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Vistara To Merge With Air India Which Is Growing After Tata Takeover

NEW DELHI, Nov 29: Vistara airlines will be merged with Tata-owned Air India by March 2024, the company announced today. Singapore Airlines, which owns minority share in Vistara in its joint venture with Tata, will own around 25 per cent of the enlarged Air India, into which it'll infuse over ₹ 2,000 crore.

The rearrangement will mean a larger fleet and more routes under the Air India brand as Tata Sons rebuilds a mega aviation wing of its empire. At present, 51 per cent share in Vistara is with Tata, while Singapore Airlines owns the remaining 49 per cent in the join venture set up in 2013.

Since Tata bought Air India for ₹ 18,000 crore as part of a government disinvestment around a year ago, the plan has been to merge all its aviation brands under that name.

For Vistara, the two owners "aim to complete the merger by March 2024, subject to regulatory approvals", said a Singapore Airlines release. Tata also owns low-cost carriers Air India Express and AirAsia India, both of which will be merged under the Air India brand, too, by 2024.

This will take the fleet size to 218, putting togetaher Air India's 113 with AirAsia India's 28, Vistara's 53, and Air India Express's 24. It will then be India's largest international carrier and second largest domestic carrier, Tata Sons said.

Reports have also said it is likely to order 300 narrow-body jets, one of the largest orders ever in aviation history, which would be delivered gradually. Air India's chief executive officer had said that it aims to triple its fleet of 113 over the next five years.

This is a big step towards the Tatas rebuilding Air India, a company founded by the family-run group but later nationalised, only to come back to Tata Sons after losses piled up and the government decided it's best to sell it off.

"As part of the transformation, Air India is focusing on growing both its network and fleet, revamping its customer proposition, enhancing safety, reliability, and on-time performance," the company release quoted Tata Sons chairperson N Chandrasekaran as saying.

Goh Choon Phong, the chief executive of Singapore Airlines, said, "Our collaboration to set up Vistara in 2013 resulted in a market-leading full-service carrier, which has won many global accolades in a short time. With this merger, we have an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Tata and participate directly in an exciting new growth phase in India's aviation market."

Jet Airways cuts salaries, sends several employees on leave without pay as revival plan hits hurdle

NEW DELHI, Nov 18: Grounded carrier Jet Airways has temporarily docked the salaries of some of its staff by up to 50 percent, and sent some on leave without pay, sources in the know told Moneycontrol. The sources added that the changes are effective December 1.

One individual aware of the on-going discussions said that almost half the staff is not impacted by these changes.

"Even Sanjiv Kapoor (Jet Airways CEO) has agreed to take a substantial pay cut," the individual said.

On November 18, CNBCTV-18 had reported that Jet Airways had sent 60 percent of its employees, including senior managers, on leave without pay. Kapoor had taken to Twitter to assert that the news was “100% false." Trying to calm nerves, Kapoor also tweeted: “No one is being fired.”

The news comes in the wake of the airline’s revival hitting yet another hurdle after the new owner, the Jalan-Kalrock consortium, told the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) of its inability to pay additional monies to clear staff provident fund (PF) and gratuity dues of around Rs 250 crore.

On October 21, the NCLAT had directed the consortium to clear employees’ unpaid PF and gratuity dues until June 2019, when the insolvency process was initiated.

The Jalan-Kalrock consortium has said that while they await the handover of Jet Airways per the NCLT process, the longer-than-expected time taken for the same may result in some difficult decisions.

"While we await the handover of the airline per the NCLT process, the longer-than-expected time taken for the same may result in some difficult but necessary near-term decisions to manage our cash flows to secure the future," a spokesperson of the consortium said.

Older staff (from before the airline shut shop) comprise more than 60 percent of the current workforce of Jet Airways, Ankit Jalan, Board Member, Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, said in a statement.

He added that there the brand enjoyed tremendous goodwill and there was public support for its revival.

