While the U.S. is hitting records every month with the number of visas it is issuing in India, visa appointment delays continue to be a nightmare for Indians seeking interview slots for the U.S. visitor visa.
The Skift India Newsletter is your go-to platform for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.
The U.S. aims to increase visa interview appointments for Indian students by 30 percent this summer, said U.S. Consul General Mike Hankey during his recent visit to the country. “Last year, we sent more than 1.25 lakh Indian students to the U.S., setting a new record for Indian students going to the U.S. in a year and establishing India as the leading country of sending students. This year we are trying to increase that number (of students) further,” he told news agency Press Trust of India. In another development, the U.S. visitor visa wait times in India dropped by 50 percent — from an average of 669 days in mid-March to 337 days in early April — according to the U.S. Travel Association. The industry lobby group attributed the wait time reduction to the U.S. State Department’s initiatives this year to reduce the visa backlog, such as bringing processing staff in on weekends, making overseas embassies available to Indian nationals in other countries and hiring more staff. Applicants in India had an especially absurd wait time. In January, for example, they had to wait 999 days for an interview at the Mumbai embassy.
Tata-owned Air India is reportedly mulling over a partnership with German aircraft-maintenance giant Lufthansa Technik and French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM‘s engineering unit, to bid for the airline’s erstwhile engineering arm AI Engineering Services, when it is put up for sale, according to a report by an Indian daily. Now owned by the government, the maintenance, repair, and operations unit largely services Air India’s fleet. Through its engineering arm SIA Engineering Company, Singapore Airlines, which holds a 25.1 percent stake in Air India, will also participate in the consortium, the report added. In order to finalize the consortium and deepen commercial ties with Air India, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr reportedly met multiple times with top executives of Air India and Tata Sons.
Mayfair Elixir, a unit of East India-based hospitality company Mayfair Hotels and Resorts, has launched Mayfair Spring Valley, Guwahati in the eastern state of Assam. The resort will feature 240 rooms including suites and villas and offer banqueting and conferencing facilities as well as a helipad within the complex. With event spaces spanning from 25,000 to 35,000 square feet, the resort is designed to host a range of large and small-scale events in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Passenger traffic at Bengaluru airport in the south Indian state of Karnataka jumped 96 percent to 31.91 million in the financial year 2022-23 compared to 16.28 million in the previous year. Domestic traffic grew 85.2 percent to 28.12 million in financial year 2023 against 15.18 million in financial year 2022 while international traffic rose over three-fold to 3.78 million during the period from 1.10 million in the year ending March 2022, Bangalore International Airport said. The increase in passenger volumes can be attributed to post-pandemic operations resumption, as well as the re-introduction of key routes and the initiation of new routes connecting leading business hubs and travel destinations.
Tata-owned Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) has announced the signing of two new hotels in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The 230-room Taj and 130-room Vivanta branded greenfield projects will be a part of an integrated complex that will also include hi-end retail. The first mixed-use development project in Dhaka with the two hotels is strategically located at a short driving distance from the Shahjalal International airport. “Dhaka’s close proximity and cultural affinity to West Bengal with significant IHCL presence makes it a strategic association. We are delighted to partner with Borak Real Estate of the Unique Group, one of the largest business conglomerates in Bangladesh,” said Puneet Chhatwal, managing director and chief executive of IHCL.
India’s newest airline Akasa Air has launched daily direct flights from Bhubaneswar in the east Indian state of Odisha to Pune and Bengaluru. As per the schedule, flight QP1381 will take off from Bengaluru at 5.40 a.m. and arrive at Bhubaneswar at 7.50 a.m. The departure timing of flight QP1382 from Bhubaneswar is at 8.40 a.m. to reach Pune at 10.50 a.m. Flight QP1383 will leave Pune at 11.25 a.m. and arrive at Bhubaneswar at 1.30 p.m. The flight QP1384 will fly from Bhubaneswar at 2.05 p.m. and arrive at Bengaluru at 4.20 p.m. daily.
Indian hospitality company ITC Hotel Group’s Fortune Hotels has announced the opening of Fortune Resort Kalimpong in the east Indian state of West Bengal. The hotel features rooms and suites with views of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. “We are committed to providing our guests memorable experiences in this panoramic town by the Teesta River, endowed with a unique culture, colonial architecture, Buddhist monasteries, and sprawling tea plantations,” said Samir MC, managing director of Fortune Hotels.
Flight problems and baggage comprised the majority of 347 passenger complaints received by scheduled domestic airlines in March, Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation stated in a report. A total of 38.6 percent of complaints were flight-related problems, while 22.2 percent were related to baggage issues. Refund-related problems were just 11.5 percent, it said. “Refund and staff behavior-related complaints have seen significant improvement in the last three months. In January, there were 23.7 percent of complaints related to refunds, which have come down to 11.5. Similarly, complaints related to staff behavior that was 8.9 per cent in January have come to 4 percent,” the report stated. The report further states that Air India (106) received the most complaints, followed by SpiceJet (100) and IndiGo (66).
The civil aviation ministry has granted site clearance for the Sabarimala Greenfield Airport project at Kottayam in the south Indian state of Kerala. The project is proposed to be developed on approximately 2,250 acres of land and intended to be undertaken at a public-private partnership model at an approximate cost of $487 million. The ministry has given the move after considering the fact that the Sabarimala airport would not impact the operation of Madurai Airport in Tamil Nadu, which is located just 92 miles away from the upcoming airport. The move is likely to benefit close to 10 million devotees, who visit the Sabarimala Temple every year.
Marriott’s Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel in the south Indian state of Telangana has committed to a range of sustainable initiatives that will help reduce waste and minimize carbon footprint. Some of the measures include the introduction of an all-electric fleet for guest transportation and other operational needs, replacing plastic bottles with glass bottles, investing in solar panels on its rooftop to harness renewable energy and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, implementing a comprehensive wastewater management and rainwater harvesting system, and installing sensors in public areas such as lights and taps to prevent wastage of water and excess electricity consumption.
Editor’s Note: We will not be publishing our newsletter on Friday, April 21 because of Eid al-Fitr.
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Photo credit: The U.S. visitor visa wait times in India dropped by 50 percent. Source: Louis Allen / Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/rovingisydney/7877129060/