The last Boeing 747 rolled out of its Washington Factory State

Sakshi Jain

07 Dec 2022

Boeing rolled out its last Boeing 747 from a plant in Washington state, ending a more than 50-year production run, on Tuesday, December 6.

Initial Days 

The jumbo jet made its debut in 1969, which was the largest commercial aircraft in the world and the first with two aisles. The first 747 was produced by more than 50,000 Boeing workers in less than 16 months. Since then, the company has finished 1,573 more. 

In December 1969, Boeing delivered the first 747 passenger jets to TWA and Pan Am, two airlines that no longer exist now. 

Boeing delivered its first B747 jets to Pan Am and TWA

The design of the 747 incorporated a second deck that extended from the cockpit back over the first third of the aircraft, giving it a prominent hump that gave the plane its nickname, the Whale. More elegantly, the 747 became known as the “Queen of the Skies”.

The 747 used to be the aircraft of choice for the famous, wealthy, and even royalty.

Many films have used the plane or set designed to resemble the first class lounge on its top deck, notably the 1973 James Bond classic "Live and Let Die".

Myriad Responsibilities 

The Boeing 747 has served in a variety of roles, including cargo plane, commercial aircraft, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft.

The 747 continues to be used as Air Force One, and two already-assembled aircraft are currently undergoing modifications to become the next iteration of the presidential aircraft. Due to delays, those planes won't be delivered for at least four years.

USA's Air Force One

It was huge enough to transport the Space Shuttle from landing strips in California to its launch location in Florida. Next week, Virgin Galactic plans to launch a brand-new type of spaceship that it will have carried aloft under its wing.

B747 transported the Space Shuttle for NASA

India's knot to Boeing 747

In 1971, Air India bought its first jumbo, and thus India's relationship with the 747 began.

Despite the fact that Air India already operated an all-jet fleet at the time, this new addition solidified the company's status as a premium carrier.

For many years, the aircraft effectively supported the Indian diaspora by flying to important western locations like the UK, the US, and Canada. The aircraft was used on the most challenging routes.

An era is slowly but surely drawing to an end with only a few airlines still operating the 747 and only four more of the type remaining to be delivered. The deregistration of the aircraft by India's aviation authority, the DGCA, is a clear sign that the days of the jumbo jets are numbered and appears to be a final step in sealing the destiny of Air India's remaining Boeing 747 aircraft.

Also read: Four Air India Boeing 747s to be sold by UK-Based Skytech

Also read: DGCA deregisters Air India’s 4 Boeing 747 jumbo jets

Towards the end

Boeing had previously stated that it would discontinue producing the 747 in 2020, even in freighter form, as clients opted to purchase the more fuel-efficient 777 freighters or save money by converting previous 747 passenger aircraft into freighters. In 2019, even the rival Airbus discontinued the A380, its two-level jumbo jet.

Also read: End of the line for the “Queen of the skies”?

The last B747 leaves the Washington state manufacturing line on Tuesday, on its way to serve as a cargo plane

Boeing hasn't built a passenger version of the plane since it delivered the last one to Korean Airlines in 2017. The final 747 will be purchased by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, who will fly it for Swiss logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel. Before being delivered to Atlas in the early part of next year, Tuesday's final aircraft will be flown to another Boeing plant shop for finishing touches like painting and other smaller details. 

The final 747 will be purchased by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings

Delta was the last American airline to use the 747 for passenger flights, ending its use in 2017. Its ongoing appeal was demonstrated by the fact that the last US 747 passenger flights, operated by both Delta and United, attracted sizable crowds of the plane's devotees.

According to Aviation Analytics Company Cirium, 44 passenger versions of the 747 are still in operation today. Lufthansa flies 25 of those, which is more than half of them. However, Cirium reports that there are still 314 B747 freighters in operation, many of which were originally employed as passenger planes before being converted to freighters.

After 53 years and more than 1,570 planes, the world bows the “Queen of the Skies” as it leaves the Washington state manufacturing line on Tuesday, on its way to serve as a cargo plane.

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ITA Airways commences flights from New Delhi to Rome

Radhika Bansal

07 Dec 2022

In a step towards the expansion of its network in the Asian market, ITA Airways announced the commencement of flights from New Delhi to Rome. The first flight departed from New Delhi to Rome Fiumicino at 03:50 AM on Monday, December 5.

