4 September, 2023: The Barking set in Charleston, South Carolina, The United States of America

Mother was in one of those taxis taking her from the Walgreens back to her home, and she didn’t know where it was coming from, but she felt it—no, she just knew it: there was a barking sound coming from somewhere inside the car, too close to be coming from outside.

“Do you hear that?” Mother asked the taxi driver.

“No-ma’am,” said the driver, slurring his syllables in such a way that Mother had to parse out the no and ma’am.

It didn’t matter what he said. Mother was damn sure she had heard it. It wasn’t like the ruff-ruff in a movie. It was a clear stuttering groan, followed by an elongated anguished howl.

The sound wasn’t going away either. She kept hearing it. There had to be a dog in here. The driver just wasn’t admitting it. Google Maps was telling her that home was just six minutes away, and those six minutes couldn’t come quickly enough.

There was a story that went around Charleston involving a little stray dog named Poogan who had roamed Queen’s Street in the seventies. The dog had been dead for many years. Yet people claimed all the time to see the dog, a ghost, going up and down the street just as he had done when he was a stray.

Mother was a good Christian woman. Mother believed in an afterlife, and while she couldn’t discount the idea of a ghost, she knew the Bible didn’t speak of it.

So why was it that in the moment Mother got out of her taxi, she saw a young wheaten terrier? It was just lying in the grass right outside of her lawn, napping. Mother had seen dogs here before that belonged to her neighbors, but none were small and toy-like. Wasn’t Poogan supposed to look like something of this breed?

Mother tried to pass it, but it woke up and started following her.

“Shoo,” Mother shouted. She got to her porch. Her heels clacked against the wood, and she saw that it hadn’t gone away. She held up her purse like she was about to throw it. “Get on, git!”

The dog perked up and stared at the purse like it was a toy. Did the poor thing think Mother was in the mood to be playing fetch? Mother sighed. At her age it was hard to protest against anybody or anything. She just wanted to get into her house and throw off her heels.

Mother closed the door quickly and rested her feet on the sofa, turned on the TV, and thought about making popcorn. Then she heard the dog barking again. Was it outside? She tried to shut out the noise.

It was just at the corner of her eye, the slight wag of that furry tail. Somehow, the dog had gotten into her home. It was sitting by the couch, staring up at her with big Bambi eyes. It barked once, twice, just waiting for Mother to give it some of her time. Mother didn’t know whether to turn her head or keep her eyes fixed on the TV. Acknowledging the dog meant that she’d be confirming it was there, meaning she would have to get up and try to shoo it out.

Some ten minutes passed, and the dog settled down. Her feet were feeling a bit more relaxed, so Mother thought she would go upstairs for a bit to sort out where she wanted to put the medicines she had bought. She thought about taking one of the Tylenols. Her ankles still felt sore as she got to her feet.

The dog didn’t follow her upstairs. She thought about calling her sister and asking her what to do. Summer was ending soon, and her nephew, Clarence, would be heading off to school. He’d be starting middle school, which was a big deal. She was sure her sister would be hosting a barbecue to celebrate, which would surely embarrass Clarence and get the whole family laughing.

Her niece, Nakeisha, had called a few days ago to say she’d love to take up Mother’s offer to go to the mall together someday. She said she loved spending time with family and that talking to Mother taught her a lot. Mother knew that was a damn lie. All Nakeisha wanted was their money.

Mother knew this to be true because Nakeisha’s family didn’t have the best life over in Mobile, and sometimes Nakeisha’s mother, Latoya, would call just to ask for some help. All the fuss was because Mother’s husband was a private practice doctor. In other words, they were pretty wealthy. Nakeisha was getting into the theatre scene in Charleston and probably wanted the types of clothes that would impress her friends.

The dog was suddenly barking so loudly that Mother almost knocked the pill bottles off the medicine cabinet. Why was that damn dog in the house? Mother didn’t care that it felt like her ankles would fall off. She thundered downstairs and saw the dog sitting by the couch.

“Shoo! Just git!” Instead, the dog came up and started sniffing Mother’s hand. Mother pushed it aside before it could get wet with nose dew.

Mother shouted again, “Go on! Git!” If the dog could just move to the side a bit, she could shut the door on it, and it would be gone.

It was getting to be too much work, and Mother was too old to do any of it. She thought she’d get started on lunch as Father would be coming home from the hospital early today. Would she make lasagna? Or soup? It had been some time since she’d opened up anything Campbell, and they did have minestrone soup. It’d be easier than laboring over some minced meat, for sure.

She turned on the radio. On the program they were arguing about abortion, and this made Mother miss her pastor. The good news was that he was being put on bail. He wasn’t going to be in jail for much longer. But who would want to be led by a pastor who had been accused of raping a minor?

The barking was getting so loud that Mother couldn’t keep her hands fixed over the can opener. She went back to the living room with a shoe in her hand. She waved the shoe around, shouting about, but all that caused was for the dog to stare at it. She threw the shoe at it but it almost hit the TV, and caused the remote on the table to hit the floor, spilling its batteries everywhere. Mother had to pick them all up and put them back in. All the while the dog was barking louder because it was panicking.

It was so damn exhausting. She took another seat on that sofa, needing to rest after all the hubbub. She closed her eyes hoping it would all just go away.

Why did everything down to the smallest things in her life have to be a struggle?

Her life had been her son, but then her son had grown up and left home.

Her life had been her nephew, but now her nephew was growing into a teenager and forgetting about her, too.

Her life had been her church, but now that church had a bad rap and Mother risked getting caught up with the controversy.

Her life could have been her friends, but she only liked hanging out with them casually. There were no deep connections.

Her life could have been other relatives, but they were all so different, and all with their own agendas, and Mother didn’t know who to trust.

The fact was that she had so many options, but she didn’t know what to do with her life.

Except for the cooking. That she was going to have to get done because Father was going to come home expecting a meal, barking and all.

The dog was pouncing about and trying to sniff her, but Mother ignored the pooch. She decided on mac and cheese, which wouldn’t be as much work as lasagna, but at least it was something Father would sniff when he came in and say, That sure smells good.

And sure enough, when Father came in an hour later, long after the gruyere on top of the elbow tubes had simmered, he said, “That sure smells good.”

“All for you, my handsome,” Mother said. She came up and gave him a smooch. He was a little sweaty from the night shift, which Mother could smell immediately. Mother wondered why Father wasn’t making a comment about the other smells in the house. It was probably reeking of dog, but Mother’s nose was already acclimated to it.

Father came back down after a shower in casual clothes, and they started eating. Father talked about how tiring the night shift was, and Mother went over the things she had bought at Walgreens. She thought about how nice it was when Father was home and relaxed. She thought about how nice it would be if they could spend more time together the way couples were supposed to, and how much more fulfilling that would make her life.

Mother said to Father, “I’m so sorry about the smell.”

“The cheeses you put in this thing are pretty damn strong,” Father said.

“Silly,” Mother said, pouring herself some more wine. “You know that ain’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that dog smell.”

“That dog smell?”

“That dog smell. I don’t know how it got into the house. I was coming out of the cab and a dog was on our lawn and wouldn’t leave me. I yelled at it to try to get it to go away, but it just wouldn’t. I’m telling you, the barking has been making me go crazy.”

“The barking?”

“Yes, babe,” Mother said, pointing to her ear. “The barking, don’t you hear it?”

It was still happening, loud as always, but Mother had gotten used to it.

Father looked puzzled. He got up, despite him having only gone through a quarter of the meal. He went into the living room, circled back to the kitchen from the other side, went upstairs, then came back down.

“I ain’t seeing no dog anywhere.”

“Did it leave?” Mother said, getting up herself. It had been some time since she actually last saw it. But it couldn’t have left. Mother could still hear the barking pounding in her ears.

Mother went through the living room and circled back into the kitchen. She took a look upstairs. She took a look in the basement just in case.

It was odd. Mother could swear she was still hearing the barking.

Except the dog wasn’t there.

29 August, 2023: When the Pastor was Kidnapped set in Bouar, the Central African Republic

When Mother found out that the pastor had been taken by armed militia, she was at her friend Marie’s house, watching as Marie braised bushmeat over a fire. Mother’s house was on the other side of the dirt road but a few kilometres by walking. Mother and Marie were chatting idly when an armed vehicle sped by, kicking dust all over the huts. A crowd of men and women were following it. A woman shouted out. « Don’t take our pastor, s’il vous plaît! »

And then Mother realised what was happening. Kidnappings were common in the Central African Republic, and Mother had grown somewhat used to them. But Mother and the pastor was close. Her full emotional response took some moments to coalesce. It went from confusion to denial to shock within seconds, and then she was filled with so much anxiety that she rushed out of Marie’s hut without saying a single word. By the time she could find a space for herself in the crowd, it was too late. The car had driven off far into the distance, a dot in the horizon as big as a mosquito would be in front of her. The car was heading towards the border of Cameroon, a country Mother had never visited. 

