Saturday, March 17, 2012

About 3000 people affected by grounded planes

About 3000 customers have been affected by Air New Zealand's grounding of its ATR fleet, after hairline cracks were found in one plane during routine maintenance.

The airline has been carrying out inspections on Sunday on its 11 ATR aircraft, which are operated by its subsidiary Mount Cook.

The cracks were found around the cockpit windows of one plane during routine maintenance overnight in Christchurch.

Air New Zealand cancelled all ATR flights on Sunday, but the airline says alternative travel arrangements are being put in place.

Two ATR planes were returned to service between Christchurch and Rotorua and Auckland and Palmerston North later on Sunday.

Mount Cook's general manager Sarah Williamson says she expects to introduce more aircraft back into service later on Monday.

But disgruntled passengers say they were left in the dark over the airline's decision to ground the planes.

One passenger, who arrived from Australia, was meant to be travelling from Christchurch to Queenstown on Sunday.

She says she wishes the airline had contacted them earlier, so they could have made alternate plans to the six-hour bus ride it is offering.

An A320 aircraft has been brought in to provide some services between Christchurch and Dunedin and Christchurch and Wellington.

The 68 seat ATR planes have serviced 10 destinations for Mt Cook since 1999 and have an average age of about 11 years.


Air New Zealand grounds 11 planes .  .  .

Air New Zealand has grounded 11 planes for inspections after cracks were found around the cockpit windows of one aircraft.

The airline said its 11 ATR planes - the propeller driven 68-seaters operating regional services around the country - had all their services cancelled this morning after the cracks were discovered.

The planes are operated by Air New Zealand subsidiary Mt Cook Airlines.

A media statement said one aircraft in Queenstown had already been inspected, had passed, and was back in service.

Mt Cook general manager Sarah Williamson said alternative arrangements would be made for affected customers and other aircraft from the Air New Zealand fleet would be used.

"We apologise to customers for the inevitable inconvenience caused by undertaking a full check of our fleet. However the safety of our customers, our staff and our aircraft is paramount and non-negotiable for the airline."

The ATR-500 aircraft have been used by Mt Cook since 1999.

The airline said the planes were an average of 10.9 years old.

They service 10 destinations around New Zealand.

Source:  http://www.stuff.co.nz

Small Plane Flips at Prince George Airport, British Columbia, Canada

Flashing lights from emergency vehicles on the runway at the Prince George Airport this afternoon ( photo submitted)

Prince George, B.C. – Prince George RCMP tell Opinion 250 that a light plane has flipped at the Prince George airport.

An RCMP spokesman says the incident occurred within the past hour, although he’s not sure of the exact timing. He says it is not believed anyone was injured. Police have an officer on scene, but they have not reported back to the detachment.

Prince George Fire-Rescue says none of its crews were sent to the airport, rather the airport fire department responded.

Calls to the airport have not been answered as yet. The type of airplane involved was not known to the police official we spoke with.

The Transportation Safety Board will be called in to investigate, as is the case with any aircraft incident.

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

1945 plan by British soldiers to escape from the prisoner-of-war camp by air is finally attempted 

Terry Payne

Ninety feet above the cobbled square of the infamous Colditz Castle, the spirit of heroic ingenuity soared freely once again. Earlier this afternoon a full-size glider built in the castle’s loft space was launched off a makeshift wooden runway, so executing an audacious escape plan hatched – but never realized – more than 65 years ago.

Back in 1945 British troops held in the supposedly escape-proof prisoner-of-war camp had spent more than 18 months designing and building the original glider under the noses of German guards. It would have been the Second World War’s most ambitious escape bid, but liberation denied them the chance to see if it would fly.

Today a team from Channel 4 proved that it might have done, though air safety regulations meant that instead of two would- be escapees in the cockpit they had a dummy codenamed Alex and the demands of TV budgets and the absence of any guards saw them build it – to the exact specifications it should be stressed – in only five days.

So in bright sunshine and with much of the small village of Colditz gazing skywards the original launch method was employed;a bath filled with one ton of concrete was dropped down the side of the castle beneath the runway, providing the pulley-driven propulsion that catapulted the 19ft long and 33ft wide glider off the runway and into the air.

