Thursday, December 26, 2013

Delta Sells Rock-Bottom Fares By Mistake: The Fares—Some Under $5—Will Be Honored by the Airline

The Wall Street Journal

By Jack Nicas

Dec. 26, 2013 1:51 p.m. ET

Amid the craziness of holiday travel, some customers scored a big win on Thursday when they found incredibly low fares on Delta Air Lines Inc.'s website.

Delta said the fares—which included round-trip, cross-country flights for $25—were errors. But the airline said it would honor the fares.

The glitch, which appeared around 10 a.m. EST, caused some domestic flights to be offered for below $5, not including taxes and fees, according to screenshots from, which tracks airline pricing.

It appears Delta then took down its website to prevent more fliers from booking the erroneous fares. The website was back up by midday Thursday and a Delta spokesman said the glitch has been resolved.

Tazmun Nahar, who runs, which tracks airfares, said she received an alert about the cheap fares Thursday morning. "So then we did some quality assurance" to confirm the fares, she said. "And we couldn't believe our eyes."

She quickly booked a $25 round-trip flight between New York and Seattle and three round-trip seats between New York and Los Angeles for $75 total. "Isn't that insane?" she said.

United Continental Holdings Inc.  experienced a similar error earlier this year when it offered mistake fares—including some that were virtually free not including taxes and fees. In that case, United also honored the mistaken fares.

George Hobica, founder of, said some airlines have language in their booking contracts that allows them to not honor fares posted by mistake. "But they do honor them typically," he said.


Airline pilot could lose house if convicted on child porn charges

TAMPA — The $471,000 house in St. Petersburg's Weedon Cove neighborhood was once owned by a pediatrician.

When she died, her airline pilot brother took possession.

If prosecutors get their way, the next owner could be the federal government.

Donald Edwin Gallagher Jr., an international pilot for American Airlines, was grounded in July to face federal charges of child porn possession and distribution. This month, a grand jury added to his trouble, accusing him of coercing two minors into sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating child porn.

Gallagher, 52, has been held in the Pinellas County Jail for five months, denied bail because Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Jenkins thought he seemed like a flight risk, given his Central American driver's license and his flying abilities.

Last week, the government filed paperwork announcing its intention to seek forfeiture of Gallagher's 3,156-square-foot house at 9200 San Martin Blvd. NE, near the western bank of the Gandy Bridge.

Federal law allows criminal forfeiture in child porn cases. Typically, the government takes smaller items such as laptop computers and hard drives.

The six-count federal indictment suggests that the residence and Gallagher's alleged conduct were somehow linked. It characterizes the home as having been "used or intended to be used to commit or to promote the commission of such offense."

The home was owned for 16 years by Gallagher's sister, Dr. Pamela J. Gallagher, who was found dead there in June 2010 at age 56. The cause of her death was undetermined.

Probate records show that the following March, the house descended to the brother.

In the summer of 2011, according to the indictment, he used two minors in child porn photographs and videos. The court file does not reflect how he knew the children, nor does it provide age or gender. He is also accused of distributing child porn early this year and possessing it in July.

Until his arrest, Gallagher flew international routes to Europe, South America and Central America. At an early court appearance, prosecutor Josephine Thomas said Gallagher has an infant child with a woman in Peru, two teens with another in El Salvador and two adult children in South Florida.


 Last week, the government filed paperwork announcing its intention to seek forfeiture of Gallagher's 3,156-square-foot house at 9200 San Martin Blvd NE, near the western bank of the Gandy Bridge. 

Donald Edwin Gallagher Jr., an international pilot for American Airlines, was grounded in July to face federal charges of child porn possession and distribution. This month, a grand jury added to his trouble, accusing him of coercing two minors into sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating child porn. 
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Aircraft suffers glitch - Kalibo, Philippines

KALIBO, Philippines -- A plane from the Philippine Airlines Express (PAL Express) suffered glitch from the Kalibo International Airport (KIA), a main gateway to Central Philippines' world-famous resort of Boracay Island, on Thursday night, authorities said.

Initial report from local officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the plane coming from Metro Manila to KIA was about to taxi its way to the departure area when the pilot decided to stop the plane at the middle of the runway.

CAAP officials said the front wheel of the plane got stuck on the runway, which prompted the pilot to call for an emergency. CAAP authorities then assisted the plane as it taxis its way to the departure area.

