Monday 31 December 2018

LATVIA: Air Baltic Restart Riga To Dublin Flights 31st Of March 2019

Latvian Flag Carrier Air Baltic has announced that it will restart flights from its hub in Riga to Dublin, Ireland.

The inaugural flight will be on the 31st of March 2019, operated four times a week with the airline’s Airbus A220-300. Air Baltic had previously operated flights between these two cites, however, it discounted it in 2012.

Air Baltic was the launch customer for the A220-300 Previously Bombardier CS300 in 2016. The carrier plans to have an all A220 (CS300) fleet by 2025.

Originally founded in 1995, the airline currently flies to over 70 destinations from Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius—the carrier’s three bases.

For Summer 2019 season, Air Baltic will base A220s at Tallinn and start flights to Malaga, Brussels, and Copenhagen. In addition to Dublin, the airline will also launch Stuttgart and Lviv from Riga.

The flights will run every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Flight BT661 will depart Riga at 07:30, arriving into Dublin at 08:35 local time. The return flight BT662 will depart Dublin at 09:15 local time, arriving back into Riga at 14:10.

Martin Gauss, CEO of Air Baltic, said that he is glad to offer our guests regular flights to Dublin. This route has a strong demand for years now and we are very happy that we can add Dublin to our expanding route portfolio.

Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison also commented on the route’s announcement. This new service to Riga will further enhance the connectivity between Ireland and Latvia and is good news for passengers as it will offer additional choice and convenience, he said.

airBaltic, legally incorporated as AS Air Baltic Corporation, is the flag carrier of Latvia, with its head office on the grounds of Riga International Airport in Mārupe municipality near Riga. Its hub is at Riga International Airport with further bases at Tallinn Airport and Vilnius Airport.

The airline was established as Air Baltic on 28 August 1995 with the signing of a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and the Latvian state.

Operations started on 1 October 1995 with the arrival of the first Air Baltic aircraft, a Saab 340, at Riga, and that afternoon, the plane made the first passenger flight for Air Baltic.

In 1996, the airline's first Avro RJ70 was delivered; and Air Baltic joined the SAS frequent flier club as a partner. 1997 saw the opening of a cargo department and, in 1998, the airline's first Fokker 50 plane was delivered.

The adopted livery was mainly white, with the name of the airline written in blue on the forward fuselage, the 'B' logo being heavily stylized in blue checks. The checker blue pattern was repeated on the aircraft tailfin.

In 1999, Air Baltic became a joint stock company; it was previously a limited liability company. All of their Saab 340s were replaced by Fokker 50s.

By September, the airline had begun operating under the European Aviation Operating Standards, or JAR ops. Air Baltic welcomed the new millennium by introducing new uniforms and opening a cargo center at Riga's airport.

The first Boeing 737–500 joined the fleet in 2003, and on 1 June 2004, Air Baltic launched services from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, initially to five destinations. In October 2004, Air Baltic was rebranded as AirBaltic.

Their present livery consists of an all-white fuselage and lime tailfin. is displayed on the forward upper fuselage, and the word Baltic is repeated in blue on the lower part of the tailfin. In December 2006, the first Boeing 737–300 joined the fleet and was configured with winglets.

In July 2007, AirBaltic introduced an online check-in system. It was the first online check-in system in the Baltic states. In the spring of 2008, two long-haul Boeing 757s joined the existing AirBaltic fleet.

On 10 March 2008, it was announced that in the next three years the airline would acquire new aircraft, experiencing the largest fleet expansion in the company's history. The new additions will be next generation Q400 aircraft.

AirBaltic had strong links with SAS, which owned 47.2% of the airline, and operated frequent flights to SAS hubs in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, and the airline formerly used the SAS EuroBonus frequent flyer programme, but it now has its own frequent flyer programme called PINS.

Some of AirBaltic's products and services are still shared with SAS, including co-ordinated timetabling and shared airport lounges. AirBaltic is not a member of any airline alliance, but does have codeshare agreements in place with several Star Alliance member airlines and others.

AirBaltic had secondary hubs at Vilnius International Airport and Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. The majority of the routes commenced from Tallinn were cancelled shortly after opening, leading to complaints from the Estonian Consumer Protection Department.

In January 2009, SAS sold its entire stake in the company 47.2% of the airline to Baltijas aviācijas sistēmas Ltd (BAS) for 14 million lats. BAS was wholly owned by Bertolt Flick - President and CEO until December 2010, when 50% of BAS shares were transferred to Taurus Asset Management Fund Limited, registered in the Bahamas.

airBaltic operates direct year-round and seasonal flights from Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, mostly to metropolitan and leisure destinations within Europe. Long-haul flights are not operated.

airBaltic has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:

- Aegean Airlines

- Aeroflot

- Air France

- Air Malta

- Air Serbia

- Alitalia

- Austrian Airlines

- Azerbaijan Airlines

- Belavia

- British Airways

- Brussels Airlines

- Czech Airlines

- Etihad Airways

- Georgian Airways

- Iberia


- LOT Polish Airlines

- TAP Air Portugal


- Ukraine International Airlines

- Uzbekistan Airways

airBaltic fleet consists of the following aircraft:

- Airbus A220-300: 14

- Boeing 737-300: 6

- Boeing 737-500: 3

- Bombardier Q400: 12

- Total: 35

Tourism Observer

CHINA: Hainan Airlines Sells Its Building For US$190M

Hainan Airlines, the largest civilian-run air transport company in China, says it has sold its wholly-owned subsidiary, Beijing Guosheng Property Management Co. Ltd., in a deal worth 1.299 billion yuan (US$190 million).

According to the report, 100% of the equity will be transferred to the Beijing Houpu Yunde Investment Management Partnership, which is 99.99% held by Beijing Vanke Enterprise Limited Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of real estate giant Vanke Group.

The target company, Beijing Guosheng, was newly established by Hainan Airlines in July this year, having an estimated value of 1.739 billion yuan. Its main asset is the Beijing Hainan Airlines Building.

Hainan Airlines is part of HNA Group’s Aviation & Tourism arm. It is not unusual for HNA Group to sell off assets. The Chinese conglomerate sold its original headquarters, Wanghai Science and Technology Plaza, to Sunac China in August.

Meanwhile, Jinjiang International confirmed that it would acquire a 100% stake in the Radisson Hotel Group from HNA Group.

Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd. is an airline headquartered in Haikou, Hainan, People's Republic of China. It is the largest civilian-run air transport company, the fourth-largest airline in terms of fleet size in the People's Republic of China, and tenth-largest airline in Asia in terms of passengers carried.

It operates scheduled domestic and international services on 500 routes from Hainan and nine locations on the mainland, as well as charter services. Its main base is Haikou Meilan International Airport, with a hub at Beijing Capital International Airport and several focus cities.

Hainan Airlines was established in October 1989 as Hainan Province Airlines in Hainan, the largest special economic zone in China. Hainan Province Airlines became China's first joint-stock air-transport company following a restructuring in January 1993 and began scheduled services on 2 May 1993.

The initial 250 million yuan (US$31.25 million) was financed by the Hainan government (5.33%) and the corporate staff (20%). The rest came from institutional shareholders. In 1996, the provincial airline was renamed Hainan Airlines.

American Aviation LLC, controlled by George Soros, had been a major shareholder of the airline since 1995.

Executive-jet operations with a Bombardier Learjet 55 were added in April 1995. In 1998, Hainan Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to own shares in an airport after it purchased 25% stake of Haikou Meilan International Airport.

In 2000, HNA Group was established and became the third largest shareholder (7.31%) of Hainan Airlines. It also controlled Shanxi Airlines, Chang An Airlines and China Xinhua Airlines. By 2003 Hainan, the main airline, overtook Chang'an as the fourth largest airline in China.

In 2007 Grand China Air was established as the new holding company, when American Aviation became its subsidiary.

On 29 September 2005, HNA Group ordered 42 Boeing 787-8s, 10 of which were earmarked for the Hainan Airlines fleet. In January 2006, China Aviation Supplies Import and Export Group Corporation ordered 10 Boeing 737–800s for Hainan Airlines.

In September 2006, Hainan Airlines ordered another 15 Boeing 737-800s.

On 4 December 2007, Hainan Airlines acquired three Airbus A340-600s on lease from International Lease Finance Corporation. On 14 November 2007, Hainan Airlines received its first Airbus A330-200.

