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Thulasidas to pilot A-I, Indian merged entity

V ThulasidasNEW DELHI, Sept 19: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has named the board of directors for the recently-constituted National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) that came into being after state owned carriers Air-India and Indian Airlines were merged.

According to the order issued on Tuesday, V Thulasidas, former chairman of Air-India will be the chairman and managing director of NACIL, while Vishwapati Trivedi will be the joint managing director of the company, a government release said on Tuesday.

Vishwapati TrivediOther directors of NACIL include VK Verma (commercial) Anup Srivastava (personnel), S Chandrashekhar (finance), Shri S Punhani (special business unit head, ground handling), Amod Sharma (special business unit head, related business), KM Unni (special business unit head, MRO, Airframe), VK Sharma (special business unit head, MRO, engineering and components, and Anita Khurana, special business unit head for cargo and N Vaghul, Chairman ICICI.

Raghu Menon, additional secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and RK Singh, joint secretary, have been appointed as non-official directors of the company.

According to the release, other than Thulasidas, V Trivedi, Raghu Menon and RK Singh all the other directors have been appointed to the board of NACIL for the balance period of their tenure as directors on the respective boards of erstwhile Air-India and Indian Airlines.

Jet Airways bags international award

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 17: India's largest private airline, Jet Airways, has been honoured with the prestigious Avion Award for the “Best Overall In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) for small airlines” worldwide for the second consecutive year.

“Jet Airways was judged on the basis of its commitment to excellence in creating one of the most comprehensive in-flight entertainment systems in the world with some of the most special and unique programming features,” according to a spokesperson of the company.

The award was given at the 28th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) in Toronto on Monday.

Jet Airways was adjudged the best airline by Skytrax, the leader in airline passenger opinion studies about in-flight entertainment, which assessed the winners from a two-month survey of more than 36,000 airline passengers worldwide.

Ms. Ranjani Krishnamurthy, Manager – IFE, received the award on behalf of Jet Airways.

WAEA, a non-profits organisation, is the official worldwide network representing nearly 100 airlines and over 250 airline suppliers, committed to excellence in in-flight entertainment and communications and the continual improvement of the airline passenger environment.

Jet gets nod to fly to Gulf

By Deepak Arora

Naresh GoyalNEW DELHI, Sept 14: Jet Airways has become the first private airline to get nod from the Government to fly to the lucrative Gulf region from January 1 next year.

Hitherto, only Air India and Indian (now merged to form Air India) were allowed to operate on the Middle East and Gulf route.

As per the decision of the government, scheduled Indian private airlines were not permitted to operate international flights to and from Gulf till the end of 2007. The Gulf routes were served only by the Indian public carriers till then.

Jet Airways was granted traffic rights on the Gulf and Middle East routes at a meeting of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Thursday evening.

Indian carriers are currently entitled to 85,481 seats per week on Gulf routes, of which the public-sector airlines are using 58 percent, the ministry estimates.

Jet has been granted traffic rights to carry 3,682 passengers to Kuwait per week from three destinations in India. Of the 3,682 seats, 1,582 would be from the Delhi-Kuwait route while an equal 1,050 on Trivandrum-Kuwait and Kochi-Kuwait routes.

Besides, Jet can also fly 3,150 passengers to Oman per week on three routes Kochi-Muscat, Trivandrum-Muscat and Calicut-Muscat with 1,050 seats each.

The airliner has been given permission to connect Calicut and Mumbai to Qatar's capital city Doha, where it can carry a maximum of 2,100 passengers per week equally divided from the two Indian cities.

Jet can also take 2,100 seats to Bahrain of which 1050 are in the Mumbai-Bahrain and 1050 in Kochi-Bahrain route.

Jet Airways already flies to South and Southeast Asia, the United States, Canada, London and Brussels and plans to add more routes to Europe and North America.

It aims to get half its total revenue from overseas operations by 2009 as the domestic market becomes increasingly competitive.

The Jet Airways had applied for traffic rights on the India-Gulf/Middle East routes on July 18 this year. They had asked for rights on routes to Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The airline’s request for grant of traffic rights on India-Dubai and India -Abu Dhabi routes is under the consideration of the Government.

The total entitlement for Indian carriers on the Gulf routes at present is 85481 seats per week of which 21950 are for Dubai, 7420 for Abu Dhabi, 10206 for Sharjah, 8000 for Kuwait, 10892 for Qatar, 7546 for Oman, 10967 for Bahrain and 8500 for Saudi Arabia.

The utilization by Indian carriers of the available Gulf routes is 49348 seats per week of which 20002 are for Dubai, 3313 for Abu Dhabi, 8690 for Sharjah, 3475 for Kuwait, 1526 for Qatar, 3475 for Oman, 1526 for Bahrain, and 7341 for Saudi Arabia.

Jet Airways, the Spirit of New India

By Deepak Arora

Canadian Deputy Head of Mission Kenneth Macartney, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Belgium Deputy Head of Mission Anne-France Jamart, at New Delhi to announce the inauguration of Jet Áirways' service on the  Delhi-Brussels-Toronto sector.NEW DELHI, Sept 11: Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal is back in action. So is the airline. In early August, India’s premier airline had launched a flight to Newark, USA, from Mumbai. This month it has introduced a new flight linking Delhi with Toronto via Brussels.

This five times a week flight also provides connectivity to Jet passengers traveling to New York (Newark) via its international hub in Brussels. At Brussels, flights will be synchronized in order to provide passengers seamless transfer and access between Delhi and Newark and Mumbai and Toronto. Significantly, this service links for the first time, Delhi with the Capital of the European Union, Brussels.

As part of its inaugural offer, Jet has introduced a promotional economy class return airfare of Rs 37,000 to Toronto. The flight to Canada will be on the next generation aircraft, Airbus A330-200, and offers a wide choice of in-flight entertainment.

Canadian Deputy Head of Mission Kenneth Macartney, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Belgium Deputy Head of Mission Anne-France Jamart, at New Delhi to announce the inauguration of Jet Áirways' service on the  Delhi-Brussels-Toronto sector.The new Première lie flat beds represent the absolute latest in airline seat technology. It features a 73-inch bed length that electronically converts to an enormous 180-degree flat bed with lumbar support and massage systems.

The new economy seat has a seat pitch of 32-inch. It has been custom designed using the science of advanced ergonomics to create arguably the most comfortable economy seat in the sky.

Of course, the flight offers the finest of in-flight dining and service, featuring vintage French Champagne in Premiere, and carefully selected wines from around the world and a wide selection of Indian and Non-Indian cuisine. The Première cabin in this widebody aircraft also sports a unique bar.

Welcoming the flight, Canadian Deputy Head of Mission Kenneth Macartney said Tornoto is the financial capital and largest city of Canada with 33 million population.

Belgium Deputy Head of Mission Anne-France Jamart said the flight to Brussels would help increase bilateral trade and economic and cultural relations between the two countries.
Naresh Goyal, who has recently been conferred the Tata AIG Lifetime Achievement award for being a 'true trendsetter and an achiever' for his significant contribution to the travel and tourism industry in India, said the airline will connect more cities within and outside the country.

The Chairman said “we will soon be starting international flights from Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. We are also looking at 50 points in Europe to be served by a code-share agreement with Brussels Airlines.”

He said Jet will start flying to New York by October 28. By February 2008, it will operate to San Francisco and Shanghai as well.

“We are also looking at Iran and Tel Aviv and examining the possibility of connecting Tel Aviv with the US. Besides, we plan to fly to Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa.”

He said the airline is acquiring 25 wide-bodied aircraft to fuel its international operations. The Chairman also said that Jet Airways was open to partnership with Air-India for international flights.

He said Jet plans to launch a dedicated cargo airline and is in discussions with international players for a possible tie-up. “We will be announcing our plans for the cargo airline before the end of this year. We are in talks with several players. We will definitely launch a separate cargo airlines.”

He also confirmed that the liquidity crunch in global markets following the crisis in the US sub-prime mortgage business will delay a $ 400 million rights issue which the airline had initially planned for October. "This does not mean that there is any lack of investor interest. We have decided to delay the issue because of US market conditions."

Goyal was conferred the TAFI-Abacus Award at the closing ceremony of the International Travel Convention 2007 in Kota Kinbalu, Malaysia.

The Travel Agents' Federation of India (TAFI) said that it was indeed a fitting tribute to the immense contributions made by Goyal toward civil aviation in India and for achieving world-class standards in service excellence.

In 14 years, Jet Airways under the leadership of Chairman Naresh Goyal and his management team has emerged as India's largest private sector airline and has been acclaimed by both domestic and international travellers.

Jet also bagged the excellence awards for its 'first class' product on its long-haul flights. Jet Airways is the first India airline to have created the first airline 'suite', offering its customers the ultimate in privacy and luxury.

Air India Express to expand operations

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 5: Air India Express plans to expand its operations to South East Asia, Central Asian republics and South Asian Association of Regional Countries (SAARC), according to V Thulasidas, Chairman, Air India.

Addressing the third business session on “Managing Growth in Aviation and Tourism” at the just concluded IATO’s silver jubilee annual convention, Mr Thulasidas said from the winter schedule the low-cost carrier of Air India would launch flights to Maldives, Dhaka, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

The fares would on average be 25 per cent less than the ticket in the full service carriers. The airline already had a fair revenue model. “We are already offering substantial discounts on fares. On some tickets, fares are even 50-55 per cent discounted.”

The Chairman said Air India would continue to offer premium quality service. He said the new Air India, which has emerged after the merger of Air India and Indian (Airlines), would offer seamless travel between its vast network of domestic and international routes.

Mr Thulasidas said the merger of the national carriers would make Air India as one of the largest carriers in Asia and a leading airline of the world. “We will enhance our values,” he added.

Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla talked about unshackling the growth in the aviation and tourism sectors. “The two sectors have tremendous complementarities that should help us meet the increased aspirations of the people.”

Mr Chawla said the aviation market will see the growth from present 60 million to 100 million by 2010 and 300 million by 2020. “This makes India the fastest growth market in the world along with China.”

He said India was ranked as number 7 in 2006 in the international market as compared to rank 11 in 2005 making us ahead of France, Canada and the UK. “This has happened due to the open sky policy of the government.”

Mr Chawla said the airport infrastructure in the country would see a sea change in the next couple of years. He also called for harnessing hotel room capacity and development of new circuits so that tourism could match aviation growth in the country.

“We must harness the energy of the two sectors as has been done by our neighboring South East Asian countries,” he added.

Mr Sanjay Kothari, Additonal Director General, Ministry of Tourism, emphasized that tourism and aviation sectors were complimentary to each other. He said India’s fast rising billionaire’s club, the huge middle class, its own super market and double digit economic growth were attracting tourists and businessmen to our ancient civilization.

He said the Government was ensuring addition of over 1.51 lakh additional rooms by 2010 Commonwealth Games. It was encouraging Buddhist, Medical, MICE and Shopping tourism.

Mr Kothari asked the tourism industry to ensure that hotel rooms get filled up during the off season from April to September. “Please ensure that off season occupancy increases from the current 55 per cent by selling monsoon and MICE packages.”

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SriLankan Airlines, Mr Peter Hill, said the biggest challenge for the aviation industry was how to sustain profits.

Mr Hill said issues like terrorism, epidemics, natural disasters and inadequate infrastructure and fuel prices affect profitability of airlines. Other issues like infrastructure, over capacity and internal airline issues also impact the profitability.

Despite all these constraints, he said SriLankan Airlines had been continuously making profits for the past five years. He regretted that aviation was one of the most highly taxed industries in the world.

He warned that the overcapacity would see a “shake out” in the Indian aviation industry. He advised airlines to exit markets where is no potential, switch to e-ticketing to save costs, nurture staff and build up long-term relationship with the partners.

Emphasizing on the role of travel agents and tour operators, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Spice Jet, Siddhanta Sharma, said 33 per cent of its tickets were sold by the travel agents.

Mr Sharma said his airline has always emphasized on on time performance, which was the best in the industry. SpiceJet had also kept sufficient gap between the flights to enable the industry to hire charters.

He said the airline planned to add Port Blair to its operations next month. The airline had also been offering reasonably priced meals since May this year.

Indian (now Air India) Commercial Director Anita Khurana said the code of the two airlines would continue for a while. She said on the demand of the industry duel tariff has been removed.

Ms Khurana said the e-ticketing penetration of the airline has reached 60 per cent.

Haryana Seeks Airport at Bahadurgarh

By Deepak Arora

Bhupinder Singh HoodaNEW DELHI, Aug 25: ‘Big Brother’ Delhi could soon have two ‘sister’ airports on its either side. Soon after the demand of the Uttar Pradesh Government for an airport at Greater Noida, now Haryana has sought an international airport at Bahadurgarh in Jhajjar district to cater to the future needs of air travel from the region.

While urging the Centre to sanction the airport at Bahadurgarh, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that the aviation sector had witnessed phenomenal growth in the last few years. In spite of the upgradation of present Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), it would fall far short of the future requirements of the National Capital Region (NCR).

“There is a definite need to have an additional airport in the vicinity of Delhi,” said Mr Hooda while speaking at the recent meeting of NCR Planning Board (NCRPB).

He said that the State Government had submitted a proposal for an airport at Bahadurgarh which would have excellent connectivity with Delhi and other areas of NCR through the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway being built in Haryana.

He urged the Board to impress upon the Ministry of Civil Aviation for early sanctioning of this project.

Mr Hooda also stressed the need to speed up work on various roads and rail links between Delhi and NCR towns and to the new and old airports.

The Chief Minister stressed the need for strengthening the road infrastructure in NCR Sub Region of Haryana as it would be helpful and it would prove a vital importance for economic development and growth of other sectors also. He said that besides the roads of the states in NCR Sub Region are acting as corridor routes and cater to high intensity of traffic in terms of volume and axle load.


NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has notified the minimum requirements for grant of permit to operate scheduled regional air transport services.

For regional airlines, which have been described as a scheduled airline that operates primarily in a designated region, the country has been divided into four regions. The guidelines specify one metro airport in each region except for south where Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad have been designated.

The airline, on grounds of “operational and commercial exigencies”, may be allowed to operate from its designated region to airports in other region, except the metro airports of other regions. Technically this means that an airline can operate between Delhi and Coimbatore but would not be allowed to fly between Delhi and Mumbai.

The notification has identified 12 routes on which regional airlines would not be allowed to operate. The only exception appears to be Mumbai-Thiruvananthapuram which, going by laid down guidelines, a regional airline should have been given permission to operate.

The guidelines stipulate that airlines operating with three aircraft having take-off mass not exceeding 40,000 kg would need a paid-up capital of Rs 12 crore. The promoters would be required to pump in Rs 4 crore into the paid-up capital for each additional aircraft subject to a maximum of Rs 20 crore.

This provision is likely to give a push to the operation of smaller aircraft such as the Canadian Regional Jets, Embraers and the ATRs that carry between 80 and 90 passengers and can land on smaller airfields.

With the Government providing incentives to smaller jets not only in terms of waiver of landing and parking charges but also aviation turbine fuel attracting a uniform sales tax of 4 per cent only throughout the country, it is generally felt that the operations of such airlines would meet with success.

Airlines operating with larger aircraft would also need to have a paid-up capital of Rs 30 crore. For every additional aircraft inducted they would be required to pump in Rs 10 crore into the paid-up capital, subject to a maximum of Rs 50 crore.


NEW DELHI: The government has received 37 proposals for setting up flying training institutes in various parts of the country.

Of these five were from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, four from Rajasthan, three each from Bihar, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat, two each from Karnataka and Chhattisgarh and one each from Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.

Currently, there are 42 flying training institutes in the country of which 26 are operational, providing training for various licences like private pilot licence and commercial pilot licence, according to Praful Patel.

The minister said 14 of these operational institutes are run by various state governments, while the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) is an autonomous society under the central government. The remaining 11 institutes are run by private entrepreneurs. All the institutes have to conform to the requirements laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Patel said 16 flying training institutes were found to be not conforming to the DGCA guidelines and their licences have therefore not been renewed. These institutes have been advised by DGCA to take corrective measures for their revival.

Jet Changes the Way You Fly

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 11: While unveiling new international product, logo and uniforms, India’s largest private carrier Jet Airways has announced that it is expanding its operations to the US, Canada, Europe, China and South Africa.

Jet Airways executive director Saroj Datta said the airline would fly from Delhi to Toronto with a stopover at its European hub in Brussels five times a week starting September 5.

The airline earlier this month launched its flight to Newark, New York from Mumbai via Brussels. It is also planning to start its services to Johannesburg in October and to the JFK airport in New York in November.

“We would soon start our services to Johannesburg in October and to JFK by November. We are also looking at starting our services from Bangalore by the end of this year. Once that is done, the Delhi-Toronto flight would be changed to Delhi-JFK and the Bangalore one would connect Toronto,” said Datta.

Jet would be using these three destinations as a common platform to provide connectivity from all points of India.

While growing the US sector, Jet would develop Brussels, which provides easy connectivity throughout Europe. The airline expects that the US sectors would break even ahead of the expected 12-18 months period.

For its Toronto flight the airline will use Airbus 330-200, which has been especially designed and configured for international operations with 30 premier class seats and 190 economy class seats. It is offering an inaugural return fare for economy class at Rs 35,000, while for the premiere class the return fare starts at Rs 1,57,500. First class return fares are priced between Rs. 3,45,000 and Rs. 4,15,000.

Jet, which went for image makeover with a new logo, has also given its crew a new look with elegant and graceful uniforms designed by Italian designer Roberto Capucci.

The airline now offers a fully flat bed that can be converted into in a private bedroom for total privacy, 40,000 ft about the earth, in its luxurious new First Class. Then there is also a private wardrobe. Other luxuries include a five-course meal with the offer of finest champagne and award winning wines.

Each passenger in the First Class has an individual access to in-flight entertainment on 23-inch flat screen TV.

The redesigned Premiere Class has a revolutionary lie-flat bed, the most spacious seats in the sky and 15.4-inch flat screen TV for endless entertainment.

The new Economy Class seats are more spacious with new hammock headrest and unique foot net that is designed to help you relax. Jet is the first airline in the world to install this new economy seat with a seat pitch of 32 inches. Of course, each passenger has access to 10.6 inch touch screen TV.

With its debut flight from Brussels to India on September 6, it may be mentioned that Jet became the first private Indian carrier to fly to and from continental Europe. The flight to Mumbai was flagged off by the Indian ambassador to Belgium and the European Union Dipak Chatterjee from the Brussels National Airport on Monday morning.

Jet Airways established an operational hub in Brussels in May to provide enhanced connectivity between India, Europe, Africa and North America.

The airline has also entered into a codeshare agreement with Brussels Airlines - Belgium's main carrier - for flights from Brussels to Delhi, Mumbai, Toronto, Stockholm, Oslo, Birmingham, Geneva and Madrid.

The airline expects to expand the agreement to include 25 routes ex-Brussels, according to Bernard Guisset of Jet Airways Belgium. Guisset, who heads the 35-people strong Europe office, added that the airline's future plans include 10 daily flights from Brussels to cities in India and the US, Canada and mainland Europe.

"Jet Airways was looking for an opportunity to combine its expansion plan to USA and Canada with an efficient hub in Europe together with a stronger national carrier offering a wide network ... we have found it all at Brussels," according to Naresh Goyal, airline's chairman.

"The India-US market is dominated by European carriers who between them carry over 50 percent of the traffic between the two countries via their hubs," Goyal said. Brussels Airlines operates to 50 destinations in Europe and Africa and Jet will channel this traffic into the US, Goyal said.

Besides Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, Jet also has plans to operate flights from Ahmedabad and Chennai to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York (JFK) via its Brussels hub. Currently seven EU carriers fly to India, while two Indian carriers - Air India and Jet Airways - fly to Europe.

Each week more than 130 flights operate between India and EU. According to the European Commission report on civil aviation relations with India, the number of seats available on scheduled nonstop flights between the EU and India has increased by 70 per cent to about 5 million since 1990.

A total of 17 city-pair routes operate between India and the EU, where Germany holds the biggest share of the nonstop scheduled traffic, followed by the UK, France and the Netherlands.

This is expected to change as the Brussels-hub becomes more important for Indian carriers. The city is a major cargo-hub for the European region. India's state-owned international carrier, Air India, is negotiating to create an operational hub in Brussels.

Air India, which has started its Mumbai-New York non-stop daily fights, is offering limousine services at the JFK airport and a shower facility at 'The Lounge' on arrival.

Meanwhile, aviation authorities in the US and EU have agreed to an open skies agreement between the two continents that will allow airlines virtually unrestricted point to point flights connecting the two. European carriers are likely to benefit substantially from the new flights. Currently seven EU carriers fly to India, while two Indian carriers - Air India and Jet Airways - fly to Europe.


By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 10: Vectra Aviation Private Limited (VAPL) has announced the launch of Heli-Air, a division aimed at providing dedicated On-shore Helicopter Charter services across the country.

Commenting on the occasion, Ms. Severine Rodosavljevic, Marketing Manager, Heli-Air said, “it would offer the last mile convenience and comfort unparalleled by any other mode of transport and that includes even fixed wing aircrafts. India with its diverse terrain and varied weather conditions is ideally suited for helicopter travel with many applications like private and corporate charters, heli-tourism, religious tourism, medical and emergency services. We intend to make helicopter travel affordable, accessible and hassle-free.’