CAAP officials will continue to investigate the incident, the agency added. Passengers reported that they had to wait for 45 minutes before they were allowed to depart the plane.

This is the second accident happened in the airport in one week. Last December 21, a Zest Air Plane bound to South Korea overshoots at the runway of the KIA.


Antonov 12, Irkut, 12162: Accident occurred December 26, 2013 in the Irkutsk region - Russia

Firemen working next to the tail portion of the crashed An-12 cargo plane near the Siberian city of Irkutsk on December 26, 2013.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry has confirmed that the crash of the An-12 plane in the Irkutsk region has killed nine people.The plane crashed into territory of military unit, no shells detonated, Emergency Situations Ministry said.

"Information on the crash of an An-12 plane in the area of the railway station Batareinaya, Irkutsk district of the Irkutsk region, was received at 4:39 on Thursday," the Siberian Regional Center of the Emergency Situations Ministry told Interfax. The source said the plane was carrying nine people and they all were killed.

No servicemen were hurt in the An-12 plane crash near Irkutsk, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

"According to information received from the accident site, the crash of the transport plane near Irkutsk damaged the upper parts of two warehouses. There are no casualties among the military and the civilian personnel of the warehouses," an official form the Defense Ministry's press service and information department told reporters on Thursday.

"There is no fire on the crash site. The damage is being determined," the source said. "The warehouses damaged by the crash contained aircraft parts," the source said.

The An-12 plane that has crashed near Irkutsk did not receive fuel and did not undergo maintenance in Novosibirsk, a source in the region's law enforcement agencies told Interfax.

"The plane was owned by the company IrAvia. It arrived to get aircraft parts on Thursday and flew back on Thursday," the source said. The plane was neither civilian or military and was used by the Industry and Trade Ministry.

An-12 plane crashed into territory of military unit, no shells detonated - Emergency Situations Ministry

The An-12 plane crash into a military warehouse in the Irkutsk region did not cause detonation of ammunition, the Siberian Regional Center of the Emergency Situations Ministry told Interfax.

"No shells exploded. There has not been any detonation or explosions, either," he said.

The source confirmed that the plane crashed into the territory of a military unit.

"However, we have no information that the plane crashed into an ammunition warehouse," the Siberian Regional Center said.

Russian gov't setting up commission to probe place crash in Irkutsk - ministry
Russia's Industry and Trade Ministry is setting up a commission to investigate Thursday's crash of a cargo aircraft near Irkutsk, Russia, Interfax was told at the ministry.

"The management of the Irkutsk Aircraft-Building Plant has gone to the site of the crash," a ministry source said.

According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, the crash of the Antonov An-12 turboprop claimed nine lives. An Emergency Ministry team also went to the crash site. The plane had reportedly belonged to the Irkutsk Aircraft-Building Plant.

A source told Interfax the plane had been part of a test aircraft fleet overseen by the Industry and Trade Ministry, while the Eastern Siberian Investigation Department for the Transportation Industry said investigators were trying to find out whether the Antonov was a civilian or military aircraft.

The Irkutsk plant produced 154 An-12 planes between 1959 and 1962. The An-12 has a maximum speed of 660 kilometers per hour, a range of 5,530 kilometers, and a maximum flight altitude of 10,000 meters. It can carry a maximum commercial payload of 200 tonnes.

Transport plane crashes in Siberia: six people are feared dead - source

The crew of the An-12 plane that crashed while lading at the Irkutsk-2 airport had six people, a source in the Irkutsk region's emergency services told Interfax. "The plane was carrying six people. They were the crew," the source said.

"The plane was carrying six people. They were the crew. The plane was a cargo plane. All people aboard are feared dead," the source said.

The Emergency Situations Ministry has confirmed that the An-12 plane that crashed near Irkutsk was carrying six crewmembers.

According another sourse, nine people have died in the crash. "According to the information specified, nine people were on board, everyone died," the source said.

The Siberian regional center of the Emergency Situations Ministry, in turn, told Interfax that plane had crashed in the Irkutsk region in the area of the station Batareinaya at 4:38 p.m. on Thursday.

The source said the information about the people aboard the plane is being clarified. Firefighters and other emergency services have left for the scene, Andrei Shutov, the head of the Emergency Situations Ministry's Main Department, told Interfax.

Eurocopter unveils next-gen helicopters, eyes Indian market

Aviation major Eurocopter has unveiled its next-generation utility helicopters for growing markets in India and other Asian countries for parapublic missions, oil and gas airlift and emergency medical services.