This is the first time ITA Airways operates in the Indian market and, more importantly, the Company is the only airline to operate a direct Rome Fiumicino - New Delhi flight.

“We are happy to inaugurate today the ITA Airways’ Rome Fiumicino - New Delhi connections, the only direct flights between these two capitals. With the opening of this new route for the transport of passengers and cargo between Italy and India, ITA Airways is further contributing to the cultural integration and development of the economic relationship between the two countries. This is a reflection of a solid political and commercial collaboration in recent years, with the presence of more than 600 Italian companies in India and a bilateral interchange that in 2021 reached a record value of more than 10 billion euros. We have thus taken an important step forward in the project of expanding our intercontinental network towards a fascinating destination and a market full of opportunities. Our Indian customers will now be able to visit not only Italy but all of Europe thanks to convenient connections offered from our Rome Fiumicino hub."

Emiliana Limosani, Chief Commercial Officer, ITA Airways and CEO Volare

ALSO READ - ITA Airways to launch Rome-New Delhi direct flights in December

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday, December 5. The ceremony was attended by Pierfrancesco Carino, Vice President of International Sales ITA Airways and Fabio Bigotti, Country Manager India ITA Airways.

ALSO READ - SpiceJet launches flights from Amritsar to Milan & Rome

Budget carrier SpiceJet recently launched a one-stop service between Amritsar and Rome and Milan. And Air India is resumed its Delhi-Milan direct flight shortly.

According to the airline, the new route will be operated with an Airbus A330, three times a week, departing from New Delhi, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. And, the return flights from Rome Fiumicino will depart every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

With the new intercontinental connection, ITA Airways is further expanding into the Asian market, while it continues to strengthen its ability to attract connecting customers, tapping into the flows between India and North America, Germany, Spain and France, it shared.

Currently, ITA Airways has an interline agreement with Vistara for enhanced Indian operations concerning the flights. This collaboration allows customers on ITA Airways’ Rome - New Delhi flight to fly on connecting domestic and international flights from Vistara’s hub at Indira Gandhi International Airport.

ITA Airways commences flights from New Delhi to Rome

These include Mumbai, Amritsar, Kolkata, Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh and Dabolim in the Indian market and Bangkok, Kathmandu and Dhaka at the international level, the airline shared.

To support the new intercontinental flight from New Delhi to Rome and to enhance local awareness of the new Italian flagship carrier, ITA Airways has also launched a multi-channel advertising campaign in India, which highlights the New Delhi-Rome connection as well as promotes Italy as a destination. The “It’s A” campaign will be live until December 13.

In terms of the intercontinental network, the airline will serve a total of 51 destinations in the winter season, of which 9 are intercontinental, 22 are international and 20 are domestic. All these new intercontinental routes are joining flights to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Buenos Aires and São Paulo opened earlier this year.

With this, the company aims to focus primarily on its long-haul expansion project with several important new routes including, in addition to New-Delhi, the recently launched Tokyo-Haneda and the Maldives (Malé) which will be opened on December 17.

"India, with over 230 thousand passengers carried during 2019, represents a market of primary importance for our airport's intercontinental connectivity and the opening of this route confirms the importance of Italy's main airport in ITA Airways' development strategy. At the same time, it confirms the levels of attractiveness reached by the Roman hub towards airlines and passengers, in a context in which the recovery of air traffic has given new life to international destinations with reconfirmed interest in long-haul travel after two years of stop due to the Covid restrictions."

Ivan Bassato, Chief Aviation Officer, Aeroporti di Roma

In addition, in 2023 the Company is also expected to open additional new intercontinental destinations with direct flights operated from Rome Fiumicino to San Francisco and Washington in the United States, to Rio de Janeiro in South America and, with the entry in the fleet of the new A321Neo aircraft, to destinations in the Middle East, such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait City.

Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo De Luca, on Sunday, said that Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) Airways' direct flight between Delhi to Rome would give a significant boost to the connectivity between India and Italy.

This is the first time ITA Airways operates in the Indian market and, more importantly, the Company is the only airline to operate a direct Rome Fiumicino - New Delhi flight.

Talking about boosting the relationship between the two countries, Luca said, "Connectivity between Italy and India will enhance relations. We've increasing exports and imports between the two countries. Direct flight (between Italy and Delhi) will boost movement and relations between two countries".