Being the first dedicated on-shore helicopter charter service, Heli-Air would be distinct from other air charter services operators with its operations primarily based from its own captive facilities that include highly experienced pilots, heli-pads, hangars and support staff. In fact, the Heli-Air base at Greater Noida is already in possession of three helicopters to start services with effect from July 15.

‘Our fleet of helicopters includes both the single and twin engines. Whilst the AS350B3 is especially suitable for higher altitude operations, the twin engine EC155B1 is technologically one of the most advanced with more seating capacity and best suited for a longer range flight without the need to re-fuel in between’, said the Marketing Manager.

In the first phase, Heli-Air aims at covering locations like Agra, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Chandigarh, Shimla, Hemkund Sahib, Badrinath and Kedarnath.

'On chartering our helicopters, customers will be able to use the services of flying out from our facility at Greater Noida without the hassle of going through the tedious procedures at the Airport.’

It has already started receiving enquiries for the chartering of their helicopter fleet and is actively seeking tie-ups with Hotels, Travel Agents, Corporate Organization and Event Organizers to further harness the demand.

On future plans of Heli-Air, Ms. Severine said, ‘We would be starting similar hubs in other major metros around India. These will act as regional hubs with dedicated helicopters and our own captive facilities aimed at developing similar operations across the country. We intend to induct a further 11 EC135, twin-engine helicopters.’

This 6 Million Euros dedicated facility in Greater Noida is the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul centre for helicopters in India. The facility boasts of a state of the art Hangar, parts storage, training rooms, tool rooms, helipads and training facilities.

Vectra Aviation provides complete after-sales support, spare parts logistics and distribution for Helicopter owners in India. The team at Vectra Aviation comprises of qualified and trained engineers, technicians and logistics support personnel to cater to the needs of the rapidly growing Aviation market in India.

Indian wrests numero uno position

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 5: The national carrier, Indian, has been going great gun for the past couple of years. This time the flag carrier has wrested the number one position in domestic passenger carriage for the first time in over five years.

It has recorded a passenger market share of 21.4 per cent in May 2007 displacing its nearest competitor. The airline also recorded the maximum monthly carriage of 1.01 million passengers during the month.

While the airline has been the market leader in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometres recorded in March and April, May has seen the airline achieve the unique double – in both RPK and passenger carriage terms. In fact, the airline continues to be number one in RPK for the third month in succession, achieving 21.7 per cent market share in May.

Indian has also been consistently recording high seat factors on its domestic network. Seat factors recorded by the airline in March (71.8 per cent), April (78.1 per cent) and May (77.9 per cent) were much higher than the industry average.

This performance has been achieved as a result of aggressive marketing initiatives like Premium Economy Fares, Surf and Save, Corporate Super Saver scheme and others besides product upgrades in both technology and in flight service, improved on-time performance and operational efficiency, increased reach and connectivity through participation with global distribution systems.

Indian also leads the competition in providing constant upgrades in passenger related facilities. Its web-based services enabling simple internet booking, check-in and ticketing have won it the NASSCOM "Best IT User Award 2006" in the Travel and Hospitality segment. The award was presented to Indian in the national Capital recently.


NEW DELHI: An Indian private carrier, Kingfisher Airlines, has tied-up with the world's fifth largest carrier, Continental Airlines for providing better customer service to passengers travelling from India to US.

The two airlines would share a comprehensive partnership in areas of frequent flying, airport lounge access and future code sharing to facilitate smooth transfer between the carriers.
"Our partnership with Kingfisher builds upon our increased service between New York and India," Larry Kellner, Continental's chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement.

From October 1, 2007, members of the frequent flyer programmes of the two airlines, Continental's OnePass and Kingfisher's King Club, will be able to earn and redeem miles on all flights operated by the other carrier.

"The relationship will benefit both the airlines as well as our guests. We value our guests who have been loyal and what better way of expressing our gratitude than to offer them miles redemption on the international sectors with the help of Continental," said Vijay Mallya, chairman and CEO, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

Kingfisher Airlines currently operates 187 flights a day across 29 key Indian destinations with a growing fleet of 31 brand new aircraft.

Air China to link Delhi-Beijing daily from October 31

By Deepak Arora

Zhao QuanzhenNEW DELHI: Air China plans to offer daily flight between Delhi and Beijing beginning October 31 next, according to Mr Zhao Quanzhen, airline’s Country Manager.

At present, China’s leading airline and national flag carrier has four flights between the capitals of two most populous nations of the world. At present the airline operates Boeing B767-200s and 300s offering little over 200 seats between the two cities.

However, Mr Zhao said from October we plan to introduce mint fresh Airbus A330-200s on the route, which is becoming increasing popular with the Indians. The airline has commenced operations on October 31, 2006 with three flights per week. By mid-March, it added another flight taking the total to four per week.

The new Airbus aircraft will have state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment, seats and more space. It would have 30 business and 250 economy class seats.

Mr Zhao said “we are adding bigger aircraft and increasing the flights from four to seven per week as the relations and traffic between the two countries is growing by leaps and bounds.”

Last year on October 31 when we had launched a flight to New Delhi it coincided with the India-China Year of Friendship. “It was matter of great honour that the flight took off in the India-China Friendship Year reinforcing the bond between the two nations,” he said.

The two countries this year are celebrating the Friendship through Tourism Year. And our daily flight will help boost tourism between the two nations. He said in the months to come we also plan to cater to other Indian cities.

Suny YangMs Suny Yang and Ms Wang Xian Yun, Director and Deputy Director of China National Tourist Office respectively, said that they were planning to open their representative office in Delhi next month to give a fillip to tourism between the two countries.

They said “China National Tourist Office will also come up with very competitive packages and brand strategy in India soon.”

Mr Zhao said “Air China is numero uno airline of China. It connects over 100 domestic and 36 international routes. Our domestic market share is 35 per cent and international share is 70 per cent. Our fleet strength is 211 and is a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.”

Wang Xian YunHe said Air China is the sole and formal airline partner of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The popularity of Air China can be gauged from the fact that within short span of over seven months of flights into India, the airline has achieved over 80 per year round load factor.

Mr Li Hubing, Press Attache, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, said that over five lakh Indians had visited China last year. “In 2006, we had issued 60,000 visas from Delhi and 40,000 from Mumbai. We expect to issue one lakh visas from Delhi and 60,000 from Mumbai this year.”

Mr Li said the trade between the two countries is growing at 50 per cent. The growth in tourist and business visits is 20 per cent. He said the bilateral trade last year was US $ 25 billion and till May this year was US $ 18 billion.

Mr Zhao said Air China offers convenient onward connections to the US, Canada, Far East Asia, Australia and Europe from Beijing. “Our flights to the US and Canada are very popular with the Indians.”

In India, Air China has two GSAs -- Bird Travel for North and East India and Stic Travel for South and West India.

Air China was founded in 1988. However, its new avatar with the same name came into existence on September 30, 2004. The new company Air China Limited emerged after several mergers after aviation reforms started taking shape in China beginning of 2002.

Air China’s logo consists of an artistic phenix – its Chinese version written by Deng Xiaoping and the English translation being “Air China”. Phenix is a divine bird in the ancient Chinese legend. It is also a lucky bird adored by the Chinese people since the ancient times.

According to the record in Shan Hai Jing, the phenix, born from an oriental country called Junzi, flies across the great Kunlun Mountain and over all the oceans. Wherever she flew she brought luck and peace.

The logo is also the artistic transfiguration of the word “VIP”. Its color is the traditional Chinese red which implies luck, roundness, auspiciousness and happiness.

Air China, whose headquarter is in Beijing, also takes the responsibility of flying Chinese national leaders abroad. The airline also takes care of flights of foreign dignitaries and governmental leaders during for their visit to China.

In order to strengthen and expand its domestic and international network, Air China has signed code share agreement with 11 domestic and several foreign airlines such as Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Finnair, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, ANA, Dragon air, Macao Airlines, Shandong Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.

Holiday in Sri Lanka for 1 Rupee!

By Deepak Arora

Sharuka Wickrama-AdittiyaNEW DELHI, June 16: Indians love traveling, especially to the foreign shores if there are good deals. Keeping this in mind, several neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and China are making all out efforts to woo over 7 million Indians, who travel abroad, by offering them great travel packages.

Sri Lanka is one such country that is offering amazing packages and this one is a stunner with once in a life time opportunity. SriLankan Airlines is offering a holiday package for two nights at Rupee One. The catch is that one has to first take a very reasonable package to Negombo and Colombo for three nights and four days starting from Rs 13,599 and to Kandy and Bentota (South Beach) for three nights four days starting from Rs 15,599.

Says Sharuka Wickrama-Adittiya, airline’s Manager (North India, Nepal and Bangladesh): “Those who want a longer stay to experience the enchantments, SriLankan offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay back at your chosen destination for 2 nights for just 1 rupee.”

Package rate includes return economy class airfare, all taxes, airport transfers, and accommodation on bed and breakfast twin sharing basis. The offer is valid for all bookings made till September 30.

Wickrama-Adittiya said SriLankan Airlines is offering these packages in collaboration with Sri Lankan Tourist Board and Sri Lankan Inbound Travel Organisation (SLITO).

SriLankan is the largest foreign airline operating to India. It has 95 flights per week to 10 cities in India, flying daily to almost all of them with over 90 per cent load factor. The number of seats offered from India are 16,000 per week.

Sharuka Wickrama-AdittiyaThe airline has also positioned itself as the link between India and the rest of the world. Through its leisure arm, SriLanka Holidays, it offers special hotel packages to Singapore, Malaysia, Bangkok, Beijing, Maldives and other countries. It also offers attractive fares to London, Frankfurt and Paris in Europe.

“We offer exceptional levels of service and quality, number of Indian cuisines, world’s friendliest cabin staff, best overall in-flight entertainment and connecting flights to onward destinations from Colombo within two hours of landing,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s national carrier has also recently introduced a state-of-the-art passenger handling system at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), further enhancing the level of convenience for travellers.

Shyana WijayaratneCommenting on the Rupee one package, Shyana Wijayaratne, SriLankan Holidays’ Sales & Marketing Manager (Inbound) said: “It’s a perfect package for all vacationers, who just can’t get enough of your holiday! As always SriLankan Holidays has kept up to its mission to offer ‘best quality at best prices’!

Besides catering to cuisine of each region of India, Wickrama-Adittiya said an Indian is given free Visa on Arrival. There are also special discount shopping coupons given to a traveler. The shopping is also Value for Money as Indian one rupee equals 2.3 Sri Lankan rupees.

He said a large numbers of Indian shoppers descend on Colombo throughout the year to enjoy the nightlife, snap up branded clothing at bargain prices, as well as the island’s traditional products of tea, gemstones, and exotic handicrafts.

When asked if the terror attacks have affected tourist inflow into the country, Wickrama-Adittiya said “terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon and we, like everyone else, is affected by it. However, we as a nation have come of any disaster – be it Sars, Tsunami, terrorism or slump in travel after 9/11 attacks – much faster and we are proud of that and that’s our strength.”

On June 1, a programme to Prevent, Protect and Delight domestic and foreign tourists was kicked off at the Sri Lanka Tourism’s Headquarters as the Inspector General of Police re-commissioned the Sri Lanka Tourist Police Division. Trained personnel will protect tourists from being hassled and in turn prevent conflict between traveller and locals making room for the enjoyment of a pleasant and delightful stay in Sri Lanka.

Those who go to Sri Lanka for a vacation can experience its mix of 2,500-year-old culture, wildlife parks, breathtaking scenery, and golden beaches. One can also try water skiing, wind surfing in the river or take a cooling, lazy boat ride up stream and through the mangroves.

It may be mentioned that SriLankan Airlines has become the only airline in Asia to be awarded the prestigious Imperial Mark, a global accolade of excellence in recognition of its exceptional levels of service and quality.

SriLankan joins the ranks of prestigious companies that have been awarded the Imperial Mark, which include such exclusive global brands as Omega watches, Clive Christian perfumes, and Tiffany & Co. of New York.

Peter HillPeter Hill, CEO of SriLankan said: “We at SriLankan are honoured to receive this accolade, which is indeed a special one among the many that we have won in recent years. The Imperial Mark is not a subjective popularity poll, but is an expert evaluation of our service excellence. It is a tribute to the professionalism of our staff around the globe.”

Less than 1 per cent of companies which are nominated for consideration are awarded the Mark, following a stringent evaluation process.

The Imperial Mark is one of the world’s oldest accolades, dating back over three hundred years, which honours organisations that demonstrate commitment to high standards.

The Imperial Mark is presented by the Imperial Mark Commission, based in London and Philadelphia, after thorough consideration of candidate organisations.

The Mark is seen as a sign of exceptional quality which denotes the highest levels of service in the world. A team from the Imperial Mark Commission reviews the operations of each organisation and compares it with standards prevailing in the relevant industry.

In its report, the Commission’s team noted: “SriLankan Airlines has managed to find a unique balance, infusing its service with a sense of the SriLankan culture and friendliness while maintaining a professional operation.”

Sri Lanka’s National Carrier now flies to 51 destinations in 28 countries across the globe. Its modern fleet consists of Airbus A340, A330 and A320 aircraft.

Swiss connects Delhi to Zurich

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 2: Switzerland continues to be a popular tourist destination with the Indians. Last years a record number of over 30,000 Indians from Delhi alone went there. The first four months of this year, which happens to be off season for tourists, have already shown a jump in traffic ranging to 40 per cent.

Similarly, India is also popular with the Swiss as Switzerland is among the top 10 foreign investors in India. About 150 Swiss companies are active in India and the trade volume has increased eightfold since 1990 and still offers sizeable growth potential, says Olaf Kjelsen, Minister and Deputy Head of the Switzerland embassy.

To participate in the world’s fast growing economy, SWISS International Air Lines has decided to reconnect Zurich to New Delhi with a direct flight from November 25, says Urs Schmid, General Manager of the airline.

Right now, it takes passengers to Zurich via Mumbai daily using an Airbus A330 aircraft. SWISS has its own office located in Mumbai with representations in major cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Pune and Vadodara.

A cabin crew base in Mumbai for the Indian crew compliment is foreseen in the very near future, said Desmond Chacko, Marketing Manager (India). In 2006, on the Mumbai-Zurich route, SWISS carried over 60000 passengers.

The flight to Delhi was stopped in October 2003 after successful flying for 12 years when the earlier avatar of the airline, Swiss Air, faced financial crunch and was shut down in 2002. In March same year, SWISS International emerged as Switzerland’s national carrier.

Mr Schmid said “successful restructuring, cost cutting initiatives and prudent management over recent years have resulted in SWISS consolidating its position. This has enabled SWISS to make progressive investments in fleet, network expansion and product development.”

He said the turnaround has resulted in addition of two new destinations, Delhi and Shanghai, to be served daily on the route network. He said “Delhi was always out Number One destination and we are happy to back in India’s national capital.” It may be mentioned that Delhi with 39 per cent share is India’s top boarding destination with Mumbai capturing 34 per cent of the market.

He said “there will also be increase in frequency from six times a week to daily flights between Zurich and Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Santiago de Chile via Sao Paulo.”

Until a few weeks ago, Swiss offered a code-share service between Delhi and Zurich operated by Star Alliance partner Air Canada. The decision of Air Canada to discontinue service between Zurich and Delhi created a void in this fast growing market. SWISS now closes this gap, said Geeta Kapil, Manager, Northern India.

Combined with our partner Lufthansa, Ms Kapil said the customers will now have a choice of 59 weekly departures from India to our three European hubs at Zurich, Frankfurt and Munich.

In five short years since commencement of operations on March 31, 2002, SWISS has been winning “Best airline” awards under various categories. “Best airline for Europe” in the coveted Business Traveller awards for 2006.

India unveils new mega carrier as 'Air India'

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 22: Announcing the merger of two public sector carriers – Indian and Air India , Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here on Tuesday that the new entity will be known as "Air India".

The new mega airline will retain Air India's Maharaja Mascot. However, the design components of the new logo and livery have been drawn after merging some of the current features of both Air India and Indian Airlines.

The logo of the new airline has a Flying Swan with the Konark wheel placed inside it. The Flying Swan has been morphed from Air India's Centaur logo, whereas the Konark wheel is reminiscent of Indian's logo.

The rebirth of Air India would happen on July 15. The new company will be called National Airline Company Ltd. The new carrier will have 25 brand new Airbus and Boeing aircraft by the year end, said Mr Patel.

"The first aircraft, Boeing 777-200 LR, with new logo and colours will arrive in the national Capital on July 10 from Seattle, USA. It will have the latest in-flight entertainment system etc," Mr Patel said in presence of the three top officials of his ministry - Secretary Ashok Chawla, Air India CMD V Thulasidas and Indian CMD V Trivedi.

The Minister said by the end of the year, the airline would receive seven 777s (both Range and Extended Range), 11 Airbus A230 family aircraft and four Boeing 737s. The airline has already received five brand new 737s.

Mr Patel said Air India will launch a direct flight from Mumbai to New York from August 1. A direct flight from New Delhi to the Apple city will follow shortly thereafter, he added.

With the launch of the direct flight to the US, he said Air India will be ahead of the competition as Private airline, Jet Airways, is beginning its Mumbai-Brussels-Newark flight on August 5.

The new entity would go for an initial public offer in 2008, said the Minister.

The new logo will feature prominently on the aircraft tail, while the Konark Wheel will also feature on all the engines. The choice of colours, red for the swan and orange for the wheel are meant to signify vigour and advancement, he said.

This apart, "the colours also have a strong association with the two carriers thereby retaining the earlier imagery of traditional hospitality and service."

While the aircraft will be ivory in colour, the base will retain the red streak of Air India. Running parallel to each other will be orange and red lines from the front to the rear door, subtly signifying the individual identities merged into one.

The brand name Air India will run across the tail of the aircraft.

Mr Patel said the new company's registered office will be in New Delhi and its corporate office will be in Mumbai. Its office for domestic operations as well as the strategic business units will be mostly based in Delhi.

Asked about the name of the chief of the new Air India, he said the Ministry has "sent proposals to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which will take a final decision".

Airbus to bag 20 more A380 orders in 2007

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 7: On the second day of its presence, the “gentle green giant” – the super jumbo Airbus A380 continued to makes waves in the national capital. Some of the lucky few from the trade and industry, including Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, had the privilege to take a flight on the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer (Customer) Johan Leahy said that the European company hopes to win 20 orders for its A380 this year and is in talks with new airlines in India to sell the plane, the world's largest passenger aircraft, a senior executive said on Monday.

Speaking to newsmen along with Kingfisher Chief Executive Vijay Mallya and Airbus President (India) Kiran Rao, the COO said "we are talking to various airlines in India and around the world."

Toulouse-based Airbus has spent more than $10 billion on developing the A380 and said in March it had 156 orders from 14 customers. “The first aircraft is set to enter service with Singapore Airlines in October,” said Dr Kiran Rao of Airbus.

Leahy also announced it would invest more than $1 billion in India's aviation industry, one of the world's fastest growing, over the next 10 years and said it would increase the amount if needed.

The investment would cover training, maintenance facilities, and design and engineering centres, he said.

So far, Kingfisher Airlines is the only Indian airline to have ordered the A380. It has ordered five A380 aircraft and has an option for five more. Deliveries are to begin in 2011.

Dr Rao said Airbus hopes that Indian firms would place orders for 1,100 passenger and freighter aircraft valued at about $105 billion over 20 years.

Vijay Mallya said that Kingfisher was in talks with Airbus for more planes, including exercising the option.

He also urged the government to review its policy of restricting new airlines from flying abroad until they complete five years of operations.

"The current policy ... is completely outrageous," said Mallya, who is also a member of Rajya Sabha. "I have made an extremely compelling case to the government on why this entire policy needs review."

The A380 is in India on a promotional flight for India's Kingfisher Airlines, which celebrates its second anniversary on Wednesday.

Responding to a question, Mallya said Kingfisher was interested in buying low-cost carrier Air-Deccan but an offer was not imminent. "Am I interested? Yes. Am I imminently acquiring? No," he said.

On A380s, he said Kingfisher would operate these for non-stop long-haul flights -- from Delhi and Mumbai to New York and Chicago.

Super jumbo A-380 in Indian skies!

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 6: It was a breath taking sight when the world’s largest aircraft, Airbus A380, touched down at 10.50 am at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here on Sunday.

Much to the delight of the large number of people who had gathered at the airport and those taking the closest possible view from the National Highway 8 touching the airport, the 550-seater super jumbo in three-class configuration made a ceremonial fly past. It has a passenger capacity of 850 seats in all economy configurations.

Upon reaching the parking bay, the pilot of A380 waved the Indian flag to the cheering crowd. A traditional aviation welcome of water spray was extended to the aircraft before it moved into the parking bay.

The A 380 is on its maiden voyage to mark the second anniversary celebrations of Kingfisher Airlines, which has ordered five of super jumbos. It has a list price of over 300 million dollars per aircraft.

The super jumbo aircraft is powered by four Trent engine manufactured by Rolls Royce and can fly 15,000 kilometres non-stop.

During its India visit, it would be taking some VIPs on a flight of fancy over Delhi and on Tuesday the 80-feet tall aircraft will fly off to Mumbai.

The Airports Authority of India and advance teams of Airbus Industries had been on the job in Delhi to prepare for various facilities including navigation of the super jumbo plane in the country which takes three Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 space.

Currently, only the Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi airports are capable of landing the A380. The size of the aircraft, as well as its passenger load, means that airports around the world are trying to figure out ways to accommodate the plane and handle the sudden rush of traffic that the arrival and departure of each such plane entails.

