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Improved economic conditions boost air-traveller numbers worldwide: ICAO

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18: A record 4.1 billion passengers took to the skies in 2017 onboard some 37 million scheduled flights globally, the United Nations civil aviation agency reported Thursday, highlighting that the fastest growth was seen among low-cost carriers.

According to preliminary figures released by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), air travel demand growth too gained “solid momentum” on the back of improved global economic conditions throughout the year.

“The upward trend was driven by the strengthening investment in advanced economies as well as the recovery in emerging market and developing economies owing to the increased export demand,” said the UN agency.

It added that lower air fares owing to the low fuel price also continued to stimulate traffic growth, albeit at a more moderate level compared to 2016.

In terms of geographic distribution, Europe remained as the largest international market (37 per cent of the global total), recording a strong 8.1 per cent growth over the previous year. Asia-Pacific came in second with 29 per cent and growth of 9.6 per cent over 2016.

North America accounted for a 13 per cent global share, and demonstrated but notched up the slowest growth as a region (4.9 per cent over 2016).

The Latin America and the Caribbean region bagged 4 per cent of the international traffic and saw the largest improvement among all regions at 10 per cent. Africa had the smallest traffic share three per cent, grew slightly faster than last year at 7.6.

The ICAO news release also reveals that low-cost carriers consistently grew at a faster pace compared to the world average growth, carrying an estimated 1.2 billion passengers and accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the world total scheduled passengers.

At the same time, bolstered by improving global economic conditions and world trade, air cargo demonstrated a strong rebound in 2017, recording a “robust” 9.5 per cent growth, a “significant improvement” from the 3.8 registered in 2016.

ICAO also reported that in 2017, average jet fuel prices increased by about 25 per cent compared to 2016 but remained significantly lower than the prices observed for the ten years prior to 2016.

According to the UN agency, finalized figures will be released in July.

Emirates throws Airbus A380 a lifeline with $16-billion deal

DUBAI, Jan 18: The Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, announced Thursday it struck a deal with Airbus to purchase 20 A380 aircraft with the option to buy 16 more in a deal worth $16 billion, throwing a lifeline to the European-made double-decker jumbo jets.

The Dubai-based Emirates already has 101 A380s in its fleet and 41 more on order, making it the largest operator of the jumbo jet.

“This new order underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years,” said Airbus chief salesman John Leahy.

Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the order “will provide stability to the A380 production line.”

Al Maktoum and Leahy made the comments in a statement after the deal was signed in Dubai on Thursday morning.

Emirates, which is owned by the Dubai government in the United Arab Emirates, said the additional A380s will be delivered to the airliner from 2020 onwards and that some of the new A380s will be used as fleet replacements.

Leahy had warned only three days earlier that if the company couldn’t work out a deal with Emirates, it would have to shut down the superjumbo’s production line. Airbus has spent years and billions developing the double-decker jumbo jet, even as skeptics questioned whether it could generate enough demand to justify its cost and the bigger runways it requires.

An Airbus A380 has a list price of $445.6 million, but airlines and manufacturers often negotiate lower prices.

Airbus delivered just 15 of the planes last year, and aims to deliver 12 more this year.

Leahy told reporters Monday that Emirates is the only airline with the ability to commit to a minimum of six planes a year for a minimum of eight to 10 years, or what is needed to make the Airbus program viable.

“It’s positive news for both sides,” airline analyst John Strickland of JLS Consulting said. “The A380 is critical to Emirates’ hub-and-growth strategy and equally the airline is key to Airbus’ continuation of the program. It will be a great relief to Airbus to have secured this order, but they have to work aggressively to secure orders from other airlines too now.”

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said the deal reflects Emirates’ commitment to advancing “Dubai’s vision to grow further as a world-class destination and aviation hub.” Dubai’s main airport, where Emirates is based, is among the busiest in the world with more than 80 million travelers passing through in 2016.

Airbus tweeted news of the deal, saying it was “glad to announce” Emirates’ commitment to the A380.

Shares in Airbus rose on the news of the deal, gaining 2.2% on the day, to 91.67 euros in Paris.

At Dubai’s biennial Air Show in November, Airbus suffered an embarrassment when it was scheduled to announce it had a struck a deal with Emirates for its A380, only to see Boeing sit on the podium with the airline and sign a $15.1 billion deal.

Emirates’ fleet relies solely on the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 777 for its flights.

After 48-hour ordeal, passenger stranded at Delhi airport reaches Bahrain

NEW DELHI, Jan 16: After over a 48-hour ordeal, Bahrain-bound NRI Satyendra Singh, who was stranded at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport since Saturday afternoon, finally reached home.

