passenger can punch in the PNR number and give the command for a boarding pass printout.
06/08/20 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

DGCA approves two more drone training schools; more in the offing

India’s civil aviation regulator, the DGCA, has approved two Hyderabad-based flying academies — Flytech and Wings Aviation — to operate as drone training schools. With this, there are now three DGCA approved drone training schools in India, after the regulator had approved Maharashtra-based Bombay Flying Club on July 24.
Amber Dubey, who is the joint secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry and in charge of drones, on Wednesday said that more drone training schools are expected to receive DGCA’s approval, and this move is going to bring in “standardization and better quality control in the fast growing drone sector”.
While the Bombay Flying Club (BFC) had earlier said that it will start its courses from mid-August, at the moment it isn’t clear when the two Hyderabad-based training schools will commence their programs. We have reached out to them for more details. When the BFC was given DGCA approval, it was on the condition that the safety and security of drone operations will remain BFC’s responsibility, and that the organisation will have to ensure the safety, security and privacy of public, property, and operators, among others.
06/08/20 Soumyarendra Barik/Medianama

Remote Identification is essential technology for safe integration of drones into airspace

Registration of drones is just the first step in the entire complex regulatory system. To enable safe and secure drone operations, it is necessary to implement an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system that is integrated into the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. However, India’s unique one-stop national Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system called the “Digital Sky Platform” which will also implement the No Permission-No Takeoff clause, has been delayed continuously since its launch,
affecting legal drone operations in the country.
Lalit Gupta & Nandita Pegu look at ways to simplify the system and take a cue from global developments in the field of UTM >>

14 flights with 1,901 passengers arrive at Srinagar airport

Srinagr: On day 73 of resumption of domestic operations in Jammu and Kashmir, 14 flights with 1,901 passengers on board landed at Srinagar airport on Wednesday.
A statement said after arrival, all the passengers were tested for the COVID-19 and transported to their destinations amid strict observance of all necessary preventive protocols.
The statement said the government has made elaborate arrangements for the arrival, screening, sampling and proper transportation of the passengers to the quarantine centers taking special care of guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed by the Union Ministries of Civil Aviation and Health and Family Welfare.

The statement said Pertinently, while Srinagar airport authorities have received 915 domestic flights with 1,16,230 passengers since May 25, Jammu airport authorities have received 571 domestic flights with 43,406 passengers.

It said Jammu and Kashmir government has brought back 3,676 passengers from various countries to the Union Territory through special evacuation flights in the wake of global pandemic till date.
06/08/20 Greater Kashmir

Staff demands more tests after corona cases at B’luru airport wing

Bengaluru: After the detection of coronavirus cases in the cargo section of Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) here, employees are asking for more tests as well as a temporary stop to the work.
An airport official admitted to corona infections in the cargo section on Wednesday but did not give the numbers.
Nearly 10 cases have been reported there so far, including of four Customs officials.
05/08/20 IANS/CanIndiaNews

Two men arrested for smuggling gold worth Rs 26 lakh at Delhi airport

New Delhi: Two men were arrested on Thursday by Customs (Preventive) officials at the Delhi international airport for allegedly trying to smuggle into the country gold valuing around Rs 26 lakh.
The accused were intercepted after their arrival from Riyadh, officials said.
"In an early morning operation, Customs (Preventive) arrested two passengers for allegedly trying to smuggle in 466 grams of gold, valued at Rs 26 lakh, from Riyadh," an official said.
06/08/20 PTI/Outlook

Gold worth Rs 34 lakh seized at Chennai airport, 2 held

Chennai: Customs officials have arrested two air passengers and seized gold worth Rs 34.5 lakh from them after they landed here from Dubai, official sources said on Wednesday.

An official statement issued here by the Commissioner of Customs, Chennai International Airport, said Kasimani Kolanji and Murugan Chandran arrived by an Air India Express flight on Tuesday night when they were intercepted by officials at the exit gate on suspicion.

