Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sky not the limit for airport privatisation

A government-appointed committee has dropped the proposal floated by the civil aviation ministry to restrict the number of airports a private operator can bid for under the public-private partnership model.

Sources in the government said the committee, after examining the market, came to the conclusion that there are not enough players in the sector to take up airport privatisation, so putting any kind of cap would delay the entire exercise to privatise airports. The proposal was that a private operator cannot bid for more than two projects in a round of auction.

The government is likely to invite bids for privatisation of Varanasi, Calicut, Patna, Amritsar, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, Coimbatore, Trichy, Indore and Raipur airports in the next round and the guidelines once finalised would not have any restrictive clause, sources said.

The proposal for putting some kind of restriction on number of projects one operator can bid for was mooted last year with Adani Group winning all six projects in the 2019 airport privatisation bids.

The airports on offer were Jaipur, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram, Mangaluru, Ahmedabad and Lucknow.

In 2020, the Adani Group emerged as the largest player in the airports business in terms of number of projects after it struck a deal to acquire the controlling 74% stake in Mumbai International Airport (Mial) from the GVK Group and other partners.

This development had further activated the government to look at putting some kind of restriction on the number of projects one party can bid for. The task was given to an inter-ministerial committee.

17/01/21 Financial Express

Aerocity plan in Navi Mumbai takes off; will have offices, schools, entertainment, hospitals

Mumbai: Cidco has kicked off the process of developing an aerocity abutting Navi Mumbai International Airport.

As airports serve as an engine to boost economy, the aerocity will be a commercial and residential district on its southern side spread over around 300 hectares. From financial services and corporate offices to residential and entertainment centres, hotels, hospitals, schools, and export-oriented services to aero-centric warehousing, the aerocity will accommodate and offer a range of activities and facilities. In all, 400 lakh square feet will be developed as part of the plan, including well-designed roads, Metro lines and automated waste collection systems.

“There is a requirement for financial services and banks, besides residential and commercial facilities, as airports are economic engines. Building an aerocity serves that purpose,” a Cidco official said.

Cidco vice-chairman and MD Sanjay Mukherjee said, “The land acquisition is complete, and the project has been divided into four packets. International consultants have been appointed for techno-economic feasibility, marketing assessment, and so on. As we begin our mission again, we are taking a holistic view on the development of Navi Mumbai.”

Aerocities around the world are built with a focus on a particular sector while some serve as transit destinations. The sectors may range from financial to cargo services or aero-centric activities.

Cidco officials said to enable a conducive urban design form and make the aerocity a benchmark for development in the country, it will be developed with a global floor space index. The Navi Mumbai Aerocity will also offer a central command-and-control operation to manage all utilities. More importantly, utilities will be laid through tunnels to avoid digging of roads. The concept plan has been finalised and a detailed master plan along with a detailed design of the facilities will be taken up shortly.

17/01/21 Sanjeev Devasia/Times of India

After disastrous 2020, is aviation industry finally getting its wings in 2021?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its financial outlook for the global air transport industry, showing that airlines were expected to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 for a net profit margin of -20.1%. Revenues would fall 50% to $419 billion from $838 billion in 2019. In 2021, losses are expected to be cut to $15.8 billion as revenues rise to $598 billion.

“Financially, 2020 will go down as the worst year in the history of aviation. On an average, every day of this year will add $230 million to industry losses. In total, that’s a loss of $84.3 billion. It means that—based on an estimate of 2.2 billion passengers in 2020—airlines would lose $37.54 per passenger. That’s why government financial relief was and remains crucial as airlines burn through cash,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

There is no doubt that the year 2020 will go down in history books as the air transport industry’s most turbulent year till date, with massive fluxes in passenger volumes globally due to the pandemic. Government-imposed travel bans and nationwide lockdowns during the first half of the year were not enough to prompt travellers to return to the skies when things eased. After showing some positive signs over the northern hemisphere in the summer months, global passenger traffic at the end of November 2020 slumped back to 48% year-on-year (YoY) from 2019, according to data shared by SITA, the IT provider for air transport industry, delivering solutions for airlines, airports, aircraft and government data. Regaining passenger confidence has become a critical factor for airlines to weather the ongoing economic storm.

