Companies & Sectors
Air India suspends two officials over lapse in ticketing

The airline initiated an internal probe after Minister of state for civil aviation Venugopal, who was on board a Delhi-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram flight on 4th January, saw 23 vacant seats inside while a Kerala minister was denied a seat on grounds of non-availability

New Delhi: Days after minister of state for civil aviation KC Venugopal unearthed a major ticketing lapse, Air India suspended two officials saying ‘negligence’ by its customer service staff resulted in a domestic flight operating with 23 empty seats even when there was a wait-list for the flight, reports PTI.

 

The airline initiated an internal probe after Venugopal, who was on board a Delhi-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram flight on 4th January, saw 23 vacant seats inside while a Kerala minister was denied a seat on grounds of “non-availability”.

 

The junior minister promptly asked Air India to probe the matter.

 

Following the directive, the airline launched the inquiry and suspended two officials of the customer service department pending its completion.

 

The probe found that two groups of passengers were supposed to travel by that flight as per the “summary sheet”.

 

However, one of these groups had not been ticketed though passenger name record (PNR) numbers were issued to them, airline officials said.

 

The customer service staff only saw the “summary sheet” but did not pull out the PNRs to check whether tickets had been issued to this group, they said, adding that this led the flight to operate with 23 vacant seats.

 

Had these staffers checked whether tickets had been issued on the basis of these PNRs, the vacancies would not have existed as this capacity would have been released for bookings and to accommodate waitlisted passengers, the officials said, terming it as ‘negligence’ on part of the staffers concerned.

 

Venugopal was not only concerned over the inconvenience caused by the airline staffers to the harried wait-listed passengers, but was also upset by the losses to the cash-strapped airline due to such lapses.

 

He has directed the airline now to examine the history of old bookings and see whether this was a one-off instance or a regular feature that could lead to a scam.

 

The booking system should have a corrective mechanism to provide clarity on the seat status on each flight, he suggested.

 

The exposure comes at a time when, as per official figures, Air India suffered an average loss of Rs404 crore every month between March and October last year. The state-run company had a cash inflow of Rs1,348 crore per month while the outflow due to high fuel costs was Rs1,752 crore, leading to cash deficit.

 

Air India now has an accumulated loss of over Rs28,000 crore.

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Robbers dig 100-foot tunnel to raid bank in Germany

Robbers dug a 100-foot tunnel into the safe deposit room of a Berlin bank and escaped with their haul, setting a fire as they left to cover their tracks

Berlin: German police has said, robbers dug a 100-foot tunnel into the safe deposit room of a Berlin bank and escaped with their haul, setting a fire as they left to cover their tracks, reports PTI.

 

Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf says the tunnel led from an underground garage into the bank’s safe deposit room.

 

Neuendorf told The Associated Press yesterday that the tunnel was “very professional” and must have taken weeks or even months to complete. It was elaborately constructed and even had ceiling supports.

 

Police were alerted to the break-in early yesterday when a security guard noticed smoke coming from the deposit room.

 

Neuendorf says police are still trying to determine what valuables were stolen from the deposit boxes.

 

Details of the heist called to mind the spectacular robbery of another Berlin bank in 1995. During that robbery thieves entered the bank through the door, took hostages and demanded a helicopter and ransom.

 

Police besieged and eventually stormed the safe room where the thieves had holed up only to find they had escaped through a tunnel dug by accomplices. Several of the thieves were later caught.

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New drug can help paralysed people walk again

The experimental drug, called LM11A-31, allowed mice with no movement in their lower limbs to walk with “well-coordinated steps” and even to replicate swimming motions

London: Scientists have developed a pill which they claim could help paralysed people walk again. The new drug allowed mice with no movement in their lower limbs to walk with “well-coordinated steps” and even to replicate swimming motions, reports PTI quoting the researchers.

 

The experimental drug, called LM11A-31, was developed by Professor Frank Longo, of Stanford University, California.

 

The researchers gave three different oral doses of LM11A-31, as well as a placebo, to different groups of mice beginning four hours after injury and then twice daily for a 42 day experimental period, the “Daily Mail” reported.

 

In tests, the experimental medication did not increase pain in the mice and showed no toxic effects on the animals.

 

It also efficiently crossed the blood brain barrier, which protects the central nervous system from potentially harmful chemicals carried around in the rest of the bloodstream.

 

An injury to the spinal cord stops the brain controlling the body and this is the first time an oral drug has been shown to provide an effective therapy.

 

“This is a first to have a drug that can be taken orally to produce functional improvement with no toxicity in a rodent,” Professor Sung Ok Yoon, of Ohio State University, Columbus, said.

 

“So far, in the spinal cord injury field with rodent s, effective treatments have included more than one therapy, often involving invasive means. Here, with a single agent, we were able to obtain functional improvement,” Yoon said.

 

The small molecule in the study was tested for its ability to prevent the death of cells called oligodendrocytes.

 

These cells surround and protect axons, long projections of a nerve cell, by wrapping them in a myelin sheath that protects the fibres.

 

In addition to functioning as axon insulation, myelin allows for the rapid transmission of signals between nerve cells.

 

The drug preserved oligodendrocytes by inhibiting the activation of a protein called p75. Yoon's lab previously found p75 is linked to the death of these specialised cells after a spinal cord injury. When they die, axons that are supported by them degenerate.

 

“Because we know oligodendrocytes continue to die for a long period of time after an injury, we took the approach that if we could put a brake on that cell death, we could prevent continued degeneration of axons,” she said.

 

The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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