It was a glorious, though it has to be said short-lived, flight lasting just 15 seconds before the glider crash-landed and crumpled in the target field, flanked by houses on either side.

“I was running out of space and getting too close to the houses, so I had to bring it down,” said Patrick Willis who was controlling the flight of the glider through a remote-control transmitter linked to three receivers on the glider.

Read more:

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

Flight from Colditz: British PoWs' daring glider escape takes to sky, 67 years late

Hyderabad, India: Aviation 2012 not a dream show


As the five-day India Aviation-2012 opens to the public on Saturday, there is some bad news. The Boeing 787-8 Series Dreamliner made its way back to Seattle as did four others like the Falcon.

Of the 22 aircraft stationed at the Begumpet airport, the general public will get to see only 17. The five aircraft that made their way back home on Friday include the Boeing Dreamliner, Airbus ACJ 318, the corporate jet version of the A318, Bombardier’s Challenger 300, the Q400 NextGen turboprop and the Dassault Falcon. Even the Sukhoi Superjet 100 civil airliner will take off by Saturday afternoon.“I am so glad that I could get to see it today. I came in as a business visitor along with my uncle, else I would have definitely missed this chance,” said Ankitha Rao, a student from Bangalore, who came to visit the air show. Another visitor Suresh Babu, an electrical engineer, said, “this is so unfair. When so much was invested on this show and when two days were booked especially for the public, how can one send off the Dreamliner? It might be a boring show for the public tomorrow.”

Well, not just for the public but also for the participants it seems. Compared to the last edition, this air show has evoked poor response from even the business classes. Though the popular contenders expressed happiness with the “decent turnout”, new participants complained of really long and boring show. Shweta Mane and Sarla Devi, receptionists of an evidently empty stall of Powerfly, a Deccan and Taj Air Alliance who are at the expo for the first time, admitted, “we are just bored sitting here all day.” Rashmi Tandon, manager of the Rolls Royce stall, agreed, “The show this time was organised pretty well, but I would say the turnout was pretty less!”

However, officials at the Airworks Pvt. Ltd stall claimed to have received a better response. Sales manger Amar Singh said, “The crowd this time was more vibrant. Customers looked very much interested and yes, we are having a great time here.” Ramamoorthy, deputy general manager of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, too echoed the same view. “The turnout has been good this time and we have had quite a lot of enquiries,” he said.

The stores that had the maximum turnout and had really busy days were the stalls of the various pilot training institutes like the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi and the Bangalore Aeronautics Technical Services. A lot of foreign institutes like the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand, HELiPRO Aviation Training, Ardmore Flying School also said that a lot of students walked in for enquiries.

India Aviation 2012 show disappoints visitors



HYDERABAD: It was a disappointing day at the India Aviation 2012 for the thousands of Hyderabadis who thronged the venue on Day 1 of the two-day public show on Saturday. Apart from ruing the 'missing' aircraft -- the Dreamliner and three others had flown out before the gates were opened -- they also grudged the absence of aerobatics and heavy security barricades. What, however, saved the day for many were the two helicopters -- Bell and HAL -- the only attractions still parked in an otherwise near-deserted exhibition hall.

The show opened on a dull note with poor turnout of visitors. However, the crowd started to swell as day progressed with large groups of enthusiastic visitors walking through the gates. From students to families, with children in tow, to even senior citizens descended on the Begumpet airport to catch a glimpse of the 17 aircraft that had stayed on post the three-day business meet. "Children are always thrilled to see planes. But I wish they were allowed to take a closer look at them," said T Anuradha from Mehdipatnam in between managing her tiny tots who looked all too eager to pull down the barricades and make their way into the stationed jets.