"On search, four polythene pouches (two each) containing goldpaste were found concealed inside the waistlining in their jeans. A total of 731 gm gold of 24 Karat purity and valued at Rs 34.5 lakh was seized from them under the Customs Act, 1962," the statement said.

05/08/20 IANS/daijiworld

Gold worth around Rs 53 lakh seized at Kannur Intl Airport, two held

Kannur: Customs sleuths on Thursday seized 932 grams of gold worth around Rs 53 lakh from two passengers who arrived at Kannur International Airport in a chartered flight from Dubai under Vande Bharat Mission.
Customs Assistant Commissioner E VIkas-led team detained two passengers Mishab and Hamza, both hails from Kasaragod district, with 465 and 467 grams of gold with them respectively.
According to customs officials, the seized gold was converted into narrow strips with mercury coating and concealed inside separate metal strips and kept in their bags.
06/08/20 UNI

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Global pilots body seeks govt intervention in pay cut at Air India

 
Mumbai: Air India pilots, who are protesting the massive cut in their flying allowance in the wake of increasing cash crunch at the airline amid the coronavirus pandemic, got the backing from an international pilots body which on Wednesday urged the government to intervene in the matter.
In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the Indian chapter of International Federation of Airlines Pilots Association (IFALPA) said that it is "shocking" even after being in the line of duty, Air India pilots have been "singled out" for massive pay cut.
The government-owned Air India is on a cost-cutting drive to deal with the situation arising out of COVID-19 which has impacted the aviation sector most globally.
The carrier has announced that the flying crew would be paid according to actual hours flown against a fixed payments for 70 hours, which has effectively slashed their monthly salary by almost 60 per cent.
The loss-making airline has also announced a 50 per cent reduction in monthly allowances of employees drawing monthly gross salary of more than Rs 25,000. Also, it has implemented a ''Leave Without Pay'' scheme for its employees, ranging from six months to five years.
"It is with utmost concern that we bring to your attention, the grave injustice that is being meted out to the Air India pilots via a unilateral and retrospective downward revision of emoluments to the tune of 60 per cent.
"These are the very same pilots who went above and beyond the call of duty when called upon by the government to operate the flights for the repatriation of Indian citizens from the world over," said Sam Thomas, President Airlines Pilots Association of India (ALPA) in the letter to Puri.
05/08/20 PTI/Outlook

India's Vistara, SpiceJet gear up for London operations

Benefitting from a recently formed travel bubble agreement between India and the United Kindom which permits limited direct scheduled flights, Vistara and SpiceJet are planning to launch services to London in the coming weeks.

According to Business Standard, the former is planning to launch services from Delhi Int'l to London Gatwick in mid-August. A 51/49 joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Group, it intends to operate them with B787-9s. It took delivery of its first widebody shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down international traffic and has yet to deploy the unit beyond the domestic market. Vistara plans to take a second B787-9 later this month.

Vistara plans to add long-haul B787-9 flights to Frankfurt Int'l and Paris going forward, although the timeline has not been revealed.

Meanwhile, low-cost rival SpiceJet announced in a stock market filing that it has secured slots at London Heathrow for scheduled flights from India starting on September 1, tentatively through the end of the Summer 2020 season.

"The Company is also in advance discussion to secure slots for winter schedule for regular operations," SpiceJet said.
05/08/20 ch-aviation

SpiceJet offer: Flyers can now book full row, more seats!

