After the launch of Kushinagar Airport, government plans to build 17 more airports in UP

Radhika Bansal

22 Oct 2021

Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya M Scindia on Wednesday, October 20 lauded the progress of development of airports in Uttar Pradesh and said that the government plans to set up 17 new airports shortly. Earlier, Scindia felicitated PM Narendra Modi in Kushinagar.

The inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport will be marked by the landing of the inaugural flight at the airport from Colombo, Sri Lanka, carrying a Sri Lankan delegation in SriLankan Airlines of over a hundred Buddhist Monks and dignitaries including the 12-member Holy Relic entourage bringing the Holy Buddha Relics for Exposition.

"Under Prime Minister's vision and guidance, we have successfully set up the Kushinagar International airport. This is the ninth airport in Uttar Pradesh and the government plans to set up 17 more airports in the state shortly. In the first 70 years of India's independence, only 74 airports were there in the country. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's guidance, the government has successfully inaugurated 54 airports in the last seven years of his governance in the country. With this, 128 airports have been set up in the country.The government has decided to operate direct flights from Delhi airport to Kushinagar airport for four times a week. These operations will start on November 26. We will connect directly with Kolkata and Mumbai airports as well soon."Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Addressing an event in Kushinagar

The delegation also comprises of Anunayakas (deputy's heads) of all four Nikatas (orders) of Buddhism in Sri Lanka i.e Asgiriya, Amarapura, Ramana, Malwatta as well as five ministers of the Government of Sri Lanka led by Cabinet Minister Namal Rajapakshe.

The airport will serve nearby districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and is an important step in boosting the investment and employment opportunities in the region. By enhancing the development of a Buddhist theme-based circuit, the airport will cut short the journey in Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Rajgir, Sankisa, and Vaishali circuit. Direct air routes with South Asian countries will make it easier for tourists coming from Sri Lanka, Japa, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore, etc., to reach the rich heritage.

This comes under the government's Regional Connectivity Scheme.

The UDAN scheme aims to enhance connectivity in remote and regional areas of the country and make air travel affordable. It is a key component of the Centre’s National Civil Aviation Policy led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched in June 2016. Under the scheme, nearly half of the seats in UDAN flights are offered at subsidised fares, and the participating carriers are provided with a certain amount of viability gap funding (VGF) – an amount shared between the Centre and the concerned states. The scheme will be jointly funded by the central government and state governments. The scheme will run for 10 years and can be extended thereafter.

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International flight restrictions are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon

Radhika Bansal

22 Oct 2021

According to a senior civil aviation ministry official, the government is unlikely to lift restrictions on international flights immediately, claiming that current frequencies under air bubble arrangements are sufficient to meet demand.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, scheduled international passenger flights to and from India have been suspended since March 2020. For international flights, India has air bubble agreements with more than 25 countries.

(Image Courtesy - Financial Times)

According to Rajiv Bansal, Civil Aviation Secretary, current air bubble frequencies are sufficient to meet demand, and there is little demand for international routes due to the restrictive visa regime.

He also noted that in certain sectors such as US and Canada, airlines have 30 to 40% load factors for mid-December 2021. "We can surely consider opening once demand nears pre-COVID levels."

Speaking on the sidelines after the inauguration of the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, October 20 Bansal also said that if there is a need, then air bubble arrangements can be expanded.

(Image Courtesy - Outlook India)

Under an air bubble arrangement between two countries, international passenger flights can be operated by their respective carriers into each other's territories subject to certain conditions. Currently, India has air bubble arrangements with 28 countries, including the US, the UK, Germany and Japan.

“Transport Bubbles” or “Air Travel Arrangements” are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.

To a query on when fare bands are likely to be removed, Bansal said a call would be taken "once demand returns to pre-COVID levels". Domestic air services were resumed after two months on May 25, 2020.

(Image Courtesy -

Recently, the government decided to lift the Covid barrier for international travellers by resuming the grant of tourist visas to boost the economy through tourism.

On November 15, the Ministry of External Affairs will begin issuing new tourist visas to foreigners visiting India. Visas would be issued to those arriving on chartered flights beginning October 15.

Cover Image - iStock

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From being the top in the country to the best in South Asia-this airline has bagged it all


22 Oct 2021

With so many airlines competing against each other, if there ever was a judging platform, who would come out at the top?

Tempting as it is, Indigo, despite being the top airline in India in terms of market share and fleet size, still hasn't made it to the cut. Guess who has?


Vistara! The Skytrax world airlines awards have bestowed upon Vistara the most prestigious award of the best airline not only in India but South Asia as well. And if that wasn't enough, it has also bagged the 4th rank in the list of the world’s most improved airlines of 2021.

With regards to cabin cleanliness, the airline has been ranked the best in the country as is with the best airline staff as well. The airline has also jumped rankings to be the 28th best airline in the world while IndiGo stands at number 49.

Vistara A320 Business Class | Take Off With Guru

Amended rankings

Vistara has jumped from rank 86 in 2018 to 69 in 2019 and finally managed to grab the 29th position overall in 2021-and this among 350 other airlines.

