Airlines in India look for additional revenue source

Jet introduces “Flying Billboard

By bappaditya paul

Faced with a revenue crunch due to rising aviation turbine fuel price and escalation in other operational costs,  airlines in India are now seem to be looking for additional sources of income.

Walking on this line, Jet Airways has introduced a new concept of ‘sky advertising’ and has named it the Flying Billboard. While Jet is already preparing for its second sky ad campaign this July; sources in the aviation industry said, other private airlines are also weighing such an option to generate additional revenue.

In this form of advertisement, an airline paints on the passenger aircraft logos of popular products/brands at a price. The product name/logo is painted on the aircraft’s exterior and is kept for a period of eight weeks or more, as desired by the advertiser.

While airlines in the United States and Europe have been using this concept for some time now to earn additional revenue, Jet Airways is the first one to experiment with this in the Indian sky.

In January this year, Jet introduced the first-ever Flying Billboard in the India sky by launching a campaign for Nokia Lumia range of mobile handsets.

Now, the airline is gearing up to take up its second sky ad campaign in July when it will wrap a Boeing 737-800 aircraft with popular Disney characters Mickey and friends. This is being done under a pact with Disney Channel for its “Jet Set Go” summer campaign.
According to an aviation industry source, airlines operating in India are required to obtain prior permission and approvals (on the advertisement material) from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

When contacted, a Jet Airways spokesperson from Mumbai said: “We are complying with all DGCA directives in utilising the advertising space on aircraft exteriors.”
She however, denied divulging the sum of money that Jet is charging from the advertisers for the Flying Billboard campaign.
“Commercial terms are firmed up and kept confidential between Jet Airways and the advertiser(s),” she stated.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 30 May 2012.)


India plans special force to secure airports

By bappaditya paul  

To provide better security cover to all aviation installations in the country, including airports, the Union civil aviation ministry is planning to raise an elite Airport Security Force (ASF) of its own.

The ministry has already prepared a detailed proposal on this and the same is now under consideration of Mr Ajit Singh, the Union civil aviation minister.

According to sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) headquarters in Delhi, the ASF is proposed to be formed on the lines of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the Indian Railways.

Similar to the RPF, which is responsible for protecting railway installations in India; the ASF too will be exclusively looking after the security of all airports and other civil aviation installations in the country.

At the top, the proposed elite aviation force will be under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry. At the operational level, it will be under the control of the director / officer-in-charge of a concerned airport.

There are 129 airports in India at present, of which 125 are managed by the state-owned AAI.

Consequent to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight ~ IC 814 ~ in 1999, the security responsibility of all civil airports in India was entrusted with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), beginning with Jaipur airport, in 2000.

Though the CISF continues to manage the security of the airports, the airport administrations often face difficulties in day-to-day operations as the CISF personnel are only answerable to their bosses and they do not entertain instructions from the management of the airport they are posted at.

“For example, even if there is a long queue of fliers at the entry gate or at the security check-in, the airport administration cannot ask the CISF to depute additional personnel to ease out the queue.”

“At best a request can be placed with the CISF-head at that particular airport, but it is entirely up to them whether to entertain the request or not. Besides, there are several other situations when conflicts arise between the airport managements and the CISF. As a remedy to all this, the idea of the ASF has been conceived,” said an AAI source.

As proposed, when recruiting soldiers and officers for the ASF, it is the CISF personnel who will get the first priority followed by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

This is because while the CISF personnel are already providing security to most of the airports and are aware of the nitty-gritty; CRPF personnel too have hands-on experience on the matter, as they are the ones who keep airports secure in militant-hit states, such as the Srinagar Airport in Jammu & Kashmir.

“The crucial difference will be that the ASF being an in-house force, the personnel will feel for the aviation sector and hopefully, they will be more sensible in handling the everyday situations that arise at the airports. Moreover, since the ASF will be reporting to the airport director, she/he will have the authority to issue instructions to them as per requirements,” the AAI source added.

Now, once the civil aviation minister clears the ASF file, it is likely to go to the Union finance ministry for clearance. At the final leg, the proposal will be placed before the Union Cabinet for ratification.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 19 May 2012.)

Kolkata Airport services rated substandard

By bappaditya paul  

The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata has scored poorly in the latest Airport Service Quality (ASQ) rating thus putting an official confirmation on the substandard services and facilities that fliers get while travelling through the airport.

Consequent to this, the near 2,250 Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees at the NSC Bose International Airport are likely to feel a pinch in their salaries for three months in the form of a cut in proficiency allowance.