Flyers can now book the adjacent seat or a full row in a flight! SpiceJet is now offering this service under its ‘Social distancing @35,000 feet with SpiceJet extra seats’ offer. The no-frills airline is offering an option to its customers to book two seats or even a full row to make their travel safer during the Coronavirus pandemic. The ‘SpiceJet Extra Seats’ offer is applicable only to the airline’s domestic network.
Flyers can avail of the offer through SpiceJet’s website and app. They can also book more than one row through the SpiceJet’s call centre. Passengers can opt to book an extra seat or full row while making the booking or through the ‘Manage Booking’ section on SpiceJet’s website (www.spicejet.com). The facility is also available on its agent portal. This service can also be availed during the web check-in process and can be booked up to six hours prior to the scheduled departure of the flight, SpiceJet said in a statement.
In July, in a first-of-its-kind initiative, SpiceJet had announced a COVID insurance cover for its passengers. The insurance cover, ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000 at a premium between Rs 443 to Rs 1564 a year (including GST), covers hospital expenses, and all pre and post hospitalization expenses for 30 and 60 days respectively. The insurance cover includes tests, medication, and consultations upon testing positive for COVID-19.
05/08/20 Financial Express

IndiGo Plans to Raise $268 Million Via Sale, Leaseback of Aircraft and other Assets

IndiGo, India's largest airline, said on Wednesday it planned to raise at least 20 billion rupees ($268 million) through the sale and leaseback of planes and other assets, after reporting its steepest quarterly loss in at least five years.

Chief Financial Officer Aditya Pande said the airline, owned by Interglobe Aviation Ltd, would consider raising even more than 20 billion rupees and the board would meet on Thursday to discuss this.

"Managing cash continues to remain our primary focus and we continue to work with all our stakeholders to raise liquidity," Pande told analysts on a call, adding it was in advanced talks on selling and leasing back some of its unencumbered assets.

Pande did not say how much additional cash the airline could raise on top of the 20 billion rupees announced on Wednesday.

Airlines globally are looking for ways to boost their finances after the coronavirus crisis kept travellers at home. The airline industry body IATA forecasts passenger traffic will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2024.

Indigo temporarily halted operations in March when India began a two-month lockdown, at a time when the carrier was already grappling with higher maintenance costs and weak demand. It has been slowly rebuilding its schedule.
03/09/20 News18

Airlines lure flyers with cheap tickets

After seeing no increase in domestic travellers, airlines have started to cut fare to lure travellers.
SpiceJet has introduced discounted tickets that are priced at Rs 899 on domestic routes to boost travel. People are being encouraged to book tickets for travel anytime till March 31.
A source said usually a fare cut by an airline will trigger a general dip in fares on a particular route.
An airline official said there was good demand on certain routes from Chennai to Delhi, Madurai, Mumbai. But there are hardly any passengers for other cities.
“The offers will encourage people to book in advance for September or October and insulate themselves from hike in fare when services return to normal. The airline also will get money,” the official said.
05/08/20 Times of India

Kolkata: Air turbulence over lockdown dates rejig

Kolkata: Travel agents in Kolkata are calling up clients to say they can no longer guarantee travel on any specific date, especially after four lockdown dates in Bengal were changed yet again on Monday, leading to hundreds of cancellations and fresh bookings for the fourth time in a week. On July 28, the government had changed the lockdown dates thrice, leaving fliers, travel agents and airlines exasperated.

“The frequent changing of lockdown dates has led to a situation that is fraught with uncertainty. It appears that no one knows anything for certain. Since we have no control over the situation, we have told clients that we will be unable to suggest travel dates. They have to take a call on whether they want to travel under these circumstances. If they do so, it will be at their own risk,” a leading travel agent told TOI on Tuesday.

Several travel agents claimed they had suffered loss of credibility following Monday’s announcement on fresh lockdown dates as they had assured customers of smooth travel on 24 days in August that were outside the purview of lockdown. But after August 20, 21, 27 and 28 were declared lockdown days on Monday, agents who had booked clients for travel on those four days were now in a soup.

Travel agents said they had also told clients that they would change travel dates without additional cost provided they opted to fly with the same airline on a revised date. Otherwise, customers will have to pay for the new flight as the amount for the cancelled ticket goes into a credit shell that can be utilized only during travel by the same airline.