The soaring temperatures in the open arena, where the aircraft were on display, prompted visitors to seek refuge in the air-conditioned comfort of the exhibition hall where, apart from large-sized helicopter models, miniatures of airbuses and Boeing aircraft were lined up. A mammoth crowd was seen gathering around the HAL stand where kids were given a chance to take a sneak peak into the interiors of the flying machine. "This has turned out to be the only attraction of the air show this year," said a junior college student V Vidyuth while posing with his friends for a photograph with the chopper. He added, "Last year, we at least got to see the planes in action. This time it's all very boring." That he and his friends had to shell out Rs 200 each to only see a handful of aircraft from behind security barricades was something the teenager wasn't too happy about.

And while the younger lot complained about the lack of 'adventure' at the show, the elders rued the absence of basic facilities promised by the authorities. While the organizers, in a release issued on Friday, had stated that visitors parking their vehicles outside the airport premises would be ferried to the venue, there seemed to be no such arrangement in place on Saturday. "We saw no bus or car at the gate to take us inside. It has caused us much inconvenience," said P Raju (62) who along with his wife was seen painstakingly making his way to the exhibition arena, which is a good kilometer or two away from the main road.

Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Venezuela - Missing plane leads to a working vacation

Submitted photo
Tim Evinger

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger spent a week in February searching for a missing plane in the Venezuelan jungle. Here he is shown flying over possible crash sites in a rented plane. 

Submitted photo
Rappelling

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger practiced rappelling from the skids of a helicopter during his trip. He said he learned how to rappel while on the SWAT team, but needed to learn the commands and hand signals used in Venezuela.

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger spent his recent vacation searching the Venezuelan jungle for a plane missing since February 2009.

Bob Norton and his wife, Neiba, were flying a missionary mission in Venezuela in February 2009. The couple’s plane, a Cessna 182, was loaded to capacity with a school teacher, four indigenous Venezuelans and a full tank of gas.

One of Norton’s passengers had a burst appendix and needed immediate medical treatment.

But the plane never made it.

“It was a horrible, stormy day and they were using an amateur radio for communication,” said Evinger, who founded a team that searches for missing aircraft. “Norton made a call on the radio that was indecipherable and they were never heard from again.”

A working vacation

Evinger and fellow volunteers from the Missing Aircraft Search Team spent a week in mid-February in Venezuela trying to determine what happened to the Nortons.

They interviewed villagers, flew over possible crash sites and investigated “conspiracy kidnapping” scenarios.

“It’s how I like to spend my vacation time,” Evinger said.

Evinger uses skills he gained during his days as a member of the local SWAT team, his search and rescue experience and his abilities as an airplane pilot to hunt down missing aircraft. He has been sheriff since 2001 and announced late last year he wouldn’t run for re-election.

Evinger and team member Bob Edwards, who was best man at the missing pilot’s wedding, interviewed villagers from the region with the help of an interpreter. From the information gathered on the trip, Evinger said they were able to determine the points at which the missing plane was last seen and last heard on the day it disappeared.

“The goal was to narrow the search area,” he said. “But really we’re looking for some closure on what happened to this aircraft.”

The team’s next step is to gather together in the U.S., do an analysis of possible areas the plane might be and figure out where they’ll search if they’re able to return.

“Venezuela is a politically tumultuous country in the middle of an important election,” Evinger said. “Right now we are weighing the risk versus benefits of returning.”

Kuwait - What is happening to the aviation sector?

By Muna Al-Fuzai, Kuwait Times

What is going on with Kuwait’s state-owned airlines? Is the government facing a tough time? Is competition very high? What makes others win while we keep faltering? Look at Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. They entered into service quite recently and now they are famous. Kuwait Airways was launched in 1953, and today it is teetering on the brink of extinction. What is the secret of regional airways’ success?

The above-mentioned airlines offer excellent services and continuously improve customer service, aircrafts and facilities offered on board to all passengers , be it economy, business or first class! Clearly, their target is not to attract customers for one flight, but winning their hearts for a lifetime. That is what I call talent and success. So marketing is their key to success and they have done their homework well. I believe that Kuwait Airways failed due to the lack of a marketing policy , strategy and a business plan.

