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7000 Likes – Thank You!

We are so happy that our facebook page has reached a milestone today. And even happier now that it is growing so quickly since we hit that 7000 like.

We just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who follows us and takes an interest in what we do. We really appreciate all the support you give and every kind word.

Your enthusiasm continues to inspire us as we work to bring you The Tour Planners, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of your comments.

The Tour Planners Facebook Page

We feel really grateful and a little overwhelmed that so many people care about this page and we want to extend our warmest thank yous to you all.


Air fares set to rise as aviation fuel prices soar

Tuesday September 3rd, 2013 in Airport / Air Flights, India, Travel News | 1 Comment »

NEW DELHI: Get set for skyhigh air fares from next month when the peak travel period kicks off with the festive season. Oil companies have hiked aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices by 7%, taking the prices of jet fuel — which is the single largest component of an airline’s operating cost — to an all-time high. Now ATF per kilo-litre costs Rs 75,031 in Delhi; Rs 77,632.4 in Mumbai and is the steepest in Kolkata at Rs 85,645.1.

Oil companies have hiked aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices by 7% setting the stage for increase in air fares

“The July-September period is the leanest travel season of the year and at the moment, airlines are selling tickets at low fares to fill up planes. So hiking fares now may not be possible. Spot fares in the October-mid January season will be high. Expect a 25%-50% hike in spot fares in that period,” said an airline official.

The only way to escape high fares in that period will be to book as early as possible. “Advance domestic fares are very reasonable as airlines want to fill planes and also generate some much-needed cash. People should book now,” said Anil Kalsi, a leading Delhi-based travel agent.

ATF, whose price is high due to mix of high base price by oil companies and exorbitant sales tax rates by states, accounts for over half of an airline’s operating cost. Oil PSUs revise jet fuel pricesin the beginning of every month, depending on price of international crude and rupee’s exchange rate with the dollar. The latest hike has now brought ATF at record high, surpassing the previous high set last September. A year back, ATF cost was Rs 73,710.0 in Delhi — which was the highest ever then and in exactly a year a new record level has been reached. The aviation ministry has called a meeting of state aviation ministers next week and the issue of reducing sales tax will be discussed there, with more focus on Delhi and Mumbai to lower their taxes on ATF.

Airline sources point out that ATF prices have risen 22% from July to September. The overall cost of operations has gone up by 20% due to jet fuel prices and rupee devaluation. “While costs are up 20%, fares are lower by 30%. In early July, spot fares of Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Bangalore were about Rs 9,000 and Rs 9,800 respectively. The current spot fares for these two routes are Rs 6,000 and Rs 6,500. This is recipe for disaster,” said an airline official.

Domestic airlines have long complained of facing an extremely cost-hostile environment in India. The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) estimates that airlines here have collectively lost Rs 53,650 crore from 2007 to 2013 and their debt on March 31, 2013, was close to Rs 1 lakh crore. “(While costs are significantly up), yields or fares are down by 30%. The industry has completely lost pricing focus…. Industry risk is at peak and I don’t rule out any industry rationalization (hinting at another airline’s closure) out of this crisis,” CAPA India chief Kapil Kaul said.

Source: The Times of India


SC asks govt to allow fit taxis on Kothi-Rohtang route

The Supreme Court (SC) today passed an interim order diluting the ban on four-year-old taxis to ply on the Kothi-Rohtang route. A Bench comprising Justices Gyan Sudha Misra and PC Ghose directed the Himachal Pradesh government to test the fitness of the banned vehicles and allow them to ply if they complied with pollution and other norms.

The apex court passed the order on a petition filed by the Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union, Manali, challenging the HP High Court’s ban on commercial vehicles of more than four years’ old plying between Kothi and Rohtang.

Appearing for the union, senior counsel KV Viswanathan pleaded that instead having the age of the vehicles as the norm, the state government should prescribe the level of pollutants emitted by the taxis as the criterion for allowing them to ply. In several cases, a four-year-old taxi would not have done even 50,000 km and as such it was not fair to ban it, he contended.

The Bench said it would hear the case again after two weeks and asked the parties to file additional documents. It also asked the government to explore other options keeping in mind the interests of the taxi operators, commuters’ safety and environment.

The SC had issued notice to the state government on July 30 on the union’s petition contending that more than 75 per cent of the taxies numbering about 1,400 would go off the roads under the HC order.

The taxi owners had taken bank loans to buy the vehicles which they were still repaying and as such the HC decision would put them in a deep trouble, it was contended.

The HC had issued the order on the recommendations of the National Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), pointing out the fragile ecology in the high-altitude Rohtang area.

