BLADE India launches chopper services from Goa Airport

Radhika Bansal

21 May 2022

Helicopter transport firm BLADE on Friday, May 20 announced the launch of its chopper services in Goa, offering rides for local travellers as well as tourists.

According to the company, the helicopter service is meant for inbound travel and it will connect Goa Airport to North Goa, South Goa and Old Goa -- a village having a cluster of heritage monuments.

State chief minister Pramod Sawant inaugurated the service at Aguada helipad in North Goa. With this launch, the company aims to make Goa more accessible and navigable for travellers, it added.

BLADE has three landing points - North Goa (in Surla), South Goa and Old airport -- available to it for operating its services in the state, as per the company.

Heli-tourism services aim to make places more accessible through short-haul air mobility, said Amit Dutta, managing director at BLADE India.

"The Goa airport and North-South Goa have always been disconnected due to the road travel time involved and have been a pain point for travellers in Goa and locals alike. The goal is to bridge the gap between the two locations and help local communities and businesses thrive by being connected," he stated.

BLADE India launches chopper services from Goa Airport

BLADE said it will provide fly-by-the-seat helicopter services from Goa airport to North and South Goa wherein a customer can book a seat in a helicopter through the company's official website or app.

Besides, a customer can also charter the entire chopper for travel within the state as well as interstate (Maharashtra), it stated. Also, travellers can opt for short experiential helicopter flights of 10-15 minutes to enjoy an aerial view of Goa, BLADE said in the release.

"Heli tourism will let us explore the hinterlands of Goa like never before. The government will provide any kind of support for such initiatives to promote tourism in the state," chief minister Sawant said.

ALSO READ - BLADE India plans a chopper shuttle service between Bengaluru city and the airport

BLADE India is rapidly expanding its footprint in the country and geared up to enter India's most preferred leisure holiday destination Goa

Goa is the third state for BLADE India, a joint venture between New York-based BLADE Urban Air Mobility Inc and Delhi-based venture capital firm Hunch Ventures. It forayed into the Indian market with the launch of its services in Maharashtra in March 2019.

In December 2020, the company expanded its operations to Karnataka. After an overwhelming response in Maharashtra and Karnataka, BLADE India is rapidly expanding its footprint in the country and geared up to enter India's most preferred leisure holiday destination Goa, the company said.

ALSO READ - BLADE India launches helicopter service from Bengaluru to Coorg and Kabini

BLADE is an urban air mobility (UAM) platform committed to reducing travel friction with a personalized flying experience

BLADE also has helicopter services elsewhere in the country. In Karnataka, you can hop on to a chopper in Bengaluru for a ride over Hampi, Coorg, and Kabini. In Maharashtra, you can fly between Mumbai, Pune, Amby Valley and the temple town of Shirdi. BLADE’s chopper service in Goa will launch in August. Tariffs and schedules will be announced shortly.

"The real beauty of India lies in Bharat-the interiors. These interiors, today, are hard to reach so we need solutions based on helicopters which can connect potential tourists to the real Bharat and create employment opportunities for them."Goa can lead the rest of the country when it comes to this (Tourism).Sunny Guglani, Head, India and South Asia, Airbus Helicopters

Gulglani also feels that Helicopters can play a pivotal role in unlocking the true potential of Goa when it comes to tourism.

BLADE is an urban air mobility (UAM) platform committed to reducing travel friction with a personalized flying experience and enabling time-efficient air transportation alternatives to some of the most congested and inaccessible ground routes in India.

"The aim of heli-tourism services is to make places more accessible through short-haul air mobility. The Goa airport and North-South Goa have always been disconnected due to the road travel time involved and have been a pain point for travellers in Goa and locals alike. The goal is to bridge the gap between the two locations and help local communities and businesses thrive by being connected".Amit Dutta, MD, BLADE India

With BLADE, one can book by the seat on scheduled flights in Maharashtra, between Mumbai-Pune-Shirdi-Hilton Shillim and Aamby Valley; in Karnataka between Bangalore, Evolve Back Resorts Coorg and Kabini, Mercara Golf Course Madikeri or charter anywhere across the country and abroad.

It has also partnered with Airbus to expand its short-haul air mobility services in India through fleet expansions and further explore and expand UAM in the country.

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IndiGo and Air France-KLM announce codeshare agreement

Radhika Bansal

24 Dec 2021

Air France-KLM and IndiGo on Thursday, December 23 announced that they have entered into a codeshare agreement that allows each airline to sell seats on the other's flights.