In June 2007, Hainan Airlines ordered 13 Airbus A320-200 aircraft. In late 2007, Hainan Airlines ordered 50 Embraer ERJ-145s and 50 Embraer 190s, with a total value at list price of $2.7 billion USD.

The 50-seat ERJ-145s were produced by the Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry (HEAI) joint venture, located in Harbin. E-190 deliveries began in December 2007. Due to the global financial crisis and huge losses incurred in 2008, the ERJ-145 order was reduced to 25. The E-190 order remained unchanged.

On 25 March 2015, Hainan Airlines announced its intention to acquire 30 Boeing 787-9s, which are all to join the Hainan Airlines Fleet. The delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

Two leased Boeing 787-9 aircraft were delivered in Spring 2016. Hainan Airlines will also be among the first operators of the COMAC C919, with deliveries beginning in the 2020s.

Hainan Airlines and the HNA Group have their headquarters in the HNA Building in Haikou, Hainan with other office premises HNA Tower in focused cities including Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

It was previously headquartered in the HNA Development Building a.k.a. the Haihang Development Building along Haixiu Road in Haikou.

As of 31 December 2016, Grand China Air is the direct parent company of Hainan Airlines (24.33% shares directly; an additional 1.29% shares via a subsidiary American Aviation LDC), which was partially owned by Hainan Development Holdings (24.97%), HNA Group (23.11%), Starstep (9.57%), Haikou Meilan International Airport (8.30%), Shenhua Group (5.56%) and other shareholders.

HNA Group owned 3.53% shares directly and via Changjiang Leasing, owned an additional 3.08% shares as the second largest shareholder. Haikou Meilan International Airport was the third largest shareholder for 5.13% shares.

Moreover, HNA Group also owned Haikou Meilan International Airport partially, as well as Hainan Airlines as cross ownership. A private equity fund that was managed by Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, owned 4.91% shares as the fourth largest shareholder.

Hainan Airlines operates several self-owned airport lounges at its main hub and focus cities including Beijing (T1 HNA Exclusive Terminal), Haikou, Xi'an, Guangzhou and Urumqi.

In addition, the airline will soon open its exclusive international departure lounge at its main international hub Beijing International Airport Terminal 2. The airline also operates an exclusive Transit Lounge for transferring HNA Group passengers at Beijing Airport Non-restricted area.

Hainan Airlines's frequent-flyer program is called Fortune Wings Club. The airlines's subsidiaries Hong Kong Airlines, Lucky Air, Tianjin Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines and parent company Grand China Air are also parts of the program.

It is also possible for passengers to collect miles on Alaska Airlines, Etihad Airways and the airlines which have codeshares with Hainan Airlines.

Members can earn miles on flights as well as through consumption with Hainan Airlines's credit card. When enough miles are collected, members can be upgraded to Elite members which are divided into four tiers: Fortune Wings Platinum membership, Gold membership, Silver membership, and Flying Card membership. Elite membership get extra services.

Hainan Airlines is one of eleven airlines worldwide rated as five-star by Skytrax, along with All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

Hainan Airlines operates seven bases across China: Beijing–Capital, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hangzhou, Sanya, Shenzhen and Xi'an. It operates an extensive network across the People's Republic of China, connecting Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania.

It serves nearly 500 domestic and international routes and flies to more than 90 cities.

Hainan operates international regular flights and offers charter flights to 41 various destinations in 21 countries such as flights from Beijing to Almaty, Toronto, Berlin, Brussels, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Jose/Silicon Valley and Boston; Beijing, Xi'an, Dalian, Guangzhou, Haikou to Taipei; Beijing, Haikou, Nanning to Bangkok; Hefei via Haikou to Singapore and others.

Hainan also received official approval from the US DOT to begin nonstop flights between Beijing and Chicago. As of June 2014, Hainan began servicing Boston directly with a four-times-weekly 787 flight from Beijing Capital International Airport.

It was the first direct flight between Boston and China. The airline began service in the second quarter of 2013 with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. It was the first Chinese carrier to offer flights between the two cities. Flights from Beijing-Capital to Chicago-O'Hare began on 3 September 2013.

On 23 October 2015, Hainan announced flights to Manchester, United Kingdom, starting in summer 2016. Hainan announced the launch of a direct route between Beijing and Calgary, Canada, as of 30 June 2016.

During the second half of 2017, Hainan Airlines began flights from Shanghai to Tel Aviv and restarted flights from Shanghai to Brussels. In late September 2017 Hainan Airlines commenced direct flights to and from Brisbane, Australia, several times per week, and also to Belgrade, Serbia, via Prague, every Monday and Friday.

On 8 March 2018, Hainan Airlines announced flights between Changsha and London Heathrow, commencing 23 March 2018 and on 15 March 2018, they announced round trip flights between Beijing–Capital, Dublin, and Edinburgh commencing 12 June 2018

Hainan Airlines codeshares with the following airlines:

- Aegean Airlines

- Aigle Azur

- Air Serbia

- Alitalia

- Alaska Airlines

- American Airlines

- Azul Brazilian Airlines

- Beijing Capital Airlines

- Brussels Airlines

- Czech Airlines

- Etihad Airways

- EVA Air

- Grand China Air

- GX Airlines

- Hong Kong Airlines

- Korean Air

- S7 Airlines

- Suparna Airlines

- Tianjin Airlines

- Uni Air

- WestJet

- Virgin Australia

Hainan Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:

- Airbus A330-200: 09 Aircrafts

- Airbus A330-300: 20 Aircrafts

- Airbus A350-900: 02 Aircrafts

- Boeing 737-700: 02 Aircrafts

- Boeing 737-800: 155 Aircrafts

- Boeing 737 MAX 8: 10 Aircrafts

- Boeing 787-8: 10 Aircrafts

- Boeing 787-9: 25 Aircrafts

- Total: 233: Aircrafts

Tourism Observer

CHINA: Spring Airlines Buys US$122M Into China Southern Airlines

Spring Airlines, a low-cost carrier, has subscribed to China Southern Airline’s A-share non-public offering in a deal worth 846 million yuan (US$122.78 million), becoming the fifth largest shareholder of the company.

Spring Airlines has subscribed for a total 140.53 million A shares in China Southern Airlines, at a price of 6.02 yuan per share.

It accounts for 1.63% of the share capital after the completion of the issuance.

It is the second time that domestic private airlines have invested in one of the three major state-owned aviation enterprises after the Juneyao Group and its private airline Jixiang Airlines bought into China Eastern Airlines in July.

Spring Airlines said it is actively responding to the call of the state to deepen the reform of state-owned enterprises’ mixed ownership, strengthening strategic cooperation between state-owned capital and private capital, and further stimulating capital vitality.

Spring Airlines Co., Ltd. is a low-cost carrier with its headquarters in the Homeyo Hotel in Changning District, Shanghai, China. While the company adopted the English name Spring Airlines, the Chinese name literally means Spring Autumn Airlines.

Spring Airlines is the aviation subsidiary of Shanghai Spring International Travel Service. It reported a net profit of 950 million yuan or $143 million in 2016

The airline was given approval to be established on 26 May 2004. Its first aircraft, an Airbus A320 formerly of Lotus Air, was delivered on 12 July 2005, at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.

Spring Airlines started operations on 18 July 2005 and the first flight on that day was between Shanghai and Yantai. Daily flights to Guilin were also initiated.

To keep operating costs low, Spring sells tickets exclusively from its website and some designated ticket offices, bypassing travel agents.

Spring no longer offers complimentary on-board meals nor complimentary water; however passengers are able to purchase meals and beverages on board. In December 2006, the airline offered a 1-yuan promotional price which caused trouble with government officials.

In late July 2009, Spring's plan to establish overseas routes was granted by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of the People's Republic of China, making it the first budget airline in China to explore the international market.

The airline plans to operate short-distance routes linking mainland Chinese cities to Hong Kong and Macau, as well as neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

On July 29, 2010, Spring Airlines launched its first international route linking its home city Shanghai and Japan's Ibaraki Airport, about 80 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

2 months later, on September 28, the airline successfully introduced its first flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong with almost full passengers on board. Spring's daily flights from Shanghai to Macau commenced on 8 April 2011 with further international destinations following in the second half of 2011.

Since January 2015, the company has been listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Spring Airlines also operates a subsidiary in Japan and is the first Chinese airline to do so.

In 2015, Spring announced plans to build a 250-300 room hotel at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya, Japan, a rare instance of a low-cost carrier entering the hotel business.