David Lavorel, CEO of SITA, at airports and borders, predicts a smarter, safer and more sustainable travel industry fit for the people and planet. He says, “Despite the bleak travel outlook for the 2020 holiday season in western countries, there are reasons to be hopeful for 2021. Fringe and emerging technologies that were sidelined during the previous decade of industry growth are now being examined with fervent scrutiny to evaluate their efficacy in solving crucial Covid-19 challenges.” For example, Health ETAs (Electronic Travel Authority), where electronic verification of a passenger’s health status is required upon entry to a country, look set to be commonplace by 2022. Their usage will become standardised as new vaccines are made available in 2021.

17/01/21 Vaishali Dar/Financial Express

Orvakal airport to commence flight operations in March

Vijayawada: The Centre has issued all the approvals, including the aerodrome licence, to Orvakal airport in Kurnool district, Industries and Commerce Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the minister said Orvakal airport, which is the first airport taken up by a State government in South India, will start flight operations in March. 

The YSRC government has spent `150 crore for the airport project in the last one year. The new airport will reduce the travel time to Visakhapatnam and other major  cities in the State, the minister said. Goutham Reddy lauded the efforts of Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy in getting the vital aerodrome licence for the airport from the Centre.

He also congratulated AP Airports Development Corporation Limited (APADCL) MD VN Bharath Reddy and Special Chief Secretary (Industries) R Karikal Valaven for the speedy execution of the project. Expressing happiness over getting the aerodrome licence, the APADCL MD said the government is making efforts to provide night landing facility and set up a pilot training centre at Orvakal airport.

17/01/21 New Indian Express

SpiceJet adds five destinations to India from UAE’s Ras Al Khaimah Airport

Indian carrier SpiceJet has expanded its operations from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (RAK Airport) to five more cities including Mumbai, Cochin, Amritsar, Lucknow and Jaipur, besides increasing frequencies to its existing Delhi-Ras Al Khaimah-Delhi route.

The addition of the new destinations comes less than two months after the low-cost carrier began operations to RAK Airport.

By way of a partnership between SpiceJet and RAK Airport, free road transportation (passenger pick-up and drop-off) is provided to passengers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Ras Al Khaimah aims to attract 2.9 million visitors per year by 2025 and tourism is one of its central elements in its economic diversification strategy.

“SpiceJet has been a vital partner for us since we signed an MoU with them in 2019 and they are playing a major role in our expansion plans, which are to deliver more services to a greater number of destinations across the Indian sub-continent as well as to the rest of the world. This new tranche of services from SpiceJet will further enhance our role as a vital transport hub for the UAE,” said Sanjay Khanna, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.

“We are working hard to attract more airlines to our facility and expect our operations to grow significantly this year for the anticipated post-Covid-19 economic bounce and Expo 2020 in October,” added Khanna.

Ajay Singh, CMD SpiceJet, meanwhile said, “SpiceJet has flown with the highest occupancy of over 90% in India for a record five years now, which is a testament to our continued popularity. The addition of our new flights to Ras Al Khaimah will both meet existing requirements for flights to and from the UAE and India as well as help fuel new demand.”

17/01/21 Varun Godinho/Gulf News

Air India pilots plea against reduction in allowances: HC seeks response of Centre, DGCA and airline

The Delhi High Court has sought the response of the Centre, DGCA and Air India on a plea challenging the national carrier’s decision to reduce allowances of its employees and putting in place a scheme, under which anyone can be sent on leave for up to five years without pay.

The petition by the Executive Pilots Association (EPA) also challenged a civil aviation ministry letter that mentioned a reduction in allowances of pilots from 40 per cent to 35 per cent. The ministry letter also said that allowances of pilots will be based on 20 hours of flying as against the earlier 70 hours of flying.

Justice V K Rao issued a notice to the ministry, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India seeking their stand on the EPA plea.