Singh was stuck at the airport after his handbag containing his passport was mistakenly taken away by a passenger to Canada.

The handbag was brought back on Monday afternoon and he boarded the next flight of Air India.

“Initially there was some confusion over the date change fee. The airline wanted me to pay date change fee as hand bag is not the responsibility of the airline. I refused as I was already harassed. Finally, Air India waived off the fee and allowed me to board the flight,” Singh said after reaching Bahrain, where he works as an engineer.

Singh said he arrived in Delhi from Lucknow on Saturday and was in transit to Bahrain.

“My wife was crying and was relieved when I finally reached. They panicked and I just want to thank my wife and her relatives for rallying around me,” said Singh.

On Saturday afternoon, Singh reached Delhi and went for security check to catch the international flight. The queue was long so he put handbag in the scanner. By the time he crossed the security check, his bag was taken by another passenger.

Singh had come to India to meet his parents, who live in Lucknow.

UN readying training guidelines to help cabin crews identify, report human trafficking

UNITED NATIOSN, Jan 4: The United Nations is taking the global combat against human trafficking into the skies as the Organization's human rights office and its Montreal-based civil aviation agency begin putting the final touches on training guidelines that could help airline cabin crew spot possible victims.

Human trafficking is considered the third most lucrative illegal activity on the planet – after the illegal sale of arms and drugs – and its clandestine nature makes it difficult to quantify with precision. In 2017, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that some 40.3 million people worldwide were subjected to forced labour and modern slavery.

Men, women and children are recruited, transferred, harboured or received, through the use of force or deception, to be exploited into prostitution rings, forced labour, domestic servitude or the removal of their organs.

With all this in mind, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop guidelines for airlines operators to train cabin crews in identifying and reporting trafficked individuals.

“Cabin crewmembers are in a unique situation where they can observe passengers over a certain period of time, allowing them to use their observation skills to identify a potential victim of trafficking,” the document reads.

In an interview with UN News, Youla Haddadin, Advisor on Trafficking in Persons with OHCHR, said cabin crew and flight attendants develop strong observation skills and the jointly-developed guidelines can draw on those skills and provide cabin crew with the reporting and response procedures if they are faced with a potential trafficking situation.

“[The indicators] can be used when [cabin crew] crew are trying to identify potential victims or persons accompanying them.” They should observe for a period of time and collect information [while following the principle of] 'do no harm' – ensuring that a potential victim is not further jeopardized and ensuring their own safety and that of other passengers, she explained.

Ms. Haddadin advised using the proposed guidelines to collect information and assesse the situation, share it with other colleagues and then, if they feel a response should be initiated, report it to the pilot, “the law enforcement official on any plane,” who will then notify ground crew. “The cabin crewmember's role ends there,” she said, noting that cabin crew are not law enforcement officers.

The Guidelines document gives examples of indicators for cabin crews on how to identify potential victims, including situations where a passenger is not in control of their documentation or has false identity documents; is not aware of their final destination; or may not be allowed to speak for themselves directly.

Ms. Haddadin stressed that the proposed guidelines were developed by members of the ICAO Cabin Safety Group, which is comprised of representatives of airlines and national civil aviation authorities. “We sat around the table and I provided the elements related to international law, trafficking and human rights, and they contributed [their expertise].”

She told UN News that the guidelines are in the final stages of approval by ICAO and OHCHR and will be rolled out “very soon.” Some airlines have already started developing their own modules; a few in the United States had already begun training their cabin crews and staff on victim identification. Canada had already developed its training module and had adapted its module to the proposed guidelines.

Perform or perish: AI CMD Kharola

NEW DELHI, Dec 31: Terming “professional and productive work culture” as the key to the airline’s turnaround, Air India chief Pradeep Singh Kharola has said in a message to employees that “we have to perform if we do not want to perish”.

Kharola, who took over as chairman and managing director of the disinvestment-bound national carrier earlier this month, also said the onus to steer the company out of turbulence lies on everyone.

“We have to adopt a professional and productive work culture which will hold the key for our turnaround....your hard work has helped Air India to improve in some of the key operational parameters in recent times, but still, we have miles to go,” the AI chief said in his New Year message.

The government is currently working on modalities for strategic disinvestment of the loss-making national carrier.

Kharola also urged employees to pull out all stops and “cast aside the deterrents that have been holding the flag carrier back from tapping the immense potential”.

“The onus is on us to steer our company out of turbulence into clear skies again with single-minded determination and grit. We must...aim to improve our performance in every sphere to match up to industry benchmarks,” he said.

