Sunday, March 29, 2015

AI pilots ask DGCA to ground 26-year-old Airbus A-320s

New Delhi:  At a time when pilots' psyche has become a major safety concern globally, one of India's oldest pilot unions has raised several crucial questions with the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) chief M Sathiyavathi.

The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), union of pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines and now Air India (domestic), has complained about the 26-year-old Airbus A-320s that AI still flies.

"The classic A-320 aircrafts which are 26 years old (one of the oldest in the world) are being operated with repetitive snags endangering flight safety.... DGCA should not permit AI to operate these lethal snag prone classic aircrafts in view of passenger safety."

On its part, AI maintains that all its planes, including the old A-320s are perfectly safe to fly, airworthy and that they are certified to fly by the regulator.

The ICPA has also raised the issue of "nonpayment of full salary and allowances for last almost 32 months".
29/03/15 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

One bird hit a month grounds aircraft in Coimbatore

Coimbatore:  Coimbatore airport has reported at least one bird hit every month over the last year. Bird strikes do not cause many air accidents but they do cause hours of delay and expensive repairs for airlines. An RTI reply received by TOI has found that the number of bird hits rose from six in 2013 to 12 in 2014.

The RTI reply from the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) also revealed that the number of bird hits has been increasing over the past five years, but 2014 saw the highest number of incidents. While the airport saw seven bird hits in 2010, it went up to nine in 2011. The number dropped to five in 2012, but again increased to six in 2013 and 12 last year.

Officials say the numbers are surprising because last year the airport acquired six zon guns, which are supposed to fire every few minutes and produce loud noises to scare birds away. Six people are on duty on the runway to scare away birds during the day and 10 at night. They set off firecrackers to scare away birds.
29/03/15 V Ayyappan & Pratiksha Ramkumar/Times of India

Man who jumped off plane at Mumbai airport arrested

Mumbai: A day after midday wrote about a passenger aboard Boeing 737 Jet Airways flight jumping off the emergency exit door and walking out of the airport without being noticed, this passenger was finally arrested late on Saturday evening. The passenger Akash Jain has been booked under section 29 (acts likely to imperil the safety of aircraft) of the Indian Aircraft Act, 1937.
“After investigating about his background, we found out that Jain was supposed to board a connecting flight to Goa from Mumbai but instead, he walked out of the exit doors and took a bus to Pune. Today while he was on his way back from Pune, we arrested him at around 8.30.” said an officer from the Airport police station. He added that initial inquiry also shows how Jain, originally from Jalandhar, was jobless at present and had not informed his wife or other family members about his trip to Mumbai/Goa. “We caught him in a nakabandi between Vakola and Kalanagar when the Volvo he was returning in was made to stop. He seems to be a bit unstable,however the entire episode will be clear only once he is brought to the police station.” added the officer.
The said incident took place on Friday when a Chandigarh-Mumbai Jet Airways Boeing 737 flight carried 144 passengers and 5 crewmembers as it landed safely at the domestic terminal of Mumbai airport. With no patience to wait for people to make way to the exit door, Jain, jumped off the emergency exit door, placed right in the middle of the aircraft. This happened right after the aircraft came to standstill just meters away from the ‘Arrival’ terminal building.
29/03/15 Neha Tripathi/Mid Day

Fare War: GoAir Introduces Another Discount Offer

Fare war in Indian skies has intensified with airlines introducing new offers every next day. Budget carrier GoAir on Saturday announced yet another discount scheme, in which it's offering one-way tickets as low as Rs 1299.

To avail this scheme, which is valid for travel between June 23 to October 31, tickets should be purchased between March 28 and 30.

Last week GoAir had also rolled out a limited period low fares scheme, offering one way ticket prices as low as Rs 999 with a more than four months validity period, for travel across its network.

This low fare scheme by GoAir triggered another round of fare wars and rival airlines like Tata's Vistara, AirAsia India and IndiGo announced new schemes to woo travellers throughout the week.

While Tata's Vistara on Friday offered discounted air fares for booking made 90 days in advance, IndiGo on Wednesday announced a 'lower than low' scheme offering domestic all-inclusive fares starting as low as Rs 1,395.
29/03/15 NDTV

SpiceJet to add 7 Boeing 737 aircraft; another Rs 500 cr infusion in April

As it embarks on a revival path, budget carrier SpiceJet plans to lease seven more Boeing 737 aircraft by May while another Rs 500 crore is expected to be infused by its new owner Ajay Singh next month.
Singh has already pumped in Rs 500 crore into the carrier after he took over control last month from erstwhile promoter the Maran family as part of the airline’s revival plan.
“We plan to induct seven more Boeing 737 planes between April and May, which would take our total Boeing fleet size to 22,” a top source at the airline told PTI.
The source, who did not wish to be named, said that Singh recently had discussions with some of the aircraft leasing firms.
SpiceJet currently has 17 Boeing 737s and 15 Bombardier Q400s in its fleet.
29/03/15 Indian Express

Despite nod, AI Express fails to operate flights to Abu Dhabi

Trichy:  The number of people travelling from the central districts to the Middle East is increasing but Air India Express has not operated flights to Abu Dhabi from the international airport here for the past two years, despite having obtained slots.

A Right to Information (RTI) Act petition filed to the director general of civil aviation on specific operations of Air India Express flights revealed that the airlines had obtained approval to operate 24 services from Trichy, out of which 10 were never run.

The Chennai- Trichy - Abu Dhabi and Trichy - Colombo flights are supposed to fly three and seven services respectively from the city but they have been totally neglected. A senior official of Air India Express here said, "The flights to Abu Dhabi were suspended two years ago after Air India Express did not find it feasible to operate it from here."

Information about the approved slots for Air India Express from Trichy to Colombo reportedly surprised even the airport officials here, who claimed they had had no knowledge of it.
29/03/15 Harish Murali/Times of India

Germanwings crash brings pilots under lens

Mumbai: Globally, pilots are increasingly coming under scrutiny, with their training standards and health checks being questioned. This follows claims a co-pilot intentionally crashed a Germanwings Airbus A320 aircraft in the French Alps on Wednesday.