The pastor. A man of such intelligence and wisdom. A man who was so full of empathy, too. He would start off telling a story about Solomon and then end his sermon by dragging the oldest farmer of the town, Desire, to the front and pay him compliment upon compliment for his hard work. He would raise up every village person afflicted by guilt and sing deep songs to the Lord, chasing the shame out of their hearts. He knew how many people struggled to survive because he lived in this village, too. The cassava was plenty but the money was nowhere, and yet they lived on because the pastor instructed them to. 

How could such a man be kidnapped? What did they possibly want to do with him? And why would they take him when he was so important to their community?

Previously when the Séléka and the Anti-Balaka were fighting, it was common to see people kidnapped, killed, and targeted for no reason. Now that the government had stabilised and the Séléka had disbanded, those who were targeted were usually foreigners, like the Chinese who came for business or the peacekeepers from other countries who tried their best to defuse tensions between warlords. It made no sense for the kidnapping to be related to any of that because the pastor avoided taking sides. 

There could only be one reason for him to have disappeared like this.

Mother’s eyes focused on the girl she was convinced had started it all. Now almost six months pregnant, the girl had a belly as big as a watermelon, and she had to hold it as she walked to keep her body balanced. Ever since she had blurted out to the whole congregation during one of his sermons that the pastor was the father of her child, the rumours had spread all across the town. Droves of men and women and children still came to his sermons because they were compelled to, but there were others coming to him after the sermons to shout at him, push him, threaten him. It caused fights to break out between the churchgoers and the family members of the girl. Some people had even been murdered, paying the price for their involvement. Up to this point, it had just not been the pastor.

Mother was so angry she wanted to push the girl onto the dust and give her a piece of her mind.

Then she saw the girl’s face. Her brown oval eyes were aghast. Dust flitted in front of her eyes, and she did not blink. People were coming up to her and trying to confront her with the same thought in their minds, but she stood as still as a stone. This was not the body language of a person who was aware of what was going on. 

It still did not add up. 

Minutes become hours. People were so panicked that they hadn’t noticed how hot it was becoming, and it was becoming hotter yet. As their emotions cooled and bodies burned, they went back towards their huts, knowing there was nothing they could do to save their pastor.

“Why are you leaving?” Mother said out loud. 

This was a dear man and beloved leader of the community, a man who reminded the people each and every day that they were part of a greater humanity, and out of nowhere, without any sense at all, he had been kidnapped.

What was Mother’s life going to be like without him?

Honoring India’s Richness: A Celebration of Hidden Travel Wonders

As India eagerly approaches its 77th Independence Day, it is essential to pay tribute to the multitude of treasures that the country holds and to remember the sacrifices made by our predecessors who valiantly protected the legacy that has led us to this momentous juncture. What better way to achieve this than by delving into India’s lesser-explored travel marvels, thus commemorating our nation’s independence? In pursuit of this goal, the Ministry of Tourism has collaborated with the travel platform MakeMyTrip to unveil over 600 remarkable destinations that demand exploration.

This endeavor has given rise to an innovative platform known as the ‘Traveller’s Map of India’ microsite, specifically tailored to help travel enthusiasts uncover concealed tourism gems according to their preferences. Crafted by MakeMyTrip, this microsite seamlessly aligns with the ideals of the Indian Government’s ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ initiative.

In a press release, G Kishan Reddy, the Union Minister of Tourism, Culture, and DoNER, conveyed his appreciation for MakeMyTrip’s endeavor to highlight the diverse destinations within India and to stimulate domestic tourism. He extended an invitation for more such endeavors, underlining the collective aspiration to showcase the nation to the global audience.

The compilation of this travel selection was curated by the travel company through an examination of India’s travel search history. Based on this foundation, destinations that are relatively unknown and confined to specific pockets of the country were chosen. To simplify the process for travelers, these destinations have been categorized with tags like adventure, wildlife, heritage, mountains, beaches, and more, allowing them to choose their preferred genre of exploration.

Picture : Live Science

Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip, expressed his thoughts on this initiative, highlighting how the ‘Traveller’s Map of India’ resonates with the desires of nearly every Indian traveler. He emphasized its fitting commemoration of August 15th and MakeMyTrip’s continuous advocacy for India’s diverse tourism offerings. The intent behind the initiative is to encourage each Indian to become an advocate for the country’s cultural, historical, natural, and geographical wonders. Magow conveyed gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism for its support, which bolsters MakeMyTrip’s mission to position India as the foremost sought-after global tourism destination.

Furthermore, this initiative, as stated in the release, not only acknowledges the potential of domestic tourism as a potent instrument for socio-economic development but also directly contributes to the multifaceted expansion of India’s economy.

For those unfamiliar, ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ stands as a government initiative designed to invigorate domestic tourism across the nation. Through endeavors like these, India’s rich tapestry of hidden travel wonders comes to the forefront, serving as a testament to the multifaceted celebrations of the nation’s 77th Independence Day.

The Tenth Vision (12 August, 2023)

Set in Sandoy, Faroe Islands, the Kingdom of Denmark

This is not the sea. This is not the ocean. This is not even a body of water. There is meadow upon meadow. The grass is a dehydrated green, merging with yellow tulips at bloom. Hills are in the distance. Or are they mountains? Are they cliffs?

It’s impossible to tell because they are so far, and there is mist, and all around her the wind is howling. It is cold but it is also warm, with grass tall enough to hide the distant bodies of cows.

There are giants walking up and down. They lurch towards each other, they disappear into the mist. A witch is cackling but the witch has no body. The witch is a voice.

Soon you will drown again, and you will come across the shadows.

This is not just a spell. This is not just a song. This is a reminder, replaying over and over again. Nothing is eternal. Even this world that has appeared out of nowhere is an illusion.

And yet it feels so real.

The grass nicks against the skin. The wind blows dew into the eardrums. The witches are chanting, and their words blur through the mist. There are ballads being sung, too. A skipari skips through the meadows, fiddle in hand, until he is stomped upon by the giants. They laugh and toss aside the bloodied mess their foot has created as if it is excrement they have stepped on.

All around is meadow. All around is mist. All around is song and spell. And there is no dancing. Why is there not any dancing? In such a wide furry swathe of land there must always be dancing.

Mother remembers a time when she loved dancing.

That was the time before she realised the importance of God.

Then she gave up dancing.

She gave up a lot of habits.

She wonders if it was worth it.

People are chaining themselves together. Where these people came from, no one knows. But they are slipping hand into hand, skipping with each other, singing songs. They look so happy despite the giants reaching out to crush them. They look so connected in a way so few people of this century appear.

Mother is getting old. And the world is changing, the world is moving on, the world is leaving her, as she knows she is beginning to leave this earth.

The earth of this meadow is tearing. The meadow is being torn apart into a chasm. The giants are falling in, the witches are shrieking. The mist is growing wider and wider until it is grey all around, and Mother once more feels like she is standing on water.

Has she returned to the bottom of the ocean?

She feels like she is sitting on top of a horse.

Air India Plans Nonstop Flights from Boston, Los Angeles

Air India is eyeing expansion of its service network in the United States. The airline would operate nonstop flights to India from Boston, Los Angeles and other US cities in the next few months, as part of its 5-year development plan named Vihaan.AI. Currently, Washington DC, New York JFK, Newark EWR, Chicago ORD, and San Francisco are the only destinations of Air India’s nonstop flights to USA from India.

“The reports of Air India planning to add Los Angeles and Boston to its US-India nonstop service corridor is no surprise to us. In our exclusive news article about the airline’s $70bn aircraft deal, we had hinted at Air India’s potential plans for penetrating the US market further. However, we had little idea that Boston and LAX would steal the show while Atlanta, Seattle, Houston and Dallas have been lobbying with Indian authorities for nonstop flights for years,” said Sourav Agarwal, the Editor of Travel Beats.

The most likely launch of Boston and Los Angeles to India nonstop flights is anticipated to coincide with the induction of six A350-900 aircraft into Air India’s long-haul fleet in October or November 2023. This is just a fraction of the airline’s order of 40 A350s, including 34 A350-1000 aircraft. In his most recent interviews, CEO Campbell Wilson said that the ageing fleet with outdated cabins had been a deterrent to the Tata airline’s growth and expansion in international markets.

Six A350-900s will add a total of 144 premium economy seats to Air India flights for international service. Indians of Southern California and New England would get a taste of Air India’s Premium Economy service on board if A350-900s are deployed for the upcoming new routes between USA and India. Each Airbus 350-900 will come with 24 Premium Economy, 28 Business and 264 Economy seats. A350-900s have business class seats with direct aisle access and doors for passengers’ privacy. With 31-inch seat pitch, economy seats will be a breather for travelers.