ITA will use its hub for its specific strategy to expand its network in Asia and bring more Indian passengers to Italy. The airline hopes promoting its New Delhi service will appeal to India, allowing passengers to continue to other destinations in its domestic network for business or leisure travel.

Meanwhile, ITA Airways will next year refresh its fleet with 39 new aircraft, allowing it to serve more long-distance destinations. According to the news agency Reuters, by the end of 2023, ITA said it will have 96 planes, half of which will be new, including the single-aisle A321Neo. ITA was established in late 2020 from the ashes of bankrupt Alitalia and has yet to turn a profit.

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IndiGo launches 32 new connecting flights between India and Europe

Radhika Bansal

07 Dec 2022

IndiGo has announced 32 new connecting flights to Europe through its codeshare partnership with Turkish Airlines. Effective December 07, the new routes include several major destinations including Milan, Manchester, Birmingham, Rome, and Venice.

Codesharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

The airline said that the new flights are designed to cater to travellers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options to access destinations which help in building businesses and are known for their tourist attractions. The introduction of these flights will further bolster international connectivity.

IndiGo launches 32 new connecting flights between India and Europe

ALSO READ - IndiGo adds 19 new connecting flights to Portugal and Switzerland, via Turkey

Last month, IndiGo launched flight services to Portugal and Switzerland via Istanbul under its codeshare partnership with Turkish Airlines.

The new flights are designed to cater to travellers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options to access destinations that help in building businesses and are known for their tourist attractions.

“We are extremely pleased to add more capacity between India and Europe during this holiday season, given the high demand for international travel. These flights will cater to travellers exploring Italy and UK, with one-stop connections to Milan, Manchester, Birmingham, Rome, and Venice via Istanbul. These new routes will not only strengthen international connectivity but also enhance affordability for travel to Europe. We will continue to strive to stay true to our promise of affordable fares, on-time performance, and courteous and hassle-free service.”

Vinay Malhotra, Head of Global Sales, IndiGo

ALSO READ - IndiGo and Virgin Atlantic sign codeshare agreement

In August this year, IndiGo inked a codeshare agreement with British carrier Virgin Atlantic. IndiGo has a fleet of 280+ aircraft and operates over 1,600 daily flights, connecting 75 domestic destinations and 26 international destinations. 

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Air India set to lease 12 more A320s Neo and B777s by the first half of 2023

Radhika Bansal

06 Dec 2022

Air India on Monday, December 5 said it will lease 12 more aircraft comprising both Airbus A320 Neo and Boeing B777, which are expected to be inducted in its existing fleet in the first half of 2023. The new planes will be deployed on the airline's short, medium and long-haul international routes.

ALSO READ - Air India leases 6 Airbus A320 NEOs from CDB Aviation

Air India said it has leased 42 aircraft since its privatisation in January this year. Of the 12 new leased planes, six are wide-body Boeing B777-300ER, while the remaining six are narrow-body Airbus A320 neo, as per the statement.

ALSO READ - Air India to revamp its fleet by leasing 30 aircraft in the upcoming months

Air India set to lease 12 more A320 Neo and B777 aircraft by the first half of 2023

The airline had in September this year announced that it will be adding 30 leased aircraft -- 21 A320, 4 A321 and 5 B777-200LR in its fleet over 15 months, amid its plan to have a 30% share in both domestic and international markets.

ALSO READ - Air India starts discussing aircraft orders; to introduce a premium economy class in long-haul flights

The A320 neo will be operated on the airline's domestic as well as short-to-medium haul international routes. The airline said the B777-300 ER will have a four-class configuration -- first, business, premium economy and economy -- to connect metro cities with more international destinations.

ALSO READ - Air India graduates the first batch of cabin crew trainees & pilots; ready to take off on A320 fleet

This means an addition of 36 aircraft — 11 B777s and 25 A320 family — by early next year with vastly improved cabin interiors, as opposed to the poor passenger experience on Air India’s existing fleet that has suffered due to lack of investment in upkeep or maintenance during its past penurious few years as a government-owned airline.

The new planes will be deployed on the airline's short, medium and long-haul international routes.