The Spring Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:

* Airbus A320-200 - 80 Aircraft

* Airbus A320neo _ 1 Aircraft

On June 6, 2014, an Airbus A320 operated by Spring Airlines experienced a runway excursion on the right side of the runway, and striking a light in doing so, the pilot then attempted to go around, but had a tail strike because he pulled up too much at Xiamen, according to another pilot at Spring Airlines.

There were no injuries, but the aircraft sustained substantial damage. An investigation has been opened by China's Accident Investigation Board.

Tourism Observer

CHINA: Hainan Airlines Looking For US$1.8 bn In Bank Loans

Hainan Airlines, a carrier affiliated with the conglomerate HNA Group, is planning to borrow 7.5 billion yuan (US$1.08 billion) from banks, according to a company statement.

The National Development Bank is the lead and agent bank, which will provide the company with 1.5 billion yuan.

Six other banks including, Exim Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Postal Savings Bank of China will each offer the company 1 billion yuan.

The loan period is three years, while the grace period is one year.

Hainan Airlines said the funds will be used for operational expenses such as buying aviation fuel, aviation materials as well as maintenance and landing fees.

Last summer, Airbus refused delivery of a number of Airbus A330 aircraft to Hainan Airlines because the carrier was not able to pay for them. Parent company HNA is also in turmoil due to a shortage of capital and the sudden death of its chairman, who fell to his death in France.

Tourism Observer

QATAR: Qatar Airways Commences Doha To Da Nang, Vietnam

Qatar Airways has inaugurated its first flight to Da Nang, the airline’s third destination in Vietnam. The Doha carrier deployed its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on this new route.

Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker who was pleased to extend the airline’s reach into Vietnam by launching its third gateway into this beautiful country.

The addition of Da Nang to our global network further demonstrates our commitment to the Far East region, a highly important market for Qatar Airways.

And we are excited for passengers traveling to and from central Vietnam to experience our award-winning service and product for themselves, he added.

There are up to 56 weekly flights to and from Vietnam with Qatar Airways, offering significant connectivity through its Doha mega-hub.

The route also coincided with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Qatar. Al Baker noted that through this expansion into Vietnam, it will make ties between both countries even stronger.

The airline’s relationship with Vietnam has stemmed since 2007, which is less than between the 25 years of diplomatic ties of the countries.

Services to Ho Chi Minh City began in 2007 and launched services to Hanoi three years later.

In order to extend its presence in the Vietnamese market, October 2017 saw the airline sign an interline partnership with VietJet Air, allowing QR passengers to travel to and from points in Vietnam not served directly by Qatar Airways using a single reservation across both networks.

This is the 14th route launch from the carrier this year, earmarking significant growth for 2018 overall. 2019 will see the airline launching services into the likes of Valletta, Malta as well as Isfahan, Iran.

Tourism Observer

IRAN: Airlines Flee Iran Airspace

Airlines were facing low profitability even before returning sanctions took a toll on the country's currency.

Iranians reacted with anger and frustration to the news that British Airways will suspend its service to Iran from September 23. Soon after, news came that Air France would axe its service on September 18.

Some Iranians expressed a feeling of being imprisoned in the country as they learned that international airlines were leaving Iran.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, responded to British Airway’s withdrawal more pragmatically, noting his hope that Iran Air, with its three weekly direct flights to London, can seize the opportunity and fill the gap.

The news appears to reflect further instances of multinational companies withdrawing from Iran in the face of returning US sanctions while bowing to the political pressure exerted by the Trump administration.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu took this view, stating about the withdrawals, That’s good. More should follow, more will follow, because Iran should not be rewarded for its aggression in the region.

But the airlines have communicated that commercial and not political factors were paramount in the decision to withdraw. The British Airways statement described their London to Tehran route as currently not commercially viable.

Air France echoed poor commercial viability. KLM has pointed to negative results and financial outlook.” Some Iranians, observing regularly full flights, have questioned the honesty of these statements.

The executive’s account provides a more precise picture of why numerous airlines have determined that flying to Tehran is no longer commercially viable.

These claims are not a fig leaf for politically motivated decisions, nor attempts to downplay legal barriers posed by returning sanctions which are minimal.

Instead, over the last few months, larger economic forces arose that made routes operating at high passenger loads unattractive, at least relative to the option of redeploying aircraft other routes worldwide.

The influx of international carriers into Iran led to increased competition. Such competition depressed airfares in the short term. Airlines knew that it would be difficult to become profitable quickly and had expected to wait at least two years in order to break even, the executive explains. But by early 2018, the break-even point remained out of reach.

International carriers had expected that the growth in business and tourist travel to and from Iran would boost demand and help drive airfares upward over time.

But the stalling post-sanctions economic recovery, slowed in part by President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal in October as well as domestic factors, meant that the projected growth in passenger numbers was failing to materialize.

In response, as the first quarter of this year came to a close, most international carriers active in Iran began to plan reductions in their service in order to better match supply with demand.

Austrian Airlines pursued a realignment of the airline’s portfolio by suspending flights to Esfahan and Shiraz. KLM planned to suspend its flights and Air France opted to run a reduced service after switching the operation of the Paris-Tehran route to Joon, a subsidiary.

British Airways likewise planned to reduce the frequency of its flights.

These adjustments should have enabled the international airlines to increase airfares in the market by addressing oversupply, bringing profitability back within reach for the sector.

But the adjustments coincided with President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and an acceleration in Iran’s currency crisis.

The falling value of the rial had two important effects on international airlines. First, it significantly decreased demand. Not only were airfares more expensive as the purchasing power of the rial declined, but Iranians were also struggling to get reliable access to the hard currency they need in order to spend freely when abroad.

Majid Nejad, CEO of, Iran’s leading online travel website, said compared with the same period last year, bookings to foreign destinations from Iran have fallen by half.

Second, as the rial lost value, the revenues accrued by international airlines in Iran also lost value. In order to mitigate the foreign exchange risk, some international airlines began to market tickets locally only at the highest booking classes, an airline industry price categorization.

Those few Iranians with access to foreign banks cards could still purchase tickets at any booking class online, accessing cheaper fares. Nonetheless, the move to increase prices hit demand.

But even if higher fares could protect revenues from devaluation in the short-term, the airlines faced long-standing issues around repatriation of revenues.

Last week, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization announced that international airlines would need to buy euros at the market rate, contradicting an earlier assurance provided by the Central Bank of Iran that foreign currency would be available to the airlines at the lower government exchange rate.

The executive notes that a lack of clear communication from the central bank and aviation authority proved one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole episode.

In any case, airlines struggled to convert their rial holdings into foreign currency at whatever the rate.

The airlines executive believes that when airlines sought to convert their rial holdings in accounts at banks such as Saman Bank and Parsian Bank, the central bank failed to make the foreign currency available because they either did not have sufficient foreign currency on hand or were opting to build up reserves for more critical industries like the pharmaceutical sector.

As rial-denominated revenues languished in Iran, airlines saw their losses mount, and the routes were no longer commercially viable.

For context, the executive impresses that business is good in the aviation industry worldwide right now and that for airline executive committees dealing with the headache of operating in Iran, the option to simply reassign an aircraft and flight crew to another more profitable route became increasingly appealing.

For now, Lufthansa and Alitalia are continuing their services to Iran. For these European holdouts, the withdrawal of their competitors could offer a reprieve, reducing competition and perhaps helping to stabilize airfares.

European governments, which have been actively involved in the challenges faced by their national carriers since January, remain politically supportive. Of course, Iran Air will benefit.

Iran’s national carrier announced route expansions in May in an effort to win back market share from the international players.

No doubt, sanctions contributed to the withdrawal of international airlines out of Iran, but not for the political or legal reasons readily assumed.

Rather, international airlines would have persisted in their service to Iranian destinations, emboldened by political support from European governments, had it not been for the intractable issues surrounding commercial viability.

While the withdrawal from Iran essentially came down to fundamental commercial calculations, the executive makes sure to relay that the decision to cease operating in Iran was nonetheless difficult to make.

In his words, nothing was more painful than how deeply unfair the whole situation is for our team members in Iran. Like many other young and talented Iranians, those let go by the international carriers will be wondering what next.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: Jet Airways Wants Short-term Loan From State Bank Of India

Jet Airways, which is struggling to keep its fleet running and has fallen behind on salary payments, is now looking to secure a short-term loan.