“Our customers who have taken Air India’s premium economy flights from SFO and JFK to Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru are all praise of the seats, meals and other inflight service. We are thrilled to share with you the below feedback from the traveler named Diwakar,” said the chief travel advisor of Indian Eagle, a most trusted air-ticketing partner of Indian Diaspora in America,

“We recently traveled by Air India from Mumbai to San Francisco in Premium Economy class. The entire journey was most comfortable. It was a great surprise by Air India for travelers preferring nonstop travel. In the last 20 years, we have traveled to USA many times. It was our 18th trip and the BEST travel experience. Kudos to AIR INDIA!”

Why are Boston and Los Angeles being targeted as highly potential destinations for new nonstop Air India flights to USA? The primary reason being the growing Indian immigrant community in Southern California and New England. In Southern California, Greater Los Angeles alone houses an inflated Indian-origin populace of more than 200,000. New England comprising Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont in the northeast US, is home to a growing base of over 1 lakh Indians.

Boston is centrally located in New England, which makes Boston Logan Airport seamlessly accessible from Albany, Hartford, Milford, New Haven, Stamford, Cambridge, Providence, Springfield, Greenwich and other cities. Los Angeles International Airport is much nearer than SFO to Arizona and Southern Nevada by road. If Air India’s nonstop flight service to LAX becomes a reality, it will be a double celebration for Indians in Southern California. They are most likely to get an Indian Consulate in Los Angeles as an online petition is garnering their support.

Currently, IndianEagle.com has best deals for LAX and Boston to India flights by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airways, SWISS Airlines and others. Once Air India’s plans for nonstop travel from Boston and Los Angeles  to India take shape, it will trigger a fare war with other airlines on these routes.

India Introduces Ayush Visa For Foreign Nationals Seeking Treatment

The introduction of the Ayush visa is in line with government’s aim to promote India as a medical tourism destination in the world

The Ministry of Home Affairs officially announced a new category of Ayush (AY) visa for foreign nationals seeking treatment under Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (Ayush) or Indian systems of medicine. The new visa category was announced by the Prime Minister at the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit (GAIIS) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in April 2022.

According to a government statement, the introduction of the Ayush visa is part of the “Heal in India” initiative, which is aimed at promoting the country as a medical value travel destination. The Ministry of Ayush and the Ministry of Health and family welfare are working together to develop a one-stop “Heal in India” portal to promote the country as a medical tourism destination of the world.​

Picture : InsuranceDekho

Commenting on its significance, Union Minister of Ayush and Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal, said, “The creation of a new category of Ayush (AY) visa for foreign nationals seeking treatment under Indian systems of medicine is a significant step. It will boost the medical value of travel in India. This initiative will strengthen our endeavour to accomplish PM Modi’s vision for making Indian traditional medicine a global phenomenon. I also want to compliment Amit Shah, Union Home Minister for his efforts in creating a special Ayush Visa category.”

A new chapter 11A – Ayush Visa has been incorporated after Chapter 11 – medical visa of the manual, which deals with treatment under the Indian systems of medicine accordingly necessary amendments have been made in various chapters of the Visa Manual, 2019, the release said.

The Ayush ministry has been working on many fronts to promote the Ayush system of treatment nationally and globally. Recently, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and the Ministry of Tourism, was signed to work together for the promotion of medical value travel in Ayurveda and other traditional systems of medicine.

(10): 29th July, 2023 set in Teseney, Eritrea

20 May 1939

The first time Faven fell sick, it was in the spring of the late 1930s, when she was a young girl of the age of five. The illness in question was smallpox. Of course when the scaly and crusty lesions spread all over Faven’s body, the villagers were disturbed. They knew what the disease was, and they knew it was contagious, so no one except Faven’s mother dared to come close to her. Even Faven’s mother was scared, but she stayed by her daughter’s side next to her cot, feeding her genfo by hand until she recovered.

Up until the early 1940s, the land of modern Eritrea was a colony of the Italians. The village of Teseney was of particular importance. Because the fields of the village sat by the Gash River, it became the perfect place to construct a dam, and cotton growth was expansive due to the richness of the land. With the strong Italian presence in the village, Faven received proper medical treatment from the nurses in the army, and she made a full recovery.

Faven grew to be much older. She watched as Italian Eritrea went to the British and then became its own country. The wars of independence destroyed whatever infrastructure the Italians had built up, but Faven always remembered stroking the soft creamy skin of the nurse who tended her back to health; how it pressed against her pustule-covered body, how light blond hairs fell from her bun onto Faven’s body, how Faven would pull them apart, and play with them.

2 April 1955

When Faven was giving birth to her second child, she was unsure if she would make it. The birth attendants told her family that she was most likely going to die. The baby was just too big, and Faven’s womb simply too small. Because the pain was great and Faven’s spirit was dwindling, Faven prayed to God. She made sure to keep her mind on the image of the cross, bathed in golden light. It felt like her body was being torn outwards from the inside of her. It felt like someone had taken a watermelon and was forcing her to pass it through her whole.

Faven heard the sound of the angels. They told her she would be blessed with a beautiful boy. He would be responsible and giving. He would do so much for their village, and for the world. Faven heard what God was telling her and almost cried from the beauty of it.

Then after hours upon hours of hard work the baby came out. The attendants ululated with happiness, showing the child off. The birth of the boy was successful, with no damage to Faven’s body. The women went house to house passing titiqo. A few hours later, women came with jugs of milk from the goats as gifts for the home. In passing they asked curiously for the boy’s name, and Faven said, “Anbessa.” This was the Amharic word for lion, which Faven had chosen because of how loudly the voice of God had roared out his destiny while she was giving birth.

18 September 1961

By the 1960s Faven had birthed three children. This was a small number compared to what was normal in Eritrea, and the people of the village often teased her for her lack of fertility. It was a known fact that her husband was going about sleeping with other women and often impregnating them. Nonetheless Faven did not care. She was happy seeing her children playing outside with the goats and sheep, helping the other family members tend to the sorghum. In far off places like Asmara, coalitions were forming, trying to find ways for Eritrea to break off as a territory from Ethiopia.

But for Faven such things were as far from her as the news of the construction of a Berlin Wall. She lived her life in the fields sweeping the dust in her small hut, cooking meals for her family, and passing the time away talking to her various cousins and siblings.

10 June 1984

The war of independence was brutal. During the thirty-year period, Teseney and its villages were constantly bombed and bombarded. The village’s proximity to the border of Sudan had been its great commercial strength for most of Faven’s life, but now it resulted in so much upheaval.

But in the first month of 1984, the EPLF came to liberate the town of Teseney from the Ethiopians, and in the following months the Ethiopians came back with a vengeance. Faven and her loved ones would hide under the tables and the mattresses. Glass would randomly shatter from the mortars. People would go to the market to buy vegetables and never come back.

It was in those days that the sound of shattering glass and the whooshing of airplanes around them became imprinted in Faven’s mind. She would wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and shouting her children’s names. She would be peeling vegetables in the middle of the day and ducking under something, afraid that the sound she was hearing was of an army coming to attack them again.

And it was also during those days that Anbessa’s thinking began to change. Unlike his brothers he had never really liked their village, but because of the war Faven could see that he was really starting to despise it. She knew that in the back of her son’s mind, he was growing a disgust for this country. She could feel it in the tips of her hairs and in the emotions he never took the time to announce, but she could detect.

She wanted to talk about it but never knew how to bring it up. She had never talked profoundly about such topics with her children while they were growing up; the idea of raising emotionally challenging subjects was not in her realm of practice.

8 September 1984

And then Anbessa found placement in a good hospital in Asmara. He decided to stay with her brother as he settled in the city to work there, and he hardly visited.

9 October, 2007 

It was just like how her grandson from Asmara was eventually accepted into the school of his dreams in a country Faven did not know how to pronounce, let alone imagine, and after that Faven never saw him again.

15 March 2018

When did Faven start to lose her mind? Truthfully, she had never been encouraged to think or question in her entire life, and so thinking for her was routinely confined to what would be best for her children, what would be best for her mother, and how to manage a husband who had little interest in her well-being. Her husband was long dead, and she was surrounded by grandchildren who loved her. And yet she kept forgetting their names. Her hands would twitch for no reason. She would have trouble holding things, but when her daughters-in-law tried to help, she scolded them. She hurled insults at anyone who passed by. She was angry to find herself in one room at one moment, only to realise in the next that many hours had passed since she had gone outside.

Her son from Asmara would come to visit, but only once in a while. He wore fancy clothes from Europe and rarely liked to sleep in his old cot in the hut, trying to limit his time spent to a day trip. Whenever he left, the relatives made fun of him, and Faven felt sad. She wished she knew how to actually talk to her son, but instead she found herself nagging at him for never bringing her grandson home and asking why he wasn’t married yet.

Faven found herself becoming uncontrollably angry. Faven found herself falling into fears. She found herself hating everything about life, and she didn’t understand why.

She found herself wishing she could relive the last eighty-four years of her life all over again.