Airlines officials, too, are in a quandary as all flights have to be cancelled on new lockdown dates and services have to be scheduled on dates that have exited the lockdown calendar.

05/08/20 Subhro Niyogi & Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India

Spicejet announces option to book two seats or full row

After Indigo and Goair, Spicejet is now offering passengers the option to book two seats or a full row.

Available across the airline’s domestic network, ‘Spicejet Extra Seats’ facility comes with a range of benefits including priority check-in, preferred boarding and bag out service.

Passengers can reserve extra seats while making the booking or through ‘manage booking’ section on spicejet.com. The feature is also available on its agent portal.

This service can also be availed during web check-in and can be booked up to six hours prior to the scheduled departure.

Travellers wanting to book more than a single row can do so by contacting the airline’s call centre.

Shilpa Bhatia, chief commercial officer, Spicejet said, “While air travel remains the safest mode of transport, we have been constantly thinking on how to make the travel experience even more comfortable and safer.
05/08/20  Business Traveller

Airlines still operating less than a third of flight services compared to July 2019: ICRA

Despite an increase in the number of flights being operated, domestic airlines are operating less than a third of normal flights, said rating agency ICRA. The agency said airlines operated at a much lower capacity of around 27 percent in July 2020 compared to July 2019 level.
However, there was a marginal increase of over the 25 percent capacity achieved in June 2020, Business Standard has reported.
Domestic flight operations resumed in a staggered manner on May 25 after a two-month suspension owing to the coronavirus lockdown.
"The number of flights departing has also gradually increased from 416 on day 1 to 890 on day 69 (July 31). For July, the average daily departures were 780, significantly lower than average daily departures of 2,845 in July 2019. The number stood at 723 in June. The average number of passengers per flight during July was 86 as against an average of 134 passengers per flight in July 2019," said Kinjal Shah, Vice President, ICRA.
Despite an increase in the number of flights being operated, domestic airlines are operating less than a third of normal flights, said rating agency ICRA. The agency said airlines operated at a much lower capacity of around 27 percent in July 2020 compared to July 2019 level.
However, there was a marginal increase of over the 25 percent capacity achieved in June 2020, Business Standard has reported.
Domestic flight operations resumed in a staggered manner on May 25 after a two-month suspension owing to the coronavirus lockdown.
04/08/20 Moneycontrol.com

After Air India, subsidiary Alliance Air launches LWP scheme for employees

Alliance Air, an Air India subsidiary, on Tuesday launched a Leave Without Pay (LWP) scheme for its employees, similar to the one rolled out by its parent organisation before its privatisation. Alliance Air said that it is introducing the scheme with immediate effect. The move comes at a time when Air India employees are resisting the same fiercely and have shot off several protest letters to the management. They may also move the court to press their demand.
The LWP policy of Alliance Air is being introduced for grant of leave without pay or allowances for its employees for a period of six months extendable up to two years at the discretion of the management.
Leave under the scheme will not be sanctioned to the employees under a bond until the period of the bond is over or they fulfill their bonded obligations.
Also, No employee availing this scheme will be permitted to take up jobs in government or public sector undertakings. Employees who take up jobs in an airline or allied sectors after availing the scheme will have to seek prior permission from Alliance Air. If this is not done, it will lead to termination of services.
05/08/20 IANS/ZeeBiz

Air India Announces Additional Flights to Toronto in August, Prices Starting at Rs 51,098

