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Govt removes caps on air fare from Aug 31, says sector poised for growth

NEW DELHI, Aug 10: The government has decided to remove the cap on air fare for airlines from August 31, the civil aviation ministry said in an order on Wednesday. The caps were introduced for airlines more than two years ago in 2020 against the backdrop of limited flight operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“After review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations vis-à-vis passenger demand for air travel in terms of purpose specified in initial order, Order No. 02/2020 dated 21.05.2020 it has been decided to remove the fare bands notified from time to time regarding the air fares with effect from 31,” the aviation ministry’s order said.

The government, however, asked airlines and airport operators to ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of Covid-19 are strictly adhered to and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced for air travel.

“The decision to remove air fare caps has been taken after careful analysis of daily demand and prices of air turbine fuel. Stabilisation has set in & we are certain that the sector is poised for growth in domestic traffic in the near future,” Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Twitter.

The ministry imposed the caps on air fare when domestic flight operations resumed from May 25, 2020, two months after their suspension in the wake of the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. The caps were designed to ensure that passengers were not charge huge amounts due to high demand for seats and to help airlines that were struggling financially due to travel restrictions.

Kapil Kaul, chief executive officer of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA India) welcomed the government decision.

“CAPA India welcomes the decision to remove price floors and caps. This was long overdue. We hope that all carriers will maintain a sensible pricing regime and not revert to loss-leader fares. But yield dilution is inevitable despite airlines wanting a rational market,” Kaul said.

Asked asked if the removal of the cap would lead to an increase in air fares, Kaul said, “I expect fares to fall because maintaining pricing discipline is very tough and increasing air fares is not feasible given that demand is soft.”

Airlines too supported the government’s decision.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by fleet size and passengers carried, said: “We are strongly supportive of this move as free market economics are good for both our customers and our investors”.

“We look forward to the response of the removal of fare caps as this will rationalize the demand and supply. The fares will now be regulated by the market and consumers will be presented with competitive prices, hence normalizing it for them. We hope this announcement will help the industry gain momentum in terms of growth and scalability,” Bharatt Malik, senior vice president, flights, at Yatra.com said.

Akasa Air gets DGCA licence, to start operations by July-end

NEW DELHI, July 7: Akasa Air on Thursday got Air Operator Certificate from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The startup carrier, promoted by ace stock market investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, will start services in late July.

In a statement, the airline said, “This is a significant milestone, enabling us to open our flights for sale and leading to the start of commercial operations.”

It had taken delivery of its first Boeing 737 max aircraft in India on June 21. Last November, Akasa Air had announced ordering 72 '737 Max' aircraft from Boeing. The order includes two variants from the 737 MAX family -- 737-8 and 737-8-200.

The airline unveiled the first look of its crew uniform on Monday, adding that it focuses on providing the best possible stretch to ensure their comfort over their busy flight schedules. The company said it is the first Indian airline to have introduced custom trousers and jackets, with their fabric specially made for Akasa Air (using recycled polyester fabric which is made from pet bottle plastic salvaged from marine waste) and comfortable sneakers for its airline in-flight crew keeping in mind ergonomics, aesthetics and comfort.

In December last year, the company unveiled its brand logo which it said has been inspired by the element of the sky.

Qatar Airways' $1 Billion Lawsuit Over Peeling Paint On Planes

DOHA, June 21: The head of Qatar Airways on Tuesday accused plane-maker Airbus of acting like a "bully" as their billion-dollar dispute over peeling paint looked no closer to a resolution. The airline and leading plane-maker have been fighting in the British courts for months over the paint problem that seen Qatar Airways ground 23 A350 jets.

"If things were settled, we wouldn't be still waiting for the trial to happen next year," Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Doha.

"A manufacturer must never be allowed to use their market dominance to bully their long-standing customer."

Both sides said they hoped to reach a negotiated settlement after their latest hearing in May, when a London high court judge agreed to a speeded-up trial schedule.

Qatar Airways is demanding about $1 billion in damages over the peeling paintwork, which it says is a threat to the A350's lightning conductor.

Last year, the airline grounded part of its fleet of A350s and demanded $200,000 in damages per day for each plane out of action.

Airbus responded by cancelling an order worth more than $6 billion for 50 A321s from Qatar Airways, the Middle East's second biggest carrier and one of its biggest clients.

When asked for a reaction to Baker's comments, Airbus said: "The best solution is a negotiated one and this is what Airbus is seeking."

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury earlier told reporters the French manufacturer was in discussions "all the time" with Qatar Airways.

"We have this situation to resolve and it takes time. It takes time and sweat, and I'm very frustrated to be in this situation," he said on Sunday.

"I don't like to be in this situation with customers, that's very clear, that's why we're trying to work out a solution moving forward. But it's difficult."

3 flights in a day make emeregency landings

NEW DELHI, June 19: A Delhi-bound IndiGo flight from Guwahati returned to Guwahati airport due to a suspected bird hit after the takeoff on Sunday. All passengers were accommodated on another flight to Delhi and the aircraft was inspected.