The full-service carrier is in talks with the country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) to raise 15 billion rupees (US$214.9 million) to meet its working capital requirements and fulfill some payment obligations.

Jet’s strategic partner, Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi, which holds a 24% stake in the airline, is likely to serve as a guarantor for the loan.

Interestingly SBI, which is the lead lender of the airline, had a fortnight ago ordered Ernst & Young to conduct a forensic audit of the airline’s books.

Jet Airways has posted three consecutive quarterly losses of more than 10 billion rupees since March 2018, and as of September 30 had 80.52 billion rupees of debt on its books.

Jet Airways has a backlog of more than two months in unpaid salaries to its senior staff, including pilots and engineers.

The airline is also negotiating with overseas lenders to raise $350 million with Etihad again acting as guarantor.

The airline’s founder, Naresh Goyal, is looking to infuse capital in such a way that he does not have to lose control of Jet Airways, which he set up 25 years ago.

Earlier, the salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Sons had expressed a desire to acquire the airline, but wanted Goyal to relinquish his controlling stake, which was not acceptable to the airline’s founder.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: SpiceJet Required To Pay Rs 28.5 crore

SpiceJet's outstanding towards landing, parking and route navigation charges increased to a large extent between September and October when oil prices went sharply up and rupee depreciated rapidly.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has asked SpiceJet to make quick payment of around Rs 28.5 crore immediately in order to reduce the outstanding dues, which currently stand at nearly Rs 115 crore.

SpiceJet's outstanding towards landing, parking and route navigation charges increased to a large extent between September and October when oil prices went sharply up and rupee depreciated rapidly.

In November the airline was asked to deposit Rs 20 crore by November 30 to bring its dues under the 80 percent threshold of the security deposit. The AAI had asked the airline to deposit Rs 2.5 crore per day in addition to the Rs 20 crore.

Rs 20 crore amount was paid. They have been making a payment of Rs 2.5 crore every day, out of which Rs 2 crore will cater to their regular monthly payment and balance to reduce the outstanding dues. We are hopeful that by March, this outstanding amount will come down substantially.

SpiceJet said that all its payments to the AAI are being made as per the schedule agreed upon by the two. There has been no default. SpiceJet remains firmly committed to all its obligations, a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

The airline will make another fast payment by the end of December, however, the exact figure will be decided considering the shortfall at that point of time.

The airline's billings on an average amount to Rs 60 crore on a monthly basis for these services. As per the normal operations at the AAI, officials said that an airline can maintain dues equivalent to half of its security deposit. For SpiceJet, this would come to around Rs 60 crore against a security deposit of Rs 120 crore.

The AAI manages a total of 125 airports, which include 11 international airports, 8 customs airports, 81 domestic airports and 25 civil enclaves at defence airfields.

On an average, SpiceJet operates 416 flights daily to 57 destinations, of which 49 are domestic and eight are international. The airline’s fleet consists of 37 Boeing 737 MAX and NG jets and 23 Bombardier Q-400s.

Tourism Observer

Sunday 30 December 2018

NICARAGUA: With Lowest Crime Rate In Latin America,Tourism Grows But Unrest Killing It

Tourism has become a source of great income for Nicaragua. Nicaragua, in particular, has struggled for years with wide-spread poverty. But recently its economy has had steady progress, thanks in part to tourism.

Nicaragua’s National Chamber of Tourism report shows that the country welcomed 1.5 million tourists last year, which generated more than 640 million US dollars, a welcome source of revenue in a country where close to a third of the population lives in poverty.

After agriculture, tourism is now Nicaragua's second pillar industry. Tourism in Nicaragua has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.

The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Nicaragua's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010.

In mid-2018, tourism in Nicaragua came to a virtual standstill due to the 2018 Nicaraguan protests.

During the Nicaraguan Revolution in the 1980s, Nicaragua was not regarded as a place to travel, which caused a decrease in tourism.

However, rapid expansion of the tourist industry over the last decade has made it the nation's second largest industry. Over the last 7 years tourism has grown about 70% nationwide with rates of 10%-16% annually.

Nicaragua is mostly famous for its landscapes, flora and fauna, wildlife, culture, beaches, lakes, and volcanoes. By 2010, the nation welcomed one million visitors—the most in its entire history for a calendar year.

Nicaragua's tourism industry in 2010 raked in approximately 360 million dollars for the nation's economy.

The country's main tourist attractions are beaches, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as León and Granada, and most recently ecotourism and agritourism, particularly in Northern Nicaragua.

In 2013, more than 1.2 million tourists visited Nicaragua, representing an increase of nearly a third from 2009. Two-thirds of these tourists were from other Central American countries, 290,000 were from North America and 80,000 from Europe.

Of those that come for recreation, their principal activities include surfing, hiking volcanoes and getting to know the country's nature trails.

According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR) the colonial city of Granada is the preferred spot for tourists. The city's central park, Parqué Colón, hosts many vendors of traditional foods and arts and crafts, and there are always several horse-drawn carriages ready to give thorough and affordable tours of the city.

Venturing outside of the city limits, one can explore the verdant islets of Granada by a relaxing guided boat ride or by kayak.

The islets also boast many luxurious hotels and arrangements for those that wish to take in the sunrise from the Mombacho Volcano, a common day destination for those interested in climbing into a cloud forest.

The Apoyo Lagoon is also a popular destination for those visiting Granada. Also, the cities of León, Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, and others are the main tourist attractions. Ecotourism and surfing also attract many tourists.

Another popular destination are the Corn Islands located about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua near Bluefields. They have been regarded as a tropical paradise.

Cruise ships have been docking in San Juan del Sur since January 2000 and average 50,000 tourists alone every year, some who partake in tours to nearby Lake Cocibolca and the colonial city of Granada.

Nicaragua was ranked with the lowest crime rate in Latin America by Interpol and many other sources, with only 12 crimes for every 100,000 citizens.

Nicaragua also holds the largest lake in Central America, about 700 species of birds, and unspoiled natural beauty. Despite all this, it is still the least visited country in the region. However, the lower number of tourists help Nicaragua keep low prices, and an off-the-beaten-track feel.

CECOCAFEN is an organization of coffee cooperatives in Northern Nicaragua that manage a rural and community-based tourism project, which has been developed with support from Lutheran World Relief.

Tourism allows farmers to receive new opportunities in alternative markets, harvest coffee and diversify their income. CECOCAFEN offers visitors the opportunity to visit a coffee farm, learn about coffee craftsmanship, and even to stay overnight on a coffee farm and explore with a community guide.

Eco-tourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious; it focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Nicaragua's eco-tourism grows every year, as the country boasts a number of eco-tourist tours and perfect places for adventurers.

Nicaragua has three eco-regions, the Pacific, Central and Atlantic, which contain volcanoes, tropical rainforest and agricultural land.

Majority of ecolodges and other environmentally-focused touristic destinations are found on Ometepe Island, found in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, an hour's boat ride from Granada.

While some are foreign-owned, such as the tropical permaculture lodge at Finca El Zopilote, others are owned by local families, like the small but acclaimed Finca Samaria.

Nicaragua is home to 78 protected areas covering over 20% of its landmass, and is home to 7% of the world's biodiversity. This is more than Costa Rica, which is thought to hold more natural areas than Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is also home to Bosawas, located in Northern Nicaragua, which is the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil. It also holds the largest lake in Central America, Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua.

Lake Cocibolca attracts a fair number of tourists yearly, most of whom visit Ometepe, a large volcanic island formed by two volcanoes in the lake. Tourists may explore the flora and fauna found in the Charco Verde Nature Reserve.

Nicaragua's rich biodiversity also attracts many tourists to protected areas such as the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which holds a higher number in species of trees, birds, and insects than all of Europe.

Nicaragua only has one international airport, the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, located in Managua. A large expansion and renovation programme was undertaken between 2003-2006 to modernise the facilities.

Tourists from Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, the Palestinian National Authority, Romania, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen require a visa to enter Nicaragua.

Other tourists can obtain a Tourist Card for US$10 valid for 1 month upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run. There is also a US$32 departure tax, the tax is usually already included in a round-trip ticket.

Nicaragua is referred to as - the land of lakes and volcanoes - due to the number of its lagoons and lakes, and the chain of volcanoes that runs from the north to the south along the country's Pacific side.

Today, only 7 of the 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua are considered active. Many of these volcanoes offer some great possibilities for tourists with activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in crater lakes.