Under the fifth phase of the Vande Bharat Mission, Air India has announced three additional flights to Toronto from Delhi on August 16, 23 and 30. Prices for the tickets start at Rs 51,098 for the economy class and goes up to Rs 1,38,463 for business class.
The three new flights comes in addition to the 12 flights that the airline announced a few days back. The airline had announced 12 additional flight from August 18 to 30 to Canada and Vancouver from Delhi under the 5th phase of Vande Bharat Mission.
The fourth phase of the Vande Bharat Mission brought back as much as 2.5 lakh Indians from 53 countries around the world. Under the Phase 4 of the Vande Bharat mission, a total of 1,197 flights have been scheduled so far, including 945 international flights and 252 feeder flights, MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.
694 flights have reached India as on July 22, repatriating nearly one lakh people so far, he said. Phase 4 is expected to continue until August 2, by which time around 80,000 more people are expected to return.
As on 22nd July, 7,88,217 Indian nationals have returned. 1,03,976 Indians have returned from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh by land borders.
05/08/20 News18.com

India Set To Take Delivery Of “Air Force One” Boeing 777s Next Month

India is all set to take delivery of the two VIP Boeing 777 aircraft. Dubbed India’s “Air Force One”, the new plane will fly the country’s top leadership on important foreign missions. The new 777s will replace the fleet of aging Air India 747s, as the government looks to operate its own fleet of aircraft, separate from the soon-to-be-privatized Air India.
One of the most exciting aspects of the new aircraft is the new livery it will feature. Previously, the Prime Minister’s plane simply used an Air India livery, since it was a commercial plane on special operations. However, now with a redesigned 777, the government has gone with a newer, simplistic look.
The plane features India written in both English and Hindi along the side, along with the national emblem in the center. On the tail, we see the Indian flag, reminiscent of the US flag on Air Force One. The aircraft is set to be operated by the Indian Air Force, and not Air India, which explains the inclusion of Air Force insignia behind the rear door.
While there are few images currently available of the new aircraft, we can expect more next month when the plane officially lands in India. What do you think about the new livery? Let us know in the comments!
The primary focus of the new fleet has obviously been security. The former-Air India 777s have been in Boeing’s facility in Dallas undergoing extensive security upgrades. We’ve previously covered the new security features onboard, which includes defensive and countermeasure capabilities.
The new planes will come with Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAICRM) Self-Protection Suites (SPS), which allows the aircraft to detect and jam incoming missiles. The planes will also have Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) to protect from electronic threats to the plane. These systems are a part of a massive $190mn military purchase made by India which was approved by the State Department last year.
05/08/20 Syd Sharma/Simple Flying

Air India Pilots Allege Blatant Discrimination by Personnel and Finance Departments

New Delhi: Alleging blatant discrimination by Air India's Personnel and Finance Departments, the pilots have told the national carrier's management that if such behaviour continues unchecked, the Director, Personnel will be responsible for the consequences.
In a letter to Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal, the pilots' associations, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association and the Indian Pilots Guild, have alleged that the management is discriminating against the pilots.
"We request you to kindly direct the concerned departments to clear backlogged files as well as outstanding dues for all pilots. We have cooperated unconditionally above and beyond the call of duty to ensure smooth flight operations. This blatant discrimination, among other grievances, has severely hampered our morale and faith in these departments. If such behaviour continues unchecked, the Director, Personnel will be responsible for the consequences to follow," the pilots said.
"We would like to bring to your notice the lackadaisical attitude of the Personnel and Finance Departments in ensuring timely action and payment when it comes to pilots," the letter said.
"When it comes to doling out promotions en masse for themselves or other support departments, not even a pandemic or national lockdown can dent their enthusiasm. When even retrospective deductions are made on our wages with immediate effect by way of prompt circulars, why do the same people drag their feet when it comes to clearing our rightful dues or honouring our service conditions?" the pilots asked.
04/08/20 IANS/News18