While investigators will rely on the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder to ascertain the causes of crash, there will be no visuals of what transpired in the cockpit. This is because owing to lack of regulation and opposition from pilots, cockpits don’t have cameras installed.

Though cameras were installed outside cockpit doors in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the US, there are no regulations mandating cameras inside cockpits.

In January, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a set of recommendations on installing new technology to locate aircraft wreckage and recover critical flight data. Reviewing its earlier recommendations, it said all aircraft should be equipped with “crash-protected cockpit image recording systems”.
28/03/15 Aneesh Phadnis/Business Standard

Fuselage of Dornier aircraft salvaged off the Goa coast

Panaji: The fuselage of the ill-fated Indian Navy's Dornier aircraft was on Saturday salvaged from the bottom of the sea, about 25 nautical miles off the Goa coast, Defence sources said. The fuselage will now be taken to Karwar for inspection.

The Navy had already recovered the Black Box, which will now be inspected as a part of the Board of Inquiry. The fuselage was brought up with the help of a Naval ship, the Defence sources said.

The Indian Navy surveillance aircraft had crashed south-west off Goa coast on Tuesday with the three officers on board. Commander Nikhil Kuldip Joshi, who was flying the aircraft and has 4,000 flying hours to his credit, was rescued about an hour after the crash by a fishing vessel. While the body of Lt Kiran Shekhawat was recovered from the fuselage on Thursday, the body of the second missing Navy officer Lt Abhinay Nagori was recovered yesterday from the fuselage of the ill-fated Dornier Aircraft which crashed during a training sortie off the Goa coast.
29/03/15 PTI/Daily News & Analysis

‘I was to pack her bags, not attend her funeral’, says mother-in-law Sunita Devi

Kurthala: On March 23, a day before she died in a Dornier aircraft crash, Lt Kiran Shekhawat spoke to her mother-in-law Sunita Devi for about 20 minutes. She had received her transfer orders and was to report to Kochi on April 10. After being away from her husband Vivek Chhoker for more than a year, she couldn’t wait to start living together in Kochi.
But on Sunday — the day Sunita was to leave for Goa to help Kiran pack her bags — she will now be attending her funeral.
The Chhokers got the bad news at 1.30 am on March 24. “It was Vivek. My husband picked up the phone and dropped it the next moment.
Vivek had called to say there was a Dornier crash and Kiran was in the aircraft,” Sunita, the sarpanch of Kurthala in Haryana, said. The family, which has four Navy sailors, braced for the worst.
“Vivek travelled to Goa by train. On Thursday evening, it was confirmed that the body of his wife was located by Navy divers in the wreckage of the Dornier,” said Jayprakash Singh Chhoker, Vivek”s cousin and a retired store petty officer.
Kiran’s body, which was flown to Delhi at 4 pm on Saturday, will be taken to the village on Sunday morning, when the last rites would be performed with full military honours in the presence of a Navy band.
Kiran and Vivek had celebrated their second marriage anniversary on February 5. The two took almost a month”s break to spend time together. He drove from Ezhimala, where he is currently posted, to pick her up from Goa.
29/03/15 Pranav Kulkarni/Indian Express

Body of Lt Abhinav flown home, funeral today

Udaipur: The body of Lt Abhinav Nagori, the co-pilot of the navy's Dornier-228 maritime surveillance aircraft that crashed into the Arabian Sea near Goa on March 24, was flown in a special aircraft from Goa to his home town, here on Saturday afternoon.

Large number of people had gathered at the Dabok airport to receive the body, which was draped in the tricolour. The brave heart was given a guard of honour at the airport and his body was transported in an open military truck to his residence at Chitrakoot Nagar in Bhuwana. The last rites would be held at Ashok Nagar crematorium after some 15 kilometer procession around the city on Sunday morning, family sources said. Meanwhile, the natives of Bhuwana have announced to celebrate instead of mourning the soldier's demise. The marble processors and traders association at Sukher called for a half day shut down as a token of homage.
29/03/15 Times of India

China keen to invest in Mihan: MADC

Nagpur: China has expressed its interest towards future investments as well in the multi-modal international cargo hub and airport at Nagpur (Mihan) project.

  A business delegation from China headed by Consul General Zhang Xiyuan today visited the project and had a meeting with the officials of the Maharashtra Area Development Company (MADC), the nodal agency for the project.
29/03/15 NITI Central

67 of 82 farmers give consent to sell land for civil airport to authorities

bareilly: About 67 out of 82 farmers, who own land where the new civil airport is set to come up, have given consent to hand over their property to the district authorities.

After attending a meeting with the local authorities, farmers have agreed to sell the land to the state government at a rate fixed by the officers who would take into account the prevailing circle rate of the said land.

This means the much awaited project may soon see light of the day as the major hurdle of land acquisition seems to be moving fast towards mutual settlement between local farmers and authorities.
28/03/15 Mrigank Tiwari/Times of India

Spicejet reschedules flight by 13 hours, passengers inconvenienced

In a case highlighting callousness on the part of an airline company, a passenger was shocked to learn that his Spicejet flight to Chennai from Mumbai which was scheduled on April 2 was rescheduled by about 13 hours, due to change in the airline's summer schedule.

Also, when he asked about the status of his return flight of April 4, he was doubly shocked when the airline executive told him that the flight had already been cancelled, though he did not receive any intimation about it.

Anand Shirali, the aggrieved passenger, has just one question to ask the airline. "If I made the booking about 20 days ago, wasn't the airline management aware that the schedule was going to be changed? I just fail to understand this," he said.