Sand skiing has become a popular attraction at the Cerro Negro volcano in León. Both dormant and active volcanoes can be climbed. Some of the most visited volcanoes include the Masaya Volcano, Momotombo, Mombacho, Cosigüina and Ometepe's Maderas and Concepción.

The Masaya Volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nicaragua. It is one of 18 distinct volcanic centres that make up the Nicaraguan portion of the Central American Volcanic Belt (CAVF).

The Apoyo Lagoon was created by the eruption of the Apoyo Volcano about 23,000 years ago, which left a huge 7 km-wide crater that gradually filled with water.

It is surrounded by the old crater wall. The rim of the lagoon is lined with restaurants, many of which have kayaks available. Besides exploring the forest around it, many water sports are practiced in the lagoon, most notably kayaking.

Another popular attraction is the archipelago of 365 islands known as the Islets of Granada or Isletas de Granada. The islets were formed when the Mombacho volcano blew most of its cone into the lake, thereby creating the archipelago. The islets are popular with both locals and tourists.

The islets differ in size and have a community of about 1200 people, most of whom make their living as fishermen. Many visitors take boat rides along the islets, which are abundant with many different species of birds and fish.

Hundreds have been killed and thousands injured since a popular uprising against Nicaragua’s president began in April. Governments from Mexico City to Madrid have warned their citizens to steer clear.

But Nicaraguan authorities are now seeking to draw a line under the far-from-resolved crisis, urging tourists to pay their always beautiful nation a visit despite the ongoing bloodshed and repression.

The Nicaragua Siempre Linda or As beautiful as ever! PR campaign does not mention the turmoil that has been rocking Central American’s largest nation since the start of protests against Daniel Ortega nearly four months ago.

Instead, a 38-second commercial suggests holidaymakers – who have been steering clear of the country since the turmoil began – return to what are now almost entirely deserted tourist hot-spots.

Recommended destinations include the colonial town of Granada, which has been badly hit by the violence, and San Juan del Sur, a Pacific beach-town along Nicaragua’s stunning western coast.

Popular destinations you ought to visit

Department of Chinandega

Chinandega, Rum flor de Caña tour, Marina puesta del sol yacht club

Department of Estelí

Estelí, Mira Flor Nature Reserve

Department of Granada

Granada, Parque central, Islets of Granada

Department of Jinotega

Jinotega, El Jaguar Cloud Forest Reserve, Lake apanas, Reserve Naturals, Peña of Cross, Bosawás Biosphere Reserve.

Department of León

León, Ruins of León, El Fortin, Cerro Negro, Telica

Department of Managua

Managua, Montelimar Beach, Mercado Roberto Huembes, Metrocentro, Pharaoh's Casino, Galerias Santo Domingo Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve
Department of Masaya:

Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve, Masaya

Department of Matagalpa

Selva Negra Mountain Resort, Selva Negra Cloud Forest Reserve

North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region

Puerto Cabezas, Bosawás Biosphere Reserve

Department of Río San Juan

Solentiname Islands, El Castillo, San Carlos, Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge

Department of Rivas

San Juan del Sur, Iguana beach, Guacalito de la isla, Esmerald coast, Ometepe, Zapatera Island

South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region

Corn Islands, Bluefields, Laguna de Perlas, Indio Maíz Biological Reserve

Nicaragua’s political crisis has ravaged what had been a blossoming tourist industry, leaving an estimated 70,000 people unemployed and forcing 80% of small hotels and some of the country’s chicest resorts to close. Total losses so far are estimated at $230m.

Even so, Lucy Valenti, the head of Nicaragua’s chamber of tourism, said her members believed the PR blitz was a mistake.

We all believe Nicaragua is a beautiful country and has everything to offer as a tourism destination. But unfortunately this crisis has come and things have changed for us as an industry.

Valenti said she believed the government was trying to rescue a lucrative industry shattered by the unrest. But it was inappropriate and dishonest to claim tourists could safely return to Nicaragua while heavily-armed pro-Ortega militias remained on the streets and it was unsafe to move from town to town.

While authorities are urging tourists to return to the country, thousands of Nicaraguans are heading in the other direction, fleeing to countries including Costa Rica and the United States in an attempt to outrun the violence or arrest.

Tourism Observer

CHINA: More Chinese Companies Heavily Invest In Tourism

Chinese tourists' enthusiasm for travel has spurred businesses to step up input in tourism development. The country's tourist numbers and tourism income both came out on top last year, followed by India, the US, Japan and France, the Beijing-based World Tourism Cities Federation reports.

China's domestic travel market received more than five billion visits, mostly by the Chinese, in 2017, up 12.8 percent as compared with the previous year and 69 percent with 2012, according to the former National Tourism Administration, which is now part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Chinese tourists paid 270 million visits abroad last year, up 3.7 percent year-on-year.

In the second quarter of 2018, the overall travel intention for China is 84 percent, which shows an increase of 1.8 percent from the previous period and a year-on-year growth of 3.8 percent.

It’s expected that the travel market will receive a total of 339 million domestic tourists from the three spring vacations of the Qingming Festival, the Labor Day and the Dragon Boat Festival, according to the administration.

Tourism has contributed 9.13 trillion yuan (1.42 trillion US dollars) to China's GDP, said the administration.

The country's focus on tourism has been demonstrated by the merging of the tourism and culture authorities in March.

Seen from the long run, the Chinese market has strong competitiveness, thanks to the culture and tourism integration, said Zhao Jingwen, chairman adviser of CITIC Ltd, at a global tourism investment summit that drew more than 500 Chinese government organs, financial institutes and scenic spots in late May.

We have seen a group of big enterprises rapidly making inroads in the tourism industry, Zhao said, adding that the top five real estate businesses and nine out of the top 10 internet giants have invested in tourism.

At the forum, the Beijing-based ShanHai Cultural and Tourism Group signed a strategic agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Agriculture Bank of China, as well as multiple local governments and scenic spots to expand its presence in the tourism market.

The Beijing-based company has invested in a sport town in Hebei Province's Xinglong County, a natural resort in Guizhou Province's Anshun City, and a golf facility in Hainan Province's Haikou City over the years, and plans to expand its tourism business, in addition to its real estate, financial and medical involvement.

The full-on cooperation is to develop a sound industrial chain model featuring travel agency, scenic spot, hotel and transportation, says Wang Gaochao, chairman of the company.

Beijing ShanHai will invest in infrastructure, recreational equipment and hotels at various scenic spots and help to boost their publicity. The company also launched Mounsey, its travel agency, at the forum and announced a three-year plan to open 100 Mounsey subsidiaries and 10,000 brick-and-mortar retail shops to receive travelers directly across the country.

It would also make investments in 80 scenic spots, 100 hotels and 60 homestays. The goal is to integrate tourism resources and offer one-stop services to tourists, Wang explains.

ShanHai is just one of the many forces that have increased their presence in the tourism sector.

China's leading domestic theme park brand Fantawild Adventure intends to open a new theme park worth 12.8 billion yuan in Zhejiang Province's Ningbo City. The property developer Evergrande Group has planned to invest 300 billion yuan to develop 15 Children's World theme parks across China.

The State-owned Overseas Chinese Town has signed a 238-billion-yuan deal to develop culture and tourism in Shaanxi Province's capital Xi'an. Other real estate giants, such as the Hong Kong-listed Sunac and Country Garden, have all moved into the tourism development business.

In 2017, direct tourism investment broke 1.5 trillion yuan in China, and the country's 144 tourism investment funds were worth 800 billion yuan, according to the former National Tourism Administration.

More than 2,000 big-scale tourism projects are now under construction, involving more than 5 trillion yuan in investment. A total of 130 scenic spots have seen investment above 10 billion yuan each, and 45 above 20 billion yuan each.

Investment in culture and tourist towns, theme parks, ethnic and religious tourism, camp sites and those offering TV, film experiences and performances have been on the rise in recent years, supported by the country's favorable policies towards tourism investment, including those that help qualified tourism enterprises go public.

Private capital has taken an exceptional part in overall tourism industry investment, basically surpassing 50 percent, says Li Yuebo, managing director with Industrial Securities.

Private companies have put more focus on medium- and high-end travel experiences and invested more in leisure at first-tier cities, while governments and State-owned companies have put money in tourism infrastructure in the central and western parts of the country, Li says.

Speaking about future tourism development prospects, Mounsey's president Wang Tao believes the sky's the limit.

Tourism would be the next gold mine in the next dozens of years in China, after real estate and the internet, Wang says.