In addition to leasing aircraft, Air India has also brought back into operation 19 aircraft, which were grounded for a long time while nine more such planes are expected to join the fleet, it stated. As part of the expansion, Air India is enhancing the frequency of flights between key cities on domestic routes, besides announcing the expansion of international flight services.

"Growing our network is an essential part of Air India's Vihaan.AI transformational journey and we remain committed to increasing connectivity and frequency of flights both domestically and internationally. The additional aircraft leases will support the airline's near-term growth even as it finalises plans to refresh and significantly grow the company's long-term fleet."

Campbell Wilson, Managing Director and CEO, Air India

Air India has raised the frequency of flights in the domestic sector and has also announced direct flights between Indian cities to destinations like Doha, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Birmingham.

Air India has been focusing on its international expansion during the last few months. In December, the carrier is scheduled to operate 809 international flights per week, which is about 22% more than what it operated in June, according to aviation analytics company Cirium's data.

Last week the airline resumed its non-stop service between Bengaluru and San Francisco with a Boeing B777-200LR. Last month, Air India said it will commence direct flights from Delhi to Milan, Vienna and Copenhagen starting February 1, 2023.

Air India has been focusing on its international expansion during the last few months

ALSO READ - Air India to broaden its network in the US

The airline said it will also start daily services between Mumbai and New York from February 14, 2023, using a Boeing B777-200LR, besides flights to Paris and Frankfurt from India’s financial capital starting February 18 using the Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner.

ALSO READ - Air India to start direct flights between Mumbai-San Francisco

With the resumption of these flights, Air India will serve seven cities in Europe with 79 weekly non-stop flights — 48 to the United Kingdom and 31 to continental Europe.

As US and European airlines avoid Russian airspace making their transit time to India longer and in some cases making many flights unviable, Air India has stepped up to take advantage of the situation. The airline has increased the frequency to the UK from 34 flights every week to 48. Flights from India to the US will increase from 34 to 40 per week.

With the latest announcement, the fleet size of Air India will increase to 149 from 113 currently.

Air India has a fleet size of 113 aircraft of which 87 planes were operational as of September. These included 54 narrow-body airplanes and 33 wide-body aircraft. The inoperative 16 narrow-body aircraft and 10 wide-body aircraft are expected to return to service by early 2023.

With the latest announcement, the fleet size of Air India will increase to 149 from 113 currently. IndiGo is the largest airline in India with a fleet size of over 280 airplanes.

ALSO READ - Air India to integrate AirAsia India with Air India Express by the end of 2023

The Tata group and Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced last week that Vistara will be merged into Air India to create a single full-service airline, with SIA holding a 25.1% share in the new entity. AirAsia India is already in the process of merging with Air India Express to create a single low-cost subsidiary of Air India.

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Halo Airways will start its jet charter service from Kochi

Sakshi Jain

06 Dec 2022

Halo Airways, a jet charter firm based in Kochi, plans to expand its operations from Kochi, as CIAL prepares to open its business jet terminal.

The terminal will be inaugurated on December 10 by Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala. The terminal, which is believed to be the nation's first charter gateway, is expected to be built in Kochi, and key businesses in the sector anticipate tremendous growth opportunities.

CIAL (Cochin International Airport Limited) wants to turn it into a hub for business jet service, travel, and conferences. A Kochi-based aviation firm that specialises in jet chartering is one of many organisations that share CIAL's delight for its most recent infrastructure upgrade.

CIAL hopes to transform the airport into a centre for conferences, business jet service, and travel

Senior representatives of Halo Airways, which operates a jet service out of Bengaluru, said CIAL's decision to open a business jet terminal is in line with the growing demand for jet chartering as a significant portion of frequent flyers, primarily business people, celebrities, and politicians, view it as a dependable and comfortable method of travel.

Also read: A sneak peek inside the world of aircraft dealers and brokers

There are currently two terminals run by CIAL: T-1 handles domestic traffic, and T-3 manages international traffic.

CIAL will join the select group of four airports in the nation that have a dedicated private jet terminal with the commissioning of the business jet terminal, housed at the former domestic terminal (T2).

The business jet terminal at CIAL can accommodate both domestic and international private jets. For the convenience of the discerning guests, the facilities include covered parking, drive-in porches, a magnificent lobby, five sumptuous lounges, a business centre, check-in, immigration, customs, health, and security screening zones, along with duty-free shop and foreign currency counter. For visitors who fall under the security privileged category, the terminal facility also features a safe house.

