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Praful Patel rules out wrong-doing in AI's Boeing deal

     London: Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has ruled out any wrong-doing in Air India's decision to buy an all Boeing fleet at an estimated cost of Rs 30,000 crore instead of going for aircraft manufactured by the European Consortium Airbus Industries. Addressing a press conference here, Patel said, "The controversy is only in the media. We follow established and well-laid down procedures. Air India takes decisions on what is good for them. They have techno-economic evaluation. They cannot go outside the guidelines." Emphasizing on the need to increase the air connectivity with the neighbouring countries he said, "India had worked out a policy on increasing air connectivity to SAARC nations in 2003 itself but the permission was not granted by Pakistan Government to do so, including by the private carriers". Patel urged Pakistan to cooperate in India's endeavour to increase air connectivity. He said, "If buses can ply, why not planes fly." "Besides Indian Airlines, which is already operating flights to Pakistan, Air India is also planning to launch services to Lahore and Karachi," said Patel. However, he expressed his dissatisfaction over the restrictions on air connectivity inspite of improving bilateral relations. On improving Indo-UK bilateral relations Patel said, "The total number of flights of Air India to the UK will increase from ten flights few months ago to 24 each week when the Kolkata-London flights are launched next month." Indian and British carriers like Virgin Atlantic, British Midlands, Jet Airways and Air Sahara, apart from the previously designated ones like AI and British Airways, would start full operations on the Indo-UK sector by this winter, he added. Emphasizing the need for modernising airports, Patel said that the India has launched a comprehensive programme to modernise its airports to international standards. "The design for the international airport Kolkata, the eastern metropolis, had been awarded to a French firm which had designed the Charles de Gaulles Airport of Paris after an international design competition. The work will begin by early 2006, siad Patel. On the restructuring and modernisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports, he said the new joint venture partners for the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the two metro airports would be selected by June end as the international bids, for which nine consortia are in fray, close on June 24. Similarly the airport at Ahmedabad would be ready by 2007 as it was one of the "priority" non-metro airports to be modernized.
- May 17, 2005

Air India resumes New Delhi-Toronto service (Go To Top)

     New Delhi: Air India today resumed its service from New Delhi to Toronto, two decades after the world's deadliest aviation attack killed 329 people aboard the ill fated Air India flight, Kanishka, on the same route. Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Tourism Minister Renuka Chowdhury flagged off the inaugural flight from New Delhi via northern Amritsar and Birmingham to Toronto at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here. They also launched a special service, Swagat Seva, at the airport for providing help to foreign tourists. Air India will operate three services a week to Toronto. Patel said that Air India endeavoured to reach out to cities not yet figuring on the air map. "There are many big cities and regions which are not yet been internationally connected. Air India is the national airlines. It should not just operate only out of Mumbai or Delhi but should also reach out to the major cities. That is the endeavour," Patel said. Artists from Punjab lent a jubilant touch to the launch of the flight as they roped in both the ministers to shake a leg with them. The new Boeing 777 Air India aircraft will land at Toronto's Pearson International Airport this evening. The national carrier had received a fatal blow in 1985 when its Kanishka aircraft, a Boeing 747 flight from Toronto to Mumbai was blown off the Irish coast in the Atlantic ocean, killing 329 passengers and crew. A British Columbia Supreme Court had on March 16 acquitted prime accused Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, of first- degree murder and conspiracy charges in the Kanishka aircraft blast. However, following public outcry against the verdict, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae was appointed to advice the Canadian Government whether a public inquiry was needed into the disaster after the acquittals.
- May 15, 2005

Amritsar airport gearing up to give a royal treatment (Go To Top)