A report released by a fact-finding commission in 2012 on the status of Kuwait Airways and its subsidiaries have stated that it incurred KD 591 million losses in 15 years. Of this, KD 164 million was lost in the form of huge wasteful blunders. For example, many overseas operations failed to achieve a target revenue. The report cited many reasons like failure to conduct proper feasibility studies. The bottom line here is that the marketing policy was skewed. I wonder why employees from this department were sacked. I would say it is wasta!

It is not news that many Kuwaitis and expatriates don’t wish to travel in Kuwait Airways unless they run out of options. I have flown in both Emirates and Kuwait Airways. Most passengers dread the delay that may set in. No one wishes to be stranded in the airport for several hours during a short trip from Kuwait to Dubai! In Emirates Airways, no delay will last for more than an hour, but Kuwait Airways takes hours to resolve the issue! It is a matter of shame for Kuwait’s oldest carrier.

In UAE, several private carriers have entered into service to cater to the needs of all passengers in the Gulf region. Wataniya Airways is another example that came to an abrupt end after a short stint. It entered into service in 2009 but completely halted operations in 2011.Reasons for this vary from stiff competition faced from other carriers and high fuel prices. There were two other Kuwait-based carriers operating at the same time – Kuwait Airways, and Jazeera Airways, a budget carrier. Wataniya positioned itself as a luxury service provider. Sadly, it met a natural end.

Kuwait Airways has not been able to keep up with the needs of today’s customers. I feel sorry for the situation it is in because it is a national carrier. I do not care much about the people who caused this fall. But, I guess the board members knew this is inevitable. Their staff members are asking for salary raises and are staging strikes. I am sure this is the last thing the management wants to deal with. Crisis comes in different packages! There can be no end to this unless this company is sold to a to a third party. Maybe selling it to the UAE or Qatar would not be a bad idea. I think they will be able to do a better job.

Source:  http://news.kuwaittimes.net

Nigeria biggest airline to stop Abuja-London route

ABUJA, March 17 (Reuters) - Nigeria's biggest carrier Arik Air said it would have to stop its daily flights between Abuja and London because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports, an accusation that risked reigniting a diplomatic row.

Arik Air - the only Nigerian airline flying to Britain - said slots it had leased from Lufthansa's British unit bmi at London's Heathrow airport were about to expire and it was now facing unspecified "restrictions".

"Whilst it is regrettable to have to suspend our services between Abuja and London, we simply could not continue with the route due to the restrictions placed upon us in accessing arrival/departure slots into UK airports," Arik's chief executive Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, said in a statement on Friday.

He did not spell out who was imposing the restrictions on the company.

But a similar row over landing slots and ticket pricing between Nigerian and British authorities in November almost grounded all flights between the two countries.

"It is an unfortunate situation and one that we felt was being resolved at government level and we hoped that an agreement would have been reached before the start of the summer schedule," said Arumemi-Ikhide in the statement.

The suspension did not affect Arik's flights between London and Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos.

Landing slots at Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, are popular and over-subscribed. Nigeria's government and Arik Air want the British government to help it get more slots at Heathrow but UK authorities have said it is not their responsibility under a joint agreement between the countries.

Britain and Nigeria have a bilateral air services agreement (BASA) which allows them each 21 equal flight frequencies between the two countries, which their airlines can use.

The UK argues that Nigeria is entitled to 21 flights to the Britain a week but it can not guarantee them 21 landing slots at Heathrow. Other London airports have slots available.

Arumemi-Ikhide said Nigeria gave UK carrier "unfettered access" to the slots at Nigeria's Abuja and Lagos airports. "However, this is not reciprocated in the UK," he added.

The Nigerian aviation ministry was not immediately available for comment on Saturday. It warned last year that it would not "stand idly by while Nigerian flag carriers are unfairly treated when BASA agreements clearly state otherwise."

Nigerian authorities fined BA and Virgin Atlantic a total of $235 million for alleged price fixing in November, which both airlines deny.

The aviation minister has claimed BA flights between London and Nigeria we more expensive than flights covering a similar distance between Britain and Ghana.

Searches on the BA website show flights to Ghana are significantly cheaper than to Nigeria in business class and first class but not in economy class.

Saudi Airlines Cargo expands to Frankfurt, Vienna

Saudi Airlines Cargo is to expand its European operations with the addition of two new destinations.