He mentions that Sunac's revenue was 360 billion yuan last year, and it ranks merely the fourth in the real estate industry, while the combined business of the tourism giants Ctrip and China International Travel Service Ltd amount to just 60 billion yuan.

With real estate giants flocking to the tourism industry, think about the changes they would bring.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: Jet Airways And Its Woes

The past six months have been difficult for Jet Airways.

In additoin to financial problems, Jet Airways has as well had ups and downs over safety and tax issues.

Jet Airways has been in the red for two consecutive quarters and is also under market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) lens.

Jet Airways issues are not particular to the airline but symptomatic of a larger malaise. The Indian aviation sector is facing economic headwinds in the form of rising global oil prices and a depreciating rupee.

Jet, for instance, had debt of Rs7,364 crore ($1.01 billion) on its books as of June.

Given its precarious financial position, the airline was reported to have even considered slashing salaries. On Sep. 19, it announced that there would not be free meals on economy class bookings done from Sept. 25.

Things have gone wrong with India’s second-largest carrier by market share in the last six months.

March 2018, Jet Airways reported a loss of Rs1,036 crore in the Jan-March quarter as revenue declines and costs increase significantly. The company defers the March salaries of some employees citing circumstances beyond its control.

April 2018,Gave up bidding for Air India citing the complex process.

May 2018, Government refused to approve Jet’s merger with its subsidiary JetLite, nearly three years after the proposal was made.

June 2018, Jet announced new check-in baggage norms. The 15kg of free check-in luggage for economy class will have to be in one bag. Business class passengers can carry 30kg in two bags.

August 2018, Considers a 25% pay cut for employees.

August 2018, Indefinitely defers announcement of financial results for the April-June quarter of financial year 2019.

August 2018, On Aug. 12, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation announces an audit to assess Jet’s financial health. State Bank of India asks the firm to provide enough collateral for emergency funding.

August 2018, On Aug. 27, the company announces losses of Rs1,323 crore for the April-June 2018 period.

September 2018, On Sep.19, the income-tax department conducts surveys in the company’s Mumbai and Delhi offices over allegations of financial misappropriation.

September 2018, On Sep. 20 about 30 passengers on a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Jaipur suffer nose and ear bleeding after the cabin crew forgets to activate the internal pressure control. India’s civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu orders a safety audit of all airlines and airports.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: Tatas’ Love For Air India

It’s over four years since India’s Tata group went back into the country’s aviation sector.

In 2013, after staying on the sidelines for over six decades, the salt-to-software conglomerate returned to India’s aviation sector through two joint venture (JV) partnerships with Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd and Singapore Airlines.

The Tata group had founded Air India (AI), then Tata Airlines, in 1932, which the Indian government took control of in 1953. Ever since, the group had stayed out of the airline business.

Now, it is eyeing a bigger slice of India’s aviation pie. On Oct. 10, chairman N Chandrasekharan said that his group would consider acquiring the beleaguered national carrier Air India.

This isn’t the first time that the Tatas have shown interest in AI, currently India’s fourth-largest airline by market share. In 2000, the group partnered with Singapore Airlines to bid for a 40% stake in the company, but the plan didn’t materialize as Singapore Airlines withdrew.

We will definitely look at it (AI), Chandrasekaran said. We still don’t have all the details. Every business proposal will be very seriously looked at and we will look at that (AI). Definitely.

But currently we don’t have the data there are so many different groups within Air India, and then there is real estate, there is debt, there is liabilities, and we got to look at all of that but we will definitely look at it.

The $103 billion Tata Sons’ interest in AI could have stemmed from the lacklustre showing of AirAsia and Vistara. Together, they have a domestic market share of only 7.6% with a fleet of 29 aircraft. This is significantly lower than market leader IndiGo’s 38% with 138 aircraft.

We need to look at aviation as a whole, Chandrasekaran said. We are subscale. We got two airlines both are subscale. Any decision that we take—Air India or otherwise—we have to have a story because we can’t be operating with 15 aircraft or 20 aircraft.

The Tata group owns 51% of Vistara, with Singapore Airlines in control of the rest. In AirAsia India, it owns 49%, while the rest is held by Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd.

Over the past few years, both Vistara and AirAsia India have been looking at international operations but have been held up by regulatory hurdles, hampering business and profitability.

India’s aviation norms require an airline to deploy 20 aircraft, or 20% of its fleet, on domestic routes before it can take off on international routes. Vistara and AirAsia India have only 16 and 13 aircraft respectively.

You have got to give them time as far as their investments in AirAsia India and Vistara goes, Mark Martin, founder of Martin Consulting, an aviation consultancy based in Dubai, said about the Tata group’s investments in the aviation sector.

But, if and when Air India is bought out by Tata, it would be one massive and mega monolithic turnaround for the airline because the Tatas are the only people capable of turning around such an airline.

Buying AI will give the Tata group access to a sizeable fleet that can operate both at home and abroad. The government airline flies to nearly 41 international and 72 domestic destinations.

It is also India’s single largest international carrier with a 17% market share of the overseas routes from the country and operates 119 aircraft. But, bogged down by debt following an ill-advised merger in 2007, it has been struggling for survival.

The Tata group’s core strategy currently involves building a strong brand globally. And what better than an airline that flies to every part of the world, particularly the Americas and Africa? That’s the opportunity Air India brings to the table for the Tatas, Martin said.

India is currently the world’s ninth-largest aviation market. Domestic air travel is expected to grow 9.5% annually between 2011 and 2031, according to aircraft maker Airbus. Currently, only about 2% of India’s population uses airlines, providing a massive opportunity to expand the market.

The prospects for Air India’s privatization seem to be going from bad to worse.

Days after India’s largest airline IndiGo declared that it lacks the capability to turn the country’s state-run airline around, the private player’s closest competitor by market share, Jet Airways, pulled out of the race.

We welcome the government move to privatise Air India. It is a bold step. However, considering the terms of offer in the information memorandum and based on our review, we are not participating in the process, Amit Agarwal, Jet Airways’ deputy CEO said

Earlier this year, Ajay Singh, chairman of low-cost carrier SpiceJet, had also told CNBC-TV18 that it is too small to bid for the Maharajah.

With three heavyweights out, few aviation space players remain in the race for Air India. And all eyes are now on the airline’s founder itself: the Tata Group.

Last year, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekharan had made his group’s interest known when he said it would definitely look at buying Air India.

I do not think any player in India, apart from the Tata group, has the management ability to turn around an airline like Air India. Tata also has the strategic leadership, financial foresight, and consumer connect to drive traffic, said Mark Martin, head of aviation consultancy firm Martin Consulting.

The group, he said, can either individually bid for Air India, or form a consortium with a foreign airline.

The Tata group, India’s largest diversified conglomerate, had total revenues of around Rs673,350 crore ($100 billion) as of financial year 2017.

It went into aviation in the 1930s with the launch of Tata Airlines, which was later nationalised and rebranded as Air India. In 2014, it partnered with AirAsia Behrad to launch AirAsia India. A year later, its joint venture with Singapore airlines, Vistara, took flight.

If the Tatas, too, opt out, government will have to look for alternatives.

One option could be one or more foreign airlines teaming up with Indian financiers, Martin explained. Airlines like Qatar airways can partner with private equity firms, for instance, and bid for Air India, he said.

A foreign airline can only have up to a 49% stake in Air India, with ownership and effective control of the airline resting with an Indian entity.

However, some experts believe the sale terms need to be overhauled.

The government may have to reconsider separating the domestic operations from the ground-handling services and international operations, Dhiraj Mathur, partner at PwC India said.

Additionally, low-cost players do not necessarily want to enter the full-service airline business, Mathur said. Therefore government will likely have to change the terms if it wants Indian players to participate.

Air India is the flag carrier airline of India headquartered at New Delhi. It is owned by Air India Limited, a government-owned enterprise, and operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving 94 domestic and international destinations.

The airline has its hub at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, alongside several focus cities across India. Air India is the largest international carrier out of India with an 18.6% market share.

Over 60 international destinations are served by Air India across four continents. Additionally, the carrier is the third largest domestic airline in India in terms of passengers carried after IndiGo and Jet Airways with a market share of 13.5% as of July 2017.

The airline became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.

The airline was founded by J. R. D. Tata as Tata Airlines in 1932; Tata himself flew its first single-engine de Havilland Puss Moth, carrying air mail from Karachi to Bombay's Juhu aerodrome and later continuing to Madras currently Chennai.