Air India, during the hearing, told the court that the July 14, 2020, office order, which allowed the chairman and managing director of the airline to send anyone on leave without pay, has not been effected and the same might not be implemented in the next two-three months.

The EPA, represented by senior advocate Vivek Kohli and advocate Bharti Chawla, has challenged the Air India office orders of March 20, 2020, and July 22, 2020, by which the allowances were reduced by 10 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.

The association has also sought setting aside of the office orders of July 14, 2020, and July 21, 2020, which put in place the compulsory leave without pay scheme.

16/01/21 PTI/Financial Express

Now, fly to Statue of Unity

Juhu airport-based charter company, Bativala M Bhagvati Flying Charters LLP, has tied up with Sanskruti Vacations for helicopter services from Juhu airport to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat.

Earlier, SpiceJet had started a seaplane service to the fast emerging destination.

Captain Mihir Bhagvati, a partner of Bativala M Bhagvati Flying Charters LLP, said, “The inaugural flight will take off later this month, and we have received more than 50 inquiries. Those wanting to visit can board the helicopter by 9 am and reach Kevadia by 10.30 am. The helipad there can accommodate nearly four helicopters.”

He said according to the arrangements, after having snacks and breakfast, the visitors can proceed to the statue.

After lunch, they can have some free time to spend. A car would pick them at Kevadia and drop them at airport, he said. The return journey would start only at 3.30 pm and the chopper would back at Juhu by 5 pm.

17/01/21 Yogesh Naik/Mumbai Mirror

Kurnool airport gets DGCA nod for operations

Kurnool: The Director of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has granted licence to Andhra Pradesh Airports Development Corporation Limited (APDCL) to open Kurnool airport (Orvakal) for public use.

With this development, the last hurdle for commencement of commercial operations has been cleared, said an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official.

Indigo Airlines has been selected as private operator under UDAAN-4 scheme and there are plans to operate flights to Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru from February or March, a source said. The airport is 350 km from Vijayawada and 360 km from Bengaluru. The nearest major international airport is Hyderabad, which is about 200 km away.

The Orvakal airport is spread over 970 acres and is at a distance of 20 km from Kurnool.

It has four parking bays. The airport can operate the ATR-72/ Q-400 category of aircraft. For firefighting and rescue operations, the airport has two Rosenbauer airfield crash fire tenders (ACFTs) and an ambulance besides an Advanced Air Traffic Advisory System (AATAS).

The successful bidder will get a long-term lease for construction of hangar, building, facilities and other infrastructure.

17/01/21 Deccan Chronicle

Dense fog in north India delays several Delhi-bound flights

Pune: Heavy fog in northern India delayed several inbound and outbound flights from/to Delhi and other places on Saturday morning.

A Delhi-bound SpiceJet flight slated to take off from the city around 8.05am was delayed by over two hours.

Similarly, an Air India flight scheduled to land in Pune from Delhi at 8.40am was delayed by almost three-and-a-half hours, an airport official said.

Between 9.30am and 10.40am, five departing flights to different destinations — four to Delhi and one to Chandigarh — were delayed in the range of an hour-and-a-half to almost four hours.

During the same time period, three inbound flights from Delhi and one from Chandigarh were delayed.

The delays continued later in the day.

Two afternoon flights to the national capital took off around 4.50pm and 5.40pm on Saturday .

Similarly, two flights arriving in Pune from Delhi, during the same time, got delayed.

Airport sources said owing to dense fog in the national capital, more than 100 flights to and from Delhi had been heavily impacted.

“I did not know about the delay, nor did the airline inform me. It was sudden and very frustrating. Since this was a weather phenomenon, there is nothing much we can do about it,” ” a Chandigarh-bound passenger told TOI.

“I am just worried about the wait as my mother, a senior citizen, is travelling with me,” the passenger added.

Some flyers complained about the facilities, though. “Air India’s AI851 is delayed by more than three hours but no arrangement for water and snacks for old people and children... Passengers have been left at their own fate (sic),” Sharmendra, a flyer, wrote on Twitter.

Different airlines put up advisories on their social media pages about their flights to and from different destinations in north India seeing delays.