With this new partnership, Air France and KLM will offer their customers access to 25 new Indian destinations, a joint statement mentioned. This means that once the codeshare agreement comes into force, Air France-KLM group will be able to sell seats, on its distribution system, of IndiGo flights on 25 domestic routes.

Similarly, IndiGo will also be able to sell seats on the European airline group's flights on more than 250 routes, the joint statement noted.

A codeshare agreement is a business arrangement in which two or more airlines publish and market the same flight under their airline designator and flight number as part of their published timetable or schedule.

From their hubs in Paris and Amsterdam, Air France and KLM operate flights to four Indian cities -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.

"Subject to government approval, this cooperation (codeshare) will start in February 2022," the statement mentioned.

IndiGo had in September also announced that it has entered into a code-sharing agreement with American Airlines, which will help place the latter’s code on 29 of IndiGo’s domestic routes in India. IndiGo also has codeshare agreements with Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways.

Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020. However, limited passenger flights have been operating between India and approximately 32 countries, including France and the Netherlands, under the 'air bubble' arrangements.

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Ryanair's annual loss forecast doubled due to Omicron restrictions

Radhika Bansal

23 Dec 2021

Ryanair on Wednesday, December 22 more than doubled its annual loss forecast and cut its January traffic estimate by 33%, blaming travel restrictions in France, Germany and Morocco following the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

But it said it was too soon to say whether similar cuts would be required to its February and March schedules and would wait for further scientific data before making any decisions.

The Irish low-cost airline, Europe's largest by passenger numbers, flew more than twice as many flights within the continent in the second week of December as any other airline, according to Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic regulator.

(Image Courtesy - France 24)

But restrictions on British passengers flying to Germany and France - and all EU passengers to Morocco - forced Ryanair to cut its December passenger forecast to a range of 9 to 9.5 million, from 10 to 11 million, a company statement said.

Ryanair plans even deeper cuts in January, reducing its forecast to between 6 and 7 million from 10 million.

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary, one of the most outspoken critics of COVID-19 travel restrictions, last week said the mood in Britain and Ireland in the face of Omicron was one of "panic".

O'Leary has argued that it is impossible to limit the spread of virus variants and that high-quality filters on planes make them relatively safe. Many health experts argue that air travel is nevertheless a high-risk activity.

As a result of the cuts, Ryanair, which just last month announced its first quarterly profit since the start of the pandemic, now expects to post a net loss of between 250 million euros ($283 million) and 450 million in the 12 months to the end of March.

That is down from its earlier forecast of a loss of between 100 million and 200 million euros. "These figures are hugely sensitive to any further positive or negative COVID news flow," the Ryanair statement said.

The airline, which normally employs a strategy of filling its planes irrespective of the discounts needed to fill seats, promised an update when it releases financial results for its third quarter, the three months to the end of December, on January 31.

It now expects to fly just under 100 million passengers in the year to the end of March from an earlier forecast of just over 100 million, it said.

(With Inputs from Reuters)

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Indian Aviation sector to see a loss of INR 25,000-26,000 crore in FY22

Radhika Bansal

23 Dec 2021

The pandemic-hit Indian aviation industry is expected to report a net loss of INR 25,000-26,000 crore while its debt level may increase to Rs 1.2 lakh crore in the ongoing fiscal year, credit rating agency ICRA said.

Also, the industry will be requiring additional funding of INR 45,000-47,000 crore over FY2022 to FY2024, it said.

According to ICRA, in the near term, the balance sheets of Indian carriers will remain stressed until they can reduce their debt burden through a combination of improvement in operating performance and/or through equity infusion.

ICRA has thus maintained its negative credit outlook on the Indian aviation industry.

Most airlines have initiated fund-raising plans to tide over the liquidity crisis stemming from the cash burn due to the impact on demand and increase in jet fuel prices, it said.

The aviation industry is expected to witness strong year-on-year growth of 45-50% in domestic air passenger traffic and 80-85% in international air passenger traffic during 2021-22, according to ICRA.

It will, however, be achieved on a lower base of the previous fiscal year and driven by the faster pace of vaccination and gradual relaxations in restrictions by the regulatory authorities.