29 July, 2023

« Why is she reacting like this? » Father shouted. He was squatting on the ground, facing his mother on the cot in their familial hut. Their mother lay completely immobile with fear in her eyes. No matter how much Father tried to grab her attention, it was like he wasn’t there. She was trembling, stuttering to make a word.

« Bo-bo, bo-bo… »

His elder brother, Massawa, scolded him for all the dirt he had brought into the hut with his shoes, while his younger brother, Robel, mused on why the medicines weren’t working. Father took a moment to turn away from his mother. The weather in the village was hot, and Father wasn’t used to being without constant air-conditioning inside of a home. He looked at the sanded land and the small shrubs growing around the rocks. He thought about going for a walk.

When he looked back towards his mother, she was pointing her palms towards the sky as if afraid of someone striking her. Father remembered the roughness of his own father and winced. He hoped that was not what she was remembering in the moment.

Suddenly his mother’s glance dashed towards the cups. His mother was always so diligent in cleaning, spending most of her time crouched by the bucket after a meal was done and plates and utensils needed to be washed. It was one of the closest things she had to a hobby, but now she was so weak that even standing to do something like that would be difficult. Father could not help but let out a sigh.

Massawa heard the sigh. « Anbassa has become like a woman » he joked. « Look at how he holds his body. Look at how he talks. » Robel and Massawa laughed.

Father crossed his arms around his chest. He thought of taking one last look at his mother for a small health examination. He crouched beside her once again, taking a long look at her face. The lighting in the last half hour had changed. Some of the clouds had disappeared, and more sunlight was streaming into the hut. It made Father hotter, and he really thought about taking off his shirt.

Suddenly his mother lifted up his hand up to the sky. It was like she was grabbing at something but nothing was above her except air. Father shouted out with concern. « Inati, what is it? »

His mother looked into his eyes. And in that moment, a wide smile came to her face. Father could not help but smile back. He cooed, as he would to a baby. « Inati, do you recognise me? Do you know it is your son? »

As the light glinted up and around Father, his mother started reaching for his hair and pulling at it. It was like she was trying to uncurl a piece of wool, or how a kid for the first time might pull on the horns of a goat. Father started laughing because it was such an odd way to be touched by his mother. « Inati, why are you doing this? It is like you have never touched my hair before. »

Yet his mother smiled so fondly, with a pure and unadulterated joy that Father wished he could have seen in his mother when he was younger.

Read at Substack

US Citizens Need Visa To Europe in 2024

The times of visa travel all through the majority of Europe are going to change. Beginning right on time one year from now, the European Association will execute the European Travel Data and Approval Framework requiring all guests from without visa nations to acquire head out approval preceding their flight.

Application Cycle

The European Travel Data and Approval Framework isn’t your conventional visa. It’s a clear web-based application process with endorsement conveyed by email. Explorers should finish up a web-based structure with essential historical data, itinerary items and travel history, alongside security questions. While most candidates will get endorsement in no less than 60 minutes, some might encounter a stand by of as long as 96 hours for additional checks. The expense of the application is around $8, relevant to voyagers, everything being equal. When supported, the movement approval will be substantial for various passages north of three years or until the voyager’s identification lapses.

Numerous Americans were anxious about the extra travel report, yet as additional insights regarding European Travel Data and Approval Framework arise, voyagers are finding the interaction easier than anticipated.

“It’s still simple for us to venture out to Europe,” said Alexa Moore, a successive voyager to Europe for both business and relaxation. ” It’s only another step we need to ponder before our outing.”

European Travel Data and Approval Framework will be expected for movement to all part nations including full Schengen individuals, similar to Spain, France, and Italy, European Deregulation Affiliation nations, similar to Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, future Schengen member, similar to Bulgaria and Cyprus, and European microstates, similar to Andorra and Monaco.

It Will Improve Line Security and Advanced Screening

The essential point of European Travel Data and Approval Framework is to fix line security, carefully screen and track voyagers entering and leaving the nations. The program’s motivation and application process are much the same as the Electronic Framework for Movement Approval program for guests to the U.S., making voyagers more comprehension of the new prerequisite.

As Europe gears up for the rollout, it’s memorable’s fundamental that the time frame American sightseers can spend in Europe stays unaltered. US identification holders are as yet permitted to keep awake to 90 days inside a 180-day time span without a visa. For stays longer than 90 days, a unique visa will be required.

Albeit the specific day for kickoff of the new travel approval is questionable, it is far-fetched the European Travel Data and Approval Framework will deter anybody from venturing out to Europe.

“I’m freeloaded about it, however it appears to be adequately simple,” says travel blogger Nicki Post, recognizing the reasonableness of responding section necessities between countries.

14 July, 2023: Meeting on the Hills

This time Father chose to gather the doctors not at his home in his swanky upscale apartment in San Benito, but at one of the hillside cafes overlooking the city. It would be more relaxing to meet outside, he thought, and he wanted to impress the doctors with the view. At this table with just a black rail separating them from a sharp decline and tumble, they could look down and see all the dilapidated colonial buildings, all the skyscrapers popping up, and, most importantly, the greenery—the crochet of tall effervescent trees and sloping green hills that made San Salvador feel more verdant than it actually was. Certainly, Dr Sánchez was impressed.

“Por fin una parte de la ciudad que vale la pena conocer,” he proclaimed out loud, raising his glass of wine for all of the doctors to toast.

Dr Nuñez turned and smiled at Father. On first impression, Father had thought that her smile conveyed politeness as it had a kind aura. Over the months, as Father got to know Dr Nuñez, however, he realised that this was the smile she gave whenever she was annoyed at someone. She would only voice her doubts until after everyone had left except Father. He was glad that he had grown close enough to Dr Nuñez to see this side of herself, but he also dreaded having to spend another hour alone with Dr Nuñez, listening to her complain after the tapas were cleared and the bills were settled.

“I think there are a lot of places in San Salvador that are worth visiting,” Dr Ayala said quite quietly, snivelling as if his nose was stuffed.

“¿Like what?” Dr Sánchez said. Dr Ayala opened his mouth to reply, but Dr Sánchez spoke over him. “We have so many beautiful barrios, and in them all you see is people shooting themselves. Yes, it is so beautiful. Claro.”

Dr Sánchez put his finger to the side of his head and mimicked shooting a gun. Dr Ayala looked down at the bread on his plate, morose. Dr Nuñez gave that smile again to Father, only this time she rolled up her eyebrows more than once. This meant Father would have a whole lot of complaints to listen to after they were all done.

Dr Sánchez went on:

“It is no mystery Bukele is having trouble cleaning this country up. But he will do it, this is certain.”

Now Dr Nuñez couldn’t help but speak up.

“¿And how is he going to do it? ¿By paying off the matones with Bitcoin?”

That was a good one. Father couldn’t help but laugh. Dr Ayala joined along. But Dr Sánchez kept on going on as if he hadn’t heard her.

“He is going to clean up crime because he has been cleaning up crime. ¿Are you all blind? ¿Are you all bats? That is the only way you cannot see it. It is happening in front of us. And soon El Salvador will be a great country.”

“I will drink to that,” Dr Nuñez said, and she put up her wine glass, toasting with Father and Dr Ayala. But despite their chuckling and teasing, Dr Sánchez was not deterred.

“¿And what will happen when Buckle makes El Salvador is a great country? I know that he will take the people who have doubted and destroyed them like you and he will make them people with nothing. ¿And then who will be there to pay for your children’s retirements? Certainly not Bukele. He should send people like you all to Venezuela. There you will learn what happens when a leader doesn’t work hard to take care of his people.”

Some of the tapas were coming out as Dr Sánchez was shouting. The waiter made a slightly bemused face at Father. It seemed the conversation was veering off in a different direction that had nothing to do with what they were supposed to be talking about. Father had invited the doctors here because they had agreed to work together to bring some key reforms to the hospital earlier this year, but so far nothing had been implemented. He wanted to unite them one last time so that they could get their creative juices flowing and plan out some hard-hitting actions.

Father said, “Everyone, calm down. I think this is now the time to start talking about—”

But Dr Nuñez was still laughing at Dr Sánchez. “¡You called us bats! ¡To you, it’s like all us women are little creatures of the night and not human beings!”

She had drunk a good deal of wine and was starting to loosen up. Dr Sánchez responded defensively as if she were incredibly serious. “No, no, claro que no. ¿How could I imply such a thing? I love women far too much. I love my wife, I love my sisters, I love my mother.”

Dr Nuñez laughed even louder.

“¡Incredible! You can think of three women. That’s very impressive.” She turned to Father and said quite loudly, “It’s impressive because when anyone comes to the hospital to have an abortion, he is the first one to call them curse words. And he thinks no one hears it because he’s that narcissistic. ¡Incredible!”

Dr Sánchez shouted, “¡You woman!”

Dr Nuñez pointed her wine glass at him and said, “Mira how he speaks.”