"The revived Jet Airways will provide additional career opportunities, including to the airline’s former staff who currently make up more than 60 percent of the workforce, and for many more, as the revived airline grows. Jet Airways would be a shining example of the IBC (Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code) working as intended in India,” Jalan said.

"We reaffirm that there has been no delay from the JKC to implement the resolution plan, and we are in full compliance of the approved plan," the consortium said in a statement.

The consortium said that it was not liable to pay anything beyond Rs 475 crore, and all claims had to be settled with that sum.

All additional claims not factored in the approved resolution plan should be settled from the cash balance of the airline, which was around Rs 50 crore, and the remaining from the share of banks, it said.

In May, the All-India Jet Airways' Officers and Staff Association had challenged the consortium's resolution plan for the airline at the NCLAT.

Jet Airways was grounded in April 2019, after which its lenders took it to the NCLT. Per the Jalan-Kalrock consortium’s resolution plan, the consortium proposed a total infusion of Rs 1,375 crore. This included Rs 900 crore towards capital expenditure and working capital, and Rs 475 crore to settle the claims of all creditors. The sum of Rs 475 crore includes Rs 380 crore to be paid to lenders, Rs 52 crore to employees and workmen, and the remaining towards other operational creditors.

But the lenders had raised concerns over the disbursement of these funds.

In response, a spokesperson of the consortium had said, “The lenders have been informed on multiple occasions that we are ready with the funds. The consortium has already deposited Rs 150 crore with the lenders.” Further, the spokesman said it was prepared to make payments of Rs 52 crore, per the plan.

After the NCLT’s approval, all conditions precedent outlined in the resolution plan were completed by May 20, 2022, and the necessary filings were made before the tribunal on May 21, 2022.

"JKC has deposited Rs 150 crore as required under the court approved resolution plan with the lenders, with the remaining amounts to be invested only after the next steps of the NCLT are fulfilled in terms of hand over of the company to us. We have not breached any term of the resolution plan, and we remain committed to the revival of Jet Airways," the consortium had said.

British Airways Goes Gender Neutral, Allows Male Crew Members To Wear Makeup And Earrings

LONDON, Nov 11: British Airways is going gender-neutral and will now allow male pilots and cabin crew to wear makeup and piercings for the first time while at work.

According to The Guardian, the UK flag carrier in an internal memo told staff that all uniformed employees are now permitted to wear mascara, false eyelashes and earrings, and carry accessories including handbags from Monday.

"Man buns" and nail polish are also allowed for all genders according to the newly updated rules.

In a memo to staff, the airline told employees to "be bold, be proud and be yourself" and said that it hopes the guidelines will be "embraced by everyone regardless of gender, gender identity, ethnicity, background, culture, sexual identity, it otherwise".

However, as per The Independent, British Airways also told employees to use "subtle shades" of makeup and aim for a "natural look".

"We are proud of all of our colleagues at British Airways and we are committed to an inclusive working environment. We have worked with our people to create updated guidelines for grooming, beauty and accessories, allowing our colleagues to bring the best, most authentic version of themselves to work every day," the airlines said.

As per The Guardian, British Airways is also believed to be trying to update its image to reflect its branding campaign - "a British original" - which it says is a celebration of the airline's people, customers and the country.

Meanwhile, the airlines seem to be following in the footsteps of Virgin Atlantic, which recently updates its policies to reflect the diversity of modern society. In September, Virgin announced that its crew could choose their uniform as it had scrapped gendered workwear.

It allowed female cabin crew and pilots to wear trousers and male counterparts' skirts at work. The airline said that it wants to "champion the individuality" of its people and customers.

IndiGo Plane's Engine Catches Fire Just Before Take-Off In Delhi

NEW DELHI, Oct 28: An IndiGo aircraft taking off for Bengaluru had to be grounded at the Delhi airport after one of its engines caught fire on Friday.

The Delhi to Bengaluru IndiGo flight 6E-2131 aborted its take-off around 9:45 pm and a "full emergency" was declared at the Indira Gandhi International airport, reports said.