Indian, Pakistani expatriates cry foul over hiked up air fares from the UAE

Dubai: Several Indian and Pakistani expats in the UAE claim that prices of air tickets have shot up in the wake of the huge demand for repatriation, despite alerts issued by various airlines.
One Indian resident said a one-way ticket from Dubai to Mumbai cost him as much as Dh1,500 when it should have come up to just half the amount.
Another traveller, Bharath M, also paid a similar amount for a ticket to Mumbai. He said it was way too high but he had no choice but to pay.
India’s national carrier Air India, which has warned travellers against this trend, said in a tweet on Sunday: “Cases of overcharging by travel agents have been reported. Seats are available for various destinations. If you face overcharging, do email us on gmsm@airindia.in.”
In a statement to Gulf News, P.G. Prageesh, Chief of Corporate Communications of Air India Express, urged passengers taking repatriation flights to do their due diligence and check the authenticity of the travel agents they deal with.
“We request all passengers to visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we share a lot of real time information for the benefit of our passengers on these platforms. In order to avoid any confusion, we keep updating our website and blog page as well as social media channels with repatriation schedule and fares.”
Punit Shah, general manager of a Dubai-based travel agency, City One Tourism & Travel, said the case is particularly accentuated when the airline does not have seats listed on the global distribution system (GDS) for multiple agents to sell their tickets.
“What happens here is that only a handful of agents tends to handle the ticket sales for destinations of these airlines, thereby they are likely to hike rates according to the demand. It would help if all airlines list their seats under the GDS so there is a broad network of agents selling tickets. The margins can be kept really low in this respect.”
04/08/20 Anjana Kumar/Gulf News

Tamils in Kuwait wait for rescue flight to Trichy

Trichy: Despite hundreds of Tamils still stranded in Kuwait following the Covid-19 lockdown, not a single service has been operated so far by Air India Express under Vande Bharat mission to Trichy. Though rescue flights were expected in the fifth phase of the mission which began on August 2, it came as a dampener when Trichy didn’t figure in it.
In all, 49 services were operated from other countries to Trichy under Vande Bharat mission. Sources said about 20,000 Indians, mostly Tamils, stuck in Kuwait have been waiting for four months to return. Kuwait government had arranged eight services to Trichy, bringing 909 people via Kuwait Airlines. Jazeera Air and IndiGo Air brought back 1,810 passengers in 11 services. “However, the ticket fare and other expenses like Covid-19 test in Trichy, isolation at private hotels and food make it unaffordable. In the case of Vande Bharat exceptflight fare, the others are taken care of,” Nowshath Ali, president of Association of Overseas Tamils in Kuwait, said 2,719 Tamils had so far been brought to Trichy on 19 foreign charter flights including Kuwait Airways. Till August 3, 95 flights have brought 15,768 passengers to Trichy international airport on Vande Bharat mission. Kuwait Air, Jazeera Airlines and IndiGo have so far brought 2,719 Tamils from Kuwait. Yet, hundreds await in the country expecting the Indian government to operate Vande Bharat rescue flights.
05/08/20 Times of India

More Covid-19 infections at KIA cargo wing

Bengaluru: Rising Covid-19 cases in the cargo section of the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) has prompted employees to demand extensive testing of staffers as well as a pause in operations.

Over 10 staffers, including four Bengaluru customs officials in the Menzies Bobba building and four from Air India SATS building, tested positive, sources said.

“We fear the virus is spreading in these two buildings given the number of people testing positive and others showing symptoms. We urge authorities to take quick action. Several staffers are over 50 years and have co-morbidities,” a ground staff said on condition of anonymity.

Over 500 people work on any given day in both buildings. According to airport sources, last week a staffer at SATS tested positive, following which a few others in the block also tested positive. A few staffers of an international private cargo operator also turned positive.
05/08/20 Times of India 

Indians Flood AirAsia's WhatsApp ChatBot, Questioning Safety Lapses Alleged by YouTuber Pilot

New Delhi: AirAsia India came under scrutiny last month for safety lapses alleged by a pilot who is also a famous YouTuber with millions of followers. Soon after the pilot claimed he was suspended for raising safety standard issues within the airline, India's aviation regulator issued a show-cause notice to the airline.

Days after the airline AirAsia India introduced its website's virtual assistant "Ava" on WhatsApp, not only have Twitter users started flooding it with questions on safety lapses, but they have also shared screenshots of the replies on Twitter.