In the aviation industry, the schedules for winter and summer- which are generally the peak tourist seasons- are decided well in advance.
29/03/15 Shahkar Abidi/Daily News & Analysis

Helipads in 10 tourist spots soon

Ranchi: Ten tourist destinations of Jharkhand will soon be equipped with helipads. State government has taken the initiative for proper aerial connectivity and infrastructural facilities for such spots. The helipads will have safety, security and safe operation of helicopters carrying passengers and VVIPs.

The Re-tender inviting bidders for the construction of helipads was published by the Civil Aviation department on Monday. The opening of the technical bid and financial was scheduled on March 27 at the office of Additional Chief Secretary Sajal Chakraverty in the State Hangar. Talking to The Pioneer, Chakraverty said they are yet to identify the ten locations for the helipad construction.

“We have chosen Maluti, Betla, Basukinath and Saranda among the ten spots. But, the final list of the spots has not been prepared. Searching land on the basis of longitude and latitude for the set up is an issue as most of the places are dominated by private land,” he added.

The construction is part of the 2014-15 Financial Year plan. Chakraverty said the grounds used by political parties and senior Government officers for landing helicopters in case of campaigning, inspection or a confidential activity are not safe. “Helipads would serve a convenient space for landing in such circumstances in terms of safety,” he maintained.
29/03/15 Nyooz

AAI union seeks Anna Hazare support on airport privatisation issue

New Delhi: Having failed in its efforts to stop the government from going ahead with privatistion of four more national airports, the AAI employees union has now turned to anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare for help.
AAEU (Airports Authority of India Employees Union) leaders met the septuagenarian activist at Ralegan Siddhi (in Maharashtra) last week to solicit his support in its "fight" against government's attempt to hand over four more state- owned airports to the private corporates.

"We met Anna ji last week to seek his support in our fight over airport privatisation. We informed him how the government is handing over these airports to private corporate even after investing Rs 5,000 crore public money in their modernisation and development work," a source told PTI.
29/03/15 ZeeNews

CIAL’s rights issue to open in July

Kochi: The Cochin International Airport Limited will start issuing the rights share for around 18,000 shareholders from July onwards. A decision in this regard was taken during a director board meeting of the airport company held in Thiruvananthapuram on March 27.

“The issue of rights share at a proportion of 4:1 (one share per holding of four shares) and at a price of Rs.50 will commence once the State Budget for the fiscal 2014- 15 is passed in the Assembly. This is because the government, a majority stakeholder in the company, has to make a contribution of Rs.138 crore towards the rights issue,” company sources said.

A formal decision with regard to issuing rights shares was taken during the 20th annual general meeting of the company held last year in Kochi.
29/03/15 Hiran Unnikrishnan/The Hindu

Air India boss fears passengers will switch carriers to avoid long queues

A top official from the national airline of India believes passengers may start choosing to fly to and from Dubai with Emirates rather than his carrier because Terminal 1 at Dubai International Airport is too congested.
Emirates has the exclusive rights to Terminal 3 at the airport, with other major international carriers operating from Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. However, Melwin D’Silva, Air India’s regional manager for the Gulf, Middle East and Africa, told 7DAYS he thinks Terminal 1 is “too congested”. And D’Silva believes that flyers “may start picking Emirates over Air India because passengers have begun caring more and more about their [airport] experience.”

Air India runs 175 flights per week to the UAE, about 100 of which are to Dubai. D’Silva said: “We have already seen a rise in preference for our Air India Express flights, which land at Terminal 2 and they are able to get out much faster. So the overall experience does matter.” D’Silva said Terminal 1 has to have “better crowd management”. He said:?“With Dubai growing at the rate it is, they need to have more counters and staff to regulate the flow of passengers.”
29/03/15 Megha Merani/7 Days in Dubai

Dubai Int'l T1 too congested, says Indian airline boss

The regional boss of Air India has said Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 1 is becoming too congested, which he said will begin to favour Emirates which has the entire Terminal 3 operation to itself.

Melwin D’Silva, Air India’s regional manager for the Gulf, Middle East and Africa, said congestion has become an issue at Terminal 1 and airport officials should introduce “better crowd management” in order to get passengers through as quickly as possible.

“With Dubai growing at the rate it is, they need to have more counters and staff to regulate the flow of passengers,” D’Silva told 7Days newspaper.

He said the congestion is so bad that he believes travellers “may start picking Emirates over Air India because passengers have begun caring more and more about their [airport] experience.”

He said the airline had no congestion issues with Terminal 2, where it operates the Air India Express flights.

“We have already seen a rise in preference for our Air India Express flights, which land at Terminal 2 and they are able to get out [of the terminal] much faster. So the overall experience does matter,” D’Silva told the newspaper.
29/03/15 Neil Halligan/Arabian Supply Chain

Haj flights likely from Nedumbassery this year

Malappuram: The haj flights from the state are likely to be operated from Nedumbassery airport, this year. The tender for providing air travel services for haj pilgrims invited by civil aviation ministry on Saturday gives the embarkation point for pilgrims from the Kerala as Kochi.

But the state haj committee is yet to receive any communication from civil aviation ministry, regarding this. If the flights operate from Kochi, the haj committee would shift the haj camp also to Kochi and the state haj committee would have to find a location for setting up the camp there.

It was the following decision of the airport authority of India (AAI) to suspend operation of wide bodied aircrafts for 15 months from Karipur Airport for carrying out repair works of the runway, the state haj committee approached aviation ministry and haj committee of India to resolve the confusion regarding the haj flight operation and embarkation point of Kerala pilgrims.
29/03/15 TP Nijeesh/Times of India

Gold smuggling racket suspected

Kochi: The probe into the seizure of 8 kg of gold from a passenger at the Cochin airport has pointed to the involvement of a Dubai-based gold smuggling racket that lures youngsters for smuggling in gold by offering up to Rs.50,000 for each successful attempt.

