Airlines cancel and divert flights during Chinese military exercises near Taiwan airspace

Radhika Bansal

06 Aug 2022

Some airlines have cancelled flights to Taipei and rerouted others using nearby airspace that has been closed to civilian traffic during Chinese military exercises sparked by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

China deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near Taiwan in its biggest-ever drills in the Taiwan Strait, set to run until noon local time (0400 GMT) on Sunday, August 7 in six zones encircling much of the island.

The airspace involved is comparatively small, but the disruption is hampering travel between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

Airlines cancel and divert flights during Chinese military exercises near Taiwan airspace

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said it had cancelled flights between Seoul and Taipei on Friday and Saturday, and would delay a flight on Sunday due to the exercises.

Singapore Airlines Ltd said it had cancelled its Friday flights between Singapore and Taipei due to "evolving airspace restrictions" and would continue to monitor the situation in case more adjustments were needed.

Japan's ANA Holdings Inc and Japan Airlines Co Ltd are still operating flights to Taipei as normal, spokespeople for the airlines said, but are avoiding the affected airspace on those flights, as well as on routes to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

Singapore Airlines had cancelled its Friday flights between Singapore and Taipei due to "evolving airspace restrictions"

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Thursday its flights were avoiding designated airspace zones around Taiwan, in a move that could lead to more flying time for some flights.

Flight tracking service FlightRadar24 showed Taiwanese carriers China Airlines Ltd and EVA Airways Corp were still flying to and from the island as of Friday morning, as was Philippine Airlines and cargo carriers FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc, though avoiding the areas affected by the military drills.

Emirates was still scheduled to fly to Taipei on Friday, according to its website.

Taiwan, along with mainland China and Hong Kong, is one of the few places in the world that still requires quarantine for arrivals because of COVID-19, triggering reduced demand for travel to the island that means there are far fewer flights than before the pandemic.

Flight tracking service FlightRadar24 showed Taiwanese carriers China Airlines Ltd and EVA Airways Corp were still flying to and from the island

OPSGROUP, an aviation industry cooperative that shares information on flight risks, said the Chinese military exercises would affect major routes between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, leading to re-routings that could take longer and burn extra fuel.

The airspace involved, however, is minor in its impact on the global aviation industry compared to the decision by most airlines to bypass overflight of other places like Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq and Syria.

For example, the avoidance of Russian airspace has led to a nearly four-hour increase in flight times between Finland and Japan. Taiwan said it was negotiating with neighbours Japan and the Philippines to find alternative aviation routes, the official Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

(With Inputs from Reuters)

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SpiceJet to reinstate flights gradually once it makes necessary changes

Radhika Bansal

05 Aug 2022

India will allow SpiceJet Ltd to reinstate flights in a "graded manner" once the airline shows it has sufficient engineering strength and the financial ability to stock up on spares, the country's air safety watchdog told Reuters.

Last week, in an unprecedented move, India slashed SpiceJet's approved departures by 50% for eight weeks after an audit revealed the airline's inability to establish "a safe, efficient and reliable" service.

ALSO READ - DGCA orders SpiceJet to operate only 50% of approved flights

SpiceJet to reinstate flights gradually once the airline makes necessary changes

While placing SpiceJet under "enhanced surveillance", the regulator stated in its notice there was "poor internal safety oversight" at the airline, and that financial issues at the carrier were leading to a "frequent shortage of spares".

The chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Arun Kumar, said SpiceJet will be permitted to reinstate its capacity but gradually once it demonstrates it has fixed the manpower and spare part shortages.

"At this point, we feel they can only operate 50% of their capacity without compromising safety," Kumar said, during an interview at the watchdog's headquarters in India's national capital New Delhi.

 SpiceJet will be permitted to reinstate its capacity but gradually once it demonstrates it has fixed the manpower and spare part shortages.

Kumar said a review of SpiceJet's operations and physical audit of the airline showed the carrier was "incapable" of flying at full capacity. "The decision is a pre-emptive step to ensure there is no safety issue in the future and does not mean the airline is not fit to fly. Our objective is not to disrupt service."