YouTuber and pilot Gaurav Taneja, famously known for his YouTube channel "Flying Beast", triggered a wave of queries with his post on AirAsia's advertisement about the WhatsApp chatbot.

​While some made jabs at the airline by stating that they need human intelligence to answer these queries, others simply mocked it for "not understanding the questions".

​Others shared memes about the chatbot that mocked its auto-generated replies.

​In June, the AirAsia India YouTuber-pilot accused the airline of compromising safety standards on three parameters - "unfavourable" sick leave policy, deploying 98 percent Flap 3 landings to save fuel, and violating COVID-19 flying norms - in a YouTube video titled "Reasons behind suspension from my pilot job".
04/08/20 Pratibha Sharma/Sputnik

IATA to Appoint Muhammad Albakri as SVP

IATA has confirmed that Muhammad Albakri, currently IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East (AME), will become Senior Vice President for Customer, Financial and Digital Services (CFDS), on 1 March 2021 when Aleks Popovich, who currently holds the position, retires.

Muhammad joined IATA in January 2017 after more than a decade in the leadership team of Saudi Arabian Airlines where he successfully fulfilled the roles of Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President for Transformation.

At IATA, he has been an agent of change, transforming the Africa and Middle East regional team to better serve member needs and pioneering the work of IATA’s Digital Transformation Advisory Council.

As SVP - CFDS, Muhammad will be based in Geneva.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said, “Over the past 16 years Aleks has driven some of the most critical elements of IATA’s operations, while leading major transformational projects for the airline industry. This includes IATA’s financial settlement products, which securely processed $457 billion of industry money in 2019, during a time of tremendous innovation in financial technology. And he delivered critical flagship programs that continue to change the industry—introducing cost-effective self-service options under the banner of Simplifying the Business, enabling airline retailing with New Distribution Capability (NDC), and streamlining decades of legacy processes with ONE Order. Aleks leaves behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under the capable leadership of Muhammad.
05/08/20 Asia Travel Tips

Asian jet fuel margins slip with Covid-19 second wave

Asia-Pacific jet fuel refining margins against Dubai crude values have fallen to a two-month low as a second wave of Covid-19 cases stalls travel and any recovery in jet fuel demand.

Margins fell to $0.59/bl yesterday from $1.61/bl on 30 July, after having hovering around $1.13/bl to $2.35/bl since the start of July. They were last valued lower at $0.20/bl on 5 June.

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in various countries have resulted in fresh flight suspensions, lockdowns and delayed plans to resume travel. Philippine airlines Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have suspended domestic flights to and from Manila until 18 August as the country's capital and surrounding provinces entered fresh lockdowns amid soaring cases. New Zealand said plans for a travel bubble between itself and Australia will unlikely start anytime soon, with Melbourne in lockdown from 2 August until mid-September with a fresh outbreak.

But margins were held up by jet fuel production and exports expected to remain low, with market participants estimating China's exports to be at 76,000-127,000 b/d in July and forecast at 51,000-76,000 b/d for August. The country had exported 203,000 b/d of jet fuel in June, according to customs data. But traders said this include volumes other than seaborne exports, such as those pumped into aircraft for international flights, although this could not be confirmed.

Rare jet fuel cargoes have also come to Singapore from the Mideast Gulf amid firmer Asian jet fuel prices, adding to supplies in the region and potentially pressuring markets further. A few vessels carrying August-loading jet fuel cargoes continue to have Singapore as a discharge option. Trading firm Vitol possibly chartered the Hafnia Shanghai to ship 60,000t (473,000 bl) from the Mideast Gulf, either to northwest Europe for $1.15mn or to Singapore for WS67.5 on 9 August.
04/08/20 Argus

Air Asia starts facial verification of passengers at Bengaluru International Airport

Passengers of Air Asia India flights, boarding from Bengaluru’s international airport, can now choose to authenticate their identity via facial recognition systems installed at the airport as part of the Indian government’s DigiYatra scheme. The airport, in a statement on August 3, said that passengers can choose to either board an Air Asia flight by going through the biometric authentication process, or through the existing manual process. We’ve reached out to the airport with more questions.