Air India has been launching new routes in the domestic and international sectors, initiating innovative schemes and upgrading its fleet to become more vibrant and win passenger confidence, he said.

“I implore all of you to sustain this effort to resurrect the pride and glory of the airline....We have to perform if we do not want to perish,” Kharola said.

Air India has to beat competition in on-time- performance, load factor and cleanliness among other parameters, he said, adding, “amidst all the talk about our future identity, we have to stay focused and deliver.”

On June 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave in-principle approval to privatise Air India and its five subsidiaries.

Angry Shikhar Dhawan slams Emirates as ‘unprofessional’, airline clarifies rules

MUMBAI, Dec 29: Indian cricket team opener Shikhar Dhawan has lashed out at the Emirates airline on Friday for ‘unprofessional behaviour’. Dhawan, part of the Indian cricket team which has landed in South Africa on a two-month tour, flew the airline from Mumbai to Cape Town via Dubai.

Shikhar Dhawan was travelling with wife Ayesha and kids. He was upset his family could not take the same flight out of Dubai.

Dhawan shared a series of tweets to say his family members were stopped by Emirates staff at the Dubai airport for not producing birth certificates or other documents for identification for the children. Ayesha and the kids will now have to wait before they can join the India opener.

“Absolutely unprofessional from @emirates. Was on my way 2 SA with my fam & was told tht my wife and kids can’t board the flight from Dubai to SA. Was asked to produce birth certificates & other documents fr my kids at the airport which we obviously didn’t have at that moment. They are now at Dubai airport waiting for the documents to arrive. Why didn’t @emirates notify about such a situation when we were boarding the plane from Mumbai? One of the emirates’ employee was being rude for no reason at all (sic),” he tweeted.

The airline took note of Shikhar Dhawan’s complaint, promising to look into it.

“We’re sorry to hear this, Shikhar. We’d like to find out more on a private message. Please include your booking reference or e-ticket numbers starting in 176,” Emirates’ customer support tweeted on its official handle.

However, according to ANI, Emirates released a statement and said it was only complying with South African laws. “Since 1 June 2015, according to South African regulations, anyone travelling to the country with a minor under 18 needs to prove parenthood or guardianship while adults travelling alone with their children need to show that they have the consent of their non-travelling partner. Like all airlines, we must comply with the laws of every country in which we operate and this is a shared responsibility with passengers, who are required to hold valid travel documents for all countries on their itinerary.”

British Airways Mumbai-London flight makes emergency landing in Azerbaijan

NEW DELHI, Dec 11: A Mumbai-London British Airways flight declared an emergency over Iranian airspace and was rerouted to land at the nearest major airport in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The apparent reason, by a passenger who seems to be on the flight, was smoke in the first class cabin of the flight.

The flight, BA198, was rerouted to Baku 'squawking 7700'. That's aviation code for when the crew of a flight declares an emergency and requests immediate assistance from all air traffic control centres in the region.

A trace of the flight path on flight-tracking site Flighradar showed BA198, a Boeing 777-300 ER, departing from Mumbai, flying into Pakistani airspace over Balochistan, entering Iranian airspace and issuing the emergency call just as it was about to leave Iranian air.

Flightradar said soon after notifying of the alert that the plane had touched down at Baku with a technical difficulty.

However, as is common in cases like this, there was little clarity on what this technical issue was. Till a tweet emerged from a person who seems to have been on the flight. Sylvia Traganida, a Greek journalist tweeted, "First 3.5-hour delay at #Mumbai due to #snow ? in #London. Now stuck in #Baku due to technical fault (smoke in 1st class). Makes me wish I were still in #Goa! ?? #India (not the best end to my #holiday)."

Pradeep Singh Kharola takes over as Air India CMD

NEW DELHI, Dec 11: Senior IAS officer Pradeep Singh Kharola on Monday took charge as the chairman and managing director (CMD) of Air India. Kharola assumed charge from Rajiv Bansal.

A 1985-batch Karnataka cadre officer, Kharola would be steering the national carrier at a time when the government has started the process for its strategic disinvestment. He was the managing director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd since February 2015.

Among others, Kharola has worked in various posts in Karnataka, including as the chairman of Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation Ltd. He has also served as principal secretary to the Karnataka chief minister.

As part of efforts to revive the fortunes of Air India—which is staying afloat on taxpayers’ money—the government has decided on selling stake in the airline. The carrier, which has a debt burden of more than Rs50,000 crore, managed to eke out operational profit for the first time in a decade in 2015-16.



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