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For Air India, its ‘Chinese Taipei’ and not ‘Taiwan’

NEW DELHI, July 5: The Chinese government on Thursday ‘approved’ the move by Air India to use the name ‘Chinese Taipei’ instead of ‘Taiwan’ on its website.

“Air India is respecting the basic fact that there is one China and Taiwan is part of China. We approve of that,” it said.

Earlier, India’s national carrier Air India fell in line with China’s demand not to refer to Taiwan as a separate country but as Chinese Taipei, which is how Beijing wants it to be known officially.

Several international airlines stopped referring to Taiwan as a separate country since the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) directed them on April 25 to change how Taiwan is described on their websites.

Under its “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province and opposes ties between Taipei and other capitals.

As of Wednesday, Taiwan was referred to as “Chinese Taipei” on the drop-down booking list on Air India’s website. Air India has only one direct flight to Shanghai, besides flights to Hong Kong.

An Air India spokesperson indicated the change was made with the approval of the external affairs ministry.

The spokesperson said: “There was a mail to the regional manager in Hong Kong from China Registry, MEA, Government of India, wherein they have approved the nomenclatures to be used by Air India on its website in respect of Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China, Macau SAR of China and Chinese Taipei.”

In a letter sent to dozens of foreign airlines, including to Air India’s office in Shanghai, CAAC sought changes to the way they referred to Taiwan on their websites and in promotional materials within 30 days.

After CAAC sent the letter to foreign airlines, the nationalistic Global Times tabloid warned that those who didn’t comply could be thrown out of China. “If foreign enterprises want to do business in China or their products are to enter the Chinese market, they must abide by Chinese laws,” the tabloid said in a report.

It added, “But if they refuse to make corrections when reminded, they are obviously supporting Taiwan independence and must face possible consequences or could even be thrown out of the Chinese market.”

The report also referred specifically to the Indian flag carrier, saying: “That Air India lists Taiwan as a country goes against India’s official stance. Recognising that there is only one China in the world, that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory is the condition on which China establishes diplomatic ties with all countries,” it said.

“The Taiwan question is a matter of China’s domestic affairs…China respects India’s territorial integrity. It did not support the separatist movement in Assam province, and hence India should not support the demand for Taiwan independence.”

India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The de facto Indian embassy in Taipei is the India-Taipei Association and the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre in New Delhi.

Beijing opposes any official contact between Taiwan and New Delhi. In February 2017, China lodged a strong complaint with India over a rare visit by a Taiwanese parliamentary delegation, warning New Delhi to follow the “One China” policy and refrain from such contacts with Taipei.

Later in 2017, China’s state-run media lashed out at India for signing an industrial collaboration MoU with Taiwan, the fifth bilateral agreement since President Tsai Ing-wen took over as the first woman leader in May 2016.

What particularly irked China was that an official statement released by Taiwan stated the MoU was signed by “two countries”.

In recent months, New Delhi has faced tactical pressure from Beijing on several sensitive issues.

Ahead of the informal summit in Wuhan, the Indian government advised officials not to attend any function involving the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama.

Beijing describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist and blames him for inciting protests in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

No takers for Air India on deadline day

NEW DELHI, May 31: The government’s offer to sell stakes in Air India has failed to draw a single bid so far, underlining the challenge it faces in fixing the debt-laden state carrier, as well as meeting a broader target of stake sales in government-held firms.

The government said no bids were received for the distressed carrier, and it will decide on a further course of action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced a plan in March to divest a 76% stake in Air India and offload about $5.1 billion of its debt.

This month, it eased some terms and extended the period to make bids, but as the revised deadline loomed there were still no takers for the airline, which flies some lucrative routes but also has one of the industry’s highest employees-per-aircraft ratios.

Civil aviation secretary, RN Choubey said on Wednesday that the government was unlikely to further extend the May 31 deadline, and that it expected bids to come in at the last minute.

Selling the state carrier is key to Modi’s plans to divest assets and help keep the fiscal deficit at 3.3% of GDP, a goal already under pressure from giveaways to farmers and other welfare benefits ahead of a national election in 2019.

Now reach Shimla from Chandigarh in 20 minutes

CHANDIGARH, May 28: Come June 4, the 120-km distance between Chandigarh and Shimla will be covered in just 20 minutes. The Himachal Pradesh government and national helicopter carrier Pawan Hans have deputed a 20-seater chopper to ferry passengers to promote hill tourism.

The minimum fare has been fixed at Rs 2,999.

To start with, the service will be available every Monday and Friday. The frequency will be increaseddepending upon the response, said the Chandigarh airport spokesperson Deepesh Joshi.

After Kullu, it is second city of the hill state to get connected with Chandigarh aerially. The UT is also connected to several other tourist destinations like Leh, Jaipur and Srinagar. Flights to Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Indore are also starting in the next two months.

Delta AirLines to return to India in 2019

NEW YORK, May 24: Delta Air Lines will put India back on its route map. The carrier said on Thursday that it intends to resume flights to Mumbai in 2019, though it did not offer a specific start date or route plan. Those details will come later this year, Delta said.

Delta said recent talks between the U.S. and the Middle East nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) allowed it to again consider India flights.

"This move will mark a return to India for Delta, which was forced to exit the market after subsidized state-owned airlines made service economically unviable," Delta said in a statement.

Delta had led a charge of the big three U.S. carriers that claimed that the three big Middle East carriers – Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad – had all received state subsidies. The subsidies were unfair, claimed Delta, American and United, though their positions were not mirrored by most other U.S. airlines.