SpiceJet, from the wee hours, cautioned travellers about delay in flights to and from places like Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur and Surat because of bad weather.

Other airlines, like IndiGo and GoAir, also put out similar advisories.

17/01/21 Joy Sengupta/Times of India

CIAL commissions floating solar power plants

Cochin International Airport Ltd(CIAL), which became the worlds first solar-powered airportin 2015, on Sunday added another feather to its cap, commissioning two floating solar power plants in Kerala.

With the installation of the plants with a capacity of452 KWh over two artificial lakes, the airport's total installed capacity has risen to 40 MWp helping it to produce around 1.60 lakh units of power a day against per day consumption of around at 1.30 lakh units, the CIAL said.

''CIALs trysts with the experiments in producing green energy achieved another milestone with this installation asthe company has introduced cost-effective high-density polyethylene floats; using French technology, upon which 1300photovoltaic panels were mounted and laid over two artificial lakes located in the 130-acre CIAL golf course'', it said.

The plants covering a total area of one acre are connected to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) powergrid, CIAL said in a release.

The pre-commissioning trials showed that these panels, which cost around Rs 2 crore to the company, were producing power with maximum output efficiency among the eight solar power plants installed by CIAL at various locations in the airport premises, the company said.

CIAL founder managing director V J Kurian attributed the success of the plants to the companys relentless efforts in bringing in new technologies and its working philosophy at par with global standards.

17/01/2021 PTI/Devdiscourse

New terminal at R’mundry airport soon

Rajahmundry: A new integrated domestic terminal will come up at Rajahmundry airport as part of its expansion and upgradation plans. The new terminal building, which will be built at a cost of Rs 135 crore, will have all modern facilities including aero bridges and will be able to handle 1,400 passengers (700 arrivals and 700 departures) at a time.

An automated vehicle parking management system has also been installed at the airport which is expected to help in reducing congestion in front of the terminal building. Signages have been placed for smooth operation of the vehicle parking system. Additionally, no vehicle would be allowed to park in front of the terminal building.

Rajahmundry airport has been witnessing significant growth in terms of passenger footfall over the last six months — from 7,700 in July 2020 to 28,900 in December 2020. There are daily flights to Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai from Rajahmundry. From March 28, there will be new flights to Tirupati and Visakhapatnam. The airport has also obtained a DGCA licence for handling wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus 321 and Boeing 738.

17/01/21 Samson Raj/Times of India

Pay and skip quarantine: Cops bust scam at Mumbai airport

Mumbai: Police on Friday arrested a 35-year-old sub-engineer and two accomplices in Mumbai’s Sahar for their alleged role in collecting Rs 4,000 from each flyer arriving at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) who wanted to skip mandatory institutional quarantine.

Police seized Rs 1.4 lakh cash, 200 Saudi riyals, a fake rubber stamp of home quarantine, few letterheads with stamp and signatures of doctors from some top private hospitals in the bag of Dinesh Gawande (35), who was posted by BMC at the airport since December 23 and had to check flyers from Dubai, Kuwait and US at P6 on Friday.

Police are probing if officials helped Gawande to get the bribes and the number of flyers he cleared with fake documents. If found guilty he can be imprisoned for seven years.

Gawande’s luck ran short when he barged into a toilet and returned with a bag after pushing aside a lady from the housekeeping staff who was walking in around 5.50am. “The woman complained to CISF and MIAL officials after she suspected Gawande, who claimed he was helped by Ashraf Sarang (41) and Vivek Singh (32) from the airport’s duty-free shop in making fake health certificates. The trio was booked under IPC sections for violation of prohibitory orders, cheating, forgery, counterfeiting a mark used by a public servant and under Epidemic and Disaster Act. They are in police custody till January 19,” a Sahar police officer said.

Officials, on a tip-off from the woman, checked Gawande’s bag and found a huge amount of cash along with fake documents like a fake home quarantine rubber stamp, fake signatures and stamp of doctors on four letterheads of Tata Memorial Hospital, three letterheads of Asian Heart Institute and two of a doctor of Care Medical Centre. “Gawande admitted he was collecting bribes. His bank account will be checked. He shared the money with Sarang and Singh,” said a police officer.