They started jabbering, in the way they always did every single time Father tried to hold a meeting among the four of them. Father gave a knowing look towards Dr Ayala. He knew exactly what his colleague was thinking.

Why am I doing this? Why am I here?

Father had a mother who was getting closer and closer to the end of her life. She was in their village suffering through a horrible bout of dementia, barely able to remember common words and unable to stand without help from her relatives. When Father thought about her condition and how deplorable it was, he hit with guilt. He wanted to dedicate all of his time and attention to her, but he also knew he had to reserve part of his energy to engage with the rest of the world. His attempt to modernise their hospital was a part of that. Earlier in the year he had thought it would take just a few months to get his ideas up and running. It was obvious that the hospital needed new equipment, and with a little convincing, he thought it would be easy for him to get the hospital administration to put their money towards that cause.

And yet Father couldn’t even get a team of four doctors to stand each other, let alone stand up for what their hospital needed.

It had been almost half a year since their first talks, and not much had progressed. And in that half year his mother’s health had devolved significantly. How much longer before she wasn’t even going to be around? Would his brothers chastise him, angry at his absence at a time the family needed him the most?

Father sighed so deeply. He didn’t realise how loud he was until he noticed that Dr Nuñez and Dr Sánchez had shut up, and both of them were looking at him. Are we doing something wrong? they said with their eyes. Should we get on with the agenda? 

Father held their gaze. He finally had their attention. He could get on with the meeting. But now he had forgotten what he had been planning to say.

His instinct was that he wanted to disband this group of doctors, shelve all meetings related to the hospital, and plan his next visit to his home village. He would spend a full weekend there to observe his mother and her health. He would not think about the hospital. After half a year of trying to make things right at his place of work, he would have to respect that it was not going the way he wanted, and that he would have to let go of it.

Latest Wonder MSG Sphere in Las Vegas

Most of the vacations are for adventurers and thrilling experiences. Some places automatically drag your mind and heart at ease. There are places you may wish to visit again, like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon of the United States, or the Azores of Portugal; places of inspiration are joy forever.

Let me introduce the series of my travelogue branded as TRAVELJOYS with the newest attraction at Las Vegas, the SinCity of the world.

It’s a wonder of technology and is being built in Las Vegas, called MSG Sphere, at least for the moment. Las Vegas has been known for years for its famous lights, but the skyline has changed forever. People cannot stop talking about the futuristic MSG Sphere which lit up Sin City for the first time on the 4th of July.

It squats on the Las Vegas skyline like an enormous spaceship, black and mysterious – until night falls, when it will glow like the Earth from space.” Reports CNN.

What is so astounding inside this sphere? The globe reportedly seats 18,000 people, featuring towering wraparound LED screens and 160,000 speakers to make everyone feel like they have the best seat in the house. The venue will also have vibrating chairs to match whatever is happening on screen.

A pedestrian walkway to the Venetian resort complex will connect the globe to the strip.

Some fun facts about MSG Sphere are as follows:

  • – The Sphere is now 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide at its widest point.
  • – The fourth largest global crawler crane, the DEMAG CC-8800, was used to build the Sphere. The crane took 18 days to assemble.
  • – The globe is embedded with the latest and highest resolution screen in the world with 19,000 by 13,500 pixels. That means they are 100 times clearer than today’s best HD TVs. The screen has an area larger than three football fields.
  • – The outside of the Sphere has about 600,000 square feet of programmable lighting screens.
  • – The venue will use an acoustic system utilizing “beamforming” technology with 160,000 ultra-directional speakers.
  • – The Sphere will also feature an infrasound haptic system enabling audiences to feel the sound.
  • – The venue also has haptic seats that can vibrate to match whatever is happening onscreen – an earthquake, for example – and 4D machines that can create wind, temperature, and even scent effects.
  • – The Sphere’s dome alone weighs 13,000 tons.
  • – The ginormous venue, which boasts 18,000 seats is entirely covered by LED screens which light up the Vegas strip in a way never seen before.

Seriously, it’s hard to believe this is real. The Sphere can fit in the entire Statue of Liberty inside the globe.

The MSG Sphere is scheduled to open for the public on 29 September with “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere,” a series of 25 concerts built around the Irish band’s landmark 1991 album “Achtung Baby” and running through mid-December. It also will host exclusive screenings of “Postcard From Earth,” a film by Darren Aronofsky that promises to take full advantage of Sphere’s vast screen by offering viewers an eye-popping tour of the planet. The Sphere was fully illuminated for the first time Tuesday night to celebrate the Fourth of July. I anticipate some World Records will be broken at this marvelous MSG Sphere.

TSA Launches Advanced Facial Recognition Scanners at US Airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has introduced new facial recognition technology at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to aid its credential authentication technology (CAT) in detecting fraudulent IDs and passports. The new system uses pictures of travellers’ faces to verify their credentials automatically, providing greater efficiency for passengers and security personnel. The TSA has invested $128m in rolling out the first batch of CAT machines equipped with facial recognition technology to 16 airports across the US. “This technology is valuable because it enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports”, said Christopher Murgia, federal security director for Maryland.

The system is set to transform airport security, improving safety and increasing the ease of passenger travel. The facial recognition technology linked with CAT scanners has garnered some concern, however. The government has previously cited privacy concerns as a reason for not requiring airlines to adopt the same technology. Facial recognition can be used to gain access to people’s smartphones, and some fear that hackers could use it to access security checks, which could be a potential risk as airports adopt this technology.

Despite these concerns, the TSA has said that photographs from facial scans are only used for comparison with the travellers’ picture IDs and no other purpose.  The machines can also read a range of other IDs, including permanent resident cards, visas, military common access cards, and Global Entry cards.

The first generation of CAT scanners was implemented at US airports in 2018, which eliminated the need for passengers to scan boarding passes at the podium pre-security. “The second generation of CAT machines, which include facial recognition scans, are being deployed in many US airports,” said Murgia.

Facial recognition technology has been on the rise globally and is being implemented in several industries. Experts view it as a valuable tool that could help reduce fraud compared to card-based and token-based systems. However, critics have voiced their concerns about privacy and security implications.

In addition to security benefits, there is a growing consensus that facial recognition technology will kick-start a new era of technological development, increasing efficiency and optimisation in several industries. Banks, hospitals, and schools around the world are all exploring the benefits and applications of facial recognition technology.

As for airport security, the TSA has confirmed that the deployment of CAT scanners with facial recognition technology will help increase the accuracy of screening, while also speeding up the process of security checks. “The TSA intends to deploy these biometrics technologies in a way that supports both security and privacy,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

As the number of US airports with new machines expands, it is expected that facial recognition technology will fast become the norm across the industry. It remains to be seen whether similar systems will be introduced elsewhere in the world, but it is certainly a trend that is set to gather momentum.

SAS Opens Bookings for Revolutionary Electric Flights, Pioneering a Greener Future in Aviation