For instance, an airport’s runway has to be 60 paved metres, with 7.5m grass shoulder on each side, if it is to allow an A 380 super jumbo to take off or land.

The existing runway at the Delhi international airport is about 45 paved meters, with a 15m grass shoulder on each side and this has now been increased in length for the aircraft’s arrival.

The country’s new airports, being built in Bangalore and Hyderabad, will ensure that they can handle the giant.

The launch customer for the A380 is Singapore Airlines, which will take delivery of the first aircraft in October this year

Delhi will be building a new Code F runway in 2008 that will be capable of handing wide bodied aircraft like A 380. GMR Hyderabad airport would perhaps be the first airport to be ready with a code F runway in early 2008.

Kenya Airways plane with 115 people on board crashes

CAMEROON, May 5: Kenya Airways has confirmed that a Boeing 737-800 passenger plane with 115 people on board, that disappeared after taking off from Douala airport in Cameroon on its way to Nairobi from Douala in Cameroon has crashed.

It took off from Douala at 5 minutes past midnight, local time and was due to arrive in the morning.

The Kenya Airways Managing Director told a news conference that the company had set up a crisis centre to monitor events and a passenger information centre at a local hotel.

The flight departed from Douala and was to arrive in Nairobi. The flight originated in Ivory Coast but stopped in Cameroon to pick up more passengers, the airline said.

SAARC capitals to be linked with direct flights

By Deepak Arora

Saarc Summit 2007NEW DELHI, April 9: The time and opportunity have come to realize the goals of SAARC charter: “to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Addressing the recent 14th SAARC Summit here, Dr Singh said “connectivity – physical, economic and of the mind, enabling us to use fully our geographical and resource endowments, has historically been the key to our region’s peace and prosperity. South Asia has flourished most when connected to itself and the rest of the world.”

It was in the same breath that the Indian Prime Minister offered “Open Skies” and proposed that “we link all our capitals through direct flights.”

Highly placed sources said that the SAARC capitals are expected to be linked with direct flights by the end of the year.
However, realizing the fact that the dream of full regional connectivity can not be realized merely by building roads and railways and air links, Dr Singh unilaterally announced liberalization of visas for students, teachers, professors, journalists and patients from South Asia region.

“Let us aim to double the intra-SAARC flow of tourists in the next five years,” said the Indian Prime Minister, who also assumed Chairmanship by virtue of India hosting the SAARC Summit.

The fellow nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – welcomed New Delhi’s proposals that would not only boost the flow of tourists but would also help in economic development of the region.

India had mooted the “Open Sky” policy at the Dhaka Summit in November 2005 and offered its six metro cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderbad and Kolkata and 18 other tourist popular airports. If accepted, it would bring unlimited flight between New Delhi, Kabul, Thimpu, Kathmandu, Male, Dhaka, Islamabad and Colombo.

India’s offer has since been followed up with formal proposals, which include an offer for Fifth Freedom Rights (To take traffic from another country to a third nation). India's proposal provides that the ultimate destination need not necessarily be a SAARC country.

The proposal also fits in with the government's future vision for India as an air transport hub once the Delhi and Mumbai airports are modernised. The 18 destinations that the PM has offered are Amritsar, Jaipur, Guwahati, Lucknow, Patna, Gaya, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, Khajuraho, Goa, Kozhikode, Trivandrum, Cochin, Trichy, Vishakhapatnam, Indore, Bhopal and Gwalior.

Sri Lanka is the only country in the region that has taken advantage of this offer. Today SriLankan Airlines operates over 100 flights per week into India and has become the largest foreign operator in the country.

The SAARC member countries are unanimous that transport integration in South Asia would help land-locked states of Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and North-East India and strengthen connectivity with island countries.

Among the hurdles faced by the region in air connectivity are capacity constraints for both passengers and cargo, limited number of direct flights and high air fares and airport charges as compared to other regions.

FHRAI President Rajesh MishraThe Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) President Rajesh Mishra termed the proposed Open Sky policy as dynamic thinking of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said air connectivity should be extended to all important cities of SAARC.

Mr Mishra also urged the Governments to Open Skies without any restrictions and improve the infrastructure like airports and hotels under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Welcoming the proposal, IATO President Subhash Goyal said the SAARC airlines must offer 30 per cent discount to passengers who cover at least three countries.

IATO President Subhash GoyalMr Goyal said the “open sky” policy would encourage competition within South Asia while encouraging private sector investment. He also called for setting up separate immigration counters at the airports for the SAARC nationals as is being done in the EU countries.

“This would help in faster movement of traffic and give a sense of belongingness among people,” he added.

As of now, India is the largest player in the aviation sector in the region. The other airlines were too small in their operations to pose any kind of competition to India. But the bottom-line, it was pointed out, is reciprocity.

“For instance, Pakistan has not agreed to multiple designation of carriers,” an official said. All the SAARC member nations will have to work out with their airlines to find the best way out.

Bangladesh Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed also called for intensifying SAARC efforts to promote the South Asia region as a common tourist hub.

"South Asia has a rich history... it has been a melting pot of diverse cultures since time immemorial. We are home to all of the world's great religions... SAARC should increase its efforts to promote the region as a common tourist destination," he said.

Passenger Demand Continues Strong Start to Year

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 31: International passenger demand in February continued its strong start to the year with an increase of 6.8 per cent year–on–year and up from 6.1 per cent growth in January. Demand for international freight rose 2.4 per cent following a 3 per cent increase in January continuing an 8-month trend of slower growth.

Average international passenger load factors were 73.3 per cent, up 0.5 per cent year–on–year, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) released February traffic results.

“Passenger demand continues to exceed expectations," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “And over two years of improving load factors are proof that airlines are more efficiently meeting demand.”

The Middle East continued to lead all regions with year–on–year passenger demand growth of 18 per cent. African airlines saw an above average demand increase of 9.4 per cent boosted by the development of new routes within Africa and to Asia and the Middle East.

Stronger than expected economic growth drove demand growth in Europe (7.4 per cent), North America (6.8 per cent) and Asia (5.7 per cent). Latin America continues to be affected by industry restructuring with a 1.3 per cent rise in passenger demand in February.

Air freight demand rose sharply in the Middle East (15.4 per cent) boosted by oil-led economic growth and increased capacity. However, high fuel costs and strong competition from other modes of transport continue to limit air freight demand in Europe (-0.6 per cent) Africa (-2 per cent) and Asia (4.4 per cent), particularly on shorter haul routes.

North American airlines saw freight growth decline 0.5 per cent in February compared to 6 per cent in 2006 as the impact of last year’s redeployment of capacity to international markets decreases. Latin America saw a 20.2 per cent decline due to restructuring.

“The numbers say it all. People want to travel. Liberalisation is key to meeting demand for international air travel. Last week’s US-EU agreement on open skies is a welcome step in the right direction—giving airlines greater freedom to efficiently meet consumer demand. We have a new relationship in the most important bilateral market in the world. Now it is the responsibility of the US and EU to facilitate the change that this agreement needs for it to be successful. Both sides must move on to address ownership, security, and other issues,” said Bisignani.

New duty free shops at Delhi airport

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: The international passengers arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi can now experience a new duty free experience with the Alpha Future opening newer and bigger stores. The duty free shops now offer world’s most famous brands.

The Alpha-Pantaloon consortium that has won the contract for Delhi comprises the UK based Alpha Airports Group Plc and Pantaloon Retail (India) Limited, a Future Group venture.

Mr. Peter Williams, CEO Alpha Group, informed that the new Alpha Future duty free shops will run from one outlet in arrivals and four in departures covering an area, in total, of about 8,000 square feet. The range includes products never before seen in duty free at Delhi, with key product categories being liquor and tobacco; perfume and cosmetics; fashion and accessories; and confectionary.

With a range of over 200 product lines In the liquor and tobacco section, Alpha Future brings to India, the widest range of products ever sold at Delhi duty free, including premium Malts and standard whiskies, exclusive Vodkas and a choice of Cognacs.

The new Perfume and Cosmetics section is spread over 900 square feet, and includes a range of must-have beauty essentials and fragrances from leading brands, including Estee Lauder, Chanel, complemented by the offer of makeovers and sampling, creating a new interactive shopping environment for Indian duty free customers.

The fashion and accessories store covers approx 1100 square feet and offers a range of stylish products from sunglasses and watches, to pens and stationery, as well as crystal ware, fine and fashion jewellery, and men's accessories. The confectionary offer creates another first for India, with a wide range of over 15 everyday basics as well as exclusive selections of premium fine chocolates.

GoAir bags awards

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: India’s smart fare cost airline, GoAir, has bagged two prestigious awards. The celebration started when GoAir became India's first low fare carrier to win the prestigious international award for "Excellent Services" awarded by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA).

This award was presented to GoAir at Berlin Federal Republic of Germany during the world renowned tourism event - ITB.

Adding to the excitement, the creative print campaign of GoAir won the Grand Prix and the Best Ad in Services Category at the Pink Slip Awards 2007, which are India's first awards show for excellence in creative recruitment advertising.

The PATWA is the world's biggest travel writers' organisation representing members from 70 countries across the world. The PATWA International Awards is organised every year at ITB Berlin during the world's biggest travel fair attended by several thousand exhibitors from 180 countries and over 7000 journalists.

The PATWA award is given in cooperation with Messe Berlin, to recognise individuals, organisations involved in promotion of tourism from various sectors such as aviation, hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, government agencies and the like.

Parliamentary panel urges 'futuristic' aviation regulation bill

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 24: Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture has asked the Government to draft “futuristic” and “comprehensive” measures to regulate India's burgeoning aviation sector.

The Parliamentary panel, which dealt with the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha Aug 7, 2006 and was referred to the committee for its examination, said that the bill is a “piece meal effort” on the part of the Government.

The Committee felt that no proper thinking has gone into the preparation of the Bill and that it has been hastily drafted.
“With the coming of new private airports, Greenfield airports, chartered and many other private airlines” into Indian skies, the government “should become more futuristic” while bringing any new legislation on the sector, it said in its 109th report tabled in Parliament during the Budget session.

Holding that the bill contained “ambiguities” on the role, powers and functions of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the panel said the government should “clear its position” on the issue.

“It is not clear as to who will be solely responsible to perform the safety oversight functions,” the panel noted. Thus, the government should also ensure whether the powers of the AAI or the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) would prevail “in case of any controversy”.

With these observations, the panel has thus shot down Civil Aviation Ministry’s move to give more powers to the Director General of Civil Aviation, which said it would result in "overlapping" of powers and compound "confusion".

"The Bill, if enacted, will result in overlapping of powers of both governmental organisations (DGCA and AAI)... Without amending or repealing the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994, the government simply cannot confer the same powers to another body through a different Act," it observed.

It said “the government should come up with comprehensive legislation (covering issues) like overcrowding at the airports and in the sky, infrastructure, safety issues, (and) social responsibilities of airlines.” The bill “should not leave any area uncovered pertaining to civil aviation,” it observed.
The committee said it was “commendable” that the need had arisen to protect civil aviation from “unlawful interference” due to the switchover from ground-based to satellite-based technology but “the legislation introduced for the purpose is found to be lacking on many accounts”.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2006 among other things seeks to regulate foreign registered aircraft operating in or over India, safeguarding civil aviation against unlawful interference and empowering DGCA for performing its oversight functions.

It also seeks to enlarge the Government’s scope of powers to license personnel engaged in air traffic control, inspect and regulate communication and to impose penalty for contravention of the Chicago Convention.

The objectives behind the Bill are commendable but the legislation introduced for the purpose is found to be lacking in many accounts, it stated.

First airframe MRO facility in India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: National carrier Indian has signed an agreement towards the setting-up of an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility for aircraft airframe maintenance.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus/EADS has authorized Bangalore-based Jupiter Aviation and Logistics to enter into the joint venture with Indian to set up the facility. EADS will provide necessary support.

Earlier in February, EADS had signed an MoU with Jupiter Aviation and Logistics to collaborate in aviation ventures focusing on Aircraft Lifecycle Support and Training, which would cover MRO and training.

A strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at Indian's corporate office in Delhi for setting up the facility, initially to cover Airbus A320 family aircraft. Indian is a major operator of Airbus aircraft and is all set to induct 42 new Airbus A320 family aircraft into its fleet. Currently, it operates 48 A320s, 6 A319 and 3 A300 aircraft.

The MoU was signed between Indian’s Chairman and Managing Director Vishwapati Trivedi and Jupiter Aviations’ CEO and Managing Director Ravi Narayanan. Also present at the signing ceremony were Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Chairman, Jupiter Aviation, Yves Guillaume, CEO, EADS India and Kiran Rao, Executive Vice President, Airbus.

After the signing, Mr. Trivedi said, "This first of a kind joint venture Airframe MRO in the country is of immense importance in today's growing aviation market. With the setting up of this facility, Indian will see an increased availability of aircraft following a nearly 50 per cent reduction in major maintenance check times.”

Besides catering to our Airbus aircraft, Mr Trivedi said the facility will also be able to attract other airline jobs, thus not only leading to savings but also generate earnings for the company."

Mr Narayanan said, "we are excited about this public-private partnership which is a milestone, being the first of its kind in the MRO field. The growth in the aviation sector is creating the need for world-class providers of services and we think our partnership will deliver the same to Indian."

Under the MoU, the joint venture company will undertake airframe maintenance, overhaul and repair of Airbus aircraft of Indian, to begin with. Later, it will extend the facility to Airbus aircraft of other airlines and also to aircraft other than Airbus family. In addition to the DGCA, the MRO will also obtain approvals from FAA/JAA/EASA which will help it undertake outside party work.

Congestion surcharge, peak-hour penalty opposed

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 17: There is a hue and cry over the congestion surcharge and move to introduce peak hour penalty at the major airports. While only private carriers like Jet, Sahara and Kingfisher introduced the congestion surcharge, the same airlines are opposing the move to introduce peak hour charges to decongest airports.

After the intervention of the Delhi High Court, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked all the private airlines to consider withdrawal of the congestion surcharge of Rs 150 being charged by them per passenger. In response to a petition, the Delhi High Court asking the Civil Aviation Ministry the reason why private airlines were charging the amount.

Private airlines had decided to impose the surcharge claiming that the aircraft had to hover over major metro airports for about 30 minutes to an hour. Public-sector Indian (Airlines) has, however, not imposed the surcharge.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has also spoken against the congestion surcharge saying "travelling public should not be burdened. Beyond that, it is for the industry to decide."
Director General of Civil Aviation Kanu Gohain informed that they have not given any directive to the airlines about fare hike. However, he said the DGCA as opposed the hike in the garb of congestion surcharge as it was wrong as the airlines were equally responsible for it.

The airlines had introduced Rs 150 congestion surcharge on the ticket last December in an attempt to recover Rs 350 crore lost every year due to the choked airspace.

“When the Civil Aviation Ministry is to be blamed for the congestion in the air and on the ground, why should the passengers pay?” the court asked the ministry’s counsel, Anjana Gosain.

The division bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and HR Malhotra asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to look into the matter and submit a report by April 17, suggesting what could be done.

There is also opposition to Government’s move to impose peak hour penalty to discourage flight movements during morning and evening peak hours a country’s three busiest airports.
Simultaneously, there is a move to introduce off-peak hour charges.

However, this is not likely to work as airlines are unlikely to let go off their lucrative prime-time slots. Therefore, the hike is unlikely to ease congestion and the airlines could pass the increased cost to the travelers. The international airlines lobby has also opposed such a proposal.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) having membership of world's leading 260 passenger and cargo airlines disapproved of the government's proposal on imposition of a peak hour levy to decongest airspace over Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

IATA has asked the government not to impose peak hour charging and rather address the underlying causes of congestion.
IATA has said peak hour pricing at airports would add to passenger costs without achieving the desired outcomes.
"Airline operations —particularly at hubs for international flights — are to a very large extent driven by complex networks, timetable issues and curfew restrictions, so there is little scope for change regardless of peak pricing penalties," IATA said.

"Peak hour pricing will also place a short term constraint on passenger and freight demand, and in the long term, lower benefits generated for users and the wider economy," the statement added.

Since IATA has a current pricing agreement with Airports Authority of India (AAI) it has asked the government to formally consult with it on any proposed changes.

It has also urged the ministry to form a Working Group, including IATA/airline representatives, to examine all options to address current issues such as congestion and to better facilitate the growth in aviation in India.

Opposing the move, Air Deccan chief Captain Gopinath said that separate charges would not have much impact on easing congestion "but would mean more money to airport operators" in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

“The government should have lowered off-peak charges without hiking peak charges. Indian airports efficiency is very low and charges are very high. A single runway in Delhi can't handle over 35 flights in a hour and the need is to increase capacity," he said.

GoAir offers 1,00,000 free tickets

NEW DELHI: GoAir, India's leading smart fare airline has introduced GoFly Free Offer to all its valued customers. As part of the initiative, GoFly Free offers passengers an opportunity to avail of 1,00,000 free tickets to any of GoAir destinations. The offer is valid for bookings made by March 21, 2007 for travel between April to August 2007.

Jaypee Group buys Bell helicopter

NEW DELHI: Jai Prakash Associates (JayPee Group) has taken a delivery of Bell 407 helicopter that will be used in the corporate role and will support a wide range of activities within the JayPee Group. The 407 is one of the most popular helicopters and is well suited for a variety of roles because of its versatility, price and range.

Wing Cdr. B.S. Singhdeo (ret), Managing Director of Bell’s operations in India stated, “We are pleased that such a diverse and well-respected group like Jai Prakash Associates has selected the Bell 407 for their corporate helicopter. The 407 continues to win customers and they know they can count on Bell for unmatched customer service.”

JayPee Group has interests in engineering and construction, cement, hydro and thermal power, information technology, hospitality and real estate and expressways. Mr. JP Gaur, chairman of Jai Prakash Industries said: “This Bell 407 will increase the productivity of our executive team and we are looking forward to putting it to work.” The Group prides itself in operating under the philosophy of “Growth with a Human Face.”

Bell Helicopter is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tilt rotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell’s global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.

Patel meets PM, seeks sops for aviation industry

NEW DELHI, March 15: Taking up the cause of the aviation industry, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Tuesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and suggested that steps be taken to reduce taxes on jet fuel prices, which constituted as much as 40 pc of the total ticket cost.

"The Ministry of Civil Aviation fully supports airlines and the aviation industry that fuel prices need to be rationalised," Patel told reporters after he met the Prime Minister along with Tourism Minister Ambika Soni.

"Oil PSUs must reduce ATF prices and state governments must slash sales tax on ATF. Those states which are doing so are the beneficiaries as they are enjoying more air traffic," he said, adding "I am unhappy with oil PSUs for not reducing ATF prices and not encouraging competition in its supply".

The two ministers raised issues relating to the budget proposals, including making aviation more affordable to encourage tourism.

The 2007-08 budget proposes to amend the central Sales Tax Act to treat ATF as a 'declared good' only for small aircraft, which the aviation industry wants to be extended to all types of planes.

Patel, is also understood to have raised the concerns of the aviation industry about the imposition of withholding tax on aircraft and aircraft engines leased from foreign countries.

The aviation industry is exempted from paying this tax till 31st March and wants the exemption to continue.

The budget proposal to impose three per cent import duty on aircraft, along with a 16 percent countervailing duty, has also come in for criticism from the industry.

Kingfisher Airlines launches flights to Agatti

NEW DELHI, March 5: Kingfisher Airlines today announced the launch of one direct and six stop over flights to Agatti (Lakshadweep), taking its operations to a total of 29 cities across the country.

The airline today launched a direct flight from Kochi to Agatti besides announcing launch of stop over flights to Aggati from Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune, according to a company release here.

The guests who arrived on the maiden flight from Agatti were treated to a cultural extravaganza comprising a traditional welcome ceremony followed by a dance performance, it said.

"The addition to this new route is part of Kingfisher Airlines' plan to rapidly expand the network by providing connectivity between important destinations, which have huge potential for growth in air traffic, given the overall growth in passenger traffic in domestic aviation," the release quoted Chairman and CEO of the airlines Vijay Mallya as saying.

Govt may increase charges on airlines in peak hours

NEW DELHI, March 5: In a bid to decongest airspace over three major airports, the government is planning to increase charges on airlines which operate flights during peak hours and reduce it during the non-peak timings.

The burden on airlines due to the increase in airport and navigation charges could in turn be passed on to consumers travelling during peak hours.

"We are working on a clear system of incentives or disincentives for airlines operating services during three peak hours in the morning and four in the evening," Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla told reporters here.

The airports on which these charges would be effective are Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The peak hours have been identified as 0700-1000 hours in the morning and 1800-2200 hours in the evening.

Chawla, who took over a month ago, indicated that airport and navigation charges could even be doubled during peak hours and halved between midnight and 0500 hours.

Chawla said the increase in these charges would be effective from the last Sunday of March, when the summer schedule of airlines begins.

He, however, said the hike in charges would "essentially be a short-term solution".

"In the long-term, we have to provide more facilities like additional runways and rapid-exit taxiways to overcome congestion. This should be in place by June 2008," he said.

Asked about the "grandfather rights" of the airlines to operate in peak hours, the secretary agreed these airlines had a right "but the charges can always be calibrated".

Grandfather rights are those under which airlines operating on peak-hour slots for several years can claim their right on them.

He said the three airports were handling between 15 to 20 per cent of excess traffic during peak hours compared to their capacities.