"IndiGo Airbus A320neo (VT-ITB) operating flight 6E 6394 from Guwahati-Delhi returned to Guwahati airport, due to a suspected bird hit after takeoff. All passengers were accommodated on another flight to Delhi. The aircraft is being held on the ground for necessary inspections," the IndiGo said in a statement.

This was a third such incident in a day when a flight made an emergency landing.

Earlier on Sunday evening, a Jabalpur-bound SpiceJet flight landed back at the Delhi Airport after it failed to regain the cabin pressure differential even after attaining a height of 6,000 feet.

According to a statement by the spokesperson of the airline, the cabin pressure differential was unable to be built up as the altitude of the cabin rose from the ground.

Earlier, in another incident concerning the airline, a SpiceJet Boeing 737 with about 185 people on board passengers returned safely to Patna soon after an emergency landing on Sunday afternoon following the reports of a fire in one of the engines.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials said that the plane (VT-SYZ), prima facie, was involved in air turnback as the cabin crew informed PIC about sparks coming out of the engine.

During the rotation, the cockpit crew suspected a bird hit on the engine. Later, the crew did not observe any abnormality and the flight resumed further climb.

"The flight returned back after a bird hit and due to one engine shut in the air, all on-board passengers safe," the officials added.

DGCA makes face mask mandatory at airports across India as COVID-19 cases on the rise again

NEW DELHI, June 8: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on June 8 directed airports and airlines to ensure that strict COVID-19 protocol, including wearing a face mask at all time, is followed across the country.

The DGCA has asked airports and airlines to treat passengers refusing to wear masks or violating COVID-19 protocol as "Unruly Passengers".

The Indian aviation regulator in a notification asked airlines and airports to ensure that all passengers are wearing a face mask properly throughout their journey and to also ensure proper sanitization of airports and planes.

It also asked Central Industrial Security Force and other Police personnel to ensure that no one is allowed inside airports without wearing a face mask.

Airlines and airports have to provide hand sanitizers to passengers at prominent places, according to the regulator.

The number of new infections in India crossed the 5,000-mark on June 8 as the country reported 5,233 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours. This is the first time since early March that the number of new infections have risen above 5,000.

In June, India has so far reported over 32,000 fresh cases. The number of active Covid-19 cases has risen by 1,881 in the last 24 hours as per health ministry data. Active cases now stand at 28,857.

Airlines and airports have to sensitize passengers on all precautionary measures to be taken by them through websites, travel agents, call centers, displays and regular announcements, said the DGCA.

The regulator has also asked airlines and airports to ensure that extra face masks are provided to passengers in case of an emergency.

The order by the DGCA comes just a few days after the Delhi High Court stressed for strict implementation of Covid-19 guidelines at airports.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta last week was hearing a suo motu plea pertaining to violations of social distancing norms and Covid protocols by passengers at airports.

“DGCA should issue separate binding guidelines authorising staff at airports, flights, captains, pilots, etc. to take strict action against passengers and others violating masking and hand-hygiene norms. Such persons should be booked and fined and placed on a no-fly list," the bench had said.

Violators should be removed physically if need be," the bench remarked. It also directed pilots inside the aircraft to take strict action against those violating masking and hand hygiene norms. Asserting that the mask, which is already a norm on flights, the bench said that it is meant to reduce the Covid threat, pointing out that one can take it off while eating or drinking.

Air India offers cash incentive, reduces eligibility age to encourage staff to voluntarily retire

MUMBAI, June 1: In an apparent bid to encourage a significant section of its employees to voluntarily retire, Air India on Wednesday reduced the eligibility age from 55 to 40 and announced cash incentive. The Tata Group took control of Air India on January 27 after successfully winning the bid for the airline on October 8 last year.

Since April, the airline's chairman N Chandrasekaran has rejigged the top management of the airline, bringing in senior and middle-level executives who have worked in other companies of the Tata group such as Tata Steel and Vistara.

In a communique sent to employees on Wednesday, the airline said that according to the existing regulations of Air India, permanent employees can avail voluntary retirement if they are of 55 years of age or more and they have worked in the carrier for 20 years.

As an additional benefit, the carrier is reducing the age eligibility from 55 years to 40 years for cabin crew members who are in grades "S-3, S-5, S-7, E-0, E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4 and E-5", clerical and allied staff who are in grades "S-2, S-5, S-6 and S-7" and unskilled employees who are in grades "S-1, S-2, S-3, S-4 and S-5", it noted. "An ex-gratia amount will also be provided to the aforementioned employees, who apply for voluntary retirement from June 1, 2022 to July 31, 2022 as a one-time benefit," it said.

Also, employees who apply for voluntary retirement between June 1 and June 30 will also receive an additional incentive over and above the ex-gratia amount, it added. "The acceptance of your application for the above benefits and the date of release shall be subject to management's discretion," it stated.





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