The company is confident of getting certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency for both new helicopters -- EC175 and EC145 T2 -- in the first half of 2014, said a spokesperson for Eurocopter, a unit of European aerospace and defence giant EADS.

"We strongly believe that the EC175 and EC145 T2 will be well appreciated by customers in Asia as they cater to a wide range of mission capabilities in this region where heliborne services are increasing in demand," Derek Sharples, Eurocopter South East Asia CEO, told a group of visiting journalists from the Asia-Pacific.

The EC145 T2, a twin-engine light utility helicopter, can be used for various activities, including search and rescue, emergency medical services and VIP transport, said Jochen Schmid, sales manager at Eurocopter.

The rotorcraft, the latest member in the EC145 family, features new Arriel 2E engines and an innovative digital avionics suite with four-axis autopilot.

Eurocopter has received orders for over 90 EC145 T2 helicopters, the most significant contract being with the DRF (German Air Rescue) for 25 aircraft.

The medium-sized twin-engine EC175, which can carry up to 18 passengers, is designed for offshore transportation sectors like oil and gas duties and search and rescue missions.

It offers a combination of fast cruise speed and high safety levels, Schmid said.

Eurocopter recently organized demonstration flights of both helicopters in Bangkok. The flights were part of an Asian tour that covered Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.


Check gold smuggling by some of your staff, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence tells Air India

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has told Air India that some of its employees are smuggling gold into the country, and a few of them are even repeat offenders.

DRI Director General Najib Shah has sent a letter to Rohit Nandan, chairman and managing director of Air India, listing some cases involving the national carrier’s crew, flight engineers and ground handlers. “We have told the airline that the attitude of their supervisors is very casual about the problem and the system needs to be robust, especially in smuggling-prone airports. We have been told that the employees involved have been suspended while an internal inquiry is being conducted,” said a DRI official. The department has sought details about the repeat offenders.

Air India did not respond to an email and SMS from The Indian Express on the issue.

DRI made some big gold seizures recently. In one incident, 32 kg of gold biscuits were found hidden in a toilet next to the cockpit in an Air India flight from Dubai to Chennai.

In another seizure, gold bars worth Rs 1.84 crore were seized from an Air India Express flight at the Calicut airport. Last month, the enforcement agency arrested two women crew member of an Air India Express flight at the Kozhikode airport for carrying 6 kg gold.

Most of the seizures have been made from Air India flights from Dubai and Bangladesh, said the official. The airline operates 10 daily flights from Dubai to six cities in the country, including one each to Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai. There are two flights from Kochi to Dubai.

Between April-November this year, DRI booked 576 cases of gold smuggling worth Rs 211 crore from all sources. In April-December last year, the figure stood at 617 cases worth Rs 52 crore.

“We are coming across cases where linkages between travel agents, syndicates, passengers and jewelers are coming to the fore. Smaller airports are more susceptible, including ports like Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, Coimbatore and Lucknow,” said the official.

Another official said there have been cases involving other airlines also. For instance, in the case of a foreign airline, the entire ground  handling staff was alleged to be involved in the smuggling. Aided by crew members, traffic superintendents and other staff, they helped the carriers smuggle the gold out of the airport, said an official.

The increase in gold smuggling is seen to be a result of a whopping hike in duty to 10 per cent for gold bars and 15 per cent for jewellery, the 20:80 scheme of the RBI whereby 20 per cent gold has to be exported and the provision of upfront payment of customs duty. 

Mumbai: Ice crystals problem in Dreamliner to persist

There’s no solution in sight to the problem of formation of ice crystals in the engines of Air India’s Dreamliner aircraft, the Air India management has said. The airline officials attributed the problem to the installation of General Electric (GE) company’s newly designed blades.

Last month, Dreamliner 787’s manufacturer Boeing had issued an advisory to all airlines, including Air India which has GE company engines installed in its aircraft. Boeing urged the airlines to deviate the plane by 50 nautical miles when faced with a cloudburst as ice crystals could get stuck in the engine, thereby affecting the aircraft’s performance.

The problem is found to be more pertinent on tropical routes, including those to Australia and Japan. While Japan Airway Ltd has seized the operation after the advisory, Air India has refrained from doing so.