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced that it will offer seats on its first electric planes, the Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 model, for commercial passengers to reserve. The flights are set to take off in 2028 and mark the first time such a service has been available to customers. The announcement reflects SAS’s ambitious plans to maintain its position as an innovation leader within the aviation industry, “particularly when it comes to exploring new ways to overcome the challenges of making aviation more sustainable,” according to Anko van der Werff, President and CEO of SAS.
SAS says the electrified planes will operate on domestic flights in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, with the exact date and airport locations to be announced at a later date. At launch, all 30 seats on each of the three inaugural flights were available from 6 a.m. ET with no deposit required. To commemorate this milestone, each seat cost 1,946 Swedish Krona, which is about $179 in U.S. dollars and is a tribute to the year the company was founded. Reservations sold out immediately, with interested travelers able to join a waitlist or sign up for notifications of future opportunities.
Van der Werff explained that the idea of offering electric flights is designed to manifest the airline’s deep belief in the development of such electric airplanes, and to demonstrate to its clientele that the future of aviation is closer than many may think. “When it comes to the aircraft, we have multiple initiatives underway towards zero-emission flights, and final selection will be done in time for the first electric flight—and beyond,” he added.
Passengers travelling on the electrified planes are promised an experience similar to current flights, with a few sustainable touches. “As always, our crew will be on station to make the flight as comfortable as possible for our travelers,” Van der Werff said. “Apart from the ceremonial feeling of being part of history, the most tangible difference for passengers will be the much-reduced noise levels on takeoff and landing.”
SAS has been working toward the goal of zero-emissions by the year 2050 and achieving various milestones along the way. This includes reducing total carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025 through more fuel-efficient planes and sustainable energy. By 2030, the airline is aiming for a 50 percent reduction in noise levels compared to the levels recorded back in 2010. According to Visit Sweden, these targets are in line with the Swedish government’s targets, which seek to achieve net-zero emissions on domestic air travel by 2030 and on all international flights from the Nordic country by 2045.
Although SAS has been the first to offer seats on an electric plane to the public, other carriers such as United and Mesa Air Group among others have also been working with Swedish-based Heart Aerospace to add electric planes to their fleets. In 2021, United and Mesa Air Group ordered 200 19-seat planes, while Air Canada purchased 30 of the 30-seater planes. Heart Aerospace is already supplying electric planes to Air New Zealand and Portuguese carrier Sevenair.
It’s worth noting, however, that while SAS and its competitors are making strides in the field of contemporary aviation technology, researchers have highlighted the limitations of electric planes. Specifically, current technology and the required battery weight to operate the aircraft mean that electric planes can only transport short distances over short to mid-haul routes. Nevertheless, being at the forefront of green aviation is a significant breakthrough that SAS is proud to talk about as it moves towards a landmark in taking its first electric flights. “We can guarantee that everything from check-in to onboard service will make these flights an unforgettable experience for everyone involved,” van der Werff said.
India and US Unveil New Road Map to Accelerate Defense Cooperation and Strengthen Regional Security in the Indo-Pacific
On Monday, India and the United States revealed a new road map aimed at accelerating defense industrial cooperation and co-production in areas like air combat, land mobility systems, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, munitions, and the undersea domain. The announcement came during delegation-level talks between Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin.
The new road map aims to “change the paradigm for cooperation between US and Indian defense sectors” by providing India with access to cutting-edge technologies and supporting the country’s defense modernization plans, according to the US Department of Defense (DoD). Furthermore, both sides will explore opportunities for co-development of new technologies, co-production of existing and new systems, and increased collaboration between their defense start-ups.
Among the topics discussed during the talks were manufacturing GE-414 fighter jet engines in India via technology transfer, purchasing high-tech drones for the Indian military, the ongoing border dispute between India and China in eastern Ladakh, and ensuring a free and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. As one of the officials mentioned, “The GE-414 engine deal will be a stepping stone to bring newer technologies to India. The scope for collaboration is immense across critical defense domains.”
India is also planning to buy Predator drones from the US for its three services, with discussions currently underway to finalize the required numbers. In addition, the two nations agreed to initiate negotiations on a new arrangement that would allow them to access each other’s industrial resources to address unexpected supply chain disruptions and meet their security needs. “The Secretary and Minister Singh also pledged to review regulatory hurdles impeding closer industry-to-industry cooperation,” the DoD statement added.
During their meetings, both parties exchanged views on various regional security issues and committed to working closely with India to support a “shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.” They also discussed the growing importance of defense innovation and cooperation in emerging areas such as space, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence. The US-India Business Council is set to launch the India-US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) on June 21, a new initiative aimed at advancing cutting-edge technology cooperation.
The two nations assessed their strong and diverse defense collaboration efforts, agreeing to sustain the pace of engagement, according to an official Indian statement. The statement also highlighted that both sides discussed regional security concerns, emphasizing their mutual interest in upholding peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

TSA Introduces Self-Service ID Scanners With Facial Recognition At Airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing an updated ID scanner equipped with a biometric camera that uses facial recognition technology to confirm passengers’ identities. The new machines compare the facial scans of travelers to the photos on their driver’s license or passport and verify that they are a ticketed airline passenger. The machines are self-service, and travellers simply insert their ID into the machine and look at the camera. After their identity is validated, they are allowed to proceed to the security checkpoint. While the final approval is still with the security officer, this new technology is expected to make airport security checkpoints more seamless and quicker.

The new technology is already rolling out to airports, with a pilot version being trialed last fall at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. During the trial, which was open to TSA PreCheck travelers, the facial recognition scanners were tested as a potential solution to reduce touchpoints during the pandemic. However, the new scanners are now voluntary but accessible to everyone. Travelers are allowed to opt-out and request manual identity verification from the officer at the podium.

The TSA has invested $128 million in an initial batch of 1,500 of the new facial recognition scanners at 16 airports around the country. The TSA predicts that the number of travellers this summer season will be “comfortably above” pre-pandemic figures, making the technology’s implementation vital. The new facial recognition scanners are called credential authentication technology (CAT) machines. “This technology is valuable because it enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports at a checkpoint and it increases efficiency by automatically verifying a passenger’s identification,” Christopher Murgia, TSA’s federal security director for Maryland, said in a release.

The photos from the facial scans are only used to compare travelers’ picture IDs and are not saved or used for any other purposes, according to the TSA. In addition to driver’s licenses and passports, the machines can read thousands of different types of IDs, including permanent resident cards, U.S. visas, military common access cards, and Global Entry cards.

Travelers should still carry their boarding passes to the airport to show airline representatives at their departure gate to board the plane, even though the first-generation CAT machines eliminated the need for passengers to scan boarding passes at the podium pre-security.

Earlier this week, Baltimore-Washington International Airport was among the first facilities in the country to install the new scanners. However, the number of facilities with the new machines is likely to expand rapidly. Travelers are allowed to opt-out of using the new facial recognition scanners and request manual identity verification, making the process less intrusive. As the TSA implements more of the new CAT machines across the country, they are expected to make airport security checkpoints more efficient and less time-consuming for passengers.

Airlines to Blame For Increased Flight Cancellations During Pandemic

According to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Friday, airlines were responsible for most of the flight cancellations that occurred during the pandemic recovery period. The report also highlighted that airlines took longer to recover from disruptions, such as storms. The GAO examined flight data from January 2018 to April 2022 to understand the reasons behind the increase in flight cancellations and delays.

The GAO report found that weather was the primary cause of cancellations before the pandemic. However, the percentage of airline-caused cancellations began increasing in early 2021. From October to December 2021, airlines caused 60% or more of cancellations, which is higher than at any time in 2018 or 2019. Much of the increase in airline-caused cancellations occurred at budget airlines, but the largest carriers also made more unforced errors, according to government data.

The report also noted that airlines are taking longer to recover from disruptions such as storms. Surges in cancellations in late 2021 and early 2022 lasted longer than they did before the pandemic. The report highlights that airlines are understaffed and have struggled to replace thousands of workers who left during the pandemic. The airlines took $54 billion in taxpayer money to keep employees on the job through the pandemic, but they reduced workers anyway by paying them incentives to quit.

The GAO report was requested by Republican leaders of the House Transportation Committee. The report shows that many of the issues that led to the increase in cancellations were within the airlines’ control, such as maintenance issues or lack of a crew. Airlines have clashed with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over blame for high rates of canceled and delayed flights in the past two years. Airlines argue that the government is at fault for not having enough air traffic controllers, while Buttigieg has blamed the carriers.

A spokeswoman for trade group Airlines for America said the majority of cancellations this year have been caused by severe weather and air traffic control outages. The spokeswoman also said, “Carriers have taken responsibility for challenges within their control and continue working diligently to improve operational reliability as demand for air travel rapidly returns. This includes launching aggressive, successful hiring campaigns for positions across the industry and reducing schedules in response to the FAA’s staffing shortages.”

The GAO report found that several airlines agreed to reduce schedules in New York this summer at the request of the FAA, which has a severe shortage of controllers at a key facility on Long Island. In 2019, Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines had the highest percentages of their own cancellations being caused by an airline-controlled issue. In late 2021, they were joined by low-fare carriers Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Frontier, each of whom were responsible for 60% or more of their own total cancellations, according to GAO. The percentage of cancellations caused by the airline also increased at Southwest, Delta, American and United.

The GAO said the Transportation Department has increased its oversight of airline-scheduling practices. The Transportation and Justice departments are investigating whether Southwest scheduled more flights than it could handle before last December’s meltdown. The Southwest debacle has led to calls to strengthen passenger-compensation rules.

Long Delays To Obtain Passports

Right now, many U.S. travelers have the same worry on their minds: Why are passports taking so long? If you’re hoping to renew a U.S. passport in time for an international trip this summer, or receive your first-ever document, you’ll likely have a bureaucratic headache ahead of you, as wait times for passports are once again on the rise.

The State Department is facing “unprecedented demand” for passports, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a Congressional budget hearing on March 23. As such, routine processing will take 10 to 13 weeks, while expedited processing—available for an extra $60 fee—is taking seven to nine weeks. And those estimates don’t include the time it takes to mail your passport to and from the processing center.

Officials say that it’s normal for passport demand to see upticks during certain times of the year, like in the lead-up to the peak summer travel season. However, this year’s demand is record-shattering, and it’s currently 30 to 40 percent higher than 2022’s surge in applications. Last year, the department issued its highest-ever number of passports—a whopping 22 million—and Blinken said the record is on-track to be broken.

“We’ve had an unprecedented demand for renewed travel, which is a good thing,” Blinken said in the hearing. “Historically the demand’s been cyclical. The busy season is March to late summer. Basically it’s full time now. We’re getting 500,000 applications a week for passports.” The department is hiring more customer service agents to help address the new and growing backlog of applications, Blinken added.