SpiceJet did not respond to a request for comment on the DGCA's observations. The airline has previously said it is confident in scaling up its operations and addressing any concerns the regulator may have.

SpiceJet has reported close to a dozen safety incidents since May, which included a side windshield outer pane that cracked mid-flight and malfunctioning indicator light, prompting the DGCA to issue a notice to the airline on July 5 asking why no action should be taken against it.

SpiceJet has shown an improvement in its operations

Since then SpiceJet has shown an improvement in its operations. "An aircraft is a complex machine. When components break down or malfunction ... there is a process that needs to be followed to deal with it," Kumar said.

With the growth in India's domestic aviation market reaching pre-pandemic levels, new airlines coming on board and old ones expanding, Kumar said the DGCA is looking to hire more people to maintain its surveillance of the sector.

The regulator conducts 3,700 checks in a year and currently has about 1,300 staff to do that. It plans to add 400 more over the next one year, mainly to its technical team, Kumar said. "The point is to make ourselves more robust to take on growth in the market."

ALSO READ - Lessor wants 3 SpiceJet aircraft deregistered over unpaid dues

(With Inputs from Reuters)

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Air Works to get 462 cr offer from Adani Group

Jinen Gada

05 Aug 2022

The Adani Group, which manages seven airports within the country, is trying to spend money on India’s largest impartial plane upkeep, restore and overhaul (MRO) organisation in a bid to boost its civil aviation portfolio.

The Adani Group is looking to invest in India’s largest independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisation. Adani Group has made a ?462 crore non-binding offer to acquire Air Works, one of India’s oldest aircraft maintenance and repair companies.

A team from Adani’s defence and aerospace division has been leading the discussions for the Air Works acquisition. One of the sources cited earlier said the due diligence was “progressing well”.

Adani To Purchase Stake In India's Biggest Aircraft Maintenance, Repair And Overhaul Firm.

Air Works was founded in 1951 by the family of Ravi Menon. The company has four major groups of shareholders-the Menon family, Punj Lloyd Aviation, GTI Capital and an employee welfare trust-which together own 100% of its shares.

Air Works holds certifications from aviation authorities of over 25 countries to maintain both narrow and wide-body aircraft at leading airports.

Having a pan-India presence across 19 international airports, Air Works Group is the largest provider of transit or line maintenance services to foreign passenger and cargo carriers operating in the country.

Line maintenance work includes changing tyres, checking aircraft lights for their functioning, topping up engine oil, and charging hydraulic accumulators, among others.

The Air Works Group is India’s largest independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisation. It has customers like IndiGo, Vistara and GoAir amongst other international airlines like Etihad, FlyDubai, Lufthansa, Turkish Atlantics and Virgin Atlantic.

Line maintenance work includes changing tyres, checking aircraft lights for their functioning, topping up engine oil, and charging hydraulic accumulators, among others.

The proposed take care of Air Works is according to the Adani Group’s plan to leverage options arising from the rising Indian civil aviation demand and the rising desire for MRO providers.

ALSO READ - Indian Navy receives sixth P-8I from Air Works

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IndiGo becomes the first airline in the world to introduce a three-point disembarkation procedure

Radhika Bansal

05 Aug 2022

IndiGo on Thursday, August 4 announced it would disembark passengers from three doors of the plane, allowing the flyers to quickly get off the aircraft. The airline is the first in the world to adopt the new three-point disembarkation procedure.

"The new three-point disembarkation process will be carried out from two forward and one rear exit ramp, making IndiGo the first airline in the world to use this process," the airline said in a statement.

Two ramps are being deployed on the front of the plane and another on the back in a bid to clear planes 5-7 minutes faster. This is also expected to help improve the efficiency as well as the on-time performance of the airline.

IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta told reporters at the Delhi airport that the three-point disembarkation will allow the airline to save five-six minutes, leading to a quicker turnaround of planes.

"It generally takes 13-14 minutes to disembark an A321 aircraft with two-point disembarkation. With three-point disembarkation, it will take just seven-eight minutes to let all passengers get off the plane," he noted.

The usual turnaround time, which is the time the plan spends on the tarmac between landing and taking off again, is anywhere between 30-35 minutes for IndiGo at the moment.

