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Air India likely to offer laptops to business class passengers




New Delhi :In a bid to woo business class passengers on its international flights Air India is considering providing laptops to its premium travellers, its chairman and managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola said.

The move is geared towards improving the airline’s passenger load factor or seat occupancy in business class which often sees almost half the seats going empty.

“In our long haul flights business class can be a money spinner for Air India. Our passenger load factor is only 50 per cent on these flights. We will try to see how to increase that, perhaps offer better quality of services. If our in- flight entertainment is not doing well, then we are thinking of alternatives. Laptops to business class passengers is a possibility,” Kharola told reporters.


He added that a decision is yet to be taken on whether these laptops would be offered to passengers only when the in-built video screens are not working or as an additional perk for premium travellers.

Air India flies Boeing 747, 777 and 787s as well as Airbus 320 on its international routes. While the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Air India’s fleet offers state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment, there are complaints about dysfunctional monitors on older aircraft.

The new CMD, a 1985-batch Karnataka cadre officer, who took charge of Air India last month, also said that the plan to introduce a direct flight to Los Angeles is very much on.

“We are working on (plans to connect) Los Angeles. Long hauls are doing very well, we might be thinking of increasing frequency on the long haul routes both towards Australia and the US,” Kharola said.

He added that Air India will be getting three new Boeing 777s by February and while two of them will be used for VVIP purposes, the remaining one could be used for flights to Los Angeles.

“These planes were bought a long time ago and they have to be used. The airline exists and we have to manage it well,” he explained the rationale behind adding new destinations while the government is working on modalities to divest its stakes in the airline.

Kharola also said that details on how the two B777s earmarked for VVIP operations will be operated are still being finalised, adding that availability of pilots for these planes was an issue.

Air India has tied up with three foreign banks, i.e. UAE- based First Abu Dhabi Bank as well as Standard Chartered Bank and Mashreq Bank, to avail short-term loans for acquiring the three Boeing 777 aircraft.

In 2006, Air India placed orders with Boeing for 68 aircraft. Of these, the state-run carrier has already taken the delivery of 65 planes.

In 2010, the delivery of three B777-300 ERs was postponed due to the downturn in the global aviation sector and in 2015 Air India decided to induct these aircraft.

The Union Cabinet last year gave its in-principle approval for disinvestment of Air India and constituted an inter-ministerial panel to work on the modalities of the stake sale.



Cabinet clears setting up of centralised GST appellate authority




New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved setting up of a centralised Appellate Authority for Advance Ruling (AAAR) under the goods and services tax that would decide on cases where there are divergent orders at the state level.

The setting up of a centralised AAAR would require amendments to the GST Acts. The centralised authority as an appellate body will only take up cases wherein the Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) of two states have passed divergent orders.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and comprising state counterparts, in December decided to establish the centralised AAAR.


“The Cabinet has cleared the GST appellate authority,” a source said after the meeting of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In view of the confusion created by contradictory rulings given by different AARs on the same or similar issues, the industry had been demanding a centralised appellate authority that could reconcile the contradictory verdicts of different AARs.

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Urbanisation to be big driver of Indian economic growth: Kant




Davos: Urbanisation will be a big driver of economic growth in India going forward, supported by favourable macroeconomic factors, accelerated infrastructure building and continuing reforms, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said.

Speaking here at an event on sidelines of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, he also said the Indian economy may even exceed the IMF growth forecast of 7.5 per cent for the country.

Kant said IMF has forecast 7.5 per cent growth for India despite a gloomy outlook for the global economy and this itself is good, though there are expectations that this estimate would be surpassed. He said India is giving a big push to urbanisation with more than 100 smart cities being developed.


The country is also using technology in a big way to change the way business and governance is done, he added. Besides a massive infrastructure building is happening, bank credit flow has rebounded and macroeconomic factors like inflation and fiscal deficit are also being supportive, Kant said.

DIPP Secretary Ramesh Abhishek noted that states are competing with each other to attract investments and all political parties have adopted the economic reform process. He listed various reform initiatives undertaken in India, including on areas like ease of doing business, FDI, manufacturing and taxation.

They were speaking at Institutional investors’ breakfast roundtable, organised by the industry chamber CII and Kotak Mahindra Bank. Other participants included CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee and leaders from Indian and foreign companies.

On questions about some persisting issues in doing business including on tax and insolvency related issues, Abhishek said a lot of efforts have been put in to remove all bottlenecks and starting a business doesn’t take more than a day. Besides, special provisions have been made for startups and angel investors, he added.

Kant said efforts are also being made to remove all physical intervention and digitise the entire process of inter-ministerial and inter-department consultations to fast-track the decisions.

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India will surpass China, says Raghuram Rajan




Davos: India will eventually surpass China in economic size and will be in a better position to create the infrastructure being promised by the Chinese side in South Asian countries, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said.

Addressing a session on Strategic Outlook for South Asia, Dr Rajan said that the Indian economy would continue to grow while growth rate is slowing down in China.

“Historically, India had a bigger role in the region but China has now grown much bigger than India and has presented itself as a counter-balance to India in the region,” Dr Rajan said at the WEF Annual Meeting 2019.


“India will become bigger than China eventually as China would slow down and India would continue to grow. So India will be in a better position to create the infrastructure in the region which China is promising today. But this competition is good for the region and it will benefit for sure,” he said.

The comments assume significance with China working on a lot of infrastructure projects across the region. In 2017, India became the sixth largest economy with a GDP of $2.59 trillion while China was the second large with a GDP of $12.23 trillion.

At the same session, Nepal PM K.P. Sharma Oli cited collaboration with China as well as India as reasons for the economic growth.

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