So what should travelers do if they need a passport fast? For dire situations—like an international flight that departs within two weeks or emergency travel for a life-or-death reason—you can try to snag an in-person appointment at one of the 26 Regional Passport Agencies. If your situation fits within the stipulations, which also includes needing to obtain a foreign visa within four weeks, you can call for an appointment at your nearest agency. You’ll need to provide evidence that you have flights booked and proof of a qualified emergency, if applicable.

How to Get a Passport Fast—Even in 24 Hours

From one-week turnarounds to renewals in as little as one day.  Of course, aside from using the expedited service from the government, there are other strategies to getting a passport fast. But they’ll cost you. Third-party expediter companies, like GenVisa or RushMyPassport, offer services like handling appointment requests at the passport agencies or passport renewal turnarounds as quick as one week. But these services can cost anywhere from $150 to $799 and above—on top of the government’s fees and postage costs.

If you have an international flight booked that departs within 48 hours, you can try to get a same-day appointment at one of the agencies for the fastest passport processing. But, as the appointments at the regional agencies need to be in person, they might not be a convenient option for those who don’t live nearby one of the locations. (Depending on your situation, it might be worth flying to one of the agencies with an open timeslot—a feat that is hardly unheard of these days.)

In the future, officials want to simplify the process by offering online renewal options on a large scale. “This is something I have great hope for,” Blinken said of online processing. The State Department ran a pilot project last year to test how online submission would work. “We have 500,000 renewal requests submitted through this pilot project,” Blinken said. “We’ve now halted it to make sure we can fine tune it and improve it before we roll it out in a bigger way. But here’s the bottom line: We expect that 65 percent of renewal customers for passports will be able to do so online once this program is fully up and running.”

Jet Lag’s Harmful Health Impacts Found To Be Caused By Biological Clock Misalignment

Newswise — New research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst zeroes in on the root cause of adverse health effects from disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms, which typically occurs from jet lag and rotating work shifts.

The research, published in the journal eNeuro, also shows that the circadian clock gene Cryptochrome 1 (Cry 1) regulates adult neurogenesis – the ongoing formation of neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. Adult neurogenesis supports learning and memory, and its disruption has been linked to dementia and mental illness.

“Circadian disruption impacts a lot of things,” says lead author Michael Seifu Bahiru, a Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Eric Bittman, Professor Emeritus of Biology. “There are links to cancer, diabetes and hypertension, as well as adverse impacts on neurogenesis.”

Cell birth and survival in the adult hippocampus are regulated by a circadian clock, so its disruption may throw off the process of neurogenesis. In the U.S. alone, some 30 million people experience phase shifts in their circadian rhythms as they work rotating schedules.

Until recently, the researchers have faced a sort of chicken-or-egg question. “We always wondered what actually is the root cause of the ailments from circadian disruption?” Bahiru says. “Does the problem come from the act of shifting or the shift itself?”

Bittman explains further, “It’s possible it’s just changing the light cycle that affects neurogenesis, that jerking your clock around is bad for you, as opposed to the jet lag, which is the time delay that it takes for all circadian-dependent systems in your body to adjust to this change in daylight.”

Their findings support the hypothesis that it’s this internal misalignment, this state of desynchrony between and within organs that occurs during jet lag, that is responsible for the adverse impact on neurogenesis – and, they suspect, other adverse health effects from circadian disruption.

To test their hypothesis, they studied cell birth and differentiation in Syrian hamsters with a recessive mutation in the Cry 1 gene that speeds up the clock in constant conditions and dramatically accelerates its ability to shift in response to light. Bittman named the mutation, discovered in previous research, duper. The research team also tested a control group of hamsters without the duper mutation. Both underwent the same sequence of changes in the light cycle.

They simulated jet lag in the form of eight-hour advances and delays at eight 16-day intervals. A cell birth marker was given in the middle of the experiment. Results showed that jet lag has little effect on cell birth but steers the fate of newborn cells away from becoming neurons. Dupers are immune to this effect of phase shifts. “As predicted, the duper animals re-entrained quicker, but also were resistant to the negative effects of the jet lag protocol, whereas the control – the wild type hamsters – had reduced neurogenesis,” Bahiju says.

“The findings indicate that circadian misalignment is critical in jet lag,” the paper concludes.

The ultimate goal of Bittman’s lab is to advance understanding of the pathways involved in human biological clocks, which could lead to the prevention of or treatment for the effects of jet lag, shift work and circadian rhythm disorders. This latest research is a next step toward that goal.

Now the team will turn to “a big unanswered question,” Bittman says – “whether it’s the operation of circadian clocks in the hippocampus that is being directly regulated by shifts of the light:dark cycle,  or whether neurogenesis is controlled by biological clocks running in cells elsewhere in the body.”

Another possibility, which Bittman thinks is more likely, is that the master pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus in the brain detects the light shift and then relays it to the stem cell population that has to divide and differentiate in the hippocampus.

Air India-Boeing Deal Will Create 1 Million Jobs In America

US President Joe Biden has hailed Air India’s decision to purchase 220 Boeing aircraft and hails it as a ‘historic agreement’. Releasing a statement of Joe Biden, the US said, “The United States can and will lead the world in manufacturing. I am proud to announce today the purchase of over 200 American-made aircraft through a historic agreement between Air India and Boeing.”

Aiming to upgrade its fleet and expand its operations, Tata-owned Air India on 14 February confirmed it will buy a total of 470 wide-body and narrow-body planes from Airbus and Boeing. On February 10th, reports stated that Air India signed agreements with Airbus SE and Boeing Co. for about 250 orders and commitments in total, made up of 210 of the A320 single-aisle family models and 40 A350s wide-bodies.

“The order comprises 40 Airbus A350s, 20 Boeing 787s and 10 Boeing 777-9s wide-body aircraft, as well as 210 Airbus A320/321 Neos and 190 Boeing 737 MAX single-aisle aircraft. The A350 aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines, and the B777/787s by engines from GE Aerospace. All single-aisle aircraft will be powered by engines from CFM International,” Air India said in an official statement.

“This purchase will support over one million American jobs across 44 states, and many will not require a four-year college degree. This announcement also reflects the strength of the U.S.-India economic partnership,” the statement added.

Apart from this, Biden in his statement expressed hope to deepen partnership even further by continuing to confront shared global challenges and create a more secure and prosperous future for people.

On AI-Boeing deal, PM Modi held telephone conversation with the President of the US Joe Biden on February 14th and expressed satisfaction at the deepening of the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, which has resulted in robust growth in all domains.

Both the leaders welcomed the announcement of a landmark agreement between Air India and Boeing as a shining example of mutually beneficial cooperation that will help create new employment opportunities in both countries. PM Modi also invited Boeing and other US companies to make use of the opportunities arising due to the expanding civil aviation sector in India.

Air India said that the first of the new aircraft will enter service in late-2023, while the bulk are expected to arrive from mid-2025 onwards. Adding more, the AI said that it has already started taking delivery of 11 leased B777 and 25 A320 aircraft to accelerate its fleet and network expansion.

The first of the refitted aircraft – with an entirely new cabin, new seats and inflight entertainment system – will enter service in mid-2024, said AI.

With AI signing MoUs for 68 Trent XWB-97 engines, it has now become the biggest ever order for the Trent XWB-97, which exclusively powers the Airbus A350-1000. Also, AI’s order of 12 Trent XWB-84 engines – the sole engine option for the Airbus A350-900 – is also being considered a huge order. Though no financial details of the order have been disclosed. This is the first time that an Indian airline has ordered the Trent XWB and the deal will make Air India the largest operator of the Trent XWB-97 in the world.

“Today’s announcement marks an exciting and truly remarkable occasion for Tata Group and Air India; the size and magnitude of this order reflects the level of their ambition for the future. I congratulate them on taking this bold step towards becoming one of the world’s greatest airlines and I would like to thank them for putting their trust in Rolls-Royce to power them on this journey,” Rolls-Royce plc’s CEO Tufan Erginbilgic said while sharing his thoughts.

Reacting on the deal, Tata Sons and AI’s Chairman N Chandrasekaran noted Air India is on a large transformation journey. He said, “Air India is on a large transformation journey across safety, customer service, technology, engineering, network and human resources. Modern, efficient fleet is a fundamental component of this transformation.”

“This order is an important step in realising Air India’s ambition, articulated in its Vihaan.AI transformation program, to offer a world class proposition serving global travellers with an Indian heart,” he said.

“These new aircraft will modernize the Airline’s fleet and onboard product and dramatically expand its global network . The growth enabled by this order will also provide unparalled career opportunities for Indian aviation professionals and catalyze accelerated development of the Indian aviation ecosystem,” he added.