As of March 25, Saudi Airlines Cargo will operate four direct freighter flights per week from Frankfurt to Saudi Arabia and two direct flights per week from Vienna to Saudi Arabia, connecting directly with Hong Kong and the Far East.

“We are extremely excited to be introducing these new services from Frankfurt and Vienna, which will provide a great boost to our existing activities in Europe where we currently operate scheduled freighters from Brussels, Amsterdam and Milan,” said Peter Scholten, VP commercial at Saudi Airlines Cargo.

“Frankfurt is the financial and transportation center of Germany, the largest and most important market in the European Union, while Vienna is the gateway to Eastern Europe. Offering a high frequency of services from these key cities with direct connections to the Far East will allow us to grow our business as well as to expand our activities into Eastern Europe,” he added.

The airline will use B-747 freighters in Frankfurt and MD11s in Vienna.

Frankfurt Airport ranks among the world’s 10 largest cargo hubs and is conveniently located in the middle of the Rhine-Main metropolitan area, an economic powerhouse.

The airport is very close to numerous production facilities and is connected to an excellent road and rail infrastructure.

Numerous freight forwarders have an active presence at the airport, including seven of the world’s largest IATA forwarders.

Source:  http://arabnews.com

Eshott Airfield in Bockenfield, UK: Pilot jumps to safety as Flash 2 Alpha Microlight takes off on its own then crashes in flames after throttle got jammed

Trainee pilot taken to hospital after plane runs over his leg

A pilot had to jump out of his plane today after it became jammed on full throttle and careered dangerously out of control.

The microlight ran over the man's leg before taking off and performing two 360-degree loops.

But the aircraft soon stalled and crashed to the ground in a ball of flames at Eshott Airfield in Bockenfield, Northumberland.

The pilot, believed to be a trainee at the airfield in his 30s, was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Emergency services were called just after 1.10pm to reports of a crash.

It is believed the pilot had been starting up his Flash 2 Alpha Microlight aircraft when the technical mishap occurred.

An eyewitness told how the aircraft raced down the runway, at which point the man decided to jump out.

He said: 'The student, who I believe is called Paul, started up the plane, but it was stuck on full throttle.

'The plane ran away down the runway and he decided to jump out.

'But it ran over him. I don't know if he broke his leg or injured his knee. The plane managed to take off without anyone in it, where it did two 360-degree loops.

'On the third loop, it stalled and crashed to the ground and then burst into flames.'
 
Read more and photos: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

U.K. Airlines Concerned About Disruption During London Olympics

The U.K.’s largest airlines, including British Airways Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., said they’re concerned about potential delays at London airports during the 2012 Olympic Games

“The industry believes that there is a significant risk of severe delay and disruption at all of London’s major airports unless urgent action is taken,” airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, British Midland International and EasyJet Plc said in a letter dated March 15 to U.K. Transport Secretary Justine Greening and other officials.

“Failure to respond leaves the U.K. vulnerable to the type of major disruption that will cause significant reputational damage and would be foolhardy and reckless,” the letter said.

The London Olympics will attract more than 320,000 foreign visitors, national tourism agency VisitBritain has said, citing a study conducted by Oxford Economics. Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris are also seeing an increase in travel during the Olympics period, Madrid-based Amadeus and Barcelona-based Forward Data said in a report this month.

Source:  http://www.bloomberg.com

New Zealand pilot dies in helicopter crash in Papua

A New Zealand pilot has died in a helicopter crash in a remote Indonesian province.

Kershaw Aviation Group, a Queenstown-based aviation supply company, says 42-year-old Shri Rama Krishnan, of Auckland, was flying a six-seater Squirrel with two passengers on board on a routine food supply trip when the helicopter went missing yesterday morning.

The helicopter was on charter to the Indonesian arm of US mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

Searchers found the helicopter crash site today and confirmed all three aboard had died, news agencies Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press reported.

"Three passengers were found dead and were being taken to a hospital," Freeport Indonesia spokesman Ramdani Sirait said, adding they were two Freeport Indonesia contract workers and Mr Krishnan.