Source: The Tribune


400 Air India air hostesses declared absconders

NEW DELHI: This is a telling comment on the decline of Air India from a glamorous airline where dreamy eyed girls dreamt of getting a job in the heydays of JRD Tata’s stewardship, to asarkari organization now fraught by uncertainty following years of government mismanagement. The Maharaja has discovered that almost 400 air hostesses of its cabin crew strength of 3,600 who had taken a two-year leave without pay as per company policy have simply not returned to work although their leave got over a long time back.

AI has now declared them absconders and is beginning a process to sack all those who fail to give a convincing reason for their continued absence from work. Almost 300 of the 400 absconding airhostesses are learnt to be from Delhi alone.

“They must have left at a time when the airline faced uncertainty (which it still does); salary payment was irregular and must have taken up job elsewhere. Once they got jobs elsewhere, they should have resigned from here and not remained on the rolls. However, we officially have no information on them. The probe of the first tranche of 44 absconders will soon be over and we may sack many of them,” said a senior official.

The government’s questionable decision to buy 111 new planes for over Rs 50,000 crore and drowning the airline in debt has led to a state of complete penury in AI, forcing it to survive on taxpayers’ bailouts. “Salary payments remain uncertain and the airline’s survival looks bleak. In this atmosphere, a number of people are eying jobs elsewhere,” said a senior employee.

The airline stumbled on the absconders while asking all of its cabin crew to appear for medical test from January. After much reservation from the mostly unfit and overweight AI cabin crew, a majority of whom are airhostesses, the airline conducted fitness tests on 3,200 employees from January to March while having a total strength of 3,600.

“Almost 40% of the 3,200 cabin crew was found to be unfit, with 557 of them being ‘morbidly obese’. These personnel face the risk of being put on ground duties unless they get back in shape within a deadline of six months. The second round of tests is going to begin now for those who gave the medicals in January. A majority of the airhostesses found really overweight are from erstwhile AI,” said the official.

The management’s move is being backed by the parent aviation ministry with the latter now toying with an idea which is a norm for all private carriers but not heard of in AI — fixing a lower maximum age to remain an airhostess. The retirement age for AI employees is 58 and an airhostess can fly till the day she retires.

Many years ago (in its heady days) the age limit was 45 to have a mix of youth and experience. “The ministry is now planning to have a lower age ceiling for AI airhostesses after which they will transferred to ground duties where they will remain till the age of 58,” said an official. Outgoing CJI’s bid to appoint SC judge nipped.

Source: The Times of India


Flying abroad? Not declaring goods may land you in trouble

MUMBAI: After angadias emerged from anonymity following a recent raid on trucks filled with cash, gold and diamonds, people have been asking if a person carrying a lot of money and valuables can be pulled up for doing so, especially if one is flying. Can a flyer be refused security clearance for carrying cash and valuables above a limit? The rules are different for international and domestic travel.

As per customs rules, for carrying gold and expensive items from India to other countries, one needs to procure a certificate from the precious cargo complex a day in advance.

For travelling abroad, one needs to be careful about one’s baggage. It is usual for one to carry jewellery, cash and expensive gadgets, but unless one declares the goods and their value before leaving, one can fall into customs’ net upon return. As per customs rules, for carrying gold and expensive items from India to other countries, one needs to procure a certificate from the precious cargo complex a day in advance. Upon return, the certificate can be shown to customs to claim duty exemption. “The traveler can thus leave the airport without any hassle,” said an officer from the Air Intelligence Unit.

What about bringing home goods bought abroad? “One needs to pay duty if one brings into the country things that cost more than a certain limit,” said a customs official. The duty is 36% for goods worth more than Rs 35,000. For gold, the duty regime is more liberal for women, the allowance being amounts costing up to Rs 20,000. For men, the limit is Rs 10,000. Amounts of gold above these limits attract a duty of 36%. As for cash, one is allowed to bring into the country $5 000 and an equal amount in traveler’s cheques (above what one declared at the time of leaving India).

Customs officials say travelers should never knowingly hide valuables to escape duty. “If discovered, they need to pay a fine apart from duty. It could also lead to an arrest and a court case,” said an official. “In 20-30% of the cases, the intention is not smuggling, but the cases are classified as such.”

What about domestic travel? Well, there is no rule on carrying cash, gold, jewels or gadgets, which means one can carry whatever one feels like and in any quantity. “We do not set limits on such items as they do not pose a haz ard to aircraft security,” said an official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

But then the income tax department comes into the picture. “If the department receives a tipoff that someone is carrying a huge quantity of cash, its officials can stop and interrogate the flyer,” said an officer. “If one can produce a receipt or otherwise show the origin of the cash, there is no problem.”

Source: The Times of India