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Posts Tagged ‘India’

Recently I was on a flight from Delhi to London which took off in a 75-100m visibility. I was trying to see if someone actually had a video for such take offs or landings, when the visibility is so low.

Following is the video I found which looks like a news segment done for some Indian news channel. Very interesting.

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Kingfisher Airlines recently announced the start of its new service between Mumbai and London (Heathrow Airport) starting January 5th 2009. The airline will use an Airbus A330-200 (28 seats in First and 169 seats in Kingfisher Class).

Mumbai – London Flight Schedule IT 007
Departure from Mumbai – 13:45 Mumbai Local Time
Arrival at London – 17:55 London Local Time (Terminal 4)

London – Mumbai Flight Schedule IT008
Departure from London – 20:30 London Local Time
Arrival at Mumbai – 11:00 Mumbai Local Time (next day)

Other Services Launch –
Kingfisher also plans to launch Mumbai-Hong Kong operations from January 12 and Mumbai-Singapore flight from January 16. In addition, its flights from Bangalore and Chennai to Sri Lanka capital, Colombo, will start from January 19.
(from Hindu)

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There has been a lot of news recently with regard to big losses realized by airlines in India due to high price of oil, weakening demand, fierce competition causing inability to raise fares to requirements and rapid growth over the past years.

Jet Airways
On Tuesday October 14th 2008, the airlines laid off 850 cabin crew members (total employees – 13,000) and a day later announced plans for laying off another 1,050 across different departments and functions (including pilots and management personnel). The the salary and benefits saving is reported to be around 50 million rupees (around US $1 million). The layoffs caused protests and have caused some political interest in the country. The airline has already announced capacity cuts along with discontinuation of some routes.

From Times of India

“The
number of flights that Jet Airways will offer as part of its winter schedule
will be approximately 15% lower than originally planned. This is inevitable in
view of declining traffic volumes,” Jet Airways’ chief executive officer
Wolfgang Prock Schauer said.

Some international flights — like
on the Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco sector — have already been
discontinued. There are plans to withdraw the Amritsar-London service and
postpone the foray into Saudi Arabia.

Kingfisher Airlines
Kingfisher seems to be going the same route with a possibility of a “less painful” (with respect to Jet Airways) layoffs. There are talks about layoffs to come mostly from ex-Air Deccan employees.The airlines is already planning to return 7 aircrafts to the lessors. Also, the airline canceled orders for 3 Airbus A340 aircrafts and deferred deliveries of 32 Airbus A320 aircrafts.

From Times of India

“The last time when they fired 300 employees, they discarded a lot of good talent, which was surprising. However, they did it with much more dignity and grace than what Jet has displayed,” said a former Deccan employee. “This time around, they’re being more careful with who they want to fire.”
Pilots with little or no experience will be the first to go, while more experienced hands will be retained. “It’s the cabin crew that will be axed mercilessly and that will most certainly be from the Deccan side. As it is, Kingfisher has always looked down upon the Deccan staff, particularly the cabin crew. Their cabin crew are projected as models and they will not sack them as easily. There is a lot of panic among the Deccan cabin crew girls and they’ve been sending out their resumes to a lot of international airlines since hiring has seen an overall slowdown in all Indian airlines,” said a source.

Air India
Air India, the country’s national airline, announced that it is considering to offer leave without pay to as many as 15,000 employees for a period of up to 5 years. The airline added that the employees who will take this offer will be allowed to return back to same job with same seniority and pay rate. The airline did mention that the reduction plan was not mandatory and is not a retrenchment. It is hard for me to understand why the employees would take this offer unless there is a lay-off plan to follow.

From BBC

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has stressed there were no plans compulsorily to prune staff numbers which currently total about 25,000 people.
“Air India is not going to have any job cuts. Certainly it [the aviation crisis] will affect the growth plans, it will affect the future employment opportunities which would have come the way of Air India in case the aviation industry was in a much better financial health,” Mr Patel told PTI.
“But as of now I do not have the luxury to say [anything] beyond the fact that those who are working for Air India shall continue to do so and we shall not have any issue of people being laid off.”