When asked why it took Boeing a year to issue an advisory even though the Dreamliner aircraft have been inducted into Air India’s fleet since last September, additional general manager-technical (flight operations) P Balachandran said, “Earlier, there was no mechanism available with Boeing to test the efficiency of the newly designed blades. But now, since it’s available and the problem has been pointed out, the manufacturer has asked us to take the precautionary step of avoiding thunderstorms.”

“Normally, other aircraft avoid thunderstorms by deviating just 10-20 nautical miles,” added Balachandran, who was speaking on the aircraft during a seminar.


Maharashtra departments may not move into Air India building

After the state bid for leasing out a portion of Air India building premises to shift some of the offices of the state government, the state seems to have now lost hope.

The state had bid for as much as 1.08lakh sqft in floors of the premises in May, but since there was no response from Air India, the state PWD seems to have given up hope of renting out the premises. This means that the state will have to find an alternative to shift some of the offices, while the carry out renovation of the lower floors and the annexe.

“The state had offered a bid of Rs200 per sqft and it was the lowest bidder. The other bidder was found to be ineligible. So, the only bidder was the state. Air India should have got back to us, but they have not... We  believe they are not happy with the price quoted by us. So, they would want to get a better rent for their premises,” said a state official.

“In fact SBI has rented out the premises in the building at a higher rate – about 300 a sqft. Air India must be expecting a bid close to that. All they could have done is set a reserve price and we would have bid accordingly,” said a state government official.

The decision to lease out of the premises started after Air India decided to move its headquarters from Mumbai to New Delhi. After the Mantralaya building caught fire in 2012, the state had to renovate the Mantralaya building. Some of its offices were shifted to World Trade Centre. Offices on the ground and first three floors will have to be vacated now as work of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors will be completed by December end.


Crunch in seat capacity behind high air fares

A year after Kingfisher Airlines discontinued operations, the combined capacity of all airlines in India has barely recovered to 2,30,000 seats , still 10,000 adrift of the number offered when Vijay Mallya's airline was in operation.

The low pace of expansion of capacity by the airlines even in a year when the domestic passenger demand has risen an anemic 6 percent is the reason for the high fares in the industry.

"Currently, average fares in the domestic sector are about 25 percent higher than last year. We would see fares in the domestic sector rationalizing, if airlines increase capacity (more). An aggressive capacity addition by the airlines would have offset up to10 percentage points hike in fares ," said Sharad Dhall, president at, an online travel portal.

It is this shortage that eggs India based airlines to announce plans to buy or lease aircraft continuously with a target till 2024. The airlines need to ramp up their capacity to 1 million domestic seats a day which is four times more than the current 2,30,000 seats a day they are offering.

But industry sources said the industry can keep up its growth momentum only if it keeps up a delicate balance between adding capacity to keep fares low and yet keep the rates high enough to break even.

Airlines agree that the capacity addition by them in the recent years has not kept pace with the rise in demand.

"Our carriers need to increase the daily seat offering to one millions seats by 2016 to get the aviation sector going in the country. A couple of new players have announced plans to launch airlines in the country. I hope they add capacity aggressively," said Keyur Joshi, co-founder and chief operating officer of, India's largest online travel portal.

"Increasing capacity will definitely bring down fares. We are in a market where one airline or the others are trying to distorting the market with ridiculously cheap fares, which is unsustainable," said an airline executive, who did not want to be identified.

Currently, IndiGo is the only carrier that is adding capacity constantly and all others have been slow in terms of capacity addition owing to various reasons, including bad financials.

This lack of capacity shows in India's ranking — it is currently one of the most under-penetrated aviation markets in the world. India has a fleet of around 422 aircraft for a population of 1.2 billion. In comparison, China has a fleet of 1,981 aircraft for 1.3 billion citizens.

A Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation data also shows that the number of domestic airline seats per capita is one of the lowest in India at just 0.07. This compares with 3.35 for Australia, 2.49 for the US, 1.38 for Canada and 1.05 for Japan. Yet to cater to demands of the aspiring middle class population (with annual income of Rs 5 lakh and above) of the country, which the travel and tourism industry estimates to be around 5 percent of the country's 1.2 billion people the availability of seats has to rise.

Air pockets

Airlines need to ramp up their capacity to 1 million domestic seats a day which is four times more than the current 2,30,000 seats a day they are offering

This shortage has pushed airlines to announce plans to buy or lease aircraft continuously with a target till 2024

The industry can keep up its growth momentum only if it can balance between adding capacity to keep fares low and keep the rates high enough to break even.