This is because, the ASQ survey is conducted by the Airports Council International (ACI) under a memorandum of understanding with the AAI to assess the quality of services offered at various airports in the country.

ACI is the supreme non-profit trade body of airports across the globe and it carries out ASQ surveys in other countries as well.

The ASQ rating is calculated on a scale of 1 – 5, with five being the best performance.

There are 16 key performance indicators (KPI) for ASQ ratings, but the most important among them are waiting time at check-in, waiting time at security check, number of baggage carts (trolleys) available and waiting time at immigration counters.

According to an Airports Authority source, the NSC Bose International Airport, which falls in the 5 million to 15 million-passenger category, has scored poorly in terms of ASQ ratings for two subsequent quarters.

During the October to December 2011 quarter, the airport’s ASQ rating was 2.84. In the next quarter, that is, from January to March 2012, the rating stood at 3.0.

“These are extremely unsatisfactory performance and never before this has the NSC Bose International Airport performed so poorly as regards to ASQ. This is a warning call for the airport management as well as every single employee attached to the airport to improve the overall service standards,” the source said.

Insiders at the NSC Bose International Airport are citing two reasons for the poor ASQ performance.

First, the international and domestic terminals at the airport have the combined capacity to handle five million passengers a year. But with the growth in passenger flow, they are handling much more.

In 2011-12 alone, the airport handled 10.38 million air travellers.

Secondly, the present director of the airport, Mr BP Sharma, is also doubling up as the executive director of the airport’s ongoing Rs 2,325 crore terminal building project.

Many believe, it is not feasible for Mr Sharma to discharge both the responsibilities with equal efficiency.

Thus while the terminal building project has already missed three deadlines, passenger services at the airport are deteriorating.

Moreover, ever since the previous incumbent retired on 30 April, the airport has not had a  GM (operations – terminal building management), to look after passenger amenities. Instead, the GM (operations – airside management) is discharging the duty as an additional responsibility.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 16 May 2012.)

Centre to revamp smaller airports in Bengal

By bappaditya paul    

The Centre has begun a fresh move to develop the existing smaller airports in West Bengal after chief minister Mamata Banerjee recently made a strong pitch for it. A comprehensive plan is being worked out.

Union civil aviation secretary Nasim Zaidi will hold a meeting with top officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in New Delhi tomorrow to discuss the matter.

According to AAI sources, the agenda of the meeting is development of airports in West Bengal and infrastructure development of three smaller airports ~ Cooch Behar, Malda and Behala ~ is likely to figure prominently.

The AAI chairman, Mr VP Agarwal, and all the four whole-time board members of AAI ~ Mr S Raheja (planning), Mr V Somasundaram (air navigation system and finance), Mr G K Chaukiyal (operations) and Mr K K Jha (human resources), will attend the meeting.

West Bengal, at present, has seven airports ~ Cooch Behar, Malda, Behala Kolkata, Bagdogra, Balurghat and Asansol. But other than Kolkata, Bagdogra and Cooch Behar, none of the remaining four is operational at the moment for lack of necessary infrastructure for flight operations.

The chief minister during a meeting with Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh in the city on 30 April had requested him to take steps for reviving the smaller airports.

Cooch Behar airport was renovated last year at a cost of Rs 32 crore, but it witnessed operations of an 18-seater Dronier aircraft to Kolkata only for a brief period from September to October 2011.

With operations of smaller aircrafts being found unviable, the state government now wants the AAI to augment the infrastructure at Cooch Behar for running of medium sized aircrafts such as the ATR 72.

“This can be done only after expanding the runway at Cooch Behar which at present is 1070 metre and also by upgrading the ground navigation facilities. For the runway expansion, a large culvert will have to be built over the river Mora Torsha. For this and other necessary infrastructure, we have prepared a Rs 35-crore project proposal and viability of the same will be discussed in tomorrow’s meet,” said a senior official attached to AAI’s Eastern Region.

It likely, the AAI board will approve the project and then forward the same to the Planning Commission for its clearance, the officer said. Apart from Cooch Behar, there is an Rs 80-100-crore revival plan for Malda and a Rs 40-crore over-all development plan for the Behala Airport, which are also likely to come up for discussion.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 10 May 2012.)

Glycemic Index: Your guide to healthy food

By bappaditya paul

Gone are the days when mothers used to tell children to eat more vegetables and fresh fruits!

New-age parents themselves are into consuming more of junk food: chips, cold drinks, pizzas, French-fries et al. And the wise say, you cannot preach what you don’t practice!No wonder, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular ailments are rising at an alarming rate in India, both among minors and adults.