Chawla also said there would be no difference in the charges for low-cost carriers and full-frill ones during peak hours, though these would vary for different types of aircraft they operate during this period to these airports.

Cabinet clears merger of Air India, Indian

NEW DELHI, March 1: The mega-merger of state-run carriers Air India and Indian received the final government nod on Thursday night, with the Union Cabinet giving a go ahead to the proposal of the Group of Ministers in this regard.

The merger would turn the new entity into a large airline, with a combined fleet of about 120 aircraft and a staff strength of 30,000, capable of taking global competition head-on. The public sector character of the merged airline would continue.

By 2010-11, when all the new aircraft ordered by the two carriers are inducted into the fleet, the merged entity's employee-aircraft ratio would come down to about 200:1, comparable with any major global airline.

While Air India has ordered 68 Boeing planes, Indian has finalised the acquisition of 43 Airbus aircraft.

The Group of Ministers headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had on 21st February decided to complete the merger process by 31st March.

With the Union Cabinet's nod, work on legal formalities of the merger process would begin.

This is likely to be completed within the next three months.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who has been holding meetings with employees' unions of the two airlines, has assured them that their interests, including employment conditions, wages, seniority and career progression, would be taken care of and a grievance redressal mechanism would be in place to protect their interests.

Five-fold increase in allocation to civil aviation

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 28: The Union Budget has proposed more than five-fold increase in allocation for state-owned airlines, treating jet fuel for all types of small aircraft as 'declared good' and a three per cent duty on private import of planes.

The total allocation for all public sector enterprises under the Civil Aviation Ministry, including Air India, Indian and Airports Authority of India, rose from Rs 2256.36 crore to Rs 12,192.09 crore, most of it meant for the fleet acquisition plans of the two state-owned carriers.

P ChidambaramFinance Minister P Chidambaram also proposed to amend the Central Sales Tax Act to treat aviation turbine fuel (ATF) as a 'declared good' for all small aircraft, with a maximum take-off mass of less than 40,000 kg, operated by scheduled carriers.

Earlier, this facility was available only for turbo-prop aircraft. Now all small aircraft, including regional jets operated by scheduled airlines, would be covered by the provision.

Praful PatelWelcoming the move, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said "it will truly give a fillip to connecting smaller towns and cities across the country.”

Observing that plane and helicopter imports by public and private schedule airlines were exempt from all duties, Chidambaram said this position would continue. "However, there is no reason to allow the exemption to other private importers", he said and proposed to levy an import duty of three per cent on "all private import of aircraft including helicopters".

The three per cent import duty was the rate bound by the World Trade Organisation and added that such imports would also attract countervailing duty of 14 per cent and additional customs duty of four per cent.

Similarly for import of aircraft parts as well, customs duty of 3 per cent, CVD of 16 per cent, and 4 per cent additional duty of customs has been imposed. Imports by Government and scheduled airlines would be exempt.

The statement lay before Parliament said the government strategy to pursue fiscal consolidation included the restricting of exemption from tariff to aircraft imported by government-owned and other scheduled airlines.

However, aircraft, not registered in India, which are brought for the purpose of flight to or across India and ultimately removed within six months from the date of arrival, would be exempt from all customs duties. This move is aimed at providing some cushion to planes leased by airline companies.

The allocation of Air India rose from the 2006-07 revised estimate of Rs 490.84 crore to Rs 6337.01 crore, while that of Indian airlines from Rs 350 crore to Rs 2507.7 crore. The outlay for Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited was raised from Rs 180 crore to Rs 246.5 crore, while that of AAI from Rs 1149.82 crore to Rs 1961.41 crore.

There has also been a massive increase in the outlay for Directorate General of Civil Aviation from Rs 39.6 crore to Rs 108.86 crore, while that of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security from Rs 7.08 crore to Rs 18.43 crore.

However, the levy of 3 per cent import duty on the aviation sector has not gone down too well with major players.

Capt GopinathDeccan Air Managing Director Capt G R Gopinath said that aviation was still not found on the radar of the Finance Minister or the Central Government. “It somehow appears aviation has not deserved the attention it should deserve. It is still considered a peripheral activity. It is not treated as integral to the economic growth of the country and somehow there is a feeling it is still meant for the rich.”

Capt Gopinath said “if India has to be competitive globally, you need to get aviation integrated to the economy. The largest employer globally is tourism, both domestic and international. I don't think tourism in this country will take a leap unless aviation becomes affordable and profitable for the airlines.”

Ankur BhatiaResponding to the Budget, Mr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, The Bird Group, said "the duty reduction on Aviation Turbine Fuel will play a vital role for reducing ticket prices and catalysing air travel for the end consumers."

Meanwhile, Brazilian-built Embraer ERJ 170 and 190 (both less than 100 seat aircraft powered by jet engines) and Canadian-built Bombardier CRJ 200 (70-seater) and CRJ 900 (90-seater) also powered by jet engines may benefit from the sales tax benefits on ATF (at par with turbo-prop aircraft) as announced by the Finance Minister.

Paramount Airways uses ERJ 170s, while Air Sahara and Indus Air use CRJ 200s. The Bombardier CRJ 900 is an all-new aircraft that is yet to enter service with any airline in India.

The ATR 42 and ATR 72 are the only turbo-prop aircraft being used by scheduled airlines in India (Jet Airways, Air Deccan, Kingfisher). There have been reports that Air Deccan is looking at separating its ATR operations into a new company.

With new smaller airports being upgraded, demand for regional jets and turbo-props will increase. These aircraft will also be used by airlines for their feeder routes. Incidentally, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is also in the process of developing a regional jet.

Air Sahara launches flights to Kuala Lumpur, Male

Alok SharmaNEW DELHI, Feb 27: Expanding its presence in the international sector, aviation major Air Sahara on Tuesday announced launch of its flight to Kuala Lumpur and Male.

The private carrier will commence its Kuala Lumpur flight on March 19 from Delhi and from Thiruvananthapuram to Male on March 10, according to Mr Alok Sharma, Air Sahara President.

The Delhi-Singapore flight would now stop at Kuala Lumpur and then go onwards to Singapore, which was connected earlier, he said and pointed out that attractive packages would be offered to the passengers on the international route.

On the domestic front the company would extend its Delhi Bangalore flight to Coimbatore, besides flying three flights daily from Delhi to Cochin including one non-stop from March 10, he added.

‘Intelligent’ airports in the offing

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 22: The huge growth in air traffic has resulted in urgent need for development of airport infrastructure to meet the growing demand that involves challenging situations both in the air and on the ground, according to Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla and AAI Chairman K Ramalingam.

To meet these challenges, the two major gateway airports -- Delhi and Mumbai – are being modernized through a joint venture route and two additional Greenfield airports are being developed through joint venture route in upcoming metro cities Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Besides this, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has undertaken up gradation of 35 of its non-metro airports to bring them at par with world standards, said Mr Chawla, while inaugurating “Inter Airport India 2007” international conference.

Dr Ramalingam said the future modernized major airport terminal buildings would not only be aesthetically appealing but would be “intelligent terminals" fitted with sensors to operate various facilities such as lighting and air-conditioning with automatic sensors and close circuit TVs.

He said the control room would be able to adjust the temperature and lighting automatically depending on the number of passengers in the building and the time of the day could soon become a reality across the country. In other words, “we will have an IT-enabled building management system.”

Though, Dr Ramalingam said development of intelligent terminals is in the conceptual stage but it will soon become a reality. He said AAI would also be introducing new facilities for screening of passenger bags that would not be visible to the passenger but would be very effective.

Besides, he said AAI has also introduced other measures to facilitate passengers' journey like implementing Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE), which allows a passenger to check in at any counter at the airport.

The Chairman said high-tech equipment would be deployed for the security and air traffic control systems covering a wide range of activities - from access control to perimeter security.

Besides, he said, the communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management system would be modernized and linked to the satellite-based system called GAGAN, in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

To begin with, Dr Ramalingam said “we will have a VSAT network to cover eight major airports.” He also said the baggage x-ray and screening mechanisms would be upgraded considerably.
In addition, steps are also being taken to reduce the amount of time that an aircraft has spent circling over domestic airports.

Over 130 companies from 18 countries, including two large contingents from the United Kingdom and Germany, converged at the first-ever Inter Airport India being held in the Capital.

Highlighting the huge growth that the aviation sector was witnessing in India, Mr Ashok Chawla said “during April-December last year, domestic air traffic grew by 40.9 per cent over the same period in the previous year. Similarly, international passenger traffic grew by 14.9 per cent while freight movement grew by 10.7 per cent during the same period."

The Civil Aviation Secretary said that tremendous opportunities to the tune of US $ 350 billion existed for Indian and foreign firms to participate in the development of a variety of infrastructure projects, including airports.

There was a “colossal requirement” of an estimated $10 billion to modernize airports across the country and the focus now is on public-private partnership.

As a policy response, Mr Chawla said the foreign investment regime in airport development and air services have been made liberal. “We are open to further liberalisation based on the needs of the industry.”

Kuldip Nar, a delegate at the conference from AMS Acoustics, which is a multi disciplinary UK based acoustic consultancy having works at Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport, found the to be a very timely and a positive move towards providing safer and state of the art services.

"With such trade shows and the full steam ahead of the modernization and privatization drive, a new chapter for the aviation industry is foreseen that will bring in technologies and equipments providing a safer, reliable and quality service to the Indian traveler," said Kuldip Nar.

Besides aviation experts, Uddesh Kohli, Chairman, Consultancy Development Centre, Dieter Heinz, President, GATE, Stephen Brooks, Chairman, Mack Brooks Exhibitions, organizer of the event, and Rajan Sharma, Managing Director, Inter Ads Ltd, were present at the inauguration ceremony.

The inauguration was followed by seminars spread over three days with interactions by the aviation stalwarts and discussed issues ranging from the civil aviation policy perspectives and the modernization of Airports technology. An insight of the global scenario of development of airports was also provided.

This was an exciting opportunity to share the learning of the many services and equipments that are available for the modernization of airports that are planned in India. Visitors and delegates who visited the Airports Exhibition and Seminar found this to be fruitful for partnerships and an eye opener on some new technologies being introduced world wide in the fields of security, logistics and services.

Indian poised to scale greater heights

By Deepak Arora

Indian CMD Dr Vishwapati TrivediNEW DELHI, Feb 18: Indian (Airlines) is all geared up to scale to new heights in the year 2007 to give a superior travel experience to air passengers. With the mint-fresh state-of-the-art 42 aircraft joining its fleet beginning June this year, the airline is poised to increase its presence on both domestic and international routes through more flights on existing routes and new city pair connections.

With the leasing of two wide-bodied Airbus A330 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engines, the public-sector airline plans to expand its operations to Melbourne in Austalia and Guanghzou in China from October, according to Dr Vishwapati Trivedi, Indian's Chairman and Managing Director.

Currently, Indian’s international operations cover SAARC, Gulf and South East Asian regions, which currently amount to about 225 flights per week.

Dr Trivedi said "It is a matter of pride to be the first to be inducting the high performance wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. Indian has been setting standards in civil aviation over the last 50 years, and is synonymous with efficiency and reliability. The induction of the A330 will allow us to further raise our standards of performance."

Indian is also on the threshold of a major technology upgrade. Dr Trivedi said the airline plans to introduce superior in-flight services and entertainment services like in-seat video displays on each seat, with choice of audio and video channels on all the new aircraft that join its fleet. The new aircraft will help the airline phase out the ageing B737s and add to domestic services in line with passenger requirements.

Keeping in tune with the latest technology, the airline has launched its online web-check-in facility, I-check-in, enabling passengers to choose their own seat and receive boarding pass even before reaching the airport.

The facility has been introduced in collaboration with global distribution systems company Amadeus and is be available on e-tickets and will ensure complete security of ticket details while checking-in online. The airline is also introducing self check-in kiosks at airports.

Indian also has a dedicated 24/7 call centre covering its huge network, offering dial-a-ticket facility. It continues to offer Easy, Unchecked and Spot Fares and special group discounts for tour operators. It also offers 350 holiday package combinations, in 30 domestic and 9 international destinations.

Delhi-Kochi Flight Launched

To keep in mind the demand for direct flights from the Capital to God’s Own Country, the national carrier has launched from Sunday a direct non-stop connection between Delhi and Kochi.

This new flight will reduce the flight time from 5 hours to just 3 hours. This flight will be in addition to the existing daily morning A320 flight IC 165/166 on the Delhi-Kochi sector via Mumbai.

The airline is offering a special introductory one-way fare of Rs.3000 (taxes and levies extra) besides the other attractive fares like Unchecked Fares and Spot Fares already available on this route.

$ 500 m contract with German Bank

Carrying forward its aircraft purchase exercise, the State-owned airlines recently signed a contract with German bank KfW IPEX-Bank, commissioning the bank for financing the purchase of the first batch of 10 Airbus A-320 family aircraft to be delivered this year.

Indian's CMD Vishwapati Trivedi and Peter Klaus, Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of the bank signed the contract in Frankfurt recently wherein KfW will lend $500 million to the airline with repayment tenure of 12 years.

Indian, country's leading airline for over 53 years, has an annual turnover of over US $ 1 billion and carriage of over 8 million passengers. Despite sharp increases in fuel costs, Indian has registered net profit for the last three consecutive years.

Alliance Air, Indian’s wholly owned subsidiary airline, is also in the process of leasing six regional jets in 2007.

Indian has a fleet of 74 aircraft including 48 Airbus A320s, 6 A319s, and 11 B737 aircraft operated by subsidiary Alliance Air. The airline operates over 300 flights every day to 54 destinations within India and 18 abroad carrying nearly 30,000 passengers a day.

Dedicated Freighter Services from July

Dr Trivedi said the state-owned airline plans to start dedicated freighter services from July. "We are likely to call the new operations Indian cargo. The launch of the new service will not affect the ongoing merger process. When the merger process gets underway, Indian cargo can be merged with the new entity," he added.

The airline will convert five of its oldest B737 aircraft, at present flying with its Alliance Air, into freighters. It is looking at tying up with courier major GATI and government owned India Post for its cargo business.

MoU with CFM International

Indian has also decided to get into the engine maintenance business. It has signed a MoU with CFM International to set up an engine repair and overhaul facility in Delhi.There are about 200 CFM engines being used presently by various Indian airline companies and Indian's newly ordered 43 aircraft would also come with these engines.

With the MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) also expected to service airlines in other Asian countries, Indian expects that the MRO will be able to service more than 40 engines annually.

Dr Trivedi said this landmark agreement would benefit not just our fleet but the aviation industry in India. “For Indian, it would mean significant savings, better engine turnaround time and increased engine availability for operations," he added.

Sonia lays foundation stone for Delhi airport's new terminal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said that the Congress-led coalition Government at the Centre was committed to ensure that infrastructure does not become a bottleneck in ensuring economic development of the nation.

After laying the foundation stone for a new integrated terminal building and runway at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here on Saturday, Mrs Gandhi said aviation has flourished during the successive Congress governments. “Today travel by air has become affordable. The entry of new airlines has resulted in slashing of fares.”

However, she said that much more needs to be done. “We need better connectivity for the North-East. Cities of great importance need to be brought on air map.”

The UPA Chairperson said the UPA government is in the process of modernizing at least 35 airports that will enhance regional connectivity. She said “this create more jobs and intensify economic activity where there is stagnation.”

While laying stress on the importance of the public sector, Mrs Gandhi said that we also need cooperation from the private sector. “Both are partner for fulfillment and aspirations of our people,” she added.

The UPA Chairpersons said “we are at a threshold of different kind of modernization where public-private partnership was playing an important role. This can be well understood in the case of Delhi airport which is a joint venture between the public-sector Airports Authority of India (AAI) and GMR Group.

Before the foundation stone laying ceremony, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, inaugurated an aviation exhibition.

Besides Mrs Gandhi and Mr Patel, those present on the occasion included the Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Delhi and Andhra Chief Ministers – Sheila Dikshit and Rajshekhar Reddy, Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd (DIAL) Chairman G M Rao, and Managing Director DIAL Srinivas Bommidala.

In his address, Mr Patel suggested that private entrepreneurs, who possess the required amount of land, be allowed to build airports in the country to overcome problems relating to land acquisition.

Asking the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission to ‘revisit’ the policy on airports, the Minister said land acquisition for Special Economic Zones was facing major hurdles at present.

"The problem is how do we allot new airports to different states or develop infrastructure, without acquiring land. If entrepreneurs can get the land with the support of the local people, this would help solve the problem," said Mr Patel.

He said there was a need to ‘revisit’ the policy on airports as almost every airport expansion project was facing problems relating to land acquisition.

Mr G M Rao said IGI Airport, on completion, will have 130 check-in counters, 74 aerobridges, automated passenger movers, restaurants, shopping joints and a high-speed train connection to the city.

Mr Bommidala said phase one of the master plan includes construction of a new passenger terminal (Terminal 3) which will cater to both domestic and international passengers. “It will be ready before the Commonwealth Games in 2010,” he added.
The GMR-led consortium holds 74 per cent stake in DIAL, the new joint venture company set up to modernise and upgrade the IGI Airport.

Remaining 26 per cent is with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which will continue to manage air traffic control - a crucial component of any airport -- and oversee security and fire-control related issues. DIAL also has partners like Fraport, Eraman Malaysia and India Development Fund.

In its first phase, the airport will be capable of handling 37 million passengers per annum.

The total project outlay for this phase will be close to Rs 6,700 crore. Ultimately, it will have a capacity of 100 million passengers per year.

Bangalore to have pilot training centres

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 10: To meet the acute shortage of pilots in India, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and CAE of Canada and ATR and Air Deccan have announced setting up of training centres in Bangalore.

At Aero India 2007, Airbus and CAE of Canada decided to further strengthen their cooperation by announcing the establishment of an Indian aviation training centre based in Bangalore, Southern India.

The centre will be at Devanahalli, close to Bangalore International Airport, and will open at the end of 2007. When fully operational, the centre will train up to 1,000 pilots per year.

Similarly, Southern France-based regional aircraft manufacturer, ATR, and Air Deccan announced the opening of a new joint Training Center in Bangalore in order to prepare future pilots for the ATR fleet of the airline. This center counts a Full Flight Trainer (FFT), the latest generation of flight simulators, developed jointly by ATR and Canada-based Mechtronix.

On top of training pilots, Airbus will also offer full training and capability to maintenance and cabin crews. Airbus will also offer a complete range of flight operations support to airlines.

"We realised the strategic importance of opening a training centre in India. The Indian aviation industry is growing rapidly and faces significant pilot shortages. Establishing this training centre also demonstrates our continued commitment to providing training solutions worldwide", said Jeff Roberts, CAE's Group President, Innovation and Civil Training and Services.

The centre will initially be staffed by Airbus instructors for Airbus equipment and by CAE instructors for other aircraft. CAE will continually update the simulators with the latest aircraft software. Eventually the centre will be operated by around 30 Airbus or CAE trained local instructors.

"The new training and flight operation support capabilities in Bangalore will continue to ensure that Airbus customer support stays optimal and close to local operations. This is a long term commitment to our airline customers in India covering the complete Airbus family range", said Patrick Gavin, Executive Vice President Customer Services Airbus.

Currently Indian based carriers operate around 200 aircraft. According to Airbus' 2006 global market forecast, India will need approximately 1,100 new aircraft in the next 20 years, helping to create a demand for around 1,000 pilots per year for the next five years.

As well as demand for trained staff from passenger based operators, India will also see growth in the cargo sector with the need for around 160 new freighter aircraft in the next 20 years.

Cooperation between Airbus and CAE dates back to 2002 with the establishment of the first pilot training centres in Spain, Dubai and the UK. Today, there are 15 training centres operating worldwide, Bangalore will be the 16th. Airbus is the world's biggest aircraft maker. In 2006, Airbus delivered 434 aircraft worldwide.

By opening this new training center, which in the future will also be available for training other Indian carriers’ pilots, ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato said the company reinforces its presence in India as well as its aim of proximity towards its customers. From 2005, Air Deccan has booked orders for 36 ATRs, including 30 new ATR 72-500s.

Bagnato stated: “India is one of the fastest growing markets and we have a lot of clients here. The rationale for the joint investment in the ATR training facility originated on the basis of the multiple orders for ATR aircraft from airlines in India. The idea was to understand the needs of all our airline customers and invest accordingly to help the pace of aviation growth in India.”

He said “the opening of a joint Training Center with Air Deccan, one of our largest clients in India follows the ATR path of continuous improvement of our quality service. An emerging market as India has to prepare high-qualified pilots to keep pace with the exponential growth. It is an honour for ATR to co-operate in this ambitious project, directly in India and close to Air Deccan.”

For Captain G. R. Gopinath, Air Deccan’s Managing Director, “This joint venture represents a milestone of Air Deccan’s partnership with ATR.” He added: "With the full flight trainer we will be able to provide refresher training to our pilots within India. This complements Air Deccan’s aim of giving to our passengers the highest standards of performance and quality service as also creating a self sufficient aviation environment in the country.”

At the air show, Thales also achieved significant success. It selected to provide the synthetic training aids for India’s first private civil air training centre.

Thales has been chosen by Rudradev Aviation (P) Limited to supply training equipment for Airbus and Boeing aircraft in a contract valued at approximately US $ 60million.

The following will be provided by Thales: One level D full flight simulator (FFS) configured for the Airbus A320; One level D FFS configured for the Airbus A330-200; One level D FFS configured for the Boeing 737-800; and One level D FFS configured for the Boeing 777-300ER.