“It brings us immense pride to be the first airline in the world to use a three-point system. At IndiGo, we constantly keep reinventing our internal standards to enable a hassle-free customer experience as well as contributing to operational efficiencies for all stakeholders including airport operators and ground handling companies.” Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo

His comments came a day after the company reported its highest ever quarterly revenue for the three months ended June 30, boosted by a 145% increase in capacity and a load factor, representing the percentage of seats filled, of about 80%.

This new disembarkation procedure is being implemented on IndiGo’s A320 and A321 fleet for flights arriving at remote stands at Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru airports to begin with, and will be progressively deployed across the network in the next 100 days.

IndiGo currently has 181 Airbus A-320 and 65 Airbus A-321 aircraft in the fleet.

“At IndiGo, we have always looked at newer ways to enhance our customer experience and make flying, as well as our ground operations, efficient and hassle-free. Adding a third ramp for disembarkation is a simple yet effective way to complete a smooth travel experience for our customers. We have always been known for setting new benchmarks in innovating travel and our 16th anniversary is the perfect occasion to make the experience a little sweeter for our customers – as they can get to work or meet their loved ones quicker.”Sanjeev Ramdas, Executive Vice President, IndiGo

The airline said that trials over the past 45 days have shown the turnaround time to disembark an Airbus A320 plane has fallen from an average of 13-14 to 7-8 minutes now.

IndiGo is India’s largest passenger airline with a market share of 56.9% as of June 2022. Since its inception in August 2006, it grew from a carrier with one plane to a fleet of 279 aircraft today.

IndiGo becomes the first airline in the world to introduce a three-point disembarkation procedure

IndiGo has a total destination count of 97 with 74 domestic destinations and 25 International. IndiGo celebrated its 16th anniversary on August 4.

Competition in India's aviation sector is heating up, with the launch of Akasa Air and the return of full-service carrier Jet Airways, though IndiGo's biggest rival SpiceJet Ltd is facing some turbulence after India's aviation regulator forced it to reduce its schedule by half.

ALSO READ - IndiGo reports net loss of INR 1,064 crore in Q1

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Indian Navy receives sixth P-8I from Air Works

Radhika Bansal

05 Aug 2022

Indian MRO and aviation services and solutions major - Air Works - has handed over the last of the six P-8I maritime patrol aircraft after completing Phase 32 maintenance checks to Boeing and the Indian Navy. The heavy maintenance of these aircraft was successfully completed at the Air Works facility at Hosur, Tamil Nadu.

Air Works and Boeing signed a strategic collaboration in 2021 for the MRO of two critical Boeing defence platforms in India - the P-8I operated by the Indian Navy (IN) and the VIP transport fleet (BBJ) operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Indian Navy receives sixth P-8I from Air Works

ALSO READ - Boeing expands MRO capability for Indian Navy’s P8I fleet

Three Indian Navy Boeing P8Is are simultaneously undergoing heavy maintenance checks at the Hosur facility of Air Works, India’s largest aviation MRO, to demonstrate the growing capability to service these mission-critical platforms in India. 

“We are grateful to both Boeing and the Indian Navy for their trust in Air Works to deliver on such a unique and mission-critical project for the very first time in the country. Not only has every successful inspection increased our confidence of managing such intricate and specialized projects on behalf of our defense forces, but the fact that we have been able to value add with our ingenuity and decades-long experience to enhance the quality of maintenance of these premium assets, has particularly boosted our motivation and self-assurance. This is an incredibly proud moment for the everyone at Air Works, especially the P-8I project team - who have transformed their ardent passion into a brilliant outcome, and we look forward to expanding our collaboration horizon.One of the key learning of this project has been that aviation & aerospace OEMs must take a leaf from Boeing’s BIRDS hub initiative and partner with domestic MROs like Air Works, to successfully realize the Government’s Make-in-India program, to scale up local maintenance capabilities and ensure that more and more maintenance assignments – irrespective of their complexity or their nature - civil or defense - are undertaken within the country, for cost effectiveness and to create a strategic depth."D Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director & CEO, Air Works Group

Under this collaboration, three P-8Is had already undergone maintenance at Air Works and three more were simultaneously inducted earlier this year – which intensified the complexity of the entire project.