According to officials of the Department of Revenue Intelligence, Sainuddin Jamal, the person arrested in this connection, was a carrier and he admitted to have smuggled in 4 kg of gold on previous two occasions in December and January.
29/03/15 The Hindu

Saturday, March 28, 2015

India has rules to prevent Germanwings-like crash

New Delhi/Mumbai: An incident like the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps is unlikely to happen to Indian airlines. Local rules make it compulsory for carriers to have at least two crew members in the cockpit at all times during a flight.

If one of the pilots steps out, a cabin crew member must step in. That would avoid a situation like what happened, according to preliminary investigations, to the German airline's flight to Dusseldorf from Barcelona: the co-pilot locking out his colleague and deliberately slamming the Airbus 320 to an alpine ridge at about 650 km an hour, killing all 150 on board.

Airlines in the US need to follow a similar rule. But it is not compulsory yet in Europe. On Friday, Germanwings' parent Lufthansa said it will introduce new rules requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times. Several other airlines have also announced such steps.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, India's aviation regulator, introduced the policy in 2010, after a mid-flight incident in an Air India Express plane. The flight between Dubai and Pune plunged several thousand feet while on autopilot, as the co-pilot, who was alone in the cockpit at the time, had blanked out. The commander had gone to the toilet.
During an inquiry, it was found that the commander realised that the flight was losing altitude and rushed back and knocked on the locked cockpit door, but there was no response. When repeated knocking elicited no response, he punched in the code on the electronic door lock and entered the cockpit.

He found the autopilot disengaged. The co-pilot was unable to bring the plane under control. The commander took control of the aircraft in the manual mode.
28/03/15 Mihir Mishra & Anirban Chowdhury/Economic Times

Airlines test only pilots's fitness, not mental health

Revelations that the co-pilot of German wings Flight 9525 deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps on Tuesday has raised questions about airlines' policy for screening pilots for mental health problems.

Reports said on Friday that the copilot, Andreas Lubitz, had suffered from depression and anxiety in the past and once quit training to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Airlines in India subject pilots to comprehensive tests to evaluate their physical and mental health at the time of recruitment. However, during the course of service, no specific tests are conducted to analyse the state of mind of pilots, who are responsible for at least a hundred lives every time they fly.

Some aviation experts say it will be very difficult to regularly screen pilots for psychiatric problems, partly because they may not disclose issues that may jeopardise their careers.

The experts, however, say some checks could be introduced to find out if the pilot is stressed or behaving differently. An informal system in which the staff reports odd behaviour already exists among Indian carriers.

"During the pre-flight medical examination, a qualified shrink could conduct a quick test to determine if the pilot is stressed out or is suffering from fatigue. Such a system is followed by Israeli airlines," said prominent aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.
Currently, before every flight, a general practitioner asks the pilots to take a breathalyser test.

Before pilots are issued a flying licence, they have to undergo electroencephalography (EEG), which helps detect abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain.
28/03/15 Aditya Anand/Mumbai Mirror

No truth in reports claiming hijack scare on London-Delhi AI flight: Govt

New Delhi: Air India and aviation authorities on Saturday termed as false claims of a security scare onboard a recent Delhi-bound Air India flight from London.

Nothing unusual was reported on the flight AI-112, which had departed from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) on March 17 for Indira Gandhi International airport, officials said, adding, "there is no truth" in the reports which have appeared today about a hijack scare on the plane.

A section of media has reported that there was an aborted hijack attempt on the national carrier's London-Delhi flight. They said the crew had become suspicious about a passenger, who "feigned" illness, and the other passengers, who claimed to be doctors and offered to help him on the flight, as they were all Pakistani and insisted on meeting the captain.

"There is no truth in it," civil aviation secretary V Somasundaram told PTI here when contacted.
The Air India too issued a statement saying all such claims were totally false and there were no Pakistani nationals as mentioned in these reports.
28/03/15 PTI/Times of India 

Hijack attempt foiled on board Air India flight to London?

An alleged attempt to hijack a London-bound Air India flight was made on Friday, according to an email sent to Jet Airways pilots. Several airlines have subsequently asked their crew to be on alert during flights.

According to Hindustan Times, an email sent to the pilots on Friday said that a passenger aboard the Air India flight pretended to be ill and five others claiming to be doctors volunteered medical assistance. After examining the 'sick' passenger, they insisted strongly on meeting the captain, but were refused permission.
The note says that the captain refused to meet the 'doctors' because the crew felt their actions were suspect.
A check was subsequently carried out, which revealed the five were Pakistani nationals. Furthermore, on examining their documents, their numbers were also found to be fictitious.
Similar accounts have been sent to cabin crew at other airlines, with strict instructions that no 'unauthorised' person is to be allowed entry to the cockpit at any cost, aviation sources said.
28/03/15 Daily News & Analysis

Hijack: Airlines ask pilots not to leave cockpit

New Delhi: Airlines are issuing circulars of caution to pilots in the wake of a reported incident on board a flight of one of the airlines recently when a few passengers apparently insisted on meeting the pilot over an alleged medical ailment afflicting one of the passengers and requested the cabin crew to ask the pilot to come out of the cockpit but the pilot apparently refused as per rules. After the Kandahar hijack incident in 1999, India had emphasised that access to cockpits must only be for authorised persons including the two pilots and authorised cabin crew.

Airlines have now warned their pilots not to leave the cockpit, citing the recent alleged incident. Alarm bells seem to have been rung after suspicion that a passenger was feigning illness and a group of three to four passengers some of whom claimed to be doctors were in fact trying to lure the pilot out of the cockpit.