The no-frills carrier, Indigo, has managed to climb to rank 49 from rank 58 in 2019.Coming close is Spicejet at rank 88, which formerly stood at rank 119 in 2019.

Vistara is a joint venture between Tata and Singapore Airlines with Tatas holding a 51% stake. The recent accomplishment marks the arrival of the airline on the global arena 6 years since its commencement.

Skytrax CEO, Edward Plaisted, congratulated Vistara on its accomplishments while presenting the awards. He further complimented the airline on its products and standards, which undoubtedly has been one of the highest.

Vistara CEO-Leslie Thng | DNA India

Vistara Chief Executive Officer Leslie Thng was all praises for his team for their contribution towards this monumental achievement.

Other notable feat(s)

airasia newsroom

AirAsia has been declared as the best low-cost budget airline in the world while Indigo has come to a close 5th.On a global level, airlines such as Southwest Airlines, Scoot, Vueling Airlines, EasyJet, Jetstar Airways, Ryanair, Jetstar Asia and Flynas have made it to the list of top budget airlines.

World's top 10 airlines of 2021 released by Skytrax

Based on customer survey during the period between September 2019 and July 2021, here's the final list:


1. Qatar Airways2. Singapore Airlines3. All Nippon Airways (ANA)4. Emirates5. Japan airlines6. Cathay pacific7. Eva Air8. Qantas Airways9. Hainan airlines10. Air France

Flyers from over 100 nationalities participated in the survey.

Did you know?Vistara becomes India's first airline to feature flat beds on a narrowbody aircraft. Currently, only a few airlines across the world like US-based JetBlue, France’s La Compagnie and United Airlines, offer this top-notch seating arrangement.

Cover: Runway Girl

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What's so special about Kushinagar Airport?

Radhika Bansal

22 Oct 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, October 20 inaugurated an international airport at Kushinagar in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. The Prime Minister said the development of Kushinagar is one of the key priorities of the governments at the Centre and in UP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The airport is expected to provide seamless connectivity to tourists from Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, etc. Kushinagar is the centre of the Buddhist circuit, which consists of pilgrimage sites at Lumbini, Sarnath and Gaya. Buddhist pilgrims consider Kushinagar a sacred site where, they believe, Gautama Buddha delivered his last sermon and attained ‘Mahaparinirvana’ or salvation.

SriLankan Airlines Official becomes the first international airline to operate to Kushinagar on the occasion of the inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport. The flight boarded from Colombo Airport carrying more than 100 monks along with sacred Kapilavastu relics of Waskaduwa on board.

(Image Courtesy - SriLankan Airlines - Twitter)

Kushinagar is very popular among the Buddhist community and pilgrims from all over the world flock to this place where Lord Buddha had Parinirvana (his last breath )

3.2 Km long and 45 m broad Runway at Kushinagar will be the longest in the state. As per state reports, more than 42 Lakh tourists visited Kushinagar in the last 5 years and direct flights will improve these numbers by at least 20%.

It is an airport that has been nearly 12 years in the making. A political fight for credit hence broke out between the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the BJP.

Spread over 590 acres, the airport is licensed for operating B737-900 type or equivalent aircraft.

The Union Cabinet had in June 2020 approved the Kushinagar airport's status as an international facility, stating it will offer improved connectivity to the important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The DGCA gave its license in February.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister of Civil Aviation along with the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath (Centre) and Kiran Rijiju, Law Minister (Left) Kishan Reddy, Tourism Minister (Right)

The terminal building at the airport is spread across 3,600 sqm and was constructed at an estimated cost of INR 260 crore. It can handle 300 passengers during peak traffic. The Airports Authority of India signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Uttar Pradesh government in 2019 for taking over the operation and development of the unused airport.

There were reports that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was facing trouble in acquiring and required for setting up an instrumental landing system, an aviation technology that enables planes to fly smoothly in case of poor visibility caused by fog or rainy weather. Talks are underway for resolving this matter

The runway can manage 8 flights per day - four arrivals and four departures. Flights would be able to take off and land at night.

Kushinagar will be UP's third international airport after Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport at Lucknow and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport at Varanasi.

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As India opens up to foreign tourists, Russian and British airlines plan flights to Goa

Radhika Bansal

21 Oct 2021

Goa will receive charter flights from Russia and the United Kingdom from November as India opens the door to foreign tourists. While travel agents from Goa said TUI Airways flights from the UK are expected from the first week of November, the airline said operations will start from December 13. 

“We’re operating to Goa from December 13. However, this is still under review pending government advice,” a TUI spokesperson said in an email response. 

Flights from Russia are expected to start from mid-November. Russia is the biggest source market for Goa tourism, and in pre-Covid times, the state would receive four to five daily flights from Russia during the winter months.

 “So far, only Rossiya Airlines has received permission from the Russian government for two weekly flights to Goa. Other companies have made applications, too. The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) is yet to approve the Rossiya Airlines flights, and the schedule will be finalized once approvals are in place,” said Abida Kumar, vice-president (operations) of Minar Travels, which handles groups from Russia. 