“We’ve forgotten our own traditions and ancient teachings on what one should eat for a healthy living. Written ages ago, our scriptures tell us to follow a swattik aahar, which, in effect, means consuming food that are fresh and low in carbohydrates.”

“But with globalisation we are increasingly consuming junk food, leading to a spurt in lifestyle diseases,” said Dr Shashank R Joshi at a recent workshop in Bangalore on “Food and Fitness: Placing Glycemic Index at the Centre of Healthy Food”. Dr Joshi is a leading endocrinologist attached to Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital.

What is Glycemic Index?

Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates in food items according to the extent they raise blood sugar levels after eating. GI is measured on a scale of 0 to 100.

According to the GI scale, food is divided in three categories ~ Low having GI value £ 55, Medium having GI value 56-69 and High having GI value ³ 70.

High GI Food ~  Chips, French fries, popcorn, cold drinks, white bread, rosogolla, lychee, watermelon, jowar, broad beans, pumpkin, parsnips, over-cooked food, pizzas

Foods having high GI value get rapidly digested resulting in a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods, on the other hand, are digested and absorbed slowly resulting in gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.

Low GI Food ~ Brown bread, long grain rice, wheat, lentils, mung beans, chickpeas, soya-beans, green peas, carrots, apples, oranges, strawberries, plums, banana, cherries, lemon juice

Low GI foods have proven benefits for health as they improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes. They also have benefits in weight control as slow digestion helps contain appetite and delays hunger.

How to choose low GI foods?

While interested parties, both from the trade and the medical fraternity, are lobbying to make GI certification for foods mandatory in India; for a layperson, it is not a difficult task to pick healthy low GI foods for his/her daily consumption.

“Simply eat what your grandparents ate,” said Dr Joshi, who also happens to be the president of Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India.

To be specific, green vegetables, fresh fruits, lentils and long grain rice have low GI value and they can make up for a healthy diet beating diabetes and obesity. However, not all vegetables and fruits have low GI. For example, the GI value of watermelon and pumpkin is ranked high at 72 and 75, respectively.

Again, over-cooking and style of processing can turn a low GI food into high GI one and thus making it less suitable for consumption. For example, fresh oranges have a GI value of 42, whereas orange juice comes with a higher GI value of 52.

“Without going into the nitty-gritty, what we Indians should do is reduce the intake of rice or rotis. Instead, we should double the consumption of vegetables and fruits. This should be the thumb rule,” said Mumbai-based nutritionist Ms Naini Setalvad.

Unfortunately, Rosogolla ~ the undisputed national dessert of the Bengalis ~ is labelled as a high GI food and is a no-no for those wanting to avert diabetes. Dietician Dr Priyanka Rohatgi of Apollo Hospital, Bangalore, however, has a healthy option for the sweet-loving Bengalis. “At the end of every meal, eat fresh fruits such as apples or banana instead,” she said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 8 May 2012.)

Bhubaneswar Airport registers profit first time ever

By bappaditya paul

Bhubaneswar airport in Odisha has registered profit for the first time since its inception.

According to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar recorded an operational profit of Rs 6.64 crore in the 2011-12 fiscal ending March.

In terms of passengers, during the period, the airport in Odisha’s capital witnessed a flow of 12,42,745 air travellers. This was 1,83,794 passengers higher than the previous year.

The development is significant given that Odisha happens to be one of the most backward regions in India and is badly hit by the Maoists insurgency.

AAI’s regional executive director, Eastern Region, Mr ML Lekhra, attributed the development to both an increase in air traffic flow to Bhubaneswar and the optimal use of commercial properties at the airport.

“Our revenue from traffic, which is directly corresponding to the number of people accessing the airport, rose by Rs 6.27 crore in 2011-12. The increase in traffic is mainly because of the new industries that are being set up across Odisha and this makes more people flying into Bhubaneswar,” the officer said.At present, 21 daily flights connect Bhubaneswar airport to the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam and Port Bliar. Of these, seven are operated by state-owned Air India, nine by Jet Airways and another five by IndiGo. The airport currently does not have any international connectivity.

Bhubaneswar airport’s non-traffic revenue, which comes from renting / leasing of commercial space for shops, car parking etc, also rose from about Rs 7-crore in 2010-11 to 11.40 crore in 2011-12 fiscal.

“We can create all the necessary infrastructure at an airport, but the number of flight operations is something that is beyond our control. It depends entirely on the demand factor. Hence, the AAI’s focus is on optimising the use of commercial properties at all airports and this has paid a huge dividend in making Bhubaneswar airport operationally profitable for the first time since inception,” Mr Lekhra said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 5 May 2012.)