The prolonged spat – which occasionally turned nasty in tone – was resolved earlier this month after talks between the U.S. and the UAE clarified the bilateral aviation agreement between the nations. That followed earlier talks between the U.S. and Qatar that produced a similar conclusion.

The agreements that resulted from the talks appeared to mostly solidify the status quo, though the three Middle East carriers did agree to tweak their accounting practices in the coming years. The Gulf carriers also said they currently had no plans to add new “fifth freedom” U.S.-Europe flights, though the language resulting from the talks did not appear to forbid them from doing so later. Each side has held up the agreements as a victory for their point of view.

Delta discontinued its service to India in 2015, claiming in part that its flights became unsustainable as fast-growing Gulf carriers siphoned off U.S.-India passengers with cheaper flights that connected through the Gulf carriers’ hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Once it does resume service to India, Delta says it hopes to partner with Indian carrier Jet Airways to provide connections for onward flights from Jet’s base in Mumbai. That tie-up must be approved by regulators.

Air India bid deadline extended to May 31

NEW DELHI, May 1: The government on Tuesday extended the deadline for submission of initial bids for Air India stake sale till May 31 and issued a slew of clarifications on the divestment process, including that individuals other than the airline employees are barred from bidding.

Coming out with a set of clarifications in the form of 160 questions and respective answers, the government also made it clear that it would have the rights of a "minority shareholder" with 24 per cent stake in Air India post disinvestment.

Providing more time, the last date for submission of Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for Air India disinvestment has been extended to May 31 from the earlier deadline of May 14. The qualified bidders would now be known on June 15, whereas the earlier date was May 29, according to an official communication. Starting the disinvestment process of the debt-laden national carrier, the preliminary information memorandum for the proposed sale of up to 76 per cent stake in Air India along with management control to private entities was issued on March 28.

The divestment would include profit-making Air India Express and joint venture AISATS, an equal joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore-based SATS Ltd. The Air India employees in Mumbai staged a massive protest against the government's disinvestment plan. As per the clarifications, post stake sale, the government would have "rights similar to that of a minority investor as per Companies Act and shareholders' agreement.

"It is a considered decision by Government of India to divest 76 per cent stake and retain a 24 per cent stake. It is noted that ESOPs will also be provided from GoI's shareholding," the government said. According to the 19-page document, the government has clarified that "individuals (other than employees) are not allowed to bid".

"Details of existing slots and code share agreements will be provided at RFP (Request for Proposal) stage. It is expected that there will not be any impact of disinvestment on existing slots and bilateral rights. "Bidders are advised to undertake their own assessment for the impact of disinvestment process on the existing code share agreement," it noted.

This was in response to the queries on whether privatisation would impact renewal of existing slots and bilateral flying rights. For more than 50 queries, the government has said details would be provided at the time of RFP stage. To a query related to staff, the government said, "employee concerns are being suitably addressed".

While noting that currently there is no VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) for Air India, the government said employees are eligible for gratuity on completion of 5 years of service or more and the same is capped at Rs 20,00,000. "This limit has been recently increased from Rs 10,00,000 to Rs 20,00,000 based on amendment to Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972," it added.

Further, it has been clarified that majority ownership and control of the consortium should be with resident Indian citizens. "No more than 49 per cent of the 76 per cent offered for disinvestment can be directly or indirectly owned by foreign entities," the document said.

American Airlines orders 47 Boeing 787s, scraps A350 order

NEW YORK, April 6: American Airlines Group Inc. ordered 47 Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners for long-range flying, expanding its fleet of the advanced carbon-composite jetliners and hurting Airbus SE’s ambitions to expand its wide-body aircraft sales in the US.

In a related move, American cancelled an order for 22 of Airbus’s twin-aisle A350 jets, a purchase placed by predecessor carrier US Airways, according to a statement Friday. The Boeing deal is worth a total of $12.3 billion before customary discounts.

The move underscores the difficulty that Airbus has faced in the US--the largest aviation market and a Boeing stronghold. The Dreamliner deal marks the second time this year that Boeing has convinced an Airbus wide-body customer in the US to switch to the 787. Hawaiian Airlines, the sole customer for Airbus’s A330-800, decided last month to order 10 Dreamliners instead.

Adding more of the fuel-efficient Boeing aircraft will allow American to simplify its fleet and shed some of its oldest long-range jets.

“This was a difficult decision between the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 and A330neo,” Robert Isom, American’s president, said in the statement. “In the end, our goal to simplify our fleet made the 787 a compelling choice.”

With the plan, American will reduce the number of wide-body aircraft types it flies to three from five, reducing maintenance and training costs. American previously said the number of A350s it had ordered was too small for it to operate profitably. It already plans to shed another small fleet of 20 Embraer SA E190 jets. American had delayed taking the A350s in both 2016 and 2017.

The deal includes 22 787-8s, the smallest member of the jet family, and 25 of the 787-9 variant -- more than doubling American’s fleet of Dreamliners, Boeing’s most-advanced aircraft. All of the new 787s will be powered with General Electric Co.’s GEnx-1B engines.

The 787-8s will begin arriving in 2022, followed a year later by the first of the 787-9s, the carrier said. American will use the planes to replace aging Boeing 767-300s and, later, its Airbus A330-300s and the oldest of its Boeing 777-200s.

American also deferred delivery of 40 Boeing 737 Max narrow-body planes to between 2025 and 2026. The aircraft originally were to arrive in 2020-2022. The deferral will better match future planned retirements, the carrier said.

Airbus has said it has a series of ongoing sales campaigns for the A330neo with more than 100 airlines that currently operate the older version of the plane. The 250-seat A330-800 is on track for its first flight in the middle of this year, with the bigger -900 variant set to enter into service around the same time with launch operator TAP -- Air Portugal.




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