The Squirrel left the airfield at the mining town of Tembagapura at 8.12am local time, Kershaw Aviation Group said in a statement.

It was attempting to turn back after encountering bad weather, when the control tower lost contact at 8.30am.

Mr Krishnan was a very experienced pilot who had worked for the company for 12 months, Kershaw Aviation Group chief executive Josh Kershaw said.

He had travelled the route many times and he had extensive experience in similar environments.

"Two members of our senior management team are on their way to the province to work with authorities," Mr Kershaw said.

"Safety is our number one priority and we will also be conducting a full internal investigation into this incident."

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told NZ Newswire the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta was liaising with other agencies about Mr Krishnan.

Direct international flights planned for Cayman Brac

The Gerrard-Smith airport in Cayman Brac.

Photo: Submitted

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority has announced the planned expansion of terminal facilities at the Gerrard-Smith International Airport on Cayman Brac to accommodate direct international flights.

“The CIAA is delighted to announce that over the next few months, subject to approvals by the Central Planning Authority, our Board will oversee the commencement of enhancements and expansion of the Gerrard-Smith International Airport’s terminal facilities,” said Cayman Islands Aviation Authority Board Chairman Richard Arch. “The enhancements will allow scheduled non-stop service between Cayman Brac and the US and elsewhere. Additionally, the funds invested in the airport redevelopment will also have a positive impact on the Brac’s economy.”

The aviation authority has appointed Mr. Nicholas Johnson as project manager for the expansion. He will be working with Donal McGrath of BDCL Architects.

“Once the design and planning phases are completed the project will go out to tender for the submission of contractor bids,” Mr. Johnson said. “As the terminal facility is to remain operational during the construction phase, efforts will be made to carry out the additions to the facility with minimal interruption to passenger processing. The terminal building will extend to the east and west and there will be some temporary relocation, to allow for refurbishments to be carried out on the existing facility.”

Phase one of the project will accommodate a larger ticketing hall, enhanced passenger screening and hold baggage ccreening facilities and the addition of outgoing Immigration counters. The departure lounge will also be expanded to create additional retail space and a larger restaurant.

The renovation will also create office space for Cayman Airways as well as the airport’s security unit.

Phase two of the project will see enhancements to the arrivals hall for the Immigration and Customs Departments, as well as the creation of space for public health and agriculture.

“The expansion of the Brac terminal is being funded by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority,” said Jeremy Jackson, the airports authority CEO. “This project will undoubtedly provide a much-needed boost to the island’s economy which has seen its fair share of challenges since the passing of the devastating Hurricane Paloma in November 2008. We are confident that the ability to attract direct international flights, without the stopover on Grand Cayman for passenger and baggage screening, will provide even greater opportunities for local businesses in the years ahead.” 

Fog grounds flights in north China

BEIJING - A widespread fog effecting the North China region including Beijing and Tianjin has grounded hundreds of flights Saturday morning.

The Beijing Capital International Airport said by 9 am, 199 flights were canceled, as the visibility at the airport was less than 200 meters.

Meanwhile, airports in Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou in North China were all enveloped in dense fog Saturday morning, with the visibility in Tianjin's airport less than 50 meters.

The fog has stagnated air pollutants. The averaged PM2.5 air quality reading in Beijing from Friday night to Saturday morning hit 144 micrograms of fine particles in per cubic meter of air.

The Municipal Meteorological Station said a gale following a drizzle Saturday evening would help dissipate the smog, but bring down the temperature by 10 degrees Celsius.

'Importing jet fuel is fine, but where will you store it?'

Though the Budget apparently gives instant relief to ailing airlines by allowing for direct import of ATF, experts argue that lack of infrastructure would negate the good news

The high-flying proclamation in the Union Budget '12 that the government would accept the proposal of cash-strapped airline carriers for directly importing aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to reduce oil costs is just white noise, aviation experts said.

With no infrastructure to import and store the oil, the pronouncement will make little difference, they observed.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that the aviation industry was in dire financial straits and as the operating cost is largely owed to the high fuel cost -- which ailing carriers have been making a hue and cry about -- the government decided to permit direct import of ATF to cut costs.