Speculation is also rife that the alleged incident may have taken place on a flight of a carrier on the Delhi-London sector and that the passengers trying to meet the pilot were Pakistanis. This has aroused suspicions in security agencies on whether there could have been any intention to hijack the aircraft by luring the pilot out of the cockpit. One prominent airline issued a warning to pilots on Friday, mentioning the alleged incident on the flight of one of the airlines without going into specifics.
28/03/15 Sridhar Kumaraswami/Deccan Chronicle

Suicides by pilots have killed 421 flyers since 1982

Mumbai: Since 1982, aircraft-assisted suicides (US aviation jargon) by commercial airline pilots have killed 421 people. If final investigation report into the March 24 Germanwings crash confirms that the co-pilot had deliberately crashed the aircraft, the toll would go up to 571. In a study the US aviation regulator released last year, it revealed that there were eight such cases in the US between 2003 and 2012. The pilot was the sole occupant in seven of these cases. Four of the eight pilots tested positive for alcohol and two positive for antidepressants. Despite these shocking cases, flying is one of the safest modes of transport as the intentional crashing of an aircraft is an infrequent and uncommon event.
But could a Germanwings kind of crash have taken place in India? The answer, say aviation experts, is a yes, although it would not be as easy. Why? Post 9/11, reinforced cockpit doors were introduced in all passenger aircraft the world over. During flight, the cockpit door is kept locked at all times. It can be opened or shut only from inside the cockpit. In India, the norm is to have a minimum of two people in the cockpit at all times.
"So when a pilot needs to use the bathroom, a flight attendant should be called into the cockpit. This is to ensure there is someone to open the door if the pilot inside the cockpit gets incapacitated. But that norm is not diligently followed. With the Germanwings incident, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) may make its compliance mandatory," said a senior commander, requesting anonymity.
28/03/15 Manju V/Times of India

IndiGo tops Indian aviation sector with 37% market share

New Delhi: A series of heavy discounts helped Indian carriers fly 21.6% more passengers in February this year compared with the same month last year.

Budget carrier IndiGo continued to lead the way, registering a record market share of 37.1% during the month. In January, the airline's market share was at 36.4%. Jet Airways, along with JetLite, too managed to improve its market share marginally to 24.3% (up from 24.1% in January).

National carrier Air India came in third with 17.8% share of air traffic, a decline over 18.7% the airline had recorded the month before. For others, market share remained largely constant — SpiceJet 9.2% (9.4% in January), GoAir 8.9%, Air Costa 1%, AirAsia 1.2% (1.3% in January) and Vistara 0.5% (0.2% in January).

"The growth in passenger numbers during February is higher than expected and is driven by continuing fare stimulus," said Kapil Kaul, India CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
28/03/15 Economic Times

Now Tatas' Vistara Also Joins Air Fare War

Tatas' full service airline Vistara is now offering discounted rates on air fares for booking made 90 days in advance. The air fares start at Rs 2129. This marks Vistara's entry into the fare war with other airlines offering hefty discounts in order to attract customers.

However, most of the other airlines that have been offering such discounts are budget carriers like IndiGo, AirAsia, SpiceJet and GoAir.

Vistara is offering Mumbai-Delhi flight tickets starting at Rs 3539, while Mumbai-Ahmedabad flight tickets start at Rs 2129.
28/03/15 NDTV

Immigration officer allegedly harasses woman at airport; suspended

Delhi: A woman resident of Bengaluru was allegedly verbally sexually harassed by an immigration officer at Delhi's IGI airport, after which the Home Ministry placed him under suspension.

The immigration officer, Vinod Kumar, allegedly asked the woman some sexually explicit questions while checking the her passport and other travel documents after she reached the national capital from Bengaluru on her way to Hong Kong.

"I was verbally sexually harassed by an immigration officer at Delhi airport on March 18 night before I boarded a plane to Hong Kong," she told PTI in Bengaluru today.

The woman alleged that the immigration officer asked many unpleasant and private questions while clearing the decks at the immigration counter.
"Do you sleep with another man when your husband is away at work? Would you like to have your third child with me because my wife doesn't want to have the third child," the immigration officer allegedly asked the woman.

The officer also told her: "have you done birth control surgery?....Why are you going alone to Hong Kong? To have fun with your husband or with anyone else. Will you have fun with me?"
28/03/15 PTI/Daily News & Analysis

Security scare at Mumbai airport after man jumps off plane, walks away

Mumbai: Jet Airways’ Chandigarh-Mumbai flight 9W469 had scarcely come to a standstill just metres away from the arrival building at the domestic airport when Jain opened the emergency exit right in the middle of the aircraft, and jumped off.
Landing from a height of nearly 15 feet, the 30-year-old casually walked away even as the other passengers inside were left shell-shocked by what had just happened. Before anyone could do anything, he had made his way out of the airport, raising serious questions about the security procedures that were followed.
The plane, a Boeing 737 flight with 144 passengers and 5 crew members onboard, was scheduled to land at 3.15 pm yesterday. It landed safely at the airport at 3.01 pm, however, and left the runway to halt at parking bay 1, which is barely a few metres from the arrivals building of Terminal 1B at 3.05 pm.
As soon as the aircraft came to a standstill, Jain, whose seat number was 20F, opened the emergency door and jumped down in the apron area. Sources said the shocked passengers raised their voices to inform the crew, but by the time the crew reached the emergency exit, Jain had already walked away.
He walked a few meters and then asked a loader from another flight where the closest exit point was. He was pointed to the arrival terminal, which was around 20 metres from the aircraft. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage showed Jain, in black t-shirt and brown shorts, leaving the terminal at 3.16pm.
28/03/15 Neha LM Tripathi/Mid Day

Get ready to use WiFi on flights; formal announcement likely soon

New Delhi: Air travellers in India could in the coming months surf the web while flying, with the government finally warming up to the idea of WiFi--based Internet connections on flights, meeting a longstanding demand of both airlines and passengers.
A senior civil aviation ministry official said his ministry has approached the department of telecommunications (DoT) with the proposal and will make a formal announcement soon. "The DoT has already said (informally) the proposal is possible to implement," he said, asking not to be named.

DoT allots spectrum, or airwaves, capacity to operators to provide telecom and broadband services. In India, only foreign airlines such as Emirates, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines offer Internet connectivity on international flights.