All passengers and crew are safe, the Delhi Police said. There were 184 people on board the Airbus A320 aircraft.

One of the passengers, Priyanka Kumar, posted a video of the incident on Twitter, that showed one of the engines on fire and sending off sparks.

"The flight would have taken off in five to seven seconds. Suddenly, I saw massive sparks coming off the wings, and it turned into a major fire. And the plane was stopped immediately. The pilot informed us there was some malfunction with the engine," she said on the phone.

"We are still in the plane. The situation is under control. The fire brigade came. The plane has been taken to a parking bay. And IndiGo is arranging another aircraft for us. We are deplaning now," Ms Kumar said.

"There was a panic initially, but the crew made is feel comfortable. Gave us water. There were a lot of elderly people and kids around... everybody is safe, there was no jerk-stopping," she added.

In a statement, IndiGo said, "An aircraft operating flight 6E2131 from Delhi to Bangalore experienced an engine stall during take off roll. The take off was aborted and the aircraft safely returned to the bay."

"All passengers are being accommodated on an alternate aircraft. We regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers," it added.

There has been a spike in incidents involving low-cost carriers like SpiceJet and IndiGo in recent months, prompting multiple investigations by India's aviation regulator.

In July, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, or DGCA, sought an explanation from SpiceJet after an unusually high number of incidents involving its aircraft and pointed out big gaps on how the airline is functioning.

Delhi Airport Ranks World's 10th Busiest: Report

NEW DELHI, Oct 27: The Indira Gandhi International Airport in the national capital has emerged as the world's 10th busiest airport in October, improving its ranking compared to the pre-pandemic period.

In its report, aviation analytics firm OAG said Delhi airport has improved its position from 14th place in October 2019, which was the pre-pandemic time. In October 2022, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was the busiest in the world.

The rankings by OAG are based on scheduled airline capacity in the current month and compared to the equivalent month in 2019, pre-pandemic. The world's top 10 busiest airports list is prepared using total capacity, both domestic and international.

After Atlanta, Dubai and Tokyo Haneda airports are at the 2nd and 3rd positions, respectively.

"When compared to October 2019, 6 of the Top 10 this month were also among the world's Top 10 busiest airports then; airports which have seen their rankings rise, bringing them into the Top 10 now, are Dallas/Fort Worth (from 12th to 4th), Denver (from 20th to 5th), Istanbul (from 13th to 8th), and Delhi (from 14th to 10th)," OAG said in the report on its website.

For the Delhi airport, also known as the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), the number of seats was 34,13,855, as per OAG.

The Indian aviation sector is recovering after being significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic that also saw scheduled international flight services remaining suspended for more than two years starting from March 2020.

At the 6th place is London Heathrow Airport, followed by Chicago O'Hare International Airport at the 7th spot and Los Angeles International Airport is at the 9th position, the OAG report said.

According to the report, Dubai is the busiest international airport, followed by London Heathrow Airport and Amsterdam airport at the 2nd and 3rd positions, respectively.

There is no Indian airport in the top 10 list of busiest international airports.

In another report, OAG said Mumbai to Dubai and Delhi to Dubai were among the top 10 busiest international routes.

The busiest airline routes are those with the largest volume of scheduled seats during the period from October 2021 to September 2022.

"India is also seeing an increase in route capacity with two routes in the top 10, operating from Mumbai to Dubai (BOM-DXB) and Delhi to Dubai (DEL-DXB)," it said.

Also, the route between Mumbai and New York is among the largest unserved routes, which OAG defines as the routes with the largest volume of people travelling indirectly between two points.

"Based on passenger booking data for the period August 2021 - July 2022, eight of the top 10 largest unserved routes start or end in North America. New York features in three of the routes with Quito - New York (UIO-JFK) the largest market, with more than enough passengers to potentially sustain a direct service," the report said.

Further, OAG noted that the other New York routes include India's largest city, Mumbai (BOM-JFK) with nearly 82,000 passengers in a 12-month period currently travelling indirectly between these two cities.

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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