Also ordered are Thales Formation Systems Trainers (TFST) and Thales Flight Management System Trainers (FMST). These are lower level training devise for aircraft systems training, providing full aircraft systems simulation fidelity in a classroom. The performance exactly replicates the aircraft by using approved aircraft avionics vendors’ software and full fidelity aircraft systems simulation models.

This training equipment will be installed in the new Rudradev Aviation training centre currently under construction in Chennai, south India. The training centre will offer training services for airlines from India, South east Asia and the Middle East.

Chris Gane, Vice President of the Thales simulation business, said: “We have been exploring opportunities to develop our business in India for a number of years and I am very pleased that, as part of this process, we have been selected for this landmark contract by Rudradev Aviation”. “In the last seven months Thales has secured contracts for 10 full flight simulators which are destined for India and we are by far the largest supplier to India of this technology.”

Mr R.Ravi, CEO and Managing Director of the Rudradev Group, commented “Rudradev Aviation’s training centre is an innovative facility for an innovative service. As well as the simulators supplied by Thales, there will be briefing and debriefing rooms, classrooms, support facilities and living accommodation. This significant, long-term investment underscores the commitment of Rudradev to be India’s leading supplier of fully furnished high-tech facilities."

Scaling New Heights - Aero India 2007

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 3: Some of the leading domestic and international aviation companies are participating in the sixth edition of the country’s biennial air show “Aero India 2007” that opens on February 7 at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore.

Dedicated to global aerospace and aviation business activity - from suppliers to aircraft manufacturers; technology providers to services, India’s leading six-day show allows the aviation and aerospace industry to promote and showcase their products and services to an international professional business audience.

Over the years, India’s largest-ever show has built sizeable brand equity in the aviation world and acts as a catalyst for the industry.

The is year the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, is organizing the show called “International Aerospace & Defence Exhibition” in association with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Farnborough International Ltd. As a result, there will be greater business focus and well defined business to business objectives.

“Aero India 2007” has received a tremendous response from international and domestic companies and a large international participation is coming in terms of country pavilions from nations like France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, the UK, the USA and Ukraine.

Apart from this, domestic participation is also shaping up very well. Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries (SIATI) will have a larger group of members participating at Aero India 2007. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU's) including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) are participating in a big way.

The HAL will display a full-scale mock-up of a new attack helicopter, LCH that will be loaded with a 20-mm gun, a 70-mm rocket and an electro-optical pod. HAL has been working on the Light Combat Helicopter design for the last one-and-a-half years and is expected to roll out the prototype in 2008.

Explaining the rationale behind the LCH, HAL chief Ashok Baweja said: “We want an attack helicopter that operates at altitudes of over 15,000 feet. When you are operating at such altitudes you must have lighter machines. You can not have a 10-tonne helicopter operating at those heights.”

The LCH is the second rotary wing HAL has designed after the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH).

Apart from the Dhruv, HAL will showcase the indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), as also a fully-functional front section of a Jaguar fighter equipped with the upgraded DARIN-II avionics suite.

The company will also exhibit its advancements in machining, composites and state-of-the-art technological capabilities in aviation and aerospace.

Some of the aviation major that are participating in a big way in the air show include Boeing, Airbus, GE, Safran, Martin Baker, Elbit, Pratt & Whitney, Dassault, Eurocopter, Honeywell, Bell, EADS, BAe Systems, IAI, GAE, SAAB, Alenia, RUAG, Lockheed Martin, Irkut, Sukhoi Design Bureau, Rosoboronexport, RAC-MiG and NPO Saturn.

This year leading US defence companies are participating in the air show to consolidate what they call “the momentum of the recent US-India strategic partnership” and to showcase American excellence in technology superiority, reliability and long-term partnership.

Led by William S. Cohen, former US secretary of defence and CEO of The Cohen Group, and Thomas R. Pickering, a former US ambassador to India now representing the Boeing Company, the executive Defence Mission will participate in the air show.

“US industry looks forward to working closely with India's defence and aerospace establishments to advance its critical defence systems,” said Ron Somers, president of US-India Business Council (USIBC), an advocacy group representing over 230 of the largest US companies investing in India.

Boeing will showcase the F/A-18f, C-17 transport aircraft, and Chinook heavy-lift chopper, while Lockheed Martin will showcase the F-16, C-130j, and P-3c at the air show. Many other US companies will be displaying their equipment at the show.

Other companies on the mission include Honeywell, General Electric, Raytheon, the Cohen Group, United Technologies Corporation/Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter Textron, Emergent Bio-Solutions, L-3 Communications, and the Fremont Group.

“Senior officials from the US department of defence will also attend, clearly demonstrating US commitment to India as a long-term partner,” USIBC said, noting that it's the first time in history that the US government has approved such a large fleet of military aircraft for static and flying display in a major air show.

Defence experts and aviation buffs would get the opportunity to see the F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft flying over the Indian skies, an improvement over the static display of the F-15 two years ago.

Russia's latest version of fighter aircraft -- MiG-35 -- will be unveiled at the air show. The aircraft, based on MiG-29M fighter jets, is a significant improvement in maneuverability, flight range and weapons system.

The fighter is powered by RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring control engines, which helps in enhanced performance of the plane in close air-to-air engagements.

As a result of the expected increase in participation, the organisers have decided to increase the exhibition area to 25,000 sq. meters of indoor space and 30,000 sq. meters outdoor space. "Aero India 2007" will have five new hangars, with an approximate increase of 5,670 sq. meters over Aero India 2005, with a possibility of further increase in the area as per the increase in demand.

Global Vectra acquires 46 per cent market share

By Deepak Arora

Bell 412NEW DELHI, Jan 6: With the acquisition of three new Bell 412 helicopters, the Mumbai-based Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd (GVHL) has raised its fleet strength to 18 and increased its market share to 46 per cent.

“Global Vectra also has firm plans to incorporate another four Bell-412s into its fleet in the next financial year,” according to Lt. Gen. (Retired) S.J.S. Saighal, chairman and managing director of the company.

The helicopters are identical to the existing fleet of 15 Bell 412s, which seat two pilots and 13 passengers. The offshore air logistics industry in India has a total strength of 39 helicopters.

Lt. Gen. (Retired) S.J.S. Saighal"After this purchase we have increased our market share to 46 per cent," says Saighal. He said GVHL was planning to increase its fleet to 29 helicopters by 2009. “We also intend tapping the deep sea air logistics market which is the next big opportunity."

The company has acquired three new helicopters for $22.5 million. The acquisition has been funded through equity and lease finance. Two of three helicopters will be deployed to serve Reliance Industries Ltd.

The helicopters are identical to the existing fleet of 15 Bell 412s, which seat two pilots and 13 passengers. The offshore air logistics industry in India has a total strength of 39 helicopters.

With the latest sale, there are more than 70 Bell helicopters operating in India - 18 of them of 412s - with a market share of over 50 percent, says Texas-based Bell Helicopter.

“Global Vectra was the first company to introduce the 412 model to the offshore market in India and today is the largest supplier of offshore air logistics support to the oil and gas industry,” said Max Wiley, Bell's vice president.

There are currently 595 Bell-412s operating worldwide, each of which are capable of carrying 2,286 kg of load. Bell says that the demand in India looks bright given the boom in the Indian oil and gas industry.

Global Vectra has created a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Mumbai that can undertake the post-3,000 hours or five-year checks on Bell 412 helicopters. The company counts among its clients Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Reliance Industries, British Gas, Trans Ocean and the government of Gujarat.

Bell Helicopter is part of the $10 billion Textron Inc group and its stable of brands includes Cessna Aircraft, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO and Greenlee among others.

12 survive, 90 killed in Indonesia plane crash

JAKARTA, Jan 2: Rescuers on Tuesday found the smouldering wreckage of an Indonesian jetliner that went missing during a storm, and officials said 90 people were killed while the remaining 12 aboard survived.

The Boeing 737 operated by local carrier Adam Air crashed in a mountainous region of Sulawesi island in the northeast of the sprawling archipelagic nation, local police Chief Col. Genot Hariyanto, said.

“The plane is destroyed and many bodies are around there,'' he said.

According to an Adam Air spokesman, 90 people were killed. The condition of the 12 survivors in Monday's crash, however, was not known. Rescue workers were at the crash site trying to evacuate survivors, officials said.

The plane was on a domestic flight from Java island to Sulawesi when it disappeared late on Monday about an hour before it was due to land amid very bad weather. The captain managed to send out two distress signals, said national aviation chief Ichsan Tatang said late Monday.

Hundreds of people gathered at Manado airport, the aircraft's destination.

The 17-year-old plane carried six crew and 96 passengers, including 11 children and three foreigners.

Weeks of seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia have caused several deadly floods, landslides and maritime accidents, including the sinking of a ferry in the Java Sea just before midnight Friday that left at least 400 people dead or missing.

The passenger ship capsized about 1,000 kilometers from the area where the Adam Air plane disappeared, and naval ships and helicopters continued on Tuesday to scour the choppy tropical waters for ferry survivors.

Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget airlines that have emerged in Indonesia since 1999, when the industry was deregulated. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since many of the airlines are small and lease planes that are decades old.

In September 2005, a Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after take off on Sumatra island, killing 143 people. In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines Airbus crashed into a jungle-covered mountain slope in Sumatra, killing all 234 people aboard. Two months later, a Silk Air Boeing 737 jet crashed into a river on Sumatra, killing 104 people.

Air Astana bridge between Delhi and Almaty

By Deepak Arora

Ambassador Mukerji

ALMATY, Dec 24: With the Civil Aviation Ministry proposing to relax five-year rule to fly abroad, more and more private Indian carriers are hoping to newer foreign destinations including Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan.

“There is huge potential to expand tourism and business linkages between the countries. The air traffic is already on the rise and this sector is going to be haven for the airlines from India and Kazakhstan,” says Asoke Mukerji, Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan.

Ambassador Umarov

Agrees Dr Kairat Umarov, Kazakhstan Ambassador to India. “There is a huge potential of tourism and people-to-people contacts between the two countries. The present tourist and business traffic is only tip of the iceberg. The tourist traffic could easily reach one million,” said the Ambassador.

Currently, the two countries are linked with Air Astana that connects New Delhi and Almaty twice a week. Kazakhstan’s national carrier has code share with Indian, formerly known as Indian Airlines.

“The traffic between New Delhi and Almaty has been steadily increasing since we started our flights in March 2004,” said Ashendra Liyanage, Vice President (Commercial), Air Astana.

Ashendra Liyanage

“We started our operations with 114-seater Boeing 737-700 aircraft. With the growing economic and cultural relations between India and Kazakhstan and increasing tourism traffic, we are now offering 170-seater Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Thus, showing a 50 per cent increase in the capacity,” said Ashendra.

“We expect to close the year with 19,000 passengers carried between the two counties, a 24 per cent growth over 2005,” he added. The airline offers First class service in Business class. It is also in the process of re-branding its services with more in-flight amenities. The airline is re-launching Internet ticket booking from January next year.

Peter Foster

Air Astana President Peter Foster said the airline expects to grow overall at 48 per cent next year. The current year growth has been to the tune of 30 per cent. Air Astana is rated four among the world’s 200 leading airlines in terms of rate of growth of passenger volume and total number of kilometers traveled buy passengers in 2004.

Foster said “the two countries are big geographically and, therefore, the traffic needs to be connected to multiple cities.”

He said “while we have a wide domestic coverage in Kazakhstan, we initially had a limited catchments area with our flight into Delhi. However, agreement concluded with carriers such as Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Kingfisher allows us to offer multiple traffic flows to and from 19 cities in India at attractive fare levels.”

The airline’s GSA in India has nine offices in eight cities around India providing a very strong distribution network with over 1,600 sub-agents. Beginning this month, Air Astana has become a member of BSP India whereby it will further strengthen its distribution, said Foster.

“In the short run, we are not planning to add new destinations. However, we aim to have a better product through increased frequencies and enhanced partnerships,” said airline’s President.

Ashendra said Air Astana, which is a joint venture between the Kazakhstan Government and BAE Systems, began operating in May 2002. It recently increased its fleet to 15 aircraft, including Boeing and Airbus planes, to serve an expanded route network of 25 domestic and 17 international destinations.

The airline is expanding gradually as per its development strategy for the next years. The plan was adopted late last year after Foster joined the airline.

Foster said that in the current year the airline would carry around 1600000 passengers. It has a 74 per cent market share in the domestic market and 35 per cent on international routes.

He said the airline plans to induct six new aircraft next year. The airline plans to increase its passenger capacity on domestic routes from 7,57,798 to 2.5 million passengers and from 3,90,825 to 1.1 to 1.8 million passengers on international routes in 2015.

Magic Air continues to get grounded

NEW DELHI, Dec 17: A top executive of Tata group and a person of Indian origin (PIO), Nira Radia, seems to have suffered a set back with her plans to get a license for her Magic Air.

Nira's application has been pending with the Civil Aviation Ministry for several years. She has again begun lobbying with the plea to the Government to treat person of Indian origin at par with the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) and give them equal facilities to invest in the country of their origin.

It is learnt that the Civil Aviation Minister has not been entertaining her request. Therefore, she has been attempting to meet persons close to the Minister. However, she has been told that there is no move to equate PIOs with the NRIs and thus putting water on her plans.

The London-based Radia, who had also attempted to get her airline registered, got a rebuff when the previous Government put the decision on hold on the ground that the decision to treat PIO at par with NRI is yet to be taken.

The former Civil Aviation Minister Anant Kumar had tried to take the issue to the then Cabinet and pressed for it. He was discouraged after former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani turned down his appeal.

Sources said the Tata group had also been keen on picking up a stake in Nira Radia promoted Magic Air. But that deal did not happen as the government did not allow the launch of the airline. Tatas have now picked up stake in SpiceJet.

Same fog, same chaos

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 16: Delay, delay and delay is the mantra at this time of the year at the Delhi airport. The reason for the chaos is fog. However, airlines, like each year, are least geared up for the fog. Result is harassed and stranded passengers who miss meetings, flight connections and other opportunities.

Despite the installation of expensive and state-of-the-art CAT-III equipment by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), we continue to have chaos at the airport. The AAI had installed CAT-III B equipment four winters ago at the cost of Rs 43 crore. CAT-III B system allows aircraft to land and take off when visibility falls as low as 50 meters.

Now that the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) has changed hands and has been given to private entity -- Delhi International Airport Pvt Ltd (DIAL), no one this year is at least blaming public-sector AAI, which till last winter used to be blamed for all chaos and mismanagement.

Despite "privatization" of the IGIA, confusion, overcrowding and long wait for baggage and immigration clearances are expected to continue till 2008. The new airport management admits that they have no magic wand and there could some order at the airport in the year 2008. We are told that the new airport is expected to be ready only by 2010, just in time for the Commonwealth Games.

On the fog front, the confusion will continue till next year as the most of the airlines do no have trained pilots as it costs over Rs 10 lakh to train a pilot for CAT-III operations. Besides this, the aircraft also need to be fitted with the compatible equipment. The cost of fitting an aircraft with CAT IIIA and CAT IIIB equipment would cost an airline between Rs 46 crore to Rs 55 crore. Many airlines are not ready to invest that kind of money.

It is again public-sector carriers, Indian and Air India, who have CAT-III compliant pilots. It is a different story that some of Indian CAT-III compliant pilots have been poached by private carriers to meet the requirement of foggy conditions. Air-India has 280 pilots trained in CAT II and 118 in CAT III, Indian (formerly Indian Airlines) has 268 pilots trained in CAT II and 192 in CAT III.

The number of CAT III-compliant pilots in India has gone up from 148 in 2005 to 326 in 2006 and the number of CAT II-trained pilots has gone risen from 661 in 2005 to 794 in December 2006.

Jet Airways has 170 CAT II compliant pilots and out of this 20 are CAT III wide-body pilots. Air Sahara has 20 CAT II-compliant pilots, whereas Spice Jet has 23 CAT II-compliant pilots and IndiGo has 12 CAT III-compliant pilots of whom nine are foreign pilots.

It is not known how many trained CAT III pilots are with Kingfisher, but the airline says it has received Category III certification from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). "This shows our commitment to this civil aviation industry. Our pilots and aircraft are now equipped to operate under any weather conditions. Our passengers will not be affected by fog," said Vijay Mallya, Chairman of the airline.

The low-fare carrier, IndiGo, also says that it has received CAT III approval from the DGCA to operate in fog conditions. With over 40 per cent of its pilots already trained to operate in low visibility conditions, IndiGo will be able to maintain significantly better operations during the fog season this winter, says an airline executive.

CAT II or CAT III training for pilots required them to first fulfill conditions of flying a minimum of 2,000 hours, 500 hours for particular types of high-technology aircraft, and a minimum number of take-offs and landings.

After the major fog confusion at the IGIA, the airlines are now rescheduling flights. Jet has placed its CAT II trained pilots in Delhi and across the network to enable the airline operate its morning and evening flights in and out of Delhi and thereby minimise flight disruptions and delays.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said flight schedules of the airlines were also being approved on the basis of the number of pilots trained for low visibility operations and the suitability of aircraft they operate.

"If an airline does not provide data regarding its capacity to fly under low visibility, it is not allowed to schedule its flights during normal fog hours", Patel said, adding DGCA has issued fresh guidelines in this regard.

He said while Indian and Air India had been authorised to operate under CAT-II and III conditions, Jet Airways and Air Sahara were authorised for CAT-II operations and Kingfisher, SpiceJet, Indigo and Air Deccan granted initial authorisation for CAT-II.

The government was also proposing to amend civil aviation rules to make it mandatory to have Category II instrument landing system at all airports across the country to tackle fog-related problems. Patel said that the proposed amendment of civil aviation rules would encourage all airlines to train pilots till the CAT II level. The DGCA has proposed to amend the Civil Aviation Requirements making it mandatory for all pilots to be trained at least till the CAT II level.

"While we want to reduce fog-related inconvenience caused to passengers, we cannot ignore safety at any cost," Patel said, adding the only Indian airport, which had the highest CAT IIIB facilities, was the one in Delhi.

He announced the government's intention to upgrade four to five airports in the northern region, which is generally affected by fog during winter, to the CAT II level. These include Amritsar, Lucknow and Jaipur.
To ease the inconvenience of the passengers, Delhi airport has initiated steps such as free park and ride facility near domestic airport and temporary cabins outside terminal 1B for additional passenger seating and additional food and beverage counters.

New Aircraft Heralds Air India in Take off Mode

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 9: It was a majestic landing for the Maharaja when a mint-fresh new generation Boeing 737-800 touched down the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The arrival of the first of the 68 aircraft also ushered in a new era for the State-run carrier to take the competition head on.

"The arrival of the new aircraft will not only rejuvenate the public-sector airline but will also prepare it for the tough competition," said V Thulasidas, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India.

Traditional welcome, pooja, bhangra and revelry marked the arrival of the aircraft amids the presence of Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Air India CMD Thulasidas, US Ambassador David Mulford and Boeing's vice-president (Sales) Dinesh Keskar.

The eye-catching design of Gateway of India and India Gate adorned the tail of the new plane, which has an all-economy class configuration to seat 186 passengers.

Thulasidas said: "The arrival of the Boeing Next Generation 737-800 is a significant landmark for Air India and is befitting that it coincides with the 75 year celebrations of Air India's glorious service."

The Union Cabinet had approved Air-India's plans to buy up to 68 aircraft from Boeing in December 2005 and a firm order was placed earlier this year. The Boeing order comprises 23 777s -- including eight long-range and 15 extended range aircraft -- and 27 of the wide body Dreamliner, due to enter service in 2008. Air-India Express, the budget airline, will receive 18 737-800s.

It is significant to note that Air-India's market share had been dwindling due to its ageing fleet as the airline had not bought an aircraft since 1996. In fact, the last induction ceremony for an Air India plane was in 1993 at Delhi airport.

Air India has been facing intense competition from domestic private carriers that can now fly overseas routes and from international airlines that have stepped up their services to and from India.

Though Indian carriers' market share was 35 per cent on international route, but it will go up to 50 per cent by 2015, according to Kiran Rao, President India, Airbus. The new aircraft would help Air India increase its market share.

The credit for the purchase of new aircraft goes to Aviation Minister Patel, Air India CMD Thulasidas and his team for having taken the bold decision to expand the fleet of the public carrier amidst all odds. The Minister was all smiles at the induction ceremony at the IGIA airport. "Usually one minister orders these planes and another minister receives them. Many wrong people get the credit for the wrong things," said Patel.

Thulisadas said: "The delivery of the second Boeing 737-800 is expected in the third week of December, followed by three more in January 2007. The new Boeing 737-800 will go to our sister concern Air India Express which operates flights to the Gulf region.''

The Chairman said "In the next fiscal we will be getting six wide-bodied 777s and by April 2007 we are aiming to start non-stop India-US flights." He said the carrier was inducting 20 pilots keeping in mind its future aircraft inductions.

Thulasidas said the airline would be among the first few carriers in the world to have delivery of Boeing's 787 dreamliner. "The first of the 23 dreamliners will be received in 2008. In the evolving global civil aviation scenario, that should put us in an advantageous position over competition," he added.

Ambassador Mulford said "The delivery of this aircraft is in itself highly symbolic because the aircraft in today's world is a bridge, and it is a bridge between the United States and India and the movements of our people backwards and forward and therefore served as a highly important symbol of this growing relationship," he said.

Mr Keskar said Boeing was committed to its India plans and the fresh delivery to Air India marked another milestone in their relationship. "Our first flight simulator has arrived and the ground breaking for the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility to be built in Nagpur will be held next year," he said.