Singh’s lawyers Prabhakar Tripathi and Saurabh Mishra requested the court for judicial custody as the accused did not have any role in the case and he went with his team leader to assist him.

17/01/21 Times of India

CBK searches offices of travel agents, residence of airline sales manager over sale of air tickets at exorbitant rates

Srinagar: The Crime Branch Kashmir (CBK) on Saturday carried out searches at a number of locations across Srinagar city in connection with alleged sale of air tickets at exorbitant rates by travel agents and various airlines operating in Srinagar sector.

A spokesman said that a case vide FIR No: 03/2020 U/S 120, 468, 471,409,120-B IPC was registered after complaints were received by the CBK.

“In this regard searches were conducted in the offices of nine travel agents and the residential premises of a sales manager of one of the airlines,” said the spokesman, in a statement.

The Crime Branch Kashmir had received a complaint from different Travel Associations and Trade bodies through Director Tourism, Kashmir regarding dry selling/offline selling of bulk tickets by airlines staff to the ticketing agents in advance in violation of the standing norms and procedure, he said.

The complaint further alleged that travel agents in league with Airlines staff are creating artificial inflation of prices.

During the investigation, the Crime Branch Kashmir had summoned representatives of various airlines viz, Vistara, Go Air, Indigo, Air India, Air Asia and Spice-jet U/S 160 CrPC along with relevant records.

The investigation has revealed that large number of tickets have been purchased by some agents through various airlines in violation of the standing norms and procedure.

16/01/21 Greater Kashmir

Actress accuses Air India pilot of rape, cheating

An Andheri-based model and TV actress has accused an Air India pilot of rape, unnatural sex, cheating. While the woman has accused the 33-year-old pilot of cheating and raping her on the pretext of marriage. While no case has been registered at Oshiwara Police, investigation is underway after which a case may be lodged.

According to a written complaint, the actress has accused a 33-year-old Air India pilot Akshat Sethi for rape and unnatural sex, besides breach of trust, criminal intimidation and cheating. According to the source, the actress met Sethi on a matrimonial site called, wherein he had promised the actress of marriage but never intended to. On the pretext of marriage, Sethi established sexual relations and raped the actress, claimed the complaint letter.

Citing the bad intentions, the actress claimed that she was cheated and hence approached police to lodge a complaint. The victim has also alleged that the accused also threatened her with dire consequences and death if she tried to make a noise about the matter. The accused then allegedly fled from the spot and police are verifying the allegations.

17/01/21 FreePressJournal

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Jet fuel price up by three per cent

New Delhi: Jet fuel or ATF price on Saturday was hiked by 3 per cent - the fourth increase in two months on firming international oil prices, while petrol and diesel rates remained unchanged after hitting new highs.

Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) price was raised by Rs 1,512.38 per kilolitre, or 2.96 per cent, to Rs 52,491.16 per kl in the national capital, according to a price notification of state-owned fuel retailers. This is the fourth increase in price since December 1, 2020.

Rates had gone up by 7.6 per cent (Rs 3,288.38 per kl) on December 1, by 6.3 per cent (Rs 2,941.5 per kl) on December 16 and by Rs 1,817.62 (3.69 per cent) on January 1. ATF prices are revised on 1st and 16th of every month based on the average price of benchmark international rate and foreign exchange rate in the preceding fortnight.

In Mumbai, ATF price on Saturday went up to Rs 50,596.02 per kl from Rs 49,083.65 per kl. Prices vary from state to state depending on the incidence of local taxes.

The increase in the price of ATF, which makes for close to 40 per cent of the running cost of an airline, will put additional burden on airlines that have been struggling to return to normal business after COVID-19 lockdown had halted their operations.

16/01/21 PTI/New Indian Express

Now, travel from Chandigarh to Hisar in just 45 min

Now, travel from Hisar to Chandigarh in just 45 min! Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently flagged off the first flight from Chandigarh to Hisar under the Center’s UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik). The inauguration was attended by the senior officials of Airport Authority of India (AAI) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).