Sanjiv Kapoor, COO of budget airline SpiceJet, said several airlines had expressed interest in the proposal.
"It is a welcome proposal, it is allowed in many other places of the world. In the US these days, it is rare to be on a flight that does not have Wi-Fi," he said.
28/03/15 Binoy Prabhakar/Economic Times

Yemen crisis: With no airstrips, 3,700 Indians to be evacuated

New Delhi: The government is planning to evacuate 3,700-odd Indians in Yemen via Djibouti — on the southern side of Gulf of Aden — in the light of absence of airstrips in the war-torn nation.
Sources told The Indian Express that a “broad plan” discussed at a joint meeting involving representatives of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), defence and other concerned agencies suggested transporting the Indian community to Djibouti through the Gulf of Aden and then flying them to Mumbai.
An option to send the national carrier instead of an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft is also being mulled given the “signal” that a service aircraft landing in the region may send. While Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as Navy have been consulted, neither of the two agencies have yet received any instructions to proceed.
“The challenge in Yemen is that no airstrip is available for landing. Thus, the closest airstrip is Djibouti on the southern side of Gulf of Aden. Indian citizens are thus likely to be brought to Djibouti via Gulf of Aden and then flown to Mumbai,” said a source.
28/03/15  Pranav Kulkarni/Indian Express

Dornier crash: Body of second missing officer found, search called off

The search operation which began after the Navy Dornier crashed into sea 25 miles off Goa coast has been called off with the recovery of the body of Lt Abhinay Nagori from the fuselage.
The body of Lt Kiran Shekhawat, the observer officer on-board, was located by divers on Thursday in the wreckage. Shekhawat is the first lady officer of Navy to have died in a service aircraft crash.
The Dornier, Do-228, belonging to the Indian Navy Aviation Squadron 310, took off from INS Hansa in Goa at 6.30 pm on Tuesday evening on a training mission. It lost contact at 10.08 pm, 25 nautical miles off Goa coast. Commander Joshi, the in-charge of the aircraft, has 4,000 hours of flying experience.
28/03/15 Indian Express

SpiceJet short of planes to meet flight schedules

New Delhi: Uncertainty yet again shrouds low-cost carrier (LCC) SpiceJet's ability to operate all its flights in the summer schedule. Without being sure how many planes it would have, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) approved 278 daily flights for the budget carrier. But with leasors threatening to take planes back, the airline is looking at operating 235 daily — almost 20% less than the approved schedule — flights by mid-April.

The airline currently has 17 Boeing 737s and 15 Q400s — sufficient to operate about 220 daily flights. SpiceJet lost many of its Boeing planes after the Delhi High Court this month ordered the aviation regulator to deregister the jets, following disputes with three leasors. As many as 21 leased aircraft of the airline had been repossessed by leasors some months back, said an official.
28/03/15 Times of India

Centre’s Policy Vital to Launch Air Kerala’s Domestic Flights

Kochi:  “Any solid decision regarding the commencement of domestic services for Air Kerala will be taken only after the Centre clarifies its policy stand. The final decision on the topic will be taken by the next Director Board meeting,” said a senior airport official after the CIAL and Air Kerala Director Board meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.

“We speeded up the process of commencing Air Kerala operations after the Central Government started giving out signs that we would be able to provide foreign services after one year of domestic operations. However, the Central Government has failed to clarify its stand as of now,” he said. By the newly proposed Domestic Flying Credits( DFC) rule, credits are calculated on the basis of revenue per passenger kilometre. More credits can be earned by flying to tier 2 or tier 3 airports. To ply on foreign routes, an airline must have a minimum of five aircraft and must possess 200 credits in the case of new airlines and 300 credits, if it is an already existing airline.
By the current calculations, Air Kerala might have to wait for at least two years before commencing foreign services.
28/03/15 New Indian Express

Air Kerala May Find the Going Tough Initially

Kochi: One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to successfully operating Air Kerala is to maintain a minimum loss margin in the initial years of its domestic operations, experts opine.

“For an aircraft to post a profit from its operations, it must run at least 17 hours every day. During its domestic operations, the airline must get good slots for its services from good airports and at the optimum time. There will be no use if the Air Kerala services are confined to a busy slot,” said Poulose K Mathew, chairman of the Kerala chapter of Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI).

“Also the running costs of an airline have to be take into consideration. Fuel cost accounts for almost 70 percent of the running cost, which in turn is heavily dependent on the fluctuations in international market. Any hike in the fuel prices would have to be met with a corresponding fare hike if the airline is to run on profit. The absence of a major investment would mean that the airlines would have to hike their fare prices proportionally and this defeats the stated purpose of a low cost Gulf airline,” he said.
28/03/15 Vaisakh E Hari/New Indian Express

Air Kerala fails to take wings

Thiruvananthapuram: A decision to commence domestic flight operations of Air Kerala, the airline start-up conceived by the State government to provide Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) better connectivity to the Middle East at affordable fares, has been deferred.

The director board of Air Kerala that met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the Secretariat on Friday decided to wait till a “clear picture” emerges on the move to amend the ‘5/20’ rule.
The move to commence domestic operations was intensified following reports that the Centre was reducing the stipulation to one year. Official sources said that there was no assurance from the Centre and that a decision would be taken at the next board meeting.
The board was of the view that more studies were needed to commence domestic flight operations of Air Kerala.
28/03/15 S. Anil radhakrishnan/The Hindu

Canada bets on direct Delhi flight to push tourism

Bengaluru: Canada will re-launch the direct non-stop Delhi–Toronto air link on November 1, which should increase the number of Indians travelling to that country.

Duncan Bureau, Air Canada’s vice-president, Global Sales, said it would deploy a new Boeing 787-900s on the route, four times a week.

The airline had stopped the service in 2007 saying it was uneconomical. He said, later, it would increase the flight frequency, expand to Mumbai and beyond and improve the traffic numbers, which grew 20 per cent between 2013 and 2014.

