This was the second time in just over a month that the airline was suspended on the same count from the IATA Clearing House through which airlines and related firms settle accounts for services provided by them to other such companies
New Delhi: Crisis-hit Kingfisher Airlines today said it has made alternative arrangements for customers to book their travel on the carrier, in the wake of global airlines’ body IATA suspending it from its platforms for non-clearance of dues, reports PTI.
“The airline has made alternate arrangements to ensure that the customers can continue to book their travel on Kingfisher, via select leading travel agents and their network of partners,” a Kingfisher spokesperson said in a statement.
Besides, passengers can continue to book and purchase tickets via Kingfisher website and through its ticketing offices across the country and at international locations, as also at its call centres.
“This situation has arisen as a consequence of out bank accounts having been frozen by the tax authorities.
We are making all possible efforts to remedy this temporary situation,” the spokesperson said.
The Vijay Mallya-led UB group’s aviation entity further said that all its flights will continue to operate normally as per the schedule published on its website.
Kingfisher Airlines had suffered yet another blow on 7th March, with IATA suspending it for not clearing its dues.
This was the second time in just over a month that the airline was suspended on the same count from the IATA Clearing House (ICH) through which airlines and related firms settle accounts for services provided by them to other such companies.
The Kingfisher stock was trading 1.19% higher at Rs21.30 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in late morning trade.
The Planning Commission’s proposed “High Speed Rail Authority” has taken some baby steps forward, though matters are still in the seeking opinion stage. The stakes are extremely high and there is every danger that the larger national good may once again be de-railed—if the proposed users do not have their say
Long waiting lists in passenger trains are only one of many issues cropping up due to the ongoing crisis with domestic civil aviation in India. As air fares scale new heights, it is common to see waiting lists for air-conditioned class travel by train on trunk routes extend twice the actual capacity on those routes and full trains being sold out four months in advance. It gets even worse on second class sleeper and the forthcoming summer is likely to be torrid in more ways than one, especially if travel is one of your featured activities.
To place matters in perspective—cheap and easily available air travel was certainly one of the pillars on which India's economic growth took off over the last 10-15 years. Fares were very affordable—many of us who were trying to be entrepreneurs will recall the three-digit in rupees kind of low fares and absence of “User Development Fees”, for example. Food was served free on board. And there was none of the added on timeline required for security reasons or traffic issues on the road—door to door from South Delhi to South Mumbai was often less than four hours.
Today, we allow six hours, maybe more. At three times the cost—or more.
Never more urgently than now has the need for high speed trains, connecting city centres through high density corridors, been felt than now. Unfortunately, barring rhetoric, there has been no real progress on the ground so far. The choice in reality, then, boils down to this—more trains operating on the same routes at slower speeds on our already overloaded tracks, or faster trains which then have a domino effect of slowing down the existing trains?
Add to that the simple fact that goods traffic, despite the recent hike in freight rates, despite the recession, and despite the slowdown in exports, continues to grow exponentially.
Barring a handful of existing trains like the Rajdhanis, Durontos, Garib Raths and Shatabdis which operate on averages in the 70-80 kmph range, the average achieved speed for super-fast trains in India is in the 55-60 kmph range. It is much worse with freight trains, though innovative steps like “Conraj” (Container Rajdhani) and “ConGo” (two freight train rakes operating as a single unit) have improved matters.
But for a larger picture, where India can see highway development falling behind rapidly, and air fares going through the roof, faster trains will have to be introduced on some routes—And soon.
Towards this, the Planning Commission’s proposed “High Speed Rail Authority” has taken some baby steps forward, though matters are still in the seeking opinion stage. Initial approvals are for a high speed passenger rail network in India. They have also approved and identified six routes for this, and the timeline is over the next Five-Year Plan period, which ends in or around 2017. We may by the end of this period, therefore, see high-speed trains doing 350kmph or so on the following sections:
The joker in the pack, literally and figuratively, is obviously the Howrah-Haldia route. Maybe it is there for training purposes. The rest of the routes indicated are obviously high-density and high-income as well as high-spending areas, which will support multiple high speed trains—presumably removing heavy numbers from road and air modes of transport.
But it still does not solve the issue of travel on trunk routes. It is surprising that a host of cross-country trunk routes have not shown up on this list, and hopefully shall in due course. The Government of India, ministry of railways presiding, has therefore sought comments to bring about a bill to set up the “High Speed Rail Authority of India”, to get more views on this and other aspects. And therein lies the crunch.
As of now, where and whom to submit these comments to has not been identified, though the corridors of power and backrooms of power-brokers in Delhi are abuzz with speculation on who gets this juicy plums to build and operate. The stakes are extremely high, in monetary terms, and there is every danger that the larger national good may once again be de-railed—if the proposed users do not have their say.
Very briefly, this article wishes to make some simple submissions -
The Planning Commission report on the High Speed Rail Authority is still not available, but it is important that the message gets across to them as well as to the other ministries involved—we need high speed trains, sure, but we also need a larger perspective of what is in the nation’s larger interest to be taken into account.