After World War II, it became a public limited company and was renamed as Air India. On 21 February 1960, it took delivery of its first Boeing 707 named Gauri Shankar and became the first Asian airline to induct a jet aircraft in its fleet.

In 2000–01, attempts were made to privatise Air India and from 2006 onwards, it suffered losses after its merger with Indian Airlines.

Air India also operates flights to domestic and Asian destinations through its subsidiaries Alliance Air and Air India Express. Air India's mascot is the Maharajah (Emperor) and the logo consists of a flying swan with the wheel of Konark inside it.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: Parliamentary Panel Criticizes Airlines For Overcharging, Misbehavior, Long Ques, And Poor Food

India’s embattled airlines, reeling under mounting debt and piling losses, have now been called out by the country’s lawmakers for shoddy services.

A parliamentary panel on Dec. 27 criticised aviation firms for overcharging, staff misbehaviour, unsatisfactory check-in, and poor luggage collection services, among other things.

What the passenger wants is a quick check-in, without long queues, and a smooth process of security check. Despite the huge claims of airlines regarding the check-in process, the committee is compelled to observe that the check-in counters are in a mess, especially those of low-cost airlines such as IndiGo, said the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism, and culture in a report (pdf) tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament.

It mentioned incidents of a few private airlines deliberately creating long queues at check-in counters to ensure that passengers miss their flights, and then persuading them to buy exorbitantly priced tickets for the next available ones.

The report recommended that the number of check-in counters and people deployed at the counters must be directly proportional to the number of flights each airline operates from an airport.

However, responding to the panel’s observations, the government indicated it may not be able to do much about it.

Check-in process, check-in counters, and collection of luggage are commercial issues and the government does not interfere with the commercial activities of the airlines.

Further, there is no regulation issued by the aviation regulator, DGCA or directorate general of civil aviation in this regard, the ministry of civil aviation was quoted in the report.

The parliamentary committee had other complaints, too.

It came down heavily on low-cost airlines for providing unsatisfactory food, even when passengers are charged for it. Every airline should maintain the highest quality of food and they should also change the menu occasionally instead of keeping a cold sandwich in their menu throughout the year, the report said.

It noted that since there are no uniform standards for imposing charges for rescheduling, cancellation, and no-show, such levies by airlines are often arbitrary today. Airlines should not charge over 50% of the base fare as cancellation charges, it suggested.

The committee pulled up IndiGo, India’s largest airline by market share, for staff misbehaviour.

Our committee is very clear that the worst performing airline for consumers is IndiGo. They haven’t responded in spite of many complaints. IndiGo even charges for 1-2 kg overweight, this has not been taken very well and the committee is looking into the matter seriously, chairman of the committee, and member of parliament, Derek O’Brien said at a press conference after the report was tabled in parliament.

IndiGo, however, defended itself. We evaluate every complaint/feedback rigorously and develop training modules keeping the customer sentiment in mind, IndiGo responded.

The report comes at a time when most major airlines in the country are trying to cut corners and squeeze the last penny out of their various services, struggling as they are on multiple fronts.

Profitability in the industry has taken a severe beating as companies battle high fuel prices and unfavourable currency exchange rates. Airliners like IndiGo, SpiceJet, and Jet Airways have seen their finances worsen in the past two quarters.

The lawmakers’ criticism is something the industry could have dealt with before, to avoid such critisism.

However, the commitee The Committee is happy to note that the heliport at Rohini has been operationalized.
The Committee is of the view that the helicopter industry has tremendous potential to provide services in the tourism sector, disaster management etc.

The Committee desires that more such heliports may be set up throughout the country. The Committee reiterates its earlier
recommendation that Air India and Pawan Hans can work together to ensure seamless travel on hub and spokes basis- bringing passengers from smaller places to various tourist spots.

The Committee feels that the development of un-served and under-served airports would give a major boost to air connectivity to various small cities and towns.

It will further give a fillip to the economic development in these areas in terms of job creation and infrastructure development.

There should not be any unreasonable restriction on the allocation of fund to the demands of the Ministry of Civil Aviation as the money spent will spur the overall growth of the country especially in view of the Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN.

The Committee takes note of the initiatives taken under RCS. Air connectivity is the main mode of transport for majority of the population of North East to other parts of the country and these States are demanding overall economic development.

The Committee feels that better air connectivity is the only solution to opening up the economy of North Eastern States. Therefore, the Committee notes that it is very essential to give a preferential treatment to the North Eastern States as far as air connectivity is concerned.

Tourism Observer

Saturday 29 December 2018

USA: Winter Storm Causes Cancellation Of 1,000 Flights

Holiday travel could be delayed as heavy snow storm has moved across the US.

A blizzard that has already canceled or delayed thousands of airline flights and injured a passenger and crew member on a commercial jet over the Dallas area could dump nearly a foot more snow in some states, forecasters said Friday.

It was not immediately clear how many US-bound flights from the UAE were affected.

At least one fatality has been reported as the snowstorm continues to whip the northern US plains and Upper Midwest.

The combination of increasing wind and the dry, powdery nature of the snow created blizzard conditions at times from western Kansas to central Nebraska during Thursday. Gusts near 60 mph occurred in western Kansas and central Nebraska on Thursday morning.

One fatality was reported by emergency managers near Grinnell, Kansas, after multiple accidents on Interstate 70. Blizzard conditions and icy roads were present at the time of the fatal accident.

The storm, which began late on Wednesday, contributed to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights and delayed another 4,200. Nearly 400 flights to or from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were canceled, with hundreds delayed.

Chenard said the storm system caused heavy rain and thunderstorms with the risk of flash floods in the southeastern United States, including parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Parts of the U.S. Midwest and Southeast were being hit with the first wave of heavy snow and rain expected in the central United States through the weekend, said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Through this morning there have already been amounts as high as 6 to 10 inches of snow across those areas and additional snowfall of 10 inches is possible throughout the day and tonight, Chenard said.

Travel is going to be very difficult across the areas under weather and blizzard warnings. A passenger and a flight attendant suffered knee and back pain after an American Eagle flight operated by Mesa Airlines hit turbulence over the Dallas-Fort Worth area, American Airlines said in a statement.

Flight 5781, a Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft that departed from San Luis Potosi International Airport in Mexico carrying 75 passengers and 4 crew members, was diverted to Austin, Texas.

The plane landed safely and the injured passenger and crew member were treated and released from a local hospital in Austin, the airline said.

In the Midwest, winter storm and blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, the National Weather Service said.

The storm, which began late on Wednesday, contributed to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights and delayed another 4,200. Nearly 400 flights to or from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were canceled, with hundreds delayed.

Chenard said the storm system caused heavy rain and thunderstorms with the risk of flash floods in the southeastern United States, including parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

A tornado watch for parts of central and southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas were in effect on Thursday.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer on Wednesday declared a state of emergency. We hope that travelers will be wise by paying attention to weather alerts and not unnecessarily placing themselves in harm's way as the storm moves through, Colyer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, flights from New York's LaGuardia airport resumed early Friday after they were delayed or diverted overnight by an explosion at an electrical substation that cut off power.

The first services in the early morning were listed to operate as scheduled, including a 5:45 a.m. United Airlines service to Houston and a 5:52 a.m. American Airlines departure to Columbus, Ohio. Three planes that had been due to take off late Thursday were set to depart by 8:15 a.m.

Travelers should still check with their carrier on the status of their flight and allow extra time when coming to the airport, the airport's website advises.

The explosion in Astoria, New York City, illuminated the skyline with a bright blue light.

The glow could be seen from Manhattan shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday following a brief electrical fire at the facility in the Northern Queens neighborhood, said Bob McGee, a spokesman for utility Consolidated Edison Inc.

LaGuardia had to switch to backup generators during the blackout. Power has since been restored but not before Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines diverted some of their flights to nearby airports.

The blue light prompted a wave of commentary on social media, with New Yorkers joking about its origins.

It's '*Not* aliens,' tweeted Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"There was a brief electrical fire at our substation on 20th Avenue & 32nd Street in Astoria this evening, which caused a transmission dip," Con Ed tweeted. "All power lines serving the area are in service and the system is stable." The company said it's investigating the cause of the blaze.

Find out more about San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport by clicking here.

Tourism Observer

EGYPT: Roadside Bomb Kills 4 In Giza, 3 Vietnamese Tourists And An Egyptian Tour Guide

Four people were killed and 11 other people were injured on Friday when a bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Giza, Egypt, the Interior Ministry said.