The partnership between Air Works and Boeing is well positioned to further strengthen, as the P-8I inspection programme expands in terms of both scale and scope.

“Ensuring mission-readiness for our customers and providing them seamless services and support on our platforms is imperative for Boeing. Having completed heavy maintenance checks for six P-8Is for the Indian Navy by our partner Air Works is testimony to our joint and long-standing commitment towards bolstering MRO capabilities in the country.We have always supported the development of indigenous aerospace and defense capabilities in India, and through the years, invested in partnerships within the Indian aerospace ecosystem in MRO, services and sustainment, as much as in manufacturing, R&D and innovation, and talent."Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India

The P-8I is an aircraft designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It is built to deliver the highest levels of quality, reliability, and operability.

The P8I is the Indian Navy’s most capable surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The induction of the P8I fleet in 2013 is widely regarded as a game-changer for India’s maritime capabilities. Nine of these aircraft have been delivered and three more are in the pipeline. 

The P8I is the Indian Navy’s most capable surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

A true multi-mission aircraft, it is defined by a unique combination of state-of-the-art sensors, proven weapons systems, and a globally recognized platform. Its induction into the Indian Navy in 2013, is widely regarded as a game changer for India’s maritime capabilities.

Established in 1951, Air Works has a pan-India network across 27 cities and provides MRO support to Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 fleets besides the ATR 42/72 family. It is also an Authorized Service Centre (ASC) for Bell and Leonardo helicopters and undertakes modification and assembly of rotary-wing aircraft.  

Cover Image - Bangalore Aviation

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More flights on Birmingham-Amritsar route, Birmingham MP writes to Air India

Jinen Gada

04 Aug 2022

The demand to increase Air India’s flight frequency between Birmingham and Amritsar is gaining momentum as the demand for the route continues to grow. More than 10 lawmakers from the region have written to the airline to restore its pre-pandemic schedule between the two cities to boost trade and tourism ties between the UK and India.

The number of passengers travelling between Birmingham and Amritsar has always been high. Earlier, such passengers had no option but to travel from London, but this changed when Air India introduced twice-a-week non-stop flights between the two cities in 2018.

Birmingham has an enormous Punjabi and Sikh population.

The flights immediately became popular with impressive load factors, but like many popular routes, BHX-ATQ was dropped following the COVID pandemic, with flight reinstated last year but from the earlier six-week schedule, it became just once a week.

British Indian-origin MP Preet Kaur Gill is leading a campaign for more direct flights between Birmingham and Amritsar in India. Birmingham has a large Punjabi and Sikh population that benefits significantly from direct connections.

Demand for Birmingham-Amritsar flights remains high.

For example, in 2018, when Air India started direct service between the two destinations, it was met with much fanfare. But after COVID, Air India first suspended the flight and later resumed it on a lesser frequency. And now, Birmingham MP Preet Kaur Gill and 11 other MPs have written to the airline requesting it to restore the previous schedule to meet the high demand from the local population.

"While it was welcome that the Birmingham-Amritsar direct flight resumed last August as Covid travel restrictions relaxed, we are concerned that the regularity of flights have remained significantly scaled down. Currently, there is only one direct flight per week to Amritsar, Punjab from Birmingham International Airport, and we are keen to see that this is increased, as it has from London Heathrow Airport, in the coming months."Birmingham MP Preet Kaur Gill

Before writing to Air India, Gill had already communicated with Birmingham Airport and met with a positive response. The airport’s aviation director, Tom Screen attended a conference in Asia specifically to discuss route development with Indian Airlines.

Indian-origin British MP Preet Kaur Gill is spearheading a campaign for more direct flights between Birmingham and Amritsar in India.

Air India had plans to increase the frequency of flights from once a week to six but had issues with not getting enough spare parts for their Boeing 787 fleet, which means that a number of these aircraft are currently grounded.

Hopefully, under the new ownership and with Campbell Wilson taking charge of the airline, Air India will soon resolve its fleet issues and increase frequency to Birmingham.