Referring to this, the Chief Minister added that this is for the first time in the country that a small aircraft in the form of air taxi will be used for services.

Khattat added that in the 2nd phase, services for Hisar to Dehradun will be started on January 18, whereas in the 3rd phase, two more routes from Hisar to Dharamshala, and Chandigarh to Dehradun will be added on January 23. He elaborated that the company also plans to include Kullu, Shimla, and more Haryana routes in the coming future.

The flagging off of the small aircraft from Chandigarh to Hisar marks the operationalisation of 54th airport under the UDAN scheme. Reportedly, till date, 54 airports, 307 routes, including 2 water aerodromes, and 5 heliports have been operationalised under the UDAN scheme, as per the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

16/01/21 Times of India

Nagpur airport handles about 60% less passengers in 2020

In the year 2020 aviation industry experienced a sharp downturn as the economy was hit by coronavirus pandemic and Government induced lockdown. With this came travel restrictions on the movement of people and temporary suspension of flights from March 25 to May 25, the aviation industry was badly hit. As per the data given by MIHAN India Limited (MIL) authorities the air passenger traffic in and out from Nagpur airport dropped significantly in 2020 compared to 2019.

 The number of air passenger traffic in and out of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport Nagpur witnessed a sharp reduction from January to December 2020 which stood at 12,06,890 compared to 31,24,675 in the year 2019, a drop of about 61 per cent which is 19,17,785 passengers, said a senior airport official while speaking to The Hitavada. He further said that the above figures include domestic and international passengers from Nagpur airport. Currently, international flights have not resumed from Nagpur airport.

 “When the coronavirus vaccination starts in the country, things are bound to improve. The confidence level of people will improve and they will not hesitate to go out and travel. Similarly, if there is growth in hospitality industry, it would certainly help the aviation industry,” he said. The official said that the air passenger traffic is projected to increase to 20 lakh--22 lakh passengers from January to December 2021.

16/01/21 Hitavada

Wide-bodied aircraft of Saudi Air to land in Kozhikode on February 1

Karipur: The big aircraft of Saudi Air from Riyadh was granted permission to land in Kozhikode airport. The SV-3889 flight will set out from Riyadh on February 1 at 1.45 am.

 The wide-bodied aircraft belongs to Code E category. The flight that flies from Riyadh will land at Karipur International Airport on February 1 morning. 

 The service of large aircrafts was stopped in Karipur airport after the Air India Express plane crash occurred in August 2020. As Saudi Air flight is permitted to land in Kozhikode, wide-bodied flights of other companies also will get permission soon. 

 16/01/21 Mathrubhumi

4 Flights to/From Delhi Airport Delayed, 1 Cancelled Due to Dense Fog & Zero Visibility

New Delhi: At least four flights to/from Delhi airport were on Saturday delayed while one was cancelled due to dense fog blanketing the Delhi-NCR region, leading to zero visibility over many places. Due to the prevailing weather conditions, only CAT IIIA and CAT III B compliant aircraft and pilots can operate, the Delhi airport said. Passengers are requested to contact their respective airlines for updated flight information. 

Notably, zero visibility was reported over Delhi, Lucknow, and Amritsar due to variable and calm lower-level winds. A temperature of 9.8 degrees Celsius was recorded in Delhi’s Palam at 5:30 am today, which is likely to fall by 0.2 degree Celsius during the next 24 hours. Safdarjung recorded 8.6 degrees Celsius temperature, which is likely to rise by 1.2 degrees Celsius during the next 24 hours, the Met department said. 


Tejas, a tale of India’s nascent aerospace system with a happy ending

In a boost to India’s fledgling domestic aerospace ecosystem, the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the Rs 48,000-crore deal for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, which included 73 Mark 1A versions, on 13 January. The first big order to the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for Tejas, which will become the backbone of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the coming years, is a landmark in the aircraft’s journey of over three and a half decades.