Former Air India MD Captain DS Mathur said, "No doubt, this budget is immediate oxygen for the ailing aviation sector. The government has addressed the concerns of carriers. But the main challenge lies in implementation. We will have to see how the government addresses the 'ifs and buts' pertaining to the new announcements. The big question is, how will ATF be imported and stored, as the infrastructure for the same lies with state-owned oil companies."

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, top aviation expert, agreed. "Permitting the import of ATF is good but how will it be imported and where will it be stored. I don't think the budget would make a big impact on the health of the Indian aviation industry," Ranganathan said.

The provision of increasing the service tax from 10 to 12 per cent will make the airfare costlier, up by Rs 200-300. However, the limit of duty-free baggage allowance for Indians travelling abroad has been raised.

Allowance for adults has been marked up from Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000 and for children from Rs 12,000 to  Rs 15,000.

"If it is just a hike of Rs 200-300 in total, I don't think any passenger will be affected. Increase in duty-free baggage allowance is good news as people spend so much on foreign tours but cannot shop because they do not want to pay the heavy duties," said Ashutosh Mishra, senior manager with a leading corporate industry.

Air India employees are pleased. Having not got salary and allowances for the past 3-5 months, an AI commander said on condition of anonymity, "I hope we get the salary as the government has decided to pump Rs 4,000 crore in the airline."

'Welcome changes'
Vijay Mallya, chairman of loss-making Kingfisher Airlines, welcomed the budget.

"External Commercial Borrowing for working capital is welcome. Interest costs and hedging costs will be much less than rupee-denominated costs. Direct import of fuel, announced earlier but confirmed now, will greatly reduce fuel cost. Permitting foreign airlines to invest up to 49 per cent as and when will be good," Mallya said. 

Rs 35,000
Duty-free baggage allowance for adults

Rs 15,000
Duty-free baggage allowance for children up to 10 years

Wanted: A professional to bring Air India on track

By Govindraj Ethiraj

Whether or not the "subsidy" bill for Air India is raised in Budget 2012, the fact is that the flag carrier's mounting losses and "revival plans" will have to be accounted for soon enough. At least, partly.

It's amply clear that Air India is an extravagance the government will hold onto with dear life. Say what you want.

It's equally clear that criticizing Air India for its sloth and size is, thus, futile. Moreover, be advised that the sinking airline will continue to devour thousands of crores of taxpayers' money as well as public sector bank deposits all the way to the blue sky yonder.

REDJet abruptly suspends all flights ‘indefinitely’


The Barbados-based airline REDjet announced late Friday it was suspending all flights from Saturday after ten months in the air in a bid to “protect the long term interests of the business”, the company said.

“REDjet has no alternative but to suspend flights from 23.59 p.m. on 16 March until further notice,” said a message posted on the airline’s website and emailed to the media.

But the airline said a further update would be given on Monday and said “all tickets for future travel will remain valid”.

In the email signed by REDjet director Robbie Burns, the airline outlined a three-week process for travellers to get refunds and urged travellers to check the company website and call centre for updates.

“Passengers booked on any REDjet flight from 17th March should contact the call centre or check the website for information about their flight 24 hours prior to departure,” Burns said in the email.

Billed as a low-cost, no-frills carrier initially offering fares as low as 9.99 US dollars, REDjet this week began selling tickets for flights between Barbados and Antigua to start in June.

The privately owned airline did not give specific reasons for the shutdown but suggested that it was expecting “state assistance” to continue operations and blamed “subsidised” competitors for its troubles.

“REDjet is hopeful that we will be given a small part of the State assistance others receive, as it will allow us to get our recently approved and exciting new routes established and profitable. Once this happens, our shareholders and staff will do their utmost to see that there is no return to high fares and business as usual,” the company said.

Incorporated in Barbados, REDjet took to the air with a regularly scheduled service between Barbados and Guyana in May 2011.

Last month, the airline began operating a service to St Lucia. It also flies to Trinidad and Jamaica and had announced it was to begin flights to St Maarten in May.