Air Canada is acquiring 50 787-900 aircraft and “India is the first market where the airline will operate the newly delivered aircraft”, he told a news conference here on Thursday. At present, travellers between the two countries fly on Asian or European carriers. The shorter direct flight lasting around 13 hours, he said, would also weigh in its favour.
28/03/15 The Hindu

Rs 8.68 crore was spent on aircraft of CM, governor in 2 years

Gandhinagar:  The state government spent a hefty Rs.8.68 crore for operation and maintenance of the state government's aircraft and helicopter, mainly used by the chief minister and sometimes by the Governor, in the last two years. However, these expenses don't include those by the state government on hiring private aircraft for VVIP travel as the old plane is not used by VVIPs anymore.

The state government usually spends around Rs 17 to Rs 20 crore on hiring private aircraft services for the chief minister and other VVIPs, as the one fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter are not sufficient. Many times the aircraft and the helicopter remain under maintenance and so private services are hired.

Saurabh Patel, state civil aviation minister, in a written response to a Congress MLA's starred question disclosed this information in the state assembly on Friday. The minister said that in last two years (till 31-12-14) a total of Rs 3.95 crore was spent on operation and maintenance of the aircraft. For the operational use and maintenance of the helicopter, the government spent Rs 4.72 crore which is more than the value of the aircraft.
28/03/15 Times of India

Bhutan's Paro airport's fate in limbo: IAF may relocate

Paro International Airport in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which acts as a global gateway to adjoining eastern India, will start limiting the number of flights from May due to a space crunch, hurting tourism and business prospects in the region.

A plan to expand the airport and its facilities has been stalled, pending the release of funds committed by India and the relocation of an Indian Air Force base from the air field.

"Curtailment of services through the airport will have a negative effect on commercial activity of adjoining Indian area. Paro is only a couple of hours' drive from eastern Indian tourism hubs like Guwahati and Siliguri and we have an open border between the two countries," said tourism consultant R Basu.

Paro airport offers convenient passage for both inbound and outbound tourists in the region, including eastern India. At least 40% of the premium foreign tourists visiting the eastern Himalayan region travel to Bhutan and eastern India, according to Basu, who is based in Siliguri.
28/03/15 Debasis Sarkar/Economic Times

How popular airlines are responding to ticket refund, lost baggage and clueless staff

As existing airlines expand their operations and new airlines fly into the Indian airspace, passenger issues too are on a rise. In 2012, a total of approximately 7,600 passenger complaints were logged against airlines. In 2013, complaints increased 9% to 8,255 and in 2014,19% to 9,780, according to figures from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

2015 may be worse, with 1,197 complaints already filed in the month of January itself. To be sure, the number is less than a percent of the total 66.42 million passengers who flew locally last year. But seen in absolute numbers, India is doing worse than other countries.

There are currently eight operating airlines in India. The US Department of Transportation last year logged 11,364 complaints against a total of 40 local airlines. "The long-standing issue with the Indian airline industry or any airline industry is a certain level of complacency," said Manoj Chacko, CEO Kuoni Business Travel.
28/03/15 Anirban Chowdhury/Economic Times

AI Delhi-BBS Flight from March 29

Bhubaneswar: National carrier Air India (AI) is set to launch a new flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar and back from March 29.

 The flight AI873 will leave Delhi at 11.05 am and land in Bhubaneswar at 1.05 pm. The return flight AI874 will depart Bhubaneswar at 1.45 pm and land in Delhi at 3.45 pm. The flight will offer mixed class for passengers.

With the introduction of AI’s new flight and Indigo also set to fly an additional one to Kolkata from April 15, Bhubaneswar airport will see 20 incoming and as many outgoing flights daily besides general aviation this summer, an Airport Authority of India release stated.
28/03/15 New Indian Express

Airport: Probe Sought

Pathanamthitta: Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council patron Kummanam Rajasekharan has on Friday sought high-level probe into the conspiracy behind the authorities issuing possession certificate of Aranmula land to the KGS Group, promoters of the Aranmula airport project. Kummanam said there’s a hidden agenda behind the issuance of the certificate to the KGS Group. The land originally bought by Kalamannil Abraham, who sold 326 acres to the KGS Group, was yet to get the possession certificate, he said.
28/03/15 New Indian Express

Air services from Durgapur to southern cities likely soon

Kolkata: Vijaywada based Air Costa is keen to start operations from West Bengal’s upcoming airport near Durgapur and has already begun talks in this regard. The move aims to help people going for medical treatment to the South.

Vivek Choudhary , Chief Executive Officer of Air Costa told The Hindu that exploratory level talks have begun on launching flights linking the new airport with Hyderabad and Bengaluru. The low cost carrier has also asked for certain concessions including underwriting of seats. Mr. Choudhary said that the flier runs 67-seater and 112-seater planes.

There is a sizeable volume of people travelling between these two cities and West Bengal, mostly for medical treatment. Facing considerable hardships owing to lack of convenient train connections from Durgapur to their destinations, they have to reroute their journey via Kolkata.
28/03/15 The Hindu

New flights to operate from Mangaluru

Mangaluru: Two new daily flights would start operations from the International Airport here from March 29, Airport Director J.T Radhakrishna said.

An international and a domestic flight would be operational from March 29 from the Mangaluru International Airport (MIA), a release quoted him as having said.

The Jet Airways would introduce its daily flight between Mangaluru and Abu Dhabi which would arrive here daily at 1.45 pm and depart at 5.50 pm.
28/03/15 SahilOnline

Pune airport on busy list

Pune: Despite major space constraints and time slot restrictions by the Indian Air Force, Pune International Airport made it to the list of 10 busiest airports in the country. While it came in at number 10, both airlines and commuters feel that a top 5 ranking is possible.

According to statics released last week by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for 2014-15, more than 40 lakh passengers travelled through Pune airport. This is the first time Pune airport is on the list, partially due to the increasing number of flights over the last two years. According to AAI sources, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are the first, second and third busiest airports respectively.