     Amritsar: With renovation and remodernisation work in full swing, the Rajasansi airport here is gearing up to give a royal treat to the air travellers next month. "We started the work last June and it is expected to be complete by this June. After the completion the airport will have capacity to handle 500 passengers. The new building will be centrally air conditioned, lifts, escalators and rest all the facilities which are in Metro Airport will be provided," said Vijay Mulekar, director of the airport. The airport is well linked by flights from all over India and has been upgraded to be an international airport. "There is a Singapore Airlines, which has started, the Singapore Airlines is also catering to the complete west Coast of America, Canada as well as Australia. So we have people from all directions merging into Singapore and coming across to India through Amritsar. So, I would say Amritsar with a really good airport becomes global destination and gate way to India," said Singh. The airport has come a long way since operating 3 fights per week to operating 56 flights per week today. In its new shape, the airport is set to make its mark on the global aviation map.
- May 11, 2005

Kingfisher Airlines, India's new budget airline, hits the skies (Go To Top)

    Mumbai: Another Indian budget airliner hit the skies on Monday when Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines flew out of Mumbai towards Bangalore. With the government forecasting an annual jump of 20 percent for the airline sector over the next five years, Mallya said that he was determined to give his airline a unique identity that few would be able to challenge. For starters, he said that his airline stewardesses would all be models and each of his planes would have seat-back entertainment systems. "We have extremely attractive and well-trained flight attendants. We have a brand new fleet of aircraft. We have individual entertainment systems where every single seat has video screen," Mallya, the chairman of the UB Group, was quoted by a foreign news agency, as saying. Predicting a rapid growth for the airline, Mallya said: "I will have 11 aircraft in the air by this year itself. We will have another six next year. By 2010, we should have 55 planes flying. My vision is to make Kingfisher the largest private sector carrier."

    Other companies planning to enter the Indian aviation market in the coming year include Spice Air, Go Air, Indigo, Indus One and Air One.
- May 9, 2005

Mallya's Kingfisher airlines launched (Go To Top)

     Mumbai: The UB group Chairman, Vijay Mallya, launched his company's Kingfisher Airlines in a glittering ceremony here late last night. The value-based airlines will have 11 aircrafts in its stable making 66 flights a day by December 2005. Kingfisher would also buy 30 aircraft from Airbus industries. The fleet expansion will cost it around 15,000 crore rupees. "I'll have 11 aircrafts flying by December this year. I am fully funded and UB group provided all the necessary resources for that. As we go beyond and if we decide to augment our fleet, then IPO is always there as an option. Right now, there is lot of money that is being offered to me. When I need it, I will look at it. Otherwise I am quite happy on my own," Mallya said. The Mallya-owned carrier also plans to have a pricing scheme, whereby tickets will be priced between those of a business class and economy class on a full service carrier now. The airline will offer a single class configuration with 174 seats on all the routes. It is expected that the carrier will break even in the very first year of operations itself. Kingfisher has recently signed a ground-handling agreement for its A319s and A320s with Indian Airlines, in a deal between private and public companies that will bring benefits to both.
- May 8, 2005

Jet Airways to launch Mumbai-London daily flight on May 23 (Go To Top)

     London: Jet Airways, the India's largest privately owned airline has decided to launch daily non-stop flights between Mumbai and London from May 23. It will use A340-300 aircraft on this route, with 38 business class seats and 231 economy class seats. The flight will be operating daily from Heathrow Terminal 3, departing in the evening and arriving in Mumbai the following morning." Tickets are on immediate sale at Rs. 32,000 (399 pounds) per person return fare. Jet Airways commenced operations in 1993 and in the short span of 12 years, has established itself as a leading domestic full- service carrier in India with a 46 per cent market share. Currently it is operating over 270 flights daily and connecting to over 44 key tourist and business destinations and cities. The airline operates one of the youngest fleets in the world with an average age of 4.8 years, the release said. London-Mumbai flight will be the first entry of Jet Airways in the international service. The company is looking it as a major step towards the expansion in the global market. Dan Brewin, General Manager of Jet Airways in UK and Ireland said, "this is an extremely exciting time for the airline. Launching our first international service from India to the UK this month end marks a huge step in our global expansion plans. The UK market in particular is a key one for us, and we intend to increase capacity to Heathrow later this year."
- May 7, 2005

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