And for that, your comments, suggestions and views need to reach the government before we have another mess of the sort that civil aviation is going through in India.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)
In their quest to source pig iron from China, the writer and his partner, speak about their first encounter with Chinese government officials. But they were not given access to English newspapers and nor could they contact their folks back in Dubai. This is the fifth part of the series describing the travails faced when setting up an international business in the seventies
Amanda and Lam Hu (I am a little unsure if it was actually Lim Hu) promptly came in few minutes to nine in the morning to collect us. Armed with our passports/photos, we first went to the Chinese office (not an embassy mind you) who looked up our papers and gave us a few, confirming that it was okay to take a flight on the following day to Beijing. The travel agent had also done the required formalities, but we did not want to take any risks.
It may be recalled that China had leased Hong Kong on a 99-year lease to Britain and that was scheduled to expire in the next 15 years or so. However, Chinese government companies, like China Natural Resources, etc, were very much active in Hong Kong.
Once this was confirmed, we had nothing else to do really, except for own plans. Amanda took us to Daimaru, the most popular mall in Hong Kong; a huge multi-storied building, it contained almost every conceivable item that one may wish to buy. It was very crowded and she had a list of items to “buy” for gifts and presents to people we were scheduled to meet in Beijing. She advised us to shop around and return back to a particular location some one hour later. With that, she was gone.
It was amazing place to shop. I still have the ruler I bought (with its plastic cover!) and many other items. When we returned back to the hotel, we had a lot of items to carry, most of which were consumer durables and food stuffs. Later on, we came to know that these were ‘indented’ by officials Amanda had met earlier and with whom we were scheduled meet for our discussions. These were as simple as Instant Nescafe to biscuits and tea, apart from many others.
The following morning, we were on a flight to Beijing. Vijay a very strict vegetarian, had some tea on the flight but I dared to eat some snack that was given and couple of hours later, landed smoothly in Beijing airport. Photography was strictly prohibited and we were met by an official inside the immigration section, who processed our documents in no time, taking away our luggage tickets. At customs, we opened our suitcases and left it there, as advised by the greeter. We were whisked through and were taken to a coach that went through a good distance (some 30 miles, I suppose) before we reached the hotel. At the reception, we were handed over the room keys, which were already assigned to us, and when we went up, our luggage was already in place. It was unbelievable, but true.
Sooner after our arrival, we went for our lunch and came to know that government offices work from 7am to 3pm at best and that our first meeting would be the following day.
We could not go out and even to the great Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the people. Transport was arranged by the department concerned. We met one lady and a gent on the first day and tried our best to exchange our friendly greetings, etc. Well, on the next day, they were replaced by someone else, though for the first three days, the lady was the same. The driver of the coach, greeter and gent kept changing and when we were in the open area, Amanda whispered that for security reasons people keep changing. Amanda did the Mandarin Chinese translation on our behalf, and most of the time, both Vijay and myself were simple and silent spectators, until the pig iron composition, melting, etc (all technical that went over my head) were raised.
This was followed by a visit to a steel plant and we saw the ingots in the yard, and those being freshly cast. A lot of discussions took place, amidst cups and cups of tea.
One thing that I forgot to mention was that there was no paper—I mean no English newspaper. After great persuasion, we were given some cyclostyled A4 size print outs but that carried more news about what is happening in China and hardly anything else, anywhere in the world. We were totally cut off from any communications with the outside world.
The steel ministry in China was happy that we had come from India for buying their pig iron. Pricing negotiations took a long time; and when it came to specific delivery or shipment commitments, they asked for time to consult the plant and get necessary authorization. We would be happy to resume our negotiations from Monday and suggested that we accept their hospitality for a picnic and go and see the Great Wall of China. Everything already arranged and “we shall pick you up after breakfast by 9am if it is okay with you”.
At the reception, we were given the picnic packets, marked with our room numbers and with an official guide (sent by their office); we drove for more than one hour. It was nice and green and the countryside lush with rice or wheat fields (I do not recall which), until we came and halted at a place, which looked more like an entrance, with very large engraving in stone, and which was on the wall. It had some scrips and what surprised me was that I found a few looked like Tamil alphabets; the guide pointed out some others and said they were in “Pali”. Yes, they looked like Indian in the sense that they could be Sanskrit, but all these were nice to see. Later on we came to know he was a linguist.
We then headed towards the first door to the Great Wall of China, not far from this point. The next one hour or so, we walked up and down, may be a mile or two on the wall. While standing there, I remembered reading somewhere that this was the only man-made site on earth that could be viewed from the moon or space. Immediately, my own mind brushed the thought aside; after all the first live person or animal was Laika, the Russian dog, and it was ridiculous to believe this news item. After all, even if Louis Armstrong had the best telescope in the world, all that he could have perhaps seen is the shape and size of the round planet, and nothing beyond.
When we broke for lunch, both of us had a cheese sandwich, an apple and a bottle of some local soft drink. It was a pleasant trip and we returned back to the hotel, hoping for a big meal with some rice in the evening.
We had hoped to get some news from Dubai at least, but were advised that ‘lines’ were down! We were told, on our return that the minister (actually secretary to the steel ministry, we supposed, or some very senior official) was hosting a dinner in our honour the next day at the prestigious hotel.
For dinner, we had noodles, some fried rice without eggs and lots of salad. We hit the sack early, after a couple of drinks, and tried to plan pricing strategy for our purchase in our mind, as we fell asleep.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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