Air Asia is the second airline at the airport to start this facility, following Vistara, which has allowed this facility since July 2019. The Indian government had launched the DigiYatra scheme in 2018, which allows automatic processing of passengers’ identity based on a facial recognition system at check points like: entry to airport, security check and aircraft boarding.

How the flow works: Here’s how the face authentication is supposed to work, on paper. A passenger

* Registers for DigiYatra using one of 11 registration kiosks at the airport
* Proceeds to departure entry e-Gates, scan your boarding pass at a kiosk and match their face
* At security check, validates their credentials by allowing a camera to scan their face
* Scans their face yet again for validation and boards the flight.
04/08/20 Soumyarendra Barik/Medianama

17 flights with 2,350 passengers arrive at Srinagar airport

On day 72 of resumption of domestic operations in Jammu and Kashmir, 17 flights with 2,350 passengers on board landed at Srinagar airport on Tuesday.
A statement said after their arrival, all the passengers were tested for COVID19 and transported to their destinations amid strict observance of all necessary preventive protocols.
The statement said the government has made elaborate arrangements for the arrival, screening, sampling and proper transportation of the passengers to the quarantine centers taking special care of guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed by the Union Ministries of Civil Aviation and Health and Family Welfare.
While Srinagar airport authorities have received 901 domestic flights with 1,14,329 passengers since May 25, Jammu airport authorities have received 562 domestic flights with 42,725 passengers, the statement said.
The statement said Jammu and Kashmir government has brought back around 3,676 passengers from various countries to the Union Territory through special evacuation flights in the wake of global pandemic till date.
05/08/20 Greater Kashmir

No flight operations at Kolkata airport on revised total lockdown days

New Delhi: Authorities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Aiprort Tuesday announced that flight operations at the airport will remain suspended on all the revised seven days of total lockdown in West Bengal this month starting from August 5.
The airport had suspended flight operations on July 25 and 29 due to total lockdown announced by the state government.
"As per the state government orrder dated 03.08.2020, flight operations at #KolkataAirport will remain suspended on the revised lockdown days: 5th, 8th, 20th, 21st, 27th, 28th & 31st August 2020," the Kolkata airport said in a tweet.
The West Bengal government had earlier decided to impose a biweekly complete lockdown in the state to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.
The West Bengal government on Monday announced changes for the fourth time in the complete lockdown dates in August and took all Sundays - a popular marketing day out of the purview of the restrictions.
As per the new changes the Lockdown will be enforced on August 20 and 21 and August 27 and 28, instead of August 16, 17, 23 and 24 as announced earlier, the government order said.
The other lockdown dates - i.e. August 5, 8 and 31 are unchanged.
04/08/20 PTI/India TV

Aimed at those suffering from the travel itch, the flight is being offered on August 8

Travelling for leisure may have been on hold for a while but the spirit of travellers remains undeterred. Some travellers have also been missing the whole experience of flying, from entering the airport to de-boarding. So much so that one airline has decided to start a special trip for these people.
One of the biggest carriers in Taiwan, EVA Air, has come up with a novel idea of a flight that will take passengers on a trip to nowhere. Aimed at those suffering from the travel itch, the flight is being offered on August 8 (Father’s Day in Taiwan). It will take off from Taipei Taoyuan Airport, circle the skies and come back to the same airport. The whole trip will take approximately three hours.
Passengers will be flying on the EVA Air's popular Hello Kitty Dream jet. This A330 airplane bears the airline’s special Sanrio-themed livery and features popular characters such as Hello Kitty, and Little Twin Stars’ Kiki and Lala.
05/08/20 Outlook Traveller