"If we exclude private airports, Pune can definitely move up to number 5. With the support of the Indian Air Force, we introduced many flights over the last two years. Air Asia started their operations this year and from Sunday, a third international flight will be launched. Two years ago, there were 47 flights in a day, which has now increased to 64. We have introduced many new facilities and are also pursuing the demand of additional land for the airport," said Manoj Kumar Gangal, airport director, Pune.
28/03/15 Sukirt Gumaste/Pune Mirror

Exemption for Code E Aircraft Opns Sought

Thiruvananthapuram: Criticising the decision of the Calicut Airport authorities to close down flight operations from May 1, against the backdrop of runway re-carpeting work, Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI), has urged authorities concerned to have a re-look into the move. The body has asked authorities to allow at least Emirates Airlines to operate A330-200 Code E aircraft to Calicut from various centres,in view of  heavy rush.

“The travel industry and the expatriate Keralites in the Gulf countries will face a lot of difficulties by this. Already the expatriates are very much concerned as the restriction might spoil their long-awaited holiday dreams”, E M Najeeb, president, CKTI, pointed out in a memorandum submitted to Asok Gajapathi Raju Pasupati, Union minister for Civil Aviation.

He said that Emirates (EK) currently operates 11 frequencies per week to Calicut, out of which six are operated with 777-200 and five with A330-200 aircrafts. The entitlement per week is 3,400 seats in a single direction.

Both 777-200 and A330-200 are Code E aircraft.
28/03/15 New Indian Express

Separate structure for cargo at airport

Trichy: To protect and stock the goods meant for export, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has began construction of a huge canopy in front of the cargo complex at the Trichy International Airport. A sum of Rs 50 lakh has been allocated by the AAI for the project.

With the construction having begun 15 days ago, airport authorities have set a target of three months to finish the work. Authorities are confident that the project could be completed earlier as work is moving at a steady pace.

Exporters for long have been complaining that perishable goods stocked at the airport go waste due to the absence of any facility for protecting them.
28/03/15 Times of India

Tiruchi airport canteen to function in a month

Tiruchi: Lack of canteen facility at the Tiruchi international airport to serve passengers, visitors, and airport staff besides other stakeholders will soon become a thing of the past.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has awarded the contract to a private agency for running the canteen at the city side of the international airport thereby setting the stage for the opening of this long-felt facility.

A Thanjavur-based agency has been given the contract for five years to run the canteen which has been a persistent demand from air travellers and other agencies connected with the airport.

With the building for running the canteen already in place, the AAI has provided other basic amenities such as electricity and reverse osmosis water cooler required for the operation of the canteen, Airport Director B.C.H. Negi told The Hindu on Friday. The private agency would bring in necessary paraphernalia, including utensils and gas stoves, besides engaging manpower to run the eatery.
28/03/15 R. Rajaram/The Hindu

US couple held for carrying Sat phone, released

Udaipur:  An American couple were arrested at Dabok airport in Udaipur on Thursday morning for carrying a satellite phone without proper documents and necessary permission. However, during inquiry it was found that the man had filed details about the phone in the immigration form after landing in New Delhi. The couple were released and also got back their phone. Later, they left for Delhi by the evening flight.

According to sources, Richard Walk (51), a resident of Florida in US and his wife had come to India along with 11 friends in a tourist group. They had visited Agra, Ranthambore, Kumbalgarh and other places before arriving in Udaipur on March 23, sources said.
27/03/15 Geetha Sunil Pillai/Times of India

10kg gold seized from duo at Cochin airport

Kochi: In separate seizures, 10kg gold worth Rs 2.7 crore was seized from two passengers on Friday. Directorate of revenue intelligence officials seized eight kilogram gold valued at Rs 2.2 crore from a passenger who had arrived from Dubai at the Cochin International Airport Ltd (Cial) at 6pm.

Acting on specific information, officials intercepted Jamal, a resident of Perumbavoor, after he walked out through the green channel. He had hidden the gold bars, weighing one kilogram each, in his baggage, officials said. The gold was meant to be handed over to someone in Andhra Pradesh, officials said. Jamal was a carrier and was paid for smuggling gold. Officials were interrogating Jamal at the time of going to press.
In the second case, customs officials seized two gold bars, weighing two kilograms, valued at Rs 55 lakh. The bars were concealed in the rear toilet in a recess under the wash basin of a flight that arrived from Dubai. The gold was recovered during the routine rummaging of flight. An examination by the gold assayer showed that the gold bars were of 24 carat purity.
28/03/15 Times of India

Kolkata native held with fake passport

Vasco: The Dabolim airport police arrested a Kolkata native for travelling with a fake passport. Vinay Omprakash Kumar arrived at Dabolim airport with a fake passport disguising himself as Balraj Singh.

Kumar arrived on a Qatar Airways flight from Oman at about 3am on Friday. The bureau of immigration suspected his passport to be a fake one. He was then detained and handed over to the police.
28/03/15 Times of India

2 kg of gold seized at Kochi airport

Kochi: The Air Customs Intelligence Wing at Cochin International Airport Limited seized two kilogram of gold worth Rs. 55 lakh from an Indigo Airlines flight from Dubai, which landed here at 4.30 a.m. on Friday.

The gold in the form of two biscuits were found wrapped beneath a wash basin in one of the toilets inside the aircraft. The seizure was made during a routine flight rummaging operations carried out by the customs.
28/03/15 The Hindu

Police, airline officials asked to crack the case

Indore : DIG Rakesh Gupta gave strict instructions to the Aerodrome Road police to investigate the case of Rs 43,000 stolen from the Jet flight. He also instructed them to solve the matter as early as possible.

After some cases of stealing of cash and jewellary from Jet Airways and apathetic attitude of PS Aerodrome Road of not registering cases, DIG Rakesh Gupta summoned two officials from Jet airways including security in-charge Hemendra Mehta, IT KL Dangi and complainant Prakash Rajdev to his office, on Friday.
28/03/15 Free Press Journal