It was reported that three Vietnamese tourists were killed and one was an Egyptian tourist guide.

Ten of the wounded were Vietnamese tourists and one was an Egyptian, a ministry statement said.

The bus was hit by an explosion from an improvised device hidden near a wall on Marioutiya street at around 6:15 pm local time, it said.

The roadside explosion hit a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids.

The explosion occurred on Al Maryotiya Road, a long road off Al Haram Road, one of the most famous streets in Greater Cairo.

An Egyptian security source said the bus had 14 people on board and an IED exploded as it approached. The device was hidden near a wall on Marioutiya Street off Al Haram Road, one of the most famous streets in Greater Cairo.

Police forces and ambulances attended the scene, and the injured individuals were transferred to nearby hospitals.

Ahmed Samy, a tuk-tuk driver, said he saw the bus after the blast and and locals and drivers were helping the injured to get out. One of the passengers was dead and was covered in blood, he said.

No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack. The most active group has been Daesh, which has been operating mainly in North Sinai. An Isis-linked group claimed responsibility for the explosion on the Russian plane.

Daesh also claimed responsibility for a January 2016 attack in Hurghada where two militants entered a hotel and stabbed three tourists. The Swede and two Austrians survived.

In February 2014, the militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which later pledged allegiance to Dsaesh claimed a bomb attack that ripped through a tourist bus on the Egyptian side of the Taba border crossing with Israel, killing four and injuring some 30 passengers.

Prior to the Russian plane explosion, the deadliest attack to target tourists took place in Luxor in 1997 when more than 60 people, the vast majority foreign tourists, were murdered by militants armed with guns and knives.

The prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, visited the injured at Al-Haram hospital. He said that the bus had not followed the path it was supposed to take where it would have been secured by the police.

Tourism has been one of the main contributors to Egypt’s economy, contributing around 375bn Egyptian pounds to the economy (£16bn), or 11% of GDP, in 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism Observer

INDONESIA: Authorities Divert Flights From Anak Krakatau Volcano

Indonesia on Thursday raised the alert level for the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano to the second-highest, and ordered all flights to steer clear, days after it triggered a tsunami that killed at least 430 people.

A crater collapse on the volcanic island at high tide on Saturday sent waves up to 5 metres high smashing into the coast on the Sunda Strait, between the islands of Java and Bali.

Authorities have warned that the crater of Anak Krakatau, or child of Krakatau, remains fragile, raising fears of another collapse and tsunami, and have urged residents to stay away from the coast.

There are also fears of a bigger eruption.

The volcano has been rumbling on and off since July but has been particularly active since Sunday, spewing lava and rocks, and sending huge clouds of ash up to 3,000 metres into heavily overcast skies.

The national geological agency, in raising the alert level to the second-highest, set a 5-km exclusion zone around the island.

Since December 23, activity has not stopped, we anticipate a further escalation, said Antonius Ratdomopurbo, secretary of the geological agency.

A thin layer of volcanic ash has been settling on buildings, vehicles and vegetation along the west coast of Java since late on Wednesday, according to images shared by the national disaster mitigation agency.

Authorities said the ash was not dangerous, but advised residents to wear masks and goggles when outside, while aircraft were ordered away.

All flights are rerouted due to Krakatau volcano ash on red alert, the government air-traffic control agency AirNav said in a release.

The civil aviation authority said no airports would be affected. The capital, Jakarta, is about 155 km east of the volcano.

In 1883, the volcano then known as Krakatoa erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunami and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.

A tsunami in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait struck two of the country’s islands without warning, killing at least 222 people and injuring more than 700, officials said here yesterday.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the three-foot wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 14.30pm GMT (6.30pm UAE time) on Saturday after a volcano known as the “child” of Krakatoa erupted, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

No earthquake was recorded and no tsunami warning was issued, said Rahmat Triyono, earthquake and tsunami chief at Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency. We don’t know what caused the tsunami yet, he said.

Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with 222 people confirmed dead, 843 people injured and 28 missing, Nugroho said.

Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions are relatively rare, caused by the sudden displacement of water or slope failure, according to the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Unlike those triggered by earthquakes, they give authorities no time to warn residents of the impending threat. Ben van der Pluijm, an earthquake geologist and a professor in the University of Michigan, said the tsunami may have been caused by a partial collapse of Anak Krakatoa.

Instability of the slope of an active volcano can create a rock slide that moves a large volume of water, creating local tsunami waves that can be very powerful. This is like suddenly dropping a bag of sand in a tub filled with water, he said.

Videos from the regency of Pandeglang in Java’s Banten province showed extensive damage. More than 400 homes, nine hotels and at least ten vessels were damaged or destroyed in Pandeglang, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster management agency, said on Twitter.

The area hit by the tsunami is popular with tourists from Jakarta, the capital, and many people were at the beach on Saturday when the wave struck around 9.30pm (local time).

Rahmat said no tsunami warning had been issued because such warnings are prompted by tectonic activity and no earthquake had occurred.

In September, an earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi, setting off an underwater landslide and tsunami that struck the city of Palu and surrounding areas. More than 2,100 people died.

TV images showed the seconds when the tsunami hit the beach and residential areas in Pandeglang on Java island, dragging with it victims, debris and large chunks of wood and metal.

On December 26, 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis. Anak Krakatoa is the island that emerged from the area once occupied by Krakatoa, which was destroyed in 1883. It first appeared in 1927 and has been growing ever since.

Saturday’s tsunami was the latest in a series of tragedies that have struck Indonesia, a vast archipelago, this year.

Successive earthquakes flattened parts of the tourist island of Lombok, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed thousands on Sulawesi island. Nearly 200 people died when a Lion Air passenger plane crashed into the Java Sea in October.

President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, tweeted that he had ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims and care for the injured.

Neighbouring Malaysia and Australia both said they were ready to provide assistance if needed.

Another tsunami could strike Indonesia, experts have warned, after a powerful wave caused by a volcanic eruption killed hundreds when it swallowed coastal settlements, taking earthquake-focused disaster monitors by surprise.

While tsunamis are often triggered by earthquakes, in this case experts believe the deadly waves were generated by an eruption of the Anak (or "child of") Krakatoa volcano, which could have caused a large undersea landslide or flow of molten rock into the water.

The tsunami appears to have been caused by an underwater collapse of part of the volcano, said David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at Britain's Open University.

Anak Krakatoa is an island that emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people.

The tsunami that struck on Saturday was the third natural disaster to hit Indonesia in six months.

The country has 127 active volcanoes and lies on the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire" where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent.

Anak Krakatoa, located in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, is close to densely populated areas.

The volcano has been particularly active since June, noted Jacques-Marie Bardintzeff at the University of Paris-South.

We were helpless given how sudden the event took place, Bardintzeff said. The time between cause and effect was a few dozen minutes, which was too short to warn the population.

The killer wave struck at night, sweeping across tourist beaches and low-lying settlements on both sides of the Sunda Strait and catching both residents and disaster monitors totally unawares.

Signs that a tsunami was coming weren't detected and so people did not have time to evacuate, said Indonesia's disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who blamed vandalism, technical problems and limited budgets for the lack of warning buoys.

But the Open University's Rothry said such buoys, normally positioned to monitor earthquakes at underwater tectonic plate boundaries, would still have had limited efficacy.

Even if there had been such a buoy right next to Anak Krakatoa, this is so close to the affected shorelines that warning time would have been minimal given the high speeds at which tsunami waves travel.

Simon Boxall of Southampton University said the region was in spring tide, and it would appear that the wave hit some of the coastal areas at the highest point of this high tide, exacerbating the damage done.

While the tsunami was relatively small, Richard Teeuw, a disaster risk reduction expert at the University of Portsmouth in England said: Such waves - laden with debris - can be deadly for coastal communities, especially if there is no warning.

Devastating tsunami caused by volcanic eruptions are rare; one of the most famous and deadly was caused by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, Teeuw said.

The likelihood of further tsunamis in the Sunda Strait will remain high while Anak Krakatoa volcano is going through its current active phase because that might trigger further submarine landslides, he said.

Sonar surveys would now be needed to map the seafloor around the volcano, but unfortunately submarine surveys typically take many months to organise and carry out, he added.

Bardintzeff warned we must be wary now that the volcano has been destabilised.

Tourism Observer