Read more on the journey >>

Flyers at a loss after Sat flight re-scheduled to Fri

Kolkata: Some passengers booked on SpiceJet flight SG-370 scheduled to depart Mumbai for Kolkata late on Saturday night have complained that the airline sent SMS on Thursday evening saying they had been rebooked on a flight taking off hours later on early Friday morning. Conventionally, when airlines reschedule flights, they do so at a later time and date.

According to Suvadeep Chakraborty, who was booked on flight SG-370 from Mumbai to Kolkata along with his wife Kasturi Desarkar and father Sushil Chakraborty, they had booked the late-evening flight that was to depart at 11.45pm on Saturday, January 16, so that he could finish his commitments in Mumbai before flying out.

However, around 6.40pm on Thursday, he received an SMS that stated their flight had been rescheduled to Friday morning and that it would depart at 5.30am. There was no way he could take the flight and decided to seek a rescheduling.

“My entire schedules for Friday and Saturday would have gone haywire if I opted to take the fight. Moreover, to take the flight, I would have to reach the airport by 3.30am and leave home at 2.30am. My father is 78-year-old and not in the best if health. Staying awake all night to take the flight would have taken a toll,” he explained.

The attempt to call up the airline and demand a change proved a Herculean task with Chakraborty unable to get through to the call centre. It is only when the problem was tweeted and the aviation minister and Prime Minister was tagged that an airline executive finally contacted the family.

An airline spokesperson acknowledged that advancing a flight is rare and was taken due to the unusual Covid situation.

16/01/21 Times of India

Kolkata airport now a pivotal centre for Covid vaccine distribution

Kolkata: The city airport is now a hub of Covid vaccine disbursal. Consignments are being flown from Pune and are later loaded on to flights headed for different cities in the northeast.

On January 12, the SpiceJet flight that flew in from Pune with 1lakh doses later flew to Guwahati with 2, 40,000 doses of vaccine. Of these, 2, 04,000 were meant for Assam. Of the around 10, 00,000 doses that had arrived in the city by the SpiceJet cargo aircraft, almost 7, 00,000 were meant for the health staff in the state. 

The rest were stored in the central government regional vaccine depot at Hastings. From the depot, 1, 20,000 doses were transported to the city airport on January 13. Two IndiGo flights flew out with 60,000 doses of vaccine each. On Wednesday, 24,000 doses of Covishield were flown in the city airport from Pune by an IndiGo flight.

The city airport would be the nerve centre of hub-and-spoke operations during the vaccination drive with vaccines being flown in from Pune in bulk and then flown out to different north-eastern states according to the need. 


Bihar Ministers Might Be Involved In IndiGo Manager Murder Case: Tejashwi Yadav

Patna: Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav has said that rumours have been circulating that ministers in the Bihar government might be involved in the murder of the IndiGo airlines manager Rupesh Kumar Singh.

In a Facebook live on Friday, Yadav said: "There are rumours that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's ministers might be involved in the murder of IndiGo airlines manager Rupesh Kumar Singh".

Earlier, the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar informed that a special team has been formed to probe the murder and assured that strict action will be taken against the culprits.

Rupesh Kumar Singh, a manager with IndiGo airlines, was shot dead by unidentified bike-borne men in the Punaichak area of Patna on January 12.

16/01/21 ANI/Businessworld

Woman trying to smuggle gold worth Rs 56 lakh held at KIA

Bengaluru: In the biggest seizure of gold at Kempegowda International Airport so far this year, a woman passenger was nabbed on Thursday for attempting to smuggle solid gold worth Rs 56.6 lakh.

She was booked by customs sleuths and the metal was seized. Sources with the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Bangalore Customs said the woman, said to be aged 48, landed at KIA on Thursday morning in a FlyDubai flight (FZ 4007) from Dubai.

Customs officers suspected something amiss about her behaviour during routine profiling of passengers after arrival of flights, mainly from the Gulf region. On questioning, officers found she was a resident of Thane in Maharashtra, but she failed to give proper reasons for her short visit to Dubai and her decision to land in Bengaluru airport. The customs team frisked her belongings, only to find solid gold, which was concealed inside in a cavity in her bag to avoid detection by airport authorises.

16/01/21 Petlee Peter Times of India