Boeing has an existing deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), a research deal with the Indian Institute of Science, and software services agreements with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd and Wipro Ltd.

Indian offers bounty of free tickets

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: After the hugely popular Desh Videsh amd Super Saver Utsav schemes, the pubic-sector, Indian, has launched a new scheme -- Touch 10/ Touch 20 -- to pamper air travellers one more time with an exciting bounty of free tickets.

Under this scheme, a passenger who travels 10 times within three months i.e. till February 28 next year on specified domestic sectors would be entitled to two free tickets on any domestic sector.

An airline spokesman told Deepak Arora that frequent fliers who travel 20 times in three months would get 4 free award tickets for travel on any domestic sector.

"Tickets issued against all fare levels -- normal fares to Spot fares - will qualify for participation in the scheme. The scheme is open to Indians and foreigners purchasing tickets in India," he added.

Besides this, those passengers who take a month longer to complete the specified number of flights would also be entitled to free tickets. "A passenger who flies 10 times till March 31 will get one free ticket and for completing 20 journeys, he will be entitled to 2 free tickets."

The award tickets, valid for three months from the date of issue, will be two-coupon tickets in the same class in which the passenger completed his journey.

The spokesman said "the award tickets may be utilized by the passenger himself or transferred to any other person. An added advantage is that a two-coupon Executive class award ticket may be swapped for a three-coupon award ticket in Economy class. All applicable taxes and levies on the award ticket will be borne by the passenger."

KrasAir opens sales, ticketing office in India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 23: With a booming aviation market, more and more foreign carriers are eyeing India. Now, a leading Russian airline, Kras Air (Krasnoyarsk Airlines) has opened its marketing, sales and ticketing office in India.

KrasAir has a large network within Russia, CIS countries, Europe and Asia serving over 50 destinations. The airline has traffic rights to operate flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa from Moscow. The airline plans to start online operations to India this year, flying from Russia to India, with connections to Europe, USA and Middle East via Krasnoyarsk, Moscow and Samara.

Trans Tours & Travels, New Delhi - with over 28 years experience as General Sales Agents for Airlines, have been appointed GSA for KrasAir Airlines, for the territories of India, Nepal and Bangladesh, for Sales, Marketing and Handling for KrasAir.

Reservations, sales and ticketing are now open to all IATA agents, in India, with BSP stock for issuing SOTO tickets on the KrasAir and AirUnion Networks. Fares, tariffs and bookings are available on Amadeus and Galileo.

KrasAir initiated the establishment of the Russian aviation alliance AirUnion, along with Domodedovo Airlines, Omskavia, Samara and Sibaviatrans. In 2005 the five airlines combined their fleets to form a large route network in Russia, handling more than 3.5 million passengers per year.

The common route network of AirUnion has several Russian hubs – Krasnoyarsk, Moscow and Samara. The network covers entire Russia: Central part (Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Samara); Southern Russia (Sochi, Anapa, Krasnodar, Simferopol); Ural region (Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk); Siberia (Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Omsk, Irkutsk, Norilsk), Far East region (Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Blagoveshchensk).

AirUnions’ International network presently serves the major points of CIS (Tashkent, Almaty, Baku, Dushanbe, Yerevan), Europe (Hanover, Stuttgart, Lisbon, Tivat, Athens, Thessaloniki), South-East Asia (Beijing, Harbin) with many more destinations opening shortly.

AAI spreads its wings; bags Nigerian airport contract

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 18: Airports Authority of India may be down but is not out. At a time when two of its most profitable airports - Delhi and Mumbai -- were given to private operators, AAI decided to look for greenery pastures abroad and market itself aggressively. And voila, it succeeded by winning the contract to develop and operate the Abuja international airport in Nigeria.

Did AAI, along with its consortium partners, win the contract after a stiff competition? Not really. Once the competitors came to know that AAI was one of the technical partners of the Abuja Gateway Consortium partners they withdrew from the race one by one. It talks of the great respect AAI commands abroad.

When contacted, the AAI Chairman, Mr K Ramalingam, expressed happiness over the news and added "we have yet to get the formal letter."

It is interesting to learn that one of the partners of the consortium that withdrew from the race is also part of the team that won the contract for the Mumbai airport.

The AAI is part of the Abuja Gateway Consortium (AGC) that won the bid for development Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in the Nigeria's capital Abuja.

The AGC comprises of Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited, an Italian firm based in Abuja. It has the largest equity of 49.5 per cent; Net Technologies Limited, a Nigerian company registered in 2003 which specializes in the provision of Information Technology (IT) solutions, property development and various infrastructure turnkey projects has a 20 percentage holding in the group.

Also in the group are Airline Services Limited, another Nigerian firm said to be the premier provider of catering and hospitality services to the aviation industry; British Airways; South African Airways; Lufthansa German Airlines; KLM Royal Dutch; Air France; and Virgin Nigeria.

Another company in the group is A.G. Ferrero, a Nigerian construction company based in Kaduna. It has a 10 per cent share in the group while Airport Consulting Vienna GmbH will serve as the technical partner. The Airports Authority of India will act as the airport operator for the consortium. It has no equity holding.

When contacted, the AAI Chairman, Mr K Ramalingam, expressed happiness over the news and added "we have yet to get the formal letter."

Aviation experts feel that the Civil Aviation Ministry should award contracts for the modernization of Kolkata and Chennai airports to AAI. "This will not only lead to competition among the public and private sectors, but also would check the private monopoly."

"Look at the case of airlines. It was the presence of public sector carriers - Indian and Air India - that has checked the ticket prices in the country. In fact, the national carriers have brought down the ticket prices due to healthy competion," it was pointed out.

While the Left Front government of West Bengal has asked the Centre to allow state-owned Airports Authority of India to modernise the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu wanted to go the P-P-P (public-private partnership) way.

It is learnt that AAI plans to aggressively bid for more airports abroad. In the past, the public-sector airport operator had build three airports (Barak I and Barak II and Ghat) in Libya; Male in Maldives and two airports (Aidah and Ryan) in South Yemen.

The Nigerian officials said the government has leased out one of the country's foremost airports to the AGC for $ 101.1 million over the next 25 years. The consortium was expected to spend $ 371 million to upgrade the airport.

The consortium's spokesman, Richard Akerele, said that the long-term development plan would make the Abuja Airport the hub of West Africa. The airport, launched in 1982, had been managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which would continue to run the country's 21 other government-owned airports.

Irene Chigbue, Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigerian agency responsible for privatizing state-owned assets, who announced the result at the financial bid opening ceremony, said the offer was well above the reserve price, adding that the consortium demonstrated an unwavering faith in the transaction and were the only bidders to get to the final stage out of the five contenders that were initially pre-qualified for the bid.

She said with the successful concession of the Abuja International Airport, the stage was now set for similar exercises for the Port Harcourt, Enugu, Kano and Lagos Airports next year. She said the bid results will be submitted to the federal government for its approval before the deal takes effect.

Global Vectra inducts 15th Bell helicopter

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 28: India's largest private helicopter operator, Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd. (GVHL), has received the 15th Bell 412 aircraft from Bell Helicopter.

Expressing his confidence in the US company, GVHL Chairman and Managing Director, Lt. Gen SJS Saighal (Rtd.), said, "Bell 412 has a range best adaptable to Indian Offshore operational requirements. We were the first to introduce the Bell 412 Helicopter to the offshore market in India and are today the largest player in offshore air logistics support to the oil and gas industry."

Today, with 15 Bell 412s flying on the east and west coasts of India, GVHL is serving some of the biggest names in India's oil exploration sector and their customers include ONGC, Reliance Industries, British Gas, Trans Ocean and Gujarat State.

Saighal confirmed that the 412 plays an integral part of GVHL strategy of keeping customers satisfied. "This high level of customer satisfaction remains one of the major reasons that they will add three additional Bell 412s by the end of the year."

GVHL is India's first aviation company to be certified for the ISO 9001-2000, 14001-2004 and OHSAS 18001-1999 standards by DNV.

Max Wiley, Vice President Bell Helicopter Asia, stated, "We are proud to be a major part of the largest offshore operator's fleet in India. GVHL's confidence in our helicopters is reflected by maintaining the single largest fleet of Bell 412s in India."

Wiley continued, "With one Bell 412 being used for VIP flights by the State Government of Tamil Nadu, we will have 22 helicopters flying in India by the end of this year."

Bell model 412 helicopter has become the preferred medium twin helicopter in the offshore oil industry because of its reliability, payload, single engine performance and safety record. There are 595 412s operating worldwide; this model has the lowest cost of operation of any helicopter in its class. The roomy and versatile 412 has a useful load of 5,039 lbs. (2,286kg) making it an excellent helicopter offshore oil and gas support.

With more than 70 Bell helicopters flying in India, Bell has more than 50 percent of India's helicopter commercial market share. Additionally Bell is known for its customer support and been rated number one by Professional Pilot magazine in customer support for 12 consecutive years.

Bell Helicopter is a leading producer of commercial and military helicopters and the pioneer of the revolutionary tilt rotor aircraft. Globally recognized for customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell's global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in over 120 countries.

GoAir, SBI Card and Visa Launch Co-branded Credit Card

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 27: India's low cost carrier, GoAir, and SBI Card have launched a feature packed co-branded credit card -- the GoAir SBI Credit Card -- in association with Visa International.

Targeted at value conscious GoAir smart fliers, the GoAir SBI Card offers a unique rewards programme that entitles cardholders to four reward points on every Rs. 100 they spend on buying GoAir tickets with their GoAir SBI Card. Cardholders can redeem these reward points, against subsequent GoAir ticket purchase.

Commenting on the launch, Jeh Wadia, Managing Director, GoAir said, "We believe that GoAir Smart fliers will fully enjoy this true rewards and loyalty scheme. This is a partnership with industry leaders; SBI Card brings unique strength into the program with its reach, GE brings in its worldwide experience in terms of loyalty/ co-brand management, and of course Visa for leadership, innovation and technology expertise in the payments industry".

Roopam Asthana, CEO, SBI Cards, said "This tie-up is in line with our focus on Co-brand partnerships - covering diverse industries which offer our customers the best. The GoAir SBI card is a fully loaded, features rich card that offers value conscious airline travellers, a unique value proposition."

Talking about the tie-up, he further added, "In less than a year of launching its services, GoAir has created a vast set of loyal and value conscious customers. Credit Card spends in the airline category has shown a phenomenal rise of 80 per cent over the last year. On the other hand, SBI cards portfolio has recorded a healthy 77 per cent increase on spends in the airline category. We are confident that GoAir, SBI Cards and Visa will be a winning combination."

The GoAir SBI card is fully loaded with all the features that customers have come to expect from SBI cards, including complementary Air accident Insurance Cover, purchase protection and flexi pay among others.

First Flight forays into logistics and supply chain services

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: First Flight Couriers, among the country's largest domestic courier operators, announced plans to set up a full-fledged Logistics Division along with a slew of enhancements to its service offerings.

The Logistics Division will offer integrated Logistics and end-to-end Supply Chain solutions to corporate customers, said Mr O.P. Saboo, founder-Chairman and Managing Director of First Flight.

Mr Saboo said "We will be leveraging our existing strengths in the services we are currently offering through our network and coupled with the recent acquisition of Company's own ATPF aircraft. This is a natural extension to our present line of business."

The Logistics Division of First Flight will put its extensive network of 751 offices and storage facilities in the form of warehouses, hubs and depots aggregating over 525,000 sq ft of space to use for enabling end-to-end solutions ranging from supply chain re-designing, sourcing of material, deferred visibility across the supply chain with inventory control services, warehousing and distribution networks, spares handling and other value added services for customers.

While First Flight would take over the responsibility for the entire logistics management, the customers could focus on their core competency. The company expects to find wide market in industry sectors where critical-time delivery is a key feature of business, such as e-commerce, automotives sector and IT hardware sector.

Elaborating on the capabilities of First Flight, Deputy MD R.K. Saboo said "We are already operating excellent air/surface line-hauls and extensive feeder and main inland service routes. First Wheels, our surface express delivery service is complemented by First Wings, our express air cargo service. When taken together with our strong locational network and storage facilities and our multi-modal delivery capabilities, we believe we are well placed to reach a position of prominence in this business."

The company is targeting to set-up the operations of the Logistics Division in 20 major cities in the first year of operations, and was actively scouting for a senior industry professional to take on operational responsibility as the Division's COO, informed R.K. Saboo.

First Flight is India's second largest domestic courier company with revenues exceeding Rs. 240 crore and pick ups over 85 million shipments each day through its network of 751offices across the country, covering 1800 destinations.

Brand new Airbus A-319 joins Indian fleet

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 19: The first fresh-mint aircraft of the state-owned carrier, Indian, which has ordered 43 aircraft from the European manufacturer Airbus, arrived at the Indiara Gandhi International airport on Thursday morning.

The 122 seater Airbus A-319 was received by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Indian Chairman and Managing Director Vishwapati Trivedi and senior officials of the ministry and other agencies.

Indian, earlier known as Indian Airlines, is getting new planes after a gap of 12 years. At present, all planes of Indian and its subsidiary Alliance Air are aged between 13 to 25 years.

Accepting the aircraft, Dr Vishwapati Trivedi said, "It is indeed a historic occasion and ushers a new era for the airline which is witnessing the induction of its own aircraft after a gap of 12 years. It is even more welcome coming as it does at a time when aviation in India is experiencing a phenomenal growth."

"Indian Airlines was one of Airbus' very first customers in India and has built a tremendous track record. It's gratifying for Airbus to share in the growth of Indian Airlines through our products and the unique benefits they bring such as common type rating between aircraft. We wish Indian Airlines a long continued success", said Airbus President and CEO, and co CEO of EADS, Louis Gallois.

Indian Airlines currently operates a fleet of 53 Airbus aircraft including three wide-bodied A300s, 47 A320s and three leased A319s. Indian was one of the first carriers to recognise the advantages of the A320 Family's unique operational commonality, allowing pilots and maintenance crews to work across the Family range and delivering valuable savings in training and operational efficiency.

The airline had ordered 19 A-319, 20 A-321 and four A-320 at an estimated cost of Rs 9,888 crore. While 70 percent of the 43 aircraft to be inducted are for replacing Indian's ageing fleet, 30 percent is for capacity enhancement. Deliveries of these aircraft would be stepped up from June 2007 with six aircraft to be delivered that year, 12 in 2008, 18 in 2009 and the last six in 2010. All these planes would come in two-class configuration with the A-319 having 122 seats, A-321 with 172 seats and A-320 having 140 seats.

Barring the aircraft, which landed today, the remaining 42 planes, would have in-flight audio-visual entertainment systems on the seatbacks.

Speaking to newsmen on the occasion, Civil Aviation Minister Praful warned the staff of the two state-owned carriers, Indian and Air India, to either perform or perish. He said the Government has set up a Group of Ministers to finalise the merger of the two airlines within this fiscal.

"I am personally not very happy with the way the two carriers are performing... Government support is only to an extent. Beyond this, the airlines would have to retain their standards of performance," said Mr Patel. "The Government will not remain a mute spectator to the goings on in both the carriers", he said.

While refusing to elaborate on what he meant by "goings on," he said the GoM set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to finalise the path for the merger would be headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The GoM will have Law Minister H R Bharadwaj and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia as its members, besides Patel.

The Civil Aviation Minister said the government was not engaging in a blame game with the airlines, but was "looking at the totality of a lot of things which should have been done and have not been done".

Indian's CMD said the airline was targeting a net profit of Rs 104 crore in the current financial year as compared to Rs 68 crore last fiscal.

Aerostar, Flight Safety International to train Indian pilots

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: With the aviation sector booming, more and more airlines are entering the market and as a result more planes have entered the Indian skies. However, this scenario has resulted in shortage of 1,500 pilots in the country. The airlines are now offering attractive packages to the pilots to lure them from other carriers and are also attracting foreign pilots which number around 500.

The requirement for the pilots in the next five years would go up to 4,500 for an aircraft fleet size of 445 with each plane requiring two sets of three pilots, says Air Marshal AJS Walia, Chief Executive Officer of Aerostar Aviation.

With country not having enough schools to train pilots, Aerostar has tied with US-based Flight Safety Academy to bridge the existing gap between the demand and supply of Commercial Pilots in India. "The first batch of eight students will leave on November 28 for the 40 weeks course," informs Air Marshal Walia.

"Aerostar is one stop window for the students who are keen to do the course from one of the world's largest and finest pilots training academy based out of Miami Florida having 43 learning centres in America and Europe," he said.

He said "we screen the students with the pilot aptitude test, medical etc. Once he clears all this we send his application to the FSA and also for Homeland security clearance. After that we help him with his US visa, life and medical insurance and bank loan."

The course fee will be around $ 51,000, which can be paid in equal monthly installments, for which Aerostar Aviation has tied up with various banks, to make the facility of loans easily available for the students, says Air Marshal Walia.

The Managing Director, Aerostar Aviation, Mr Manav Singh, said "The tie-up between Aerostar Aviation and Flight Safety International offers the Indian students a ground to fulfill their dreams. India is an important and growing market for Pilots and with so many airlines coming, this strategic alliance with Flight Safety Academy will provide us an opportunity to overcome the existing shortfall of pilots in the aviation industry".

The course intake will be 100 students in the first phase. Almost every month students, selected by Aerostar Aviation, would leave for the US for the training. The company has already short listed eight students for the Januaray batch and four for the February batch.

Unlike the Indian flying schools where training stretches from 18 to 30 months, the training at the FSA will be for 40 weeks in which students would need to clear their theory exams as well as finish 225 hours of flying, including multi-engine training.

"The tie up will provide the students a platform to equip themselves with the best know how and sound foundation for the industry. This is the first initiative taken up by any corporate to provide Commercial Pilot training to Indian students," says Mr Manav Singh. "I am extremely passionate about aviation, and feel responsible for its overall growth; hence this move into the training segment," he adds.

The Senior Vice President, Flight Safety Academy, Mr Jim Waugh, said "we are pleased to be associated with Aerostar Aviation, one of the most experienced aviation companies in India Aerostar Aviation. We will endeavor to add value to the Indian Student Pilots, by providing them the best training."

The shortage of pilots has hit the Public-sector airline like Air India, Indian Airlines and Alliance Air and Indian Air Force. It is interesting to note that as many as 128 pilots have the national carriers between 2004 and 2006.

"The resignations have been tendered citing reasons like health, education of children, migration to foreign countries etc and not necessarily due to less salary," says Mr Praful Patel, Minister of State for Civil Aviation.

Indian (Airlines) is tightening its retirement norms to make it less attractive for the pilots to leave for the greener pastures.

Explaining the shortage of pilots, Mr Kapil Kaul of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said it happened for several reasons. He said the aviation boom not only happened suddenly, but at a time when the industry and the government were not prepared for it.

Mr Kaul said India does not have enough good quality flying schools. He wanted "the government to allow 100 per cent FDI in flying schools so that we get more Indian pilots trained. Course duration should also be reduced to nine months to bring it par with international standards."

Mr Kaul said the present number of students passing out from flying schools in India do not match the demand. The government-run Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi offers two Commercial Pilot Lincence (CPL) courses a year with an intake of a mere 20.

Capt Yash Raj Tongia of Yash Air, a training institute, says about 250 students pass out of various training schools in India of which only three to four schools have more than six training aircraft. According to him the problem lay in the lack of adequate number of instructors and training aircraft. As against 80 instructors in 12 schools in 2004, there are only 35 now.

Capt Tongia says the problem was not in starting more training schools but having more instructors and planes. IGRUA, he says has a fleet of 20 aircrafts but only three instructors. He said most of the flying schools in India maintain an aircraft-student ratio of 1:25, as against the global training industry average of 1:8, so flying training is slow.

The Flight Safety Academy is equipped with 230 flight simulators of all types of aircraft right from Boeing to a Cessna. With more than 1500 instructors and facility to provide training for 135 types of aircrafts the training academy is the best and largest in the world.

FSA is an integral part of Flight Safety International that is the world's largest provider of aviation services, training over 75,000 people for flying and other flying related activities annually at 43 Learning Centers in U.S., Canada, France and the U.K. Offering the most complete simulator training program in aviation- encompassing virtually all business aircraft. Founded in 1951 by Warren Buffet, Flight Safety is dedicated to the principle that aviation safety is best achieved by thorough training.

Helicopter Tourism arrives in Kerala

By Deepak Arora

KOCHI, Oct 6: The use of helicopter has come a long ways since the French pioneer, Etienne Oehmichen, became the first to fly a helicopter a kilometer in a closed circuit in 1924 for 7 minutes and 40 seconds. Initially used for ferrying military personnel, helicopters in the modern world are used not only in policing but also used for traffic management, rescuing trapped people and taking accident victims to hospitals.

However, they are also increasingly being used for tourism to enable tourists to travel from one destination to another with the double benefit of cutting down on travel time while enjoying a bird's eye-view of the unique beauty of the place.

Taking the heli-tourism concept forward, Mr E M Najeeb, a leading tourism and travel pioneer, has decided to launch Helicopter Tourism in Kerala from mid-October. The Great India Tour Company (GITC) is launching this in association with King Rotors and Air Charter Private Ltd.

Mr Najeeb, Chairman of Air Travel Enterprises (ATE), which is marketing the packages through its leisure arm, GITC, said visitors will be taken from one tourist spot to the other in a six-seater (excluding the pilot) helicopter to save time and also discomfort on the roads.

