While a surge in air traffic in the world’s third-largest aviation market led to record jet orders, Go First's bankruptcy made lessors apprehensive about India.
Global aviation leasing watchdog Aviation Working Group — that monitors leasing and financing laws on behalf of planemakers and lessors — has placed India on a watchlist with a negative outlook. Citing India’s failure to comply with international aircraft repossession norms after cash-strapped airline Go First was granted bankruptcy protection, the UK-based entity’s outlook falls under the Cape Town Convention, an international treaty on plane repossessions. India’s score has been reduced to 3 from 3.5 earlier. The move could translate into higher leasing costs for other Indian carriers. India’s inability to process deregistration applications for aircraft, whose leases got terminated before a freeze was imposed, resulted in a negative outlook, the watchdog said in a notice. Go First’s lessors include SMBC Aviation Capital, CDB Aviation’s GY Aviation Leasing, Jackson Square Aviation and Bank of China Aviation. The inability to repossess Go First’s planes in a timely manner comes as Indian air travel is booming and local carriers, which regularly turn to lessors to help finance plane purchases, have ordered hundreds of new jets. Go First filed for bankruptcy protection last week, blaming “faulty” Pratt & Whitney engines for the grounding of about half its 54 Airbus A320neos. The airline is only the latest — after the failures of Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines — struggling to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive market.
Homegrown hospitality company Suba Group of Hotels, a master franchisee of Choice Hotels India, has launched a 37-room Click Hotels Tulian in pilgrim town Katra in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. “With the launch of Click Hotel Tulian, we look forward to serving all pilgrims, and leisure tourists along with new-age travelers. This is our second hotel with Tulian Hotels & Resort Group,” said Mansur Mehta, managing director of Suba Group of Hotels. The company recently launched a 39-room Click Hotel Ayra in Seshadripuram, Bengaluru in the south Indian state of Karnataka and a 27-room Clarks Collection Dehradun in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Franco-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM has expressed interest to expand routes and capacity as well as increase its codeshare routes with Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo. “We want to increase capacity, routes… We would like to expand with IndiGo… the ambition is to do more international (flights),” Claude Sarre, general manager of the India subcontinent at Air France-KLM told Indian news agency Press Trust of India. Air France-KLM, which has increased its seat capacity by 22 percent compared to 2022, operates up to 46 weekly flights connecting four Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. It also has a codeshare agreement with IndiGo for more than 30 cities. Last week, the European airline group introduced a premium comfort class on flights between various Indian cities and Amsterdam.
Global visa outsourcing company GBS Technology Services has partnered with Global Visa Centre World — the exclusive external service provider to the Greek Consular and Diplomatic Authorities — to roll out new visa application centers for travelers to Greece from India. Launching its first center in New Delhi, GBS is set to roll out new visa application centers in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Mumbai with assistance from visa service provider VFS Global. These new centers feature bigger premium lounges, large seating capacity and increased submission counters for visa applicants traveling to Greece. “The new Greek visa application center will provide travelers from India with an easier application process, increased accessibility, better information and improved support pan-India,” said Kaviraj Bhandari, CEO of GBS Technology Services. Greece attracts approximately 50,000 tourists from India annually.
To ensure there is no congestion at major airports, the Indian civil aviation ministry has asked airport operators to carry out a thorough internal analysis of their throughput and space requirements in order to boost infrastructure for hassle-free travel. The issues related to congestion at airports during peak travel periods and measures required to be put in place were discussed during a meeting civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia held with airport and airline operators. “Met with airline and airport operators to deliberate on a roadmap for infrastructure and processes to cater to the record growth projections in the number of passengers traveling through air,” Scindia said in a tweet. Steps to strengthen infrastructure, especially to deal with peak hour traffic at airports, as well as to expand capacity were deliberated upon.
The Reserve Bank of India — India’s central bank — has stated that fees and charges payable in India on forex prepaid cards, store value cards and travel cards must be settled in the local currency, which is the rupee. “The use of such cards is limited to permissible current account transactions and subject to the prescribed limits under the Foreign Exchange Management Rules,” the bank stated. Previously, the central bank said that no prior permission is required from the banks for such cards. It further said that Indian citizens who will purchase the travel cards can also refund unutilized foreign exchange balance after a period of 10 days from the last transaction.
India’s finance ministry is set to make an equity infusion of $36.4 million into regional carrier Alliance Air. The government-backed airline is currently facing financial challenges — with its net loss widening to $54.4 million in fiscal 2021-22 — and in the past few months have witnessed instances of strikes by pilots who protested the non-restoration of salaries to the pre-Covid level and non-payment of allowance. Alliance Air, earlier part of Tata-owned Air India, is now owned by AI Assets Holding Limited, a special-purpose vehicle formed by the central government. The disinvestment-bound Alliance Air operates around 130 flights daily. Flights under Alliance Air brand are operated by Airline Allied Services, which changed its name to Alliance Air Aviation Limited.
India’s newest airline Akasa Air has launched the second phase of its training and development center — Akasa Air Learning Academy — to provide experiential training to its pilots, cabin crew, engineers and airport services and security personnel. The new training features include India’s only door trainer for next-generation aircraft which enables the cabin crew to practise normal and emergency situations in a realistic environment. The door trainer is equipped to simulate multi-scenario emergency situation management. The airline’s approach to learning and development goes beyond safety, service and soft skills. The facility has multiple large training rooms equipped with a library of aviation knowledge resources, as well as a mock-up of the Akasa Air’s aircraft cabin for service training.
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Photo credit: Go First was granted bankruptcy protection last week. Praveen Thirumurugan/Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/Tr04gFx1kNc Praveen Thirumurugan / Go First Airlines in the apron