Goa airport director Gagan Malik said local representatives of charter companies are in touch with the airport, but no applications have been made for slots as yet. According to the Union Home Ministry, leisure tourists can travel on charter flights from October 15. Tourists will be allowed on normal flights from November 15. Only single-entry 30-day tourist visas will be issued. 

“In respect of quarantine and all other health/Covid-19 related matters, extant guidelines of the Ministry of health and Family Welfare shall be strictly adhered to,” the home ministry said in its office memorandum last week. 

While all travelers coming to India need a negative RT-PCR test report 72 hours before departure, those from the UK must be tested on arrival and undergo seven days of home quarantine according to February 17 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines. 

“We need more clarity on health and quarantine regulations,” said Nilesh Shah, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa president. “We are expecting good numbers this season. Free visas will help offset some of the extra costs associated with RT-PCR testing,” said Ernest Dias, chief operating officer of Sita Travels.

The state is a popular destination for Europeans, and each winter, thousands arrive on charter flights, especially from the UK and Russia. The charter season begins in October and runs till May each year. Between October 2018 and May 2019, Goa received 813 charter flights and 218,776 foreign tourists. Over 90,000 tourists came from Russia in 292 flights, followed by the UK and Ukraine, according to Goa tourism department data. Goa received the highest number of charter flights in 2013-14. In that year, the state received 1,128 flights carrying 261,452 foreign tourists. 

The number of foreign charter flights dropped to 798 in 2015-16 but climbed again to 988 in the subsequent year. British nationals traveling to India must undergo home quarantine for seven days and take Covid-19 tests. This came days after the UK eased similar travel restrictions for fully vaccinated Indians. There have been tensions between the two countries over the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. According to a release by the Indian government, earlier guidelines dated 17 February will now apply to all travelers arriving in the country from the United Kingdom. (With Inputs from Business Standard)

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AirLuxxis expects 30-40 departures per day in the future and will switch to leasing model

Radhika Bansal

20 Oct 2021

According to AirLuxxis CEO Mandeep Sandhu, the company may see 30-40 departures per day as it transitions from non-ownership to leasing of aircraft in response to the pandemic-related surge in demand for private air travel.

AirLuxxis Aviation, a Delhi-based boutique charter, aircraft sales, and consulting firm, offers group charters, private charters, and air ambulance services in domestic and international markets, including Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Mandeep Sandhu, Founder and CEO, AirLuxxis Aviation Services (Image Courtesy - Business Air News)

"We are moving from no ownership model to ownership, but it will be through leasing which means assets will still not be on our books. So, we will try and keep our books as light as possible," Sandhu said. The company has been able to grow with internal accruals in the last three years of its operations, he added.

Sandhu said, "We also foresee a stable demand for two years. Coupled with the growth we saw in the past 18 months, we are in line to induct aircraft in about eight to 10 months from now. We're trying to do it a little earlier. But, typically, it takes that much of the time." He added that the company is looking at raising funds to the tune of about Rs 5 crore because that will help it get one or two aircraft for lease to support its regular clients.

(Image Courtesy - AirLuxxis)

"So, we are talking to investors but these conversations take time. We have a robust balance sheet. But, that is the larger plan that we will have an aircraft in 6-10 months," Sandhu said. He added that the company plans to induct a leased aircraft under this model in the 8-10 months period.

"When we conduct an aircraft, our target is to have 30-40 departures a month," Sandhu said AirLuxxis is looking to have three aircraft in the fleet by March 2024, he said. AirLuxxis is looking to have three aircraft in the fleet by March 2024, he said.

Currently, it does around 10-12 departures per month, according to Sandhu. There are good signs of growth in private or business aviation in the past 18 months. In 2018-19, when both commercial and business aviation was on a growth trajectory, the private aviation industry was doing about 200 flights per month, Sandhu said.

He said commercial aviation was growing far ahead of private aviation. However, in the past 18 months, the growth in general aviation has gone up by 5x to 6x month-on-month, which has happened because commercial aviation went down, owing to lockdown and subsequent curbs on travel restrictions, he said.

"There was a push from the pandemic and this has been noticed worldwide. The growth in India, though less than the 40-60 per cent in Europe, has still been about 25-30% in the period," Sandhu said. He said that in the past few years, unlike the US, where both commercial and private aviation grew hand-in-hand, India was not seeing a similar growth due to some perception issues.

However, the pandemic has helped remove those misconceptions, he said. AirLuxxis provides curated and tailor-made services to its clients with light jets to aircraft as big as Boeing 737 or wide-body B777, he said adding that the company goes for leasing of planes for as short a duration as five days.

Noting that the pre-pandemic normalcy is expected to return only after the WHO declares the world is safe, Sandhu said the private aviation may see this kind of growth for at least two more years before it goes for a more sustainable level. "There will be a correction that might happen sometime after about two years if not now. But, it would not be huge, not to the extent that it will go back to the 2018 level. It may be nearly 5-7%" he said.

Cover Image - CNN