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Billionaire Wilbur Smith, an American investor specializing in leveraged buyouts, will invest in “Loss-making” Spicejet, low-cost New Delhi based Indian Airline, by buying foriegn currency convertible bonds (held by Istithmar PJSC and
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.) worth $80 million (3.45 billion rupees). Wilbur Ross and Ranjit Nabha (chief executive of WL Ross India) are expected to join the board of directors for the airline.

Spicejet had been actively looking for capital and a lot of people had shown interest including Reliance’s Anil Ambani.

From Bloomberg

“`This investment reflects the fact that there is still
belief in the long-term potential of Indian aviation,” said
Binit Somaia, a director for the Indian sub-continent at the
Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. “There is
interest from investors when assets are available at good
valuations.””

From BusinessWeek

“We believe in the long term validity of the low cost airline model in
India and that fuel prices eventually will stabilize,” said Chairman
and Chief Executive Wilbur L. Ross Jr. in a joint statement issued by
SpiceJet and New York-based WL Ross & Co.”

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As Singapore Airlines’ initiative to expand its services to/fro India, the airline will be doubling it flights to/from Delhi starting September 2008. Currently, there are a total of 9 flights a week between Delhi and Singapore (on Boeing 777-200 aircrafts in a three class configuration). The new flights will be in the morning time and will be aptly named “Sunrise” services.

There are other expansions in services planned at Mumbai. SilkAir (subsidary of Singapore Airlines) is also planning to start services at South Indian cities of Vishakapatanam, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore.

From Economic Times

“Our new Sunrise services will provide connectivity to people travelling to and beyond Singapore to destinations in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand,” said Singapore Airlines general manager in India C.W. Foo.”

“We are also looking at expanding our international destination network and considering exotic locations like Bali and Vietnam,” Foo said. “We are talking with Tourism Australia for jointly promoting our flights to five destinations in Australia.”

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Reuters reports that around 50 pilots in India each year get grounded because they are found to have consumed alcohol before their flight. India has one of the fastest growing airline industry with about around 5000 commercial pilots. Though, the number is 0.01% of the total (and even lesser for the number of flights affected since these seem to be isolated incidences), it does raise some concerns on safety.

This issue seems to have got attention after a pilot of Jetlite airline was caught inebriated on Saturday June 21st 2008 Morning and as a result caused the cancellation of the Delhi-Patna flight.

More cases had been reported recently like – (from here) –

This is not the first time, though, that airline crew and pilots have been found intoxicated while on duty.

An Air Deccan pilot was found inebriated on 12 April, 2006, by a DGCA team during a random test.

On October 12, 2007, a Kingfisher Airways pilot had been grounded for three months after being caught at IGI Airport.

On October 28, 2007, an airhostess of a
Mumbai-bound Jet Airways flight, tested alcohol positive during
pre-flight testing. She was grounded for three months.

I think there is a need for increased random checks and harsher punishments (even prison time for repeat offenders) before this issue causes some serious accident!

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An article in CNN-IBN, an Indian News Network, claims that Civil Aviation Ministry of India is considering scrapping the minimum five year domestic operations criteria for starting flights to/from International destinations. In the last 4 years, India has seen the start lot of new airlines that fly within the country like – SpiceJet, Indigo, Paramount, GoAir, Kingfisher etc.. These airlines currently do not qualify to fly international due to the five year rule. It should be good news for Vijay Mallaya (Kingfisher Airline’s Chairman) who is eager to start direct flights to US.

Instead of the five years rule, “It will be replaced by technical criteria, the number and the kind of
aircraft needed for international flights, pilots with the right flying
experience and other personnel and international compliance norms.
” (from here).

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