GITC has designed a number of cost effective packages like 'Capital by Air', 'Backwaters by Air', 'Fly the Hills' and 'Shoreline Flights'.

The 'Capital by Air' offers sightseeing trips around Thiruvananthapuram. The backwater trip takes tourists around Kumarakom, while the 'Fly the Hills' provides tourists a taste of the hill stations at Thekkady, Munnar, Kochi and Kumarakoam. The 'Shoreline Flights' offer sightseeing to Kanyakumari along the picturesque coastline.

Besides the Helicopter tourism packages, ATE also offers charters for VVIP travel, delegate entertainment, travel to conference destinations, travel to factor sites, mines or quarries, aerial surveys and election campaigning. It can also be used as air ambulance during relief operations and search and rescue missions.

Initially, Mr Nazeeb said the company would launch the service with one Chetak helicopter. "More helicopters will be added as the demand increases," he said and added all the clearances have been received for the project.

The Chairman said the corporate charter, celebrity charter and exclusive charter flights are priced at Rs 70,000 onwards per hour. Airtravel Enterpirse is the General Sales Agent of this pioneering service. With its vast experience in passenger handling, airport services, cargo handling, tourism packaging and hospitality, Helicopter Tourism is yet another father in ATE's cap.

Much to the delight of over 500 foreign and over 300 domestic buyers, GITC unveiled its Helicopter Tourism and other packages like Golf Tourism, Sports and Rural Tourism and Medical Tourism at the recent Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) at Kochi.

Mr Najeeb said the Golf Tourism has been launched in association with the Trivandrum Golf club, which is the second oldest golf course outside Great Britain. He said that the club has been attracting lots of foreign tourists, including diplomats and businessmen. The Trivandrum Golf club building is a heritage structure more than 100 years old.

As part of efforts to promote Golf Tourism, GITC proposes to bring in well known golf players to the Golf club, he said. The company also proposed major tie-ups with corporate and other related organisations. The Golf tourism packages would be marketed to corporate and the lovers of the game.

Even as Mr Najeeb announced the launch of Helicopter Tourism, the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Deccan Aviation to commence helicopter services linking major tourist destinations in the State.

The MoU was signed by KTDC Managing Director K. G. Mohanlal and Deccan Aviation Executive Director Jayanth Poovaiah. To begin the service, Mr Mohanlal announced a seven nights /eight days package connecting Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Munnar, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

The KTDC's premium properties Hotel Samudra, Kovalam; Waterscapes & Houseboat Kumarakom; Lake Palace, Thekkady; Tea County, Munnar, and Bolgatty Palace, Kochi figure in the package. The package costs Rs 5 lakh, which includes helicopter charges, local transport, food and accommodation for five persons.

The 30-minute "Bird's eye view" package that covers beach, backwater and hill station for five people would cost Rs 35,000.

Kerala's Tourism Minister, Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, said the State had requested the Union Government to allocate Rs 10 crore for creating infrastructure facilities to commence helicopter and seaplane services linking the tourist destinations in the State.

Air India Express launches Dubai to Mangalore flight

DUBAI, Oct 5: Air India Express (AIE), the low-cost arm of Air India, has launched its flight service from Dubai to Mangalore. Jaishree Ramachandran, Air India's Marketing Manager for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said that AIE's low-budget flights best suit the destination.

The 1.4 million Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community living in the UAE, which includes 2,00,000 Mangaloreans are expected to benefit from the new service, which was launched on Tuesday. The price of a one-way ticket to Mangalore from Dubai starts at Dh 600, roughly one-third less than the full service fare. Ramachandran said that because of Mangalore's geographical location, the new flight will also benefit people travelling to northern Kerala.

Later this year, the low-cost carrier will also commence a new service to Chennai in Tamil Nadu three times a week. The airline presently serves India with 21 flights a week from Dubai, and flies another 23 times a week to Kerala from Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat and Salalah.

Turkish hijacker with message for pope surrenders

ISTAMBUL, Oct 4: An unarmed Turkish hijackers, who hijacked a Turkish Airways plane flying from Tirana to Istanbul, with a message for Pope Benedict XVI surrendered to Italian police after commandeering a plane with 107 passengers, including a beauty queen from India, aboard.

According to the news agency, the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-400 was hijacked during a flight from Albania to Istanbul and forced to land in southern Italy, with Italian civil aviation authorities saying that the pair had a message for the pope, who is due to visit mainly Muslim Turkey in late November.

Earlier reports suggested there were two hijackers, protesting against the Pope, but the one man now in custody is a Turkish army deserter seeking asylum.

A traveller aboard the plane told Turkish television by cell phone that one of the hijackers apologized to the passengers before surrendering at around 8:00 pm, two hours after Italian F-16s forced the aircraft to land in Brindisi.

"He is now apologizing to everyone and is waving to us," Ergun Ozkoseoglu told a TV channel as other passengers could be heard breaking into applause in the background.

"There was no panic" throughout the standoff, Ozkoseoglu said. "They did not tell us why they hijacked the plane."

Other passengers on the plane said beauty queens of India and China, who had participated in a recent competition in Albania, were also aboard.

Istanbul vice governor Vedat Muftuoglu said the hijackers, described as unaggressive, took control of the plane some 15 to 20 minutes after it took off from the Albanian capital Tirana.
"They said their action was to protest the pope's visit," Muftuoglu told a tv television.

However Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told a tv channel that the hijacker were seeking political asylum and there are no indications that they were protesting against the pope's planned visit to Turkey.

New aircraft to join Indian fleet on Oct 19

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 28: With the public-sector airline, Indian, spreading its wings, the fear factor among its competitors is rising. The cause for the jitters among the rivals is that Indian (Airlines) is not only adding capacity with mint fresh and leased aircraft, but is also bringing in state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment, designer wardrobe for the crew and a new logo. The airline is also spreading its wings to non-metro routes with six ATRs it plans to lease. It also plans to launch a Cargo airline, says Dr Viswapati Trivedi, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian.

Dr Trivedi has drawn up plans to synergize the network of Indian and its sister concern, Alliance Air, to increase its reach to more areas of the country and beyond.

In a tête-à-tête with this correspondent, Dr Trivedi informed that the first of the 43 brand new aircraft of the Indian (Airlines) joins its fleet on October 19. "The aircraft, Airbus A319, will come from Hamburg and will don a new logo. The six new Airbus aircraft will joint the fleet in 2007 with 12 more joining in 2008." Indian had inked a deal to buy 43 Airbus aircraft, which included 19 A319s, four A320s and 20 A321s, for $2.2 billion early this year.

Dr Trivedi, who is a noted economist and joined the airline as CMD on January 14 this year, has turned around the airline. At a time when all the private airlines are making losses (Air Deccan posted a loss of Rs 340 crore and Jet Rs 40 crore for the first quarter of this year), Indian showed net profit of Rs 60 crore for the year 2005-06. This year it is expected to show net profit of Rs 100 crore.

A post- graduate degree in Economics from the London School of Economics, a Doctorate in International Finance from Simon Fraser University, Canada and four-year stint with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are helping Dr Trivedi, an IAS officer, in meeting the challenges of the intensive competitive airline business.

The CMD is using all tricks under his sleeves to earn not only more money for the airline, but also keep his staff happy with lucrative salaries keeping in mind the great demand for pilots and engineers in the country.

Keeping the shortage of pilots in mind, the airline is re-hiring its pilots and engineers who retire at the age of 58 years. The DGCA has now allowed the pilots to fly till the age of 65. The airline is also bringing in a rule that would stop its pilots and engineers to work with the competitive airlines after they retire.

On the merger of two giants, Indian and Air India, he said "it is not a problem. If Okayed by the government, it can happen at the corporate level in a couple of months."

He said the airline was seeking to dry lease wide body A330s to fly to Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and London. "We are seeking to lease 12 Airbus A330s but so far we have received tender for two of these."

On the expected reduction on ATF prices, he said "we do not plan to reduce the surcharge on tickets immediately. We will watch the situation for at lease 90 days and let the fuel prices stabilize."

Dr Trivedi informed that seven Boeing B737 with Alliance Air will be phased out soon and five of these aircraft will be converted as freighters. The sixth one is a combi (passenger and freighter version).

"We plan to launch a cargo airline with these six aircraft by middle of next year and the service will cater to the need of courier market and express cargo," said Dr Trivedi.
Alliance Air, which has four 48-seater ATR-42 planes, plans to lease six more ATRs immediately and six more next summer for expanding its operations in Northern, Western and Southern region.

"Alliance Air will fly on regional routes where traffic demand does not justify 100 plus-seater aircraft." Alliance Air is also looking at lowering its distribution cost by making greater use of Internet based booking, making it a cost competitive business model.

In a bid to raise its non-operational revenue, Indian has decided to sell to private domestic airlines, the surplus available seat kilometres (ASKMs) it has earned by operating flights on economically unviable but socially important routes.

The acquisition of ASKMs, especially on the Category-III routes in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, enable airlines to enhance their services on the major trunk or CAT-I routes by fulfilling obligations laid down for domestic operations by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Under the domestic air transport policy, a scheduled air transport service provider operating in CAT-I routes is required to deploy at least 10 per cent of its ASKMs on CAT-II routes and 50 per cent on CAT-III routes.

The indicating surplus of ASKMs likely to be available with the public sector carrier for sale for a six month period from October to March, 2007, would be 100 million per month in CAT-III, 20 million per month in CAT-II and one in CAT-IIA.

The wardrobe of the crew will have more zing with brighter colours and style. "It will remain as saree and salwar kameez for the ladies," added Dr Trivedi.

Deccan announces new flights from Delhi to Kullu, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Goa and Bhubaneshwar

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 24: When Capt G R Gopinath launched India's first low-cost carrier, Air Deccan, in August 2003, his vision was to give wings to a billion dreams by empowering the "Aam Admi" to travel by air. Three years down the line, the airline has carried 6.8 million passengers with tickets ranging from Re 1 to Rs 3 to Rs 74 and so on.

To give further access to its passengers, the low cost carrier is on expansion spree and would now be connecting Delhi to Raipur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Bhubaneshwar and Kullu. It is also making Ahmedabad airport as it's eighth aircraft base, the first base in the city by any airline, according to Capt G R Gopinath, Deccan's Managing Director.

Says Capt Gopinath: "Sir Visvesvaraya's belief of 'reform or perish' is very appropriate and today I believe it would be appropriate to say 'innovate and perish'."

To continue with his innovative mode, Capt Gopinath has launched "Wow campaign" to take his airline to the top position. Under this two-and-half month long campaign, all the employees across the country have begun sporting yellow destination No.1 T-shirts to showcase the "new" Air Deccan.

Says he: Any delayed flight of over three hours, except for reasons of fog, and passengers would get a complimentary ticket and cancelled flight passengers would be put on the next flight of any other airline.

Under this campaign, he said three lakh tickets have been released for just Rs 3. He also claimed the airline's on-time performance has improved from 78 per cent to 98 per cent.

Capt Gopinath said Air Deccan puts Kullu on its aviation map with a direct daily flight from Delhi to Kullu and back on October 17 on a 48-seater ATR 42-500 aircraft.

"The Delhi-Bhubaneshwar flights will commence operations on October 30 and the flights from national capital to Ahmedabad, Raipur and Goa will begin on November 20. A brand new Airbus A 320 (180 seater) will be deployed on these sectors."

He said "we have an aggressive expansion plan ahead and by the end of this financial year we plan to have a fleet of more than 50 aircraft which will increase our overall seat capacity by at least 40 per cent." Air Deccan has 270 daily flights connecting 55 destinations.

He said Air Deccan offers dynamic pricing on its entire seat inventory. The pricing is a function of demand and supply of seats at any given point in time. The earlier one books, the lesser one pays. Air Deccan fares on Delhi-Kullu sector start at Rs 74 (plus taxes) and move through various price points goes up to the last day fare as against a fixed fare of Rs 4150 (plus taxes) offered by the only other airline operating to Kullu.

For his significant contributions to economic development and welfare of society at large, Capt Gopinath was recently conferred with prestigious Sir M.Visvesvaraya Memorial Award for 2006 instituted by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI).

On Ahmedabad, he said it would be airline's eighthh base and first in the state of Gujarat. The existing seven bases of the airline being in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and the most recently added, Trivandrum.

An airline base usually consists of aircrafts being deployed at the station with all the engineering and operational support for the airlines, including engineering and maintenance staff, pilots, cabin crews among others. Establishing this base in Ahmedabad, the airline would provide more job opportunities in the city and also become a hub for its scheduled flights. Air Deccan plans to deploy a brand new Airbus A320, which has been recently delivered and has a passenger capacity of 180.

Want to own an MF Hussain? Then travel

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 24: What has art to do with aviation? Everything. If you want to own an MF Hussain painting, then travel. You could be the lucky one to win it. That's the offer Jet Airways, in partnership with contests2win.com, is offering as a new in-flight lifestyle promotion.

The first offering from this prestigious new service named "Jet Good Life" is an original masterpiece by the renowned Master of Art, M F Hussain.

All passengers traveling in Club Premiere on domestic sectors within India between September 20 and October 19, 2006 could win this original masterpiece, which is the first in a series of premium brand and lifestyle offerings from Jet Airways.

Jet Airways has for the past three years consistently been setting benchmarks in customer rewards under its "Jet Elite Surprises" umbrella where prizes worth over Rs. 3 crores have been given away in association with several key sponsor brands such as Sony, IBM, Rolex, Tissot, Tag Heuer, Ford and Toyota, among others.

Speaking at the launch of Jet Good Life, Mr. Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, Chief Executive Officer of Jet Airways said, "Jet Airways has established a reputation for raising the bar in customer service within and now outside India. We are confident that 'Jet Good Life' will be a befitting tribute to the lifestyle of our Club Premiere customers." The M F Hussain original masterpiece is a careful mix of watercolour and pastel on paper, titled "Woman with Peacock" painted in 2003.

Meanwhile, Jet Airways maintains its track record of winning prestigious awards by being conferred laurels by the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA)for its in-flight entertainment system with two coveted awards - Best Overall In-Flight Entertainment and Best Single In-Flight Audio Program.

Jet was judged the "best overall" airline for in-flight entertainment in the Small Fleet Category based on number of aircraft. Qantas Airways was awarded the same in the Large Fleet category among leading passenger airlines world-wide by the World Airline Entertainment Association at its 27th Annual Conference & Exhibition held at Miami, USA last week.

Jet Airways also got the best single in-flight Audio programme award and earned the distinction of second runner up for the best in-flight magazine, Jet Wings.

The "Avion Award" was conferred to Jet Airways by a 23-member international media panel that evaluated in-flight audio, video, magazines, and interactive media from 42 leading passenger airlines worldwide at the Exhibition. Sponsored by the World Airline Entertainment Association, the "Avion Award" now in its 18th year, honours excellence in several categories of airline in-flight entertainment.

The first runner up in the Small Fleet Category was Hawaiian Airlines and the Second runner-up Sri Lanka Airlines while in the Large Fleet Category it was KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways respectively.

Mr Girish Nair, Manager Product Development, Jet Airways, who steered the in-flight entertainment project during Jet Airways' international launch operations, received the awards on behalf of the airline.

The in-flight entertainment offerings of 42 global passenger airlines were judged for "originality, suitability, production value, content and balance". The judges evaluated more than 163 samples of in-flight audio, video, print and interactive media that appeared in commercial airline service during the period from June 2005 - May 2006.

The "Best Overall" ranking is determined by a composite score of each qualifying airline. The international judges' panel included leading media executives, critics, producers, editors and academics from Australia, Brazil, India, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, UK and the USA.

Jet Airways has also entered into India's first Interline e-ticketing agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines through global distribution systems (GDS). This facility of electronic ticketing process for hassle free travelling has also been extended with Northwest Airlines and British Airways.

Interline e-ticketing enables travellers to use a single e-ticket for itineraries that include travel on two or more carriers and allow two airlines to electronically sell tickets on each other on a single ticket.

A Jet Airways, KLM, Northwest Airlines or British Airways ticketing office or a travel agent will now be able to issue a single e-ticket for instance for Mumbai-Delhi-Amsterdam sector, thus allowing a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Northwest Airlines operated segment as part of the Jet Airways e-ticket. This is a significant change as in the past customers had to purchase separate paper tickets on individual airlines.

Travel agents across the globe currently issuing e-tickets and hosted on Abacus, Amadeus, Galileo/Apollo and Sabre will be able to issue interline e-tickets on Jet Airways with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Northwest Airlines and British Airways operated flights as part of the itinerary and vice-versa. This facility will be subsequently made available through other GDS'.

Jet's Vice President (Marketing), Mr Gaurang Shetty, said: "Interline e-ticketing will expand Jet Airways' existing e-ticketing capabilities and distribution. After being the first airline in India to offer e-tickets, web check-in and kiosk check-in, we take pride to be the trendsetters and offer this new service to our customers. The latest in electronic ticketing method, which expedites checking and boarding process, simplifies ticket purchase, reissue and refunds transactions and facilitates seamless through check-in thereby making the overall travel experience seamless and comfortable."

All existing e-ticketing enabled sectors of Jet Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Northwest Airlines and British Airways except for non-air sectors are applicable for Interline e-ticketing, which would initially be available only for revenue tickets and not for infants, stretcher, extra seats, Employee Rebated and Industry Discount Travel. Interline e-ticketing will expand Jet Airways' existing e-ticketing capabilities and distribution.

Air Sahara connects Delhi to Indore

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 24: Air Sahara connects India's capital to Indore with two daily return flights from today. Air Sahara is the only airline to offer two direct flights daily between the two cities.

Indore is the third of the 14 new destinations being added by Air Sahara to its route network. Earlier Air Sahara had added Nagpur and Port Blair to its list of destinations. The 14 include 3 international destinations in China (Guangzhou), Bangladesh (Dhaka) and Maldives (Male).

The Indore-Delhi flight departing at 11.15 am connects to two international destinations, Singapore and Guangzhou in China (to be launched in October) and to the city of Lucknow.
The same flight also connects passengers from Indore to a large international flight bank out of Delhi and to Air Sahara's code-share flight with American Airlines to Chicago and onwards to the entire American Airlines network in USA.

Speaking on the occasion, Air Sahara Senior Vice President, Mr. K. Damodaran said , "We are delighted to add Indore to our route network. The new flights will have very convenient timings and will reduce the travel time to various destinations significantly."

The airline is offering a special fare of Rs 1,975 on Delhi-Indore sector with taxes as extra.

Air Deccan posts Rs 1352 cr turnover

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 22: Air Deccan posts Rs.1352 cr turnover for the 15 month period, against a turnover of Rs 320 crores the last financial year (a growth of 322 per cent over the last financial year). Losses were Rs 340 crores.

Air Deccan has signed a Term Sheet to raise US $ 100 million and documentation is under process. This was approved at the board meeting held in Bangalore.

Deccan Aviation has posted revenues of Rs.1352 and a net loss of Rs.340 crores for the year ended June, 2006. The financial year period is from April 2005-June 2006.The overall financial performance in the period was impacted by various factors including the increase in fuel and other input costs and introduction of 20 new aircrafts and the addition of 56 new routes besides rising personnel costs.

With a fleet of 34 aircrafts and 55 destinations as of June 30, 2006 the airline carried over 4.4 million passengers, over the 15 month period and emerged as the second largest airline with a market share of 21.2 per cent in June 2006.

Capt G R Gopinath, MD, Deccan Aviation, said "This strong market share is of strategic advantage, as it will be the springboard for our future expansion, growth & profitability, besides insulating us from the turbulence in the domestic aviation industry."

In addition to this a strong focus on improving the product which started early this year under the leadership of Warwick Brady -Chief Operating Officer who joined from Ryanair has started showing results.

The improved product consistent over the last few months has resulted in a nation wide perception change campaign titled 'Have you flown Air Deccan recently? Its WOW!

Said Mr Mohan Kumar, Director Finance, 'We have had a robust growth in our seat factor averaging 85 per cent in the peak seasons. However the benefits of higher yields on the newer routes which account for over 58 per cent of all routes as of now would flow in the next few quarters"

Typically new routes take a year to mature and start giving optimum yields. Air Deccan introduced 56 new routes during the period and carried 4.4 million passengers. Of the total 96 routes operated as of June 06, 56 were new routes which will take anywhere between 10-12 months to mature and yield the desired results.

Added Capt Gopinath "We are also working on innovative financial structures which will strengthen our finances and support our growth strategy". Especially over the next 8-12 months which will see fierce competition with the entry of new players.

Air Sahara adds Port Blair to its network

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 16: Beginning today, Air Sahara has further expanded its network by starting one daily return flight from New Delhi to Port Blair and return via Kolkata.

Air Sahara is the only airline to offer a same day flight without night halt from Delhi thus offering passengers the most convenient connection between Delhi and Port Blair and from Port Blair to Delhi.

Port Blair is the second of the 14 new destinations being added by Air Sahara to its route network over the next four months. Air Sahara had earlier launched flights to and from Nagpur. The 14 new destinations include 3 international destinations in China, Bangladesh and Maldives.

To mark the launch of flight to Port Blair, Air Sahara is offering a special introductory package. The package, which is valid for travel to Port Blair from September 16 to 23 and return from Port Blair by September 27 costs Rs. 12,500 for three nights four days for Delhi-Port Blair-Delhi and includes air travel and hotel accommodation with breakfast. On the Kolkata-Port Blair-Kolkata sector, the package for three nights and days costs Rs. 11,900 including hotel accommodation with breakfast.