The regional aviation industry retains heavy government ownership, control and direction, with Caribbean Airlines/Air Jamaica and LIAT remaining state-owned enterprises, often in the grips of labour disputes, heavy losses, cash bailouts and customer dissatisfaction.

But since REDjet’s arrival the two island-hopping carriers have stepped up competition in pricing and scheduling.

“We have seen other carriers drastically cut their fares in an effort to shut down REDjet and return to high fares and business as usual with no regard to the negative impact on travellers. Unlike us, they do not have to be profitable to stay in business,” REDjet said.

“In spite of their subsidised efforts, our passenger numbers have continued to rise,” the airline added.

The airline’s supporters say the low-cost model would spur greater intra-regional travel and tourism and offer more options for traveller. Critics remain unconvinced that a low-cost business model can fly regional skies, already the graveyard of several similar upstart carriers over the last two decades.

Apart from generating unprecedented press notice, REDjet’s entry into the aviation marketplace scored several coups in intra-regional travel beyond the low-cost model. It joined Caribbean Airlines in offering inter-island jet travel and made heavy use of social media marketing.

Within a week of launch last year, the airline’s Facebook page had already surpassed 16,000 supporters. It has introduced ticket sales through cellphone kiosks and began flying the West Indies cricket team during their home series with Pakistan and India.

Arik Air, Nigeria’s major airline, suspends its Abuja-London routes over landing slot dispute

LAGOS, Nigeria — Arik Air Ltd., the major air carrier in Nigeria, says it will suspend flights from the oil-rich nation’s capital to London over an ongoing dispute with the United Kingdom over landing slots.

In a statement Friday, the carrier said its Abuja-London route would stop over its lack of slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The Nigerian airline has said a government agreement entitles local airlines to 21 slots at U.K. airports, but the airline refused to pay increased rates for some Heathrow slots, which are administered by a private company.

The company suspended flights for some time last year, sparking a dispute between Nigeria and the U.K. that saw British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways fined $235 million over alleged inflated ticket prices. Those fines have since been dropped.

Direct Air parent files for bankruptcy protection

The parent of Direct Air, the largest airline serving the Punta Gorda Airport in Charlotte County, filed for bankruptcy protection late Thursday — three days after it abruptly stopped flying.

Southern Sky Air & Tours LLC sought Chapter 11 protection from creditors, listing between $10 million and $50 million in debts and just $500,000 to $1 million in assets, according to its filing.

Although the airline said Friday it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy "as soon as possible," the filing also raises questions about whether Direct Air will ever get off the ground again.

When it ceased service late Monday afternoon, leaving passengers stranded, Direct Air said it planned to resume flights on May 15. The airline made no such pledge, however, in its latest statement.

The carrier flew more than 160,000 passengers through Punta Gorda Airport last year, so its demise would be a significant blow.

Airport officials said earlier this week they would try to minimize disruption to passengers, and on Thursday, Sun Country Airlines announced plans to offer discounts on certain flights to Direct Air customers.

In its bankruptcy filing late Thursday in Massachusetts, Southern Sky said it has 100 to 200 creditors, though it did not submit the required list of the top 20.

A company statement said operating management has been replaced. A Washington, D.C.-based investor group purchased a majority stake in the airline in September.

"Despite the investment of additional working capital into Direct Air in the preceding months by the new majority owners, rising fuel costs and other operating expenses pushed the charter company into a severe operating loss position," the company said.

"As a result of its financial difficulties, Direct Air was compelled to seek bankruptcy protection in an effort to reorganize the business."

The Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based airline began flying in March 2007 and came to Punta Gorda Airport in late 2008. It is one of only two carriers at Punta Gorda, with nearly two dozen weekly flights to Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois, according to the airport's website.

The service suspension, reportedly made because Direct Air could not pay its fuel bill, came during the height of the tourism season. February through April have always been the airline's busiest months of the year at Punta Gorda. Ticketed passengers were told to contact their credit card companies for refunds.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it is investigating the handling of an escrow account that is required to hold all charter participant funds until payment was made to the airline flying the flights.