"Given the resurgence of the second wave of the pandemic, the recovery in passenger traffic will only be gradual, with the domestic passenger traffic expected to reach pre-COVID levels only by FY2024.Elevated ATF prices (higher by 71% Y-o-Y in the five months of FY2022) and fare caps continue to pose a challenge for the profitability of the airlines.Therefore, the Indian aviation industry is expected to report a net loss of INR 250-260 billion in FY2022. The debt levels will remain high for the industry and are estimated to increase to around INR 1,200 billion (including lease liabilities) in FY2022, with the industry requiring additional funding of INR 450-470 billion over FY2022 to FY2024."Kinjal Shah, Vice President and Co-Group Head, ICRA

However, the growth will still be significantly lower than the 2015-16 and 2012-13 levels, and the industry is expected to report a higher net loss in 2021-22, said ICRA.

The recovery in domestic air passenger traffic is contingent on the pace of vaccination, willingness of consumers to undertake leisure travel, recovery in macroeconomic growth, which in turn impacts consumer sentiments and the ability to travel.

Besides, developments related to central and state government-mandated travel restrictions and quarantine norms, and recovery in business travel will also decide the pace of recovery, ICRA said.

Stating that the impact of the pandemic will be more profound and long-lasting on international travel, compared to domestic travel, it said that in addition to these, the recovery in international travel is also contingent on the opening up of scheduled international operations by the government.

Besides, the macroeconomic shock to the global economy and the government-mandated travel restrictions and quarantine norms of various countries will be the deciding factors for the recovery.

Significantly, the regular commercial international flight services remain suspended from late March 2020. The ban has now been extended till January 31, 2022.

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Gautam Adani looks for $1 billion in bonds to refinance the debt at Mumbai Airport

Radhika Bansal

23 Dec 2021

Billionaire Gautam Adani is mulling to raise around $1 billion via a bond sale in January 2022 to refinance the debt of Mumbai’s international airport, Bloomberg reported on December 22.

According to the report, Barclays Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Deutsche Bank AG are among the banks working to arrange the bond sale to raise funds for Adani Airport Holdings Ltd. The proceeds will be used to refinance a rupee loan taken earlier in 2021.

Earlier on July 13, Adani Airport Holdings Limited (AAHL) -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises -- took control of the management of India's second-busiest airport on July 13 after buying out 50.5% from GVK Airport Developers Ltd.

Earlier, it acquired 23.5% from ACSA Global (ACSA) and Bid Services Division (Mauritius), or Bidvest, for INR 1,685.25 crore. Adani Airports will operate, manage and develop eight airports.

Recently, Adani Group had received permission to operate Lucknow, Jaipur, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangaluru airports through the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

"We are delighted to take over management of the world-class Mumbai International Airport. We promise to make Mumbai proud. The Adani Group will build an airport ecosystem of the future for business, leisure, and entertainment. We will create thousands of new local jobs," Gautam Adani said earlier this year after over the management of Mumbai International airport from the GVK Group, following a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) board meeting.

(With Inputs from Bloomberg)

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Defense Ministry fines MBDA for failing to meet its obligations under the Rafale deal

Radhika Bansal

23 Dec 2021

The defence ministry has imposed a fine of less than 1 million euros on European missile maker MBDA for the delay in fulfilling its offset obligations under the Rafale aircraft deal, sources said on Wednesday, December 22.

French aerospace major Dassault Aviation is the manufacturer of the Rafale jets while MBDA supplies the missile systems for the aircraft.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets for INR 59,000 crore, and the offset obligations were part of the contract. As a part of the deal, 50% of the total contract value has to be reinvested in India as offsets each year between September 2019 and September 2022.

The sources said the defence ministry has imposed and collected a fine of less than 1 million euros from MBDA for delaying its offset obligations for the September 2019-September 2020 period.

MBDA has deposited its penalty but has also lodged its protest with the defence ministry, they said. The first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft came to India in July 2020.

The CAG had in September 2020 said that Dassault Aviation and MBDA are yet to fulfil their offset obligations of offering high technology to India under the Rafale aircraft deal, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General's report released on Wednesday, December 22.

(Image Courtesy - Mint)

In its report tabled in Parliament, the national auditor had said that Dassault Aviation and MBDA proposed in September 2015 to discharge 30% of their offset obligations by offering high technology to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), but the two firms were yet to do it.

India received the first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, on July 29, 2020. The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The multi-role Rafale jets are known for air superiority and precision strikes. They are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and a Scalp cruise missile are the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets. Meteor is a next-generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.