The lobby of CIAL’s new Business Jet Terminal

"Kerala, being a tourism destination, is likely to benefit in a big way with the upcoming jet terminal at CIAL as it would attract a huge number of customers who prefer the comfort of a chartered jet flight."

–Shoby T Paul, CEO, Halo Airways

Paul cited the advantages of his company's jet services, including time savings, convenience, economic viability, and personalization. 

A recent client of Halo Airways: Kamal Hassan

Recent clients of Halo include the Chief Minister of Kerala, his counterpart in Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai, the leaders of the Karnataka Congress, Siddharamaiah and DK Shivakumar, and the renowned actor Kamal Hassan.

Paul claimed that if they register a good amount of bookings from Kerala with the CIAL infra development, they are even prepared to transfer their jet to Kochi.  Once the CIAL terminal is operational, he anticipates 100% growth.

According to CIAL Managing Director S Suhas IAS, the new dedicated terminal emphasises the idea of reasonably priced chartered flights. According to a statement from CIAL, the special terminal for handling business and charter jets, where passengers are given opulent personal facilities in a tastefully decorated private room, was constructed for Rs 30 crore.

The operationalization of the business jet terminal is something that CIAL views as being in line with its aim to find and launch new revenue verticals.

(With inputs from Onmanorama)

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India to grant e-visas to UK citizens again

Sakshi Jain

06 Dec 2022

The reinstatement of electronic visas (e-visas) for UK visitors was announced by the Indian High Commission in London, on Monday, December 5.

India is prepared to restart offering e-visas to UK citizens; this is a positive development given the recent surge in demand for visas to India. Earlier this year, this service was reinstated for practically all nations with the exception of a few, notably the UK and Canada.

According to Vikram Doraiswami, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, the service will be made available "forthwith". High Commission representatives in London also confirmed that travellers can begin applying for e-visas to India this week. It stated that an upgrade to the system is in progress and that the website for Indian visas would soon be ready to accept e-visa applications.

“The resumption of e-visas will unlock great potential for inbound tourism for India as these are huge markets for the same.”

–Anil Kalsi, Joint Secretary, Travel Agents Federation of India

During pre-Covid 2019, there were 1.7 crore foreign visitors in India, of whom 1.1 crores were tourists from other countries and the remainder of NRIs were returning home to see friends and family.

Also read: Foreign tourist arrivals in 2022 till August reach close to 50% of the pre-pandemic year

According to government data for 2018, Bangladesh (21.4%), the US (13.8%), the United Kingdom (9.7%), Sri Lanka (3.35%), and Canada (3.32%) were the top five source nations for international travellers arriving in India. The tourism industry has been requesting that e-visas be reinstated as they are now prohibited in some of these major source markets.

For instance, to increase inbound tourism, the Travel Agents Association of India, a federation of over 2,500 travel agencies, asked the government to reinstate e-visas for all nations this summer.

E-visas were among the topics that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart, Rishi Sunak, discussed when they met last month on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Indonesia. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with his United Kingdom counterpart Rishi Sunak on the first day of the 17th G20 Summit, in Indonesia

The long-awaited move comes after a number of initiatives to improve Indian visa processing facilities, including a new Indian visa centre in London and the Visa at Your Doorstep (VAYD) service, to meet the strong demand for travel from the UK to India following the pandemic.

VFS Global, the outsourcing and technology services provider for governments and diplomatic missions, runs the new India Visa Application Centre (IVAC) at Marylebone. This has facilitated a more streamlined procedure for group tourism or those travelling in a group, typically via a travel agency to the same destination using the same flights.

“We are always looking at finding practical solutions to address customer experience challenges. As a responsible service provider that manages non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to visa applications for the governments we work with, we have taken measures along with the High Commissioner of India in London to help visa applicants with a seamless visa application experience.”

–Aditya Arora, COO, VFS Global

The visa company claimed that since applications began coming in on Saturdays and weekday afternoons in London and Birmingham, it has been able to provide more slots.

Since March of this year, VFS Global has also collaborated to put up weekend consular camps across the UK, working with the Indian High Commission in London and its Consulates.

(Source: HCI London)