Air Sahara is known for quality service and attractive fare options on its network. Air Sahara, is one of the leading private Airlines in India. The airline started its operations on December 3, 1993 following the Indian government's opening up of the Indian skies to private airlines.

Air Sahara's fleet includes 20 Boeing aircraft and seven CRJ -200s. The fleet also includes four helicopters, which provide chartered services. Air Sahara has also won numerous awards for its In-flight and catering services.

Air connectivity in North-East to get a boost

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 15: The aviation sector has not yet flourished in the North-East and the Government has over time introduced various incentives to boost aviation in the region. Now the Government has decided to construct the first airport in Sikkim. To further expand the aviation network in the region, the Government has also identified sites for two more airports in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and permitting new airlines to launch air services in the region.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) has prepared a detailed project report for construction of a Greenfield airport in Sikkim at an estimated cost of Rs 340 crore, while sites for one each near Kohima and Itanagar have been identified for construction of airfields for turboprop ATR-72 operations.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told the members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry in Kolkatta that North-Eastern is one of the few regions where economic activity and connectivity are not as they should be. The Eastern region also needed emphasis as development of one is linked with the other. Efforts of the Government are on to increase connectivity to these regions.

Government of Sikkim has requested AAI to take up this work as deposit work and assured to provide Rs. 100 crores along with the required land. AAI has prepared a detailed Techno-feasibility report along with estimate on the request of State Government and has forwarded it to Government of Sikkim and Planning Commission. The funding the project is yet to be finalized by the Government.

The Minister informed the members that the consultant has been appointed by AAI for preparation of Detailed Project Report for airport near Kohima. Consultant is being appointed for the airport near Itanagar.

The Director General of Civil Aviation informed that from the winter schedule there is an increase of 49 frequencies of flights in the North Eastern region including 20 by State-owned Alliance Air, seven each by Jet and Sahara Airways, 10 by Air Deccan, one by Kingfisher Airlines and four by Spice Jet.

He also informed that as part of the initiatives of the Government to improve air connectivity in the North-East, the Government as granted initial no-objection certificate in August this year to Sky King Aviation to operate scheduled air services exclusively within the North-East region. The airlines has initial plans to operate air services to/from Agartala, Aizwal, Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Leelabari, Silchar, Dimapur, Imphal, Shillong and Tura.

He said a proposal is also under consideration of the Government of Surya Air for a non scheduled operations with short haul feeder air services in the North-East region. The airline has plans to provide air connectivity to Agartala, Aizwal, Bagdogra, Dimapur, Imphal, Leelabari and Silchar.

The Parliamentary Committee members focused on the urgent need to develop aviation infrastructure in East and Northeast and highlighted a number of issues to increase connectivity.

The members were informed that AAI operated and managed 22 airports and civil enclaves in eight states of Northeast and had plans to spend Rs 125 crore in the Tenth Plan to modernise, upgrade and improve the facilities.

New Terminal Buildings have been completed at Lilabari and Dimapur expansion of Terminal building at Guwahati and Silchar have also been completed. Strengthening and extension of runway for A-320 operation has been completed at Dimapur, Agartala, Imphal, Lilabari airports. The works are in progress for extension and strengthening of runway at Silchar, Dibrugarh and Guwahati airports.

In the Eastern region, AAI operates and maintains five airports in Bihar, two in Jharkhand and six in West Bengal, where various works were in progress in most of the operational airports. A sum of Rs 315.45 crore would be spent during the Tenth plan, including Rs 224.20 crore for Kolkata airport.

AAI is making consistent efforts to develop and augment the Communication Navigation System (CNS) Infrastructure for meeting the growing demand of aviation activities and in the Eastern and North-Eastern part of the country.

Various projects have been implemented in the region to provide safer navigation. Navigational facilities such as ILS, DVOR and DMEs have been provided at various airports. The future projects of AAI in these regions are - new Radar at Jharsuguda and Katihar; Radar replacement at Guwahati; ILS at Kolkata, Gaya, Lilabari and Silchar; DVOR at Dimapur and Lengqui in Aizwal; CCTV at Bhubhaneshwar, Patna and Port Blair.

The Members were also informed about the operations carried out by Indian Airlines, Air India and Pawan Hans in these regions.

Aircraft Movement in the North-Eastern region in 2005-06 has gone up to 34,036 registering a 3.11 percent increase over the previous year. Passenger traffic in this region registered an 11.9 per cent growth during the year, and cargo traffic, a growth of 6.8 per cent.

The Committee on Infrastructure under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister during its 12th meeting held on June 8, 2006 decided that "Developments of Airports in the North-Eastern region must be taken up by the AAI on priority basis".

In the Eastern region Aircraft Movement in 2005-06 registered a 14.7 percent growth. Passenger traffic grew by 23.9 percent while cargo traffic grew by 6.7 percent in the same period.

Members of the Committee appreciated the Ministry's efforts to make air travel accessible to the common man and for all round development of the civil aviation sector.

After lowest fares, GoAir mulls lowest cargo rates

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 4: After stimulating the market and setting new benchmarks in low fares, GoAir plans to plans to launch a cargo airline that would offer the lowest rates in the market and attract customers from trucks and railways, says Jeh Wadia, Managing Director of the airline which is funded totally by the Wadia family.

Revealing figures, Jeh Wadia said the cargo on the trucks costs Rs 5 per kg, on train Rs 9 per kg and in an aircraft belly Rs 41 per kg. "I am looking at aircraft that will enable me to offer cargo at Rs 6 to Rs per kg and attract customers from trucks and buses." Cargo airline would be called Go Cargo.

Giving mantra of his success during the short span of 10 months, the Managing Director informed that GoAir has been successfully attracting train and bus passengers. "We were the first airline to offer 10,000 free tickets and we plan to do that again," he said and added "watch out!" It plans to fly one million passengers to coincide with its first anniversary on November 4.

The airline offers home delivery of tickets, allows 30 kg check in baggage allowance for international travelers, offers a 10 per cent discount to armed forces personnel, Government employees, Students and Senior Citizens, provides OnBoard shopping, and special celebrations like Flowers on Women's Day, Offers on Mothers Day, Family Day and Akshaya Tritiya.

With the arrival of its fourth Airbus A320 aircraft, GoAir, India's low-cost carrier, has added new routes beginning September 1 from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and is offering some of the lowest fares. Delhi now also gets connected to Goa, Bangalore and Pune. The airline now services 13 cities with 37 daily flights. It plans to have a fleet of seven aircraft in November to coincide with its first anniversary, says Jeh Wadia.

He said the young carrier plans to expand its fleet to 33 aircraft in three years and will provide passengers a comfortable and affordable option to popular holiday and business destinations such as Jaipur, Goa and Srinagar.

Jeh also announced setting up one of the finest maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in India at a cost of US $ 30 million in partnership with Singapore Airlines Engineering Company Limited. "This facility could be at one of the major six airports or a Greenfield facility," he said and added "we are weighing all the options."

On the increase in the cost of aviation fuel by 4 per cent from September 1, he said the airlines may increase the fuel surcharge from the current Rs 650 by Rs 50. However, he said the passengers can beat this fuel surcharge by booking 120 days in advance.

Jeh informed that the cost difference between full fare carriers like Jet Airways and Indian and the low-cost carrier like GoAir is only 35 per cent as compared to 65 per cent in the West. "This difference can be narrowed by outsourcing engineering, security, ground handling and fuel hedging," he added.

An airlines job is to ferry passengers from point A to B and not to take care of these specialized jobs which special agencies can handle. Besides setting up engineering facility, he said Wadia Group plans to set up an engineering institute and ground handling agency.

Jeh also ruled out any equity or debt financing plans in the near future. "We are not in a hurry to go for equity financing or debt financing. GoAir is run by the Wadia family and not the group and we are happy funding it ourselves," he said.

Ruling out venturing into the share market, he said the Indian institutional and retail investors were "yet to understand the aviation industry. That is why it is difficult to justify a sound investment like Jet Airways getting almost half its IPO share in the share market."

Indian announces new links, prize bonanza

NEW DELHI, Sept 2: The public sector airline, Indian, has started gearing up for increased traffic demand during the coming festival and tourist season, with new flights to some destinations and increased frequency to others, particularly in the North-East. Also on offer are low fares and bumper bonanzas.

For the convenience of tourists, from September 15 the airline will launch a new daily A319 flight from the Capital to the temple town of Khajuraho and Varanasi. Also scheduled is a daily flight on the Varanasi-Kathmandu-Varanasi route. The airline has also increase capacity on several routes.

For the next two months, passengers traveling out of or arriving into any of the six metros on Indian can look forward to getting lucky and winning attractive Haier appliances as prizes under the "Fly Indian Get Haier" scheme.

By flying Indian just twice in a specified fortnight(from August 21 to October 20, 2006), a passenger is eligible to participate in a lucky draw with Haier appliances as prizes. The lucky draw will be held at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad every fortnight with identical prizes offered from each metro.

Combined entries of the four fortnights will then be eligible for a Bumper Prize of a 106 cm Plasma TV at each of the six metros. Prizes include split ACs, washing machines, TVs, microwave ovens and DVD players.

'Fly Unlimited' on Air Sahara at Rs 699 per day

NEW DELHI, Sept 2: Air Sahara has launched a Never-Before Offer whereby a passenger can travel any number of times at a rate of Rs. 699 per day for 365 days. The above offer is valid on the Air Sahara domestic route network. Passengers can fly on Air Sahara's international route network by paying Rs. 100 extra per day, according to Alok Sharma, President Air Sahara.

Low fares continue to rule the sky

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 25: Opening of the aviation sector has heralded the arrival of more airlines on the scene and thus added more capacity in the sky. However, this has proved to be a boon to the consumers as increased competition has drastically pulled down prices despite doubling of aviation fuel prices in the past couple of years. Drop in fares has attracted more people to travel by air and thus the aviation sector is showing an unprecedented growth.

However, it's said India's aviation industry is losing Rs 2,000 crore annually on account of under-priced tickets and mounting fuel costs. This amounts to losses to the tune of Rs 6 per day. Though the loss was Rs 1 to 2 crore last year, but with more players entering the fray and more sectors becoming a reality, the losses were mounting.

To cut the losses, India's airline companies have started getting aggressive to garner non-ticket revenues like their global counterparts. Air Deccan currently earns about Rs 25-30 crore annually through inflight-shopping (remember, it sells food and beverages too) and is targeting a similar amount through bid and win as well. SpiceJet garners extra revenue to the tune of Rs 70 to 80 lakh per month though offering services to courier companies (since November 2005).

Increased competition had forced even the big players to cut tariff by almost 50 per cent on certain sectors. Tariff on certain sectors that were quoting at Rs 12,000 fell almost 50 per cent, while the low-cost carriers were offering tickets on those sectors at just Rs 3,000.

Air Deccan, India's first and fastest growing low-cost airline, had begun the culture of low fares with its launch three years ago. To mark its third anniversary, the low-cost airline has announced release of 3 lakh seats at Rs 3 (plus taxes and surcharge) for travel in three months beginning November this year.

Capt Gopinath, Managing Director, Air Deccan said, "The '3 for 3' offer is in celebration of our third anniversary on August 23 amongst the host of schemes that are currently on. These special offers are part of our strategy to encourage and enable more people especially non-air travelers to take to the skies."

"From one aircraft and four flights a day three years ago, we have today grown to a reliable and efficient airline flying 270 flights a day connecting the widest network of 55 destinations across India. With a current fleet of 36 brand new aircraft we have flown a whopping figure of 6.2 million passengers till date and the numbers are growing everyday."

He further added, "We have taken stock of the past three years and realized that a major concern for our passengers has been our on-time performance. We are working tooth and nail to ensure that our flights are not delayed and over the last few weeks there has been marked improvement. Air Deccan has recorded an on-time performance of 98.42 per cent in July this year and we will make sure that we perform consistently. Passengers too are writing to us about the perceptible change in our on-time performance."

The other carriers such as Indian, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and SpiceJet too have special fares to woo the passengers. After increasing the number of seats allocated to the Unchecked Fares, the lowest fares available in the industry, Indian had announced last minute highly discounted "Spot Fares" for travel in Economy class on all domestic flights departing from the six major metros - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The offer has now been to 22 stations. The 16 other stations include Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Pune, Goa, Cochin, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Vishakhapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati, Patna, Agartala, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Bhopal.

The travel on international routes has also become cheaper. Jet Airways has announced special fares from Delhi to Singapore and Qantas, its partner, is also giving special inaugural package for onward journey to Australian destinations.

Malaysia offers speical Independence Day fares

NEW DELHI: To commemorate 49th Independence Day of Malaysia and celebrate the patriotic flavour, Malaysia Airlines is offering special online return airfare to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Australia. The online return airfare to Kuala Lumpur is competitively priced from Rs 8,300, with an additional charge of Rs 500 levied for a journey to Singapore. For Australia, the online return airfare is priced from Rs 21, 300, which will cover the four cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and journey to Perth, is priced from Rs 20,300.

The special online return airfare is valid for travel from 31st August to 31st October 2006 for Kuala Lumpur/Singapore and from 31st August to 15th November 2006 for Australia. During the weekend (Friday to Sunday) an additional charge of Rs 1500, would be levied on special online return airfare, which is being offered by the carrier to the varied destinations. The special Independence Day online return airfare is exclusive of taxes.

Commenting the Independence Day online return airfare Mr. Christopher Yek, Regional Manager, Malaysia Airlines, South Asia said, "Independence and freedom to fly, and explore beyond your own boundaries, this is the in-sync message of our special Independence Day online return airfare to Kuala Lumpur and beyond. This is yet another opportunity, for the travellers to make most of the competitive pricing mainly towards the long haul destinations to Australia. Our Independence Day online return airfare reflects on the continuous initiative by the carrier to offer value for money deals to our travellers."

Malaysia Airlines operates 27 weekly flights out of five gateways in India. The airline operates daily flights from New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and thrice weekly flights from Bangalore and Hyderabad. The airline was recently accorded with the "Best Economy Class" at the World Airlines Awards 2006, which was organized by Skytrax, the leading research advisors to the world airlines and air transport industry.

Suspected Al Qaeda plot to blow US-bound planes foiled

LONDON, Aug 10: A suspected Al Qaeda plot to simultaneously blow up 10 US-bound flights from here using explosives smuggled in handbags was foiled by the British police, triggering a worldwide security alert and chaos at airports.

Police arrested 21 people in London, Birmingham and Thames Valley overnight in an ongoing operation. They are believed to be British citizens, many of whom are Pakistanis by origin. The US said the plan was "suggestive" of an Al Qaeda plot and issued its highest terror alert ever for commercial flights from Britain besides banning all liquids and gels from aircraft.

Security officials here suspected that some liquid explosives could be mixed during the flights into a lethal concoction. They said the terrorists had planned simultaneous attacks on US-bound aircraft. The plot was "very significant" and was designed to "bring down a number of aircraft through mid-flight explosions causing a considerable loss of life", British Home Secretary John Reid said.

"It amounted to a major threat to the UK and international partners" and the police were confident that the main players had been accounted for, he said. Reid said the scale of the terror plot was potentially bigger than the September 11 attacks in the US. "Had this plot been carried out, the loss of life to innocent civilians would have been on an unprecedented scale."

British Intelligence agency M15 said the current threat level is critical-- the highest possible-- meaning thereby "an attack is expected and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK". Security at all major airports across the globe was increased causing long queues and chaos at security checkpoints. At Heathrow airport, the busiest in Europe, additional security measures were put in place. The airport was closed to all incoming flights that were already in the air while several outbound services were cancelled causing inconvenience to thousands of travellers worldwide.

"The plot was intended to be mass murder of unimaginable scale," Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said adding "we believe that the terrorist aim was to smuggle explosives onto aeroplanes in hand baggage and to detonate these inflight. He said the terrorists had planned to bomb ten transatlantic planes and went on to add that the plot involved blowing up passenger planes flying between UK and the US.

"This is about people who are desperate....who want to do things that no right minded citizen of this country or any other country would want to tolerate," Stephenson said. Domestic news agency Press Association quoting unnamed senior police sources said majority of those arrested were believed to be of Pakistani origin but most, if not all, were British.

In the US, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raised the terror threat to the highest level of "severe" or red for commercial flights originating in the UK and bound for US. It also prohibited any liquids, including any beverages, hair gels and lotions, from being carried on aircraft.

In addition, the threat level has been raised to high for all commercial flights operating or coming to the United States, a DHS statement said. US Homeland Security Secretary Michale Chertoff said the plot appeared to be engineered by Al Qaeda, which was the mastermind of the September 11 terror strikes in the country.

Jet signs code share pact with Qantas

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 10: Continuing with its international expansion, India's leading carrier Jet Airways announced plans to connect Delhi with Singapore and a code share agreement with Australia's Qantas. The airline would also connect Delhi and Kolkata to Bangkok from winter and a new flight to Newark (New Jersey) in the US by next year, according to Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, airline's Chief Executive Officer.

The code-share agreement gives the two carriers wider exposure in the two continents. Qantas already flies thrice per week from Sydney to Mumbai. "The code share with Jet gives us a greater than daily frequency between Sydney and Mumbai and Perth gains a daily code share connection to India's financial capital," said John Borghetti, Executive General Manager, Qantas Airlines.

"India is an important and growing market for Qantas and this partnership with Jet provides us with an opportunity to further develop our business. We will also offer Delhi, a new point on Qantas network, with daily concessions to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth via Singapore. Cairns, Darwin and Adelaide will also benefit with excellent connections," said Borghetti.

He said Qantas has 120 flights per week to Singapore from Australia and offers convenient connections to Jet arrivals and departures. The passengers of both the airlines can now book passengers in each other's flights for travel between India and Australia via Singapore.

"The code share agreement with Qantas on the Delhi-Singapore and Mumbai-Singapore routes is part of a plan to team up with top carriers in key markets which we want to tap," said Prock-Schauer.

Australia's Deputy High Commissioner David Holly said the new flights would help boost the growing number of tourists and business people traveling between the two countries. Last Australian fiscal year (July to June), the High Commission issued 75,000 visas.

"This year there has already been growth of 30 to 35 per cent as compared to previous months last year," he added. David Holly said India was an important country as we receive large number of students and migrants from here.

Jet, which has also announced the launch of a new flight from Delhi to Singapore from September 6, is expected to start its flights to the US by next year.

"Deliveries of our new aircraft will start by January next year and by summer of 2007, we should be able to start our flights to the US when we get our new Boeing 777 aircraft," said Gaurang Shetty, Vice-President (Marketing), Jet Airways.

The airline officials expressed confidence that it would get clearance from the US Civil Aviation Authorities within a year. Jet's plans to fly to the Big Apple came crashing down in 2005 when a US namesake alleged that the Indian carrier had links with terror groups and wanted it to be barred from flying to US.

Also the airline, which is scheduled to get the first delivery of new A330 aircraft in January 2007, would make its Amritsar-London flights a daily service, added Mr Shetty. Jet had on August 4 launched its flight linking Amritsar with London, making it the first Indian carrier to provide a direct service between the city of Golden Temple and the United Kingdom. The thrice a week service is being operated with a brand new leased Airbus A330-200 aircraft on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The direct service from Amritsar to London was the fourth non-stop flight operated by Jet from India to London's Heathrow. Before this, airline operated two daily flights between Mumbai and London and one daily flight between Delhi and London.

Prock-Schauer said Jet was also looking at starting Delhi-Bangkok and Kolkata-Bangkok flights from the winter schedule but these would be subject to regulatory approvals.

He said Jet also plans to launch services ahead of the 2008 Olympics to China. "We are planning to connect Mumbai and Delhi to Shanghai and Beijing. We hope to commence these operations next year." Once operational, Jet would be the second Indian carrier after Air-India to offer services to the eastern neighbour.

The airline is also planning a slew of direct flights to various European destinations. "Europe is emerging as a big travel destination. The flight to the US could be from a European city like Brussels," said Shetty.

Meanwhile, Jet Airways has started offering advance seat reservation facility for its economy class passengers with confirmed tickets travelling on the airline's flights between India and London Heathrow, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

This facility is available up to 48 hours prior to the departure time of the flight. Initially, the airline will be offering about 60 per cent of its seats in economy class for selection at the time of booking. However, the first two rows in economy class, bassinet and emergency row seats as also seats reserved for wheelchair passengers are excluded from this facility.

Jet Airways continued its dominance during the first quarter of this year with a market share of 34.9 per cent. Indian (Airlines) came second with 23.9 per cent market share. Jet Airways carried 25.28 lakh passengers and Indian 17.35 lakh passengers during the first quarter, according to official figures.

With the new flight from the Capital, Jet has become the first Indian carrier to provide three direct services between Singapore and the metro cities of Chennai, Mumbai and now New Delhi in India. The daily service will be operated with the new generation B737 - 800 aircraft. It will depart from Delhi at 0835 hrs and reach Singapore's Changi airport at 1650 hrs (Local Time) the same day. The return flight will depart from Singapore's Changi Airport at 2300 hrs (Local Time) and arrive in Delhi at 0215 hrs, the next day.

As part of its inaugural offer, Jet Airways is introducing a special Economy class inaugural return airfare of Rs. 10,000. This offer is valid from August 11 until September 30. Economy class return airfares range from Rs. 14,500 to Rs. 31,655, while Club Premiere (Business Class) fares range from Rs. 48,400 to Rs. 61,235 exclusive of taxes.



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Nigel joins Kingfisher




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