Set In Tehran, Iran

3 February, 2023: The First Meeting Of The Doctors

Father was glad he knew at least three other doctors who wanted to work with him on budgeting a proposal to improve the amenities of their hospital, but they would not be able to have their meetings in the hospital for now. Crowd control was at an all-time high in all corners of Iran because of the protests against brutality that had seized the country for the last few months. College campuses were being excessively staffed with police, any woman who did not cover even a bit of her neck or arm was being threatened with arrest, and any sort of gathering in public was patrolled with suspicion. Because Father was a member of the Assyrian community, a Christian sect which happened to be one of the oldest and proudest clans of mankind, he knew he was going to be watched with even further scrutiny. He had been brought up used to having his identity threatened, but in the last two months, he was starting to wonder if life for all minorities, particularly of different religious communities, would start to see more restriction and harassment.

Father had chosen his house because it was in a prosperous and private part of Tehran. Darrous was full of well-lined streets, cedar trees, and embassies, and his house was well gated. It was a neighbourhood for the privileged. He had assumed it would attract little attention because little attention was paid to the lives of the people here in the first place, an area too residential for people to come for the sake of provoking a conversation.

As for the doctors he had invited over, they were Dr Nuri, Dr Ahmedi, and Dr Shah. Dr Nuri was an obstetrician whom Father was introduced to through a friend. Dr Ahmedi sat next to Father once in a while during lunch and was curious about learning more. And Dr Shah was a friend of Dr Safed who was also getting annoyed at how little headway Dr Safed’s petition was making, and who was very vocal in complaining about it. Father had thought of inviting Dr Safed as well, but Dr Safed didn’t work well on teams and would not like it if he were not given most of the credit. So, Father chose these three out of the many doctors he had been talking to in the last month; they came off as mild, sincere, and easy to collaborate with.

But things were a little different. The first thing Dr Shah did when he came into the house was complain about the weather.

It is cold, too much » he said, and he uttered some curse words to emphasise his point before he noticed Father’s wife at the door.  Mother made it clear with the look on her face that she didn’t appreciate such language. That caused Dr Shah’s countenance to change. « Salam walaykum » he said. He gave Father a handshake, then a hug. He greeted Mother very properly by placing his hand on his heart and bowing slightly, as if he were talking to a woman of age in public.

He found his seat on the couch, and then he shouted loudly, « .It is becoming more and more like a war zone in this country .The youngsters go out and speak their mind, but it is us old people that they want to shoot »

Mother came with a tray of chai, but Dr Shah did not even notice it. He was getting riled up by hearing himself speak.

All I am doing is going to a friend’s house .They ask all these stupid questions at the security checks ؟Am I a terrorist for visiting a doctor at his home .We are here to talk about buying new beds and equipment for our seventy-year-old hospital .And the police are talking like I am a terrorist for wanting to visit my colleague and talk about hospital beds … this country and its people are getting worse every day »

Mother said, « Please have your tea » She was still standing there, politely waiting in headscarf and sweater, the hot steam from the tea misting. Dr Shah took it, but he kept ranting on, about things unrelated to the hospital, boring Father immensely, and causing Mother to throw angered stares towards Father. She most likely didn’t agree with much of what Dr Shah said.

When Dr Ahmedi came, the atmosphere became considerably less tense. He respectfully greeted both Mother and Father, took not only the chai but also spoke to Mother warmly, and offered dates which he had gotten on a trip to Muscat. He and Dr Shah happened to be well acquainted, and they had a lot to catch up on. Father didn’t understand much of their conversation because Father did not follow the World Cup; he could only barely remember who Messi was.

Finally, Dr Nuri, the only one of the doctors in Father’s social circle who was a woman, came. This time, Mother went out of the way to greet her. Both Dr Ahmedi and Dr Shah became polite when the two women came to sit on the sofa on the other side. Mother asked all sorts of questions to Dr Nuri—about who her husband was, and which mosque she prayed at, but when Dr Nuri caught wind of the FIFA conversation, she had her own opinion to give.

« ؟Why do you give so much attention to Messi when Amir Nasr-Azadani’s life was taken ؟Are you not thinking about that »

Dr Shah was quick to respond, wildly gesticulating his hands. « .Of course I am thinking about that .It is sad indeed .But this is about football .We were talking about the game »

People’s lives are being lost, and you are talking about a game

Dr Nuri turned to face Dr Ahmedi, who completely averted her eyes, looking to one of the Arabesques that Father had draped on his wall instead. Dr Shah said something, and Dr Nuri batted on. It was becoming a spirited debate, but this was not the reason why they were meeting. In fact, this meeting was starting to look exactly like what Mother had complained about when Father had said he was inviting these doctors together: a clandestine gathering to denounce the doings of the Iranian government. Father did not want this, but he had noticed recently that almost every chat in private was turning into a heated discussion on what was being felt about the government but that could not be said in public.

Father really had other things to talk about.

My friends, you are here, and it is of great happiness to me .Thank you a lot for coming .I wanted to ask you some other things .I am like you .I am working in this hospital every day .I am not happy with the way it is being run  ؟Do you agree with me »

Varieties of al-batti and hatman were said by the three doctors. They started giving their own feedback and impressions, but spoke over each other, particularly Dr Nuri and Dr Shah, who both had a lot to say but no interest in giving the other a chance to speak. When Dr Nuri took a break to look at messages on her phone and Dr Shah asked Mother to get him some water, Dr Ahmedi made the first coherent suggestion.

It is the hospital beds that need to be replaced

Dr Nuri put her phone back in her purse and said « .Man baa shomaa movafeqam » She went on to explain, « .The woman are delivering babies in beds stained with blood .It is disgusting »

Dr Shah said « .There is also not enough space for the amount of patients we have »

Dr Ahmedi added « .Correct .There are more and more patients nowadays .We need to have ten beds in a room, not six »

Dr Shah bounced back « .But the rooms are small ؟How can we make space for more beds if the rooms are not big enough »

« .We will certainly not have funding to ask for any new construction inside the hospital » Father said. That was the old question which kept coming to his mind in the last few months: how would they get the funding for any of this?

Dr Nuri opined « .The hospital has plenty of rooms .It is a matter of how we use them .I have seen beds from Japan .They are smaller and more comfortable .We can fit more of them into a room »

« ؟But how will we afford beds from Japan »

« .The Japanese are generous .It is easy to apply for funding from their government »

Father was relieved Dr Nuri had indirectly answered the money question. They could try to get funding from other Asian countries that might want to help Iranians, like Japan or China, Russia or India. He knew nothing about the process of doing that, and all of the doctors he had invited were in their fifties. He doubted any of them had been through a grant-writing process at all. Perhaps he could try to befriend some of the younger doctors. There was also that nurse he almost saw as one of his own children, though he was not sure if she had that know-how.

Father imagined for a moment that Son were still living in Tehran, and what he could have done to help.

«  ؟Do you think we should ask for a new X-ray machine »

This question was from Dr Shah, directed to Father. He answered, « .I think we can .Or I will say, we can consider asking .We have to remember that today we are only talking and getting ideas, and later when we meet we will know what to say .That is what I would like to see .I want to see ideas »

All of the doctors were staring at him, unsure of how to respond to such declarations.

Father clarified, « .Today we will say everything that comes to our heads .We will write a list » He motioned for Mother to bring one of his notebooks. « .I will read over the list and consider everything .We will think about the costs, and what is possible or appropriate .Then we will pitch the hospital, then try to find funding »

Suddenly, curiously, Dr Nuri smiled widely. « I agree » she said. A radiance was beaming from her face, under her headscarf. It was a sort of affirmation that Father felt he rarely got from his colleagues whenever he tried to make suggestions or share his own ideas. Normally, the doctors went about speaking as if Father was not there. the last time Father attempted one of these interjections in the hospital, it seemed no one had listened, going back to their rounds without paying his thoughts any attention, causing him to fall back into his usual silence.

Dr Nuri observed the confusion on Father’s face, and she remarked, « .It is rare for you to express your opinions like this »

Mother chirped in, « .When my husband is home, he sits and looks at his phone .He doesn’t even talk to me .This is even when I am talking at him »

Father had his reasons. It was really because Mother was complaining most of the time, about this relative or that neighbour, and Father had no opinions on the topic, or any reason to give any feedback.

Father explained, « .I want to see our hospital change .I have worked there for decades .Money is tight, and corruption is high, and we do what little we can .Other doctors say they will work on it, too many people promise improvements, but nothing gets done for years .I in fact want to do something »

Dr Ahmedi said, « .That is good and very respectable »

Dr Shah nodded along in politeness. Then his eyebrows furrowed, and he winced.

« .Actually, what you are saying is not true .I have noticed there is a lot to change .I think all of us have .But we have children to feed and salaries to live off on .No one has that the time to make a change .We are trying to survive, and that makes life busy »

It would have been easy to get agitated by his words. Dr Shah was implying that Father was of a class that allowed him the privilege of thinking about the world’s problems where he had no problems of his own, when in reality he had a mother of poor health, and a somewhat estranged son, and plenty of relatives who needed the earnings he had to divide his salary for. He wanted to make an effort because he was passionate and proud of his hospital, despite the amount of work it had demanded of him for decades, often at the cost of his relationship with his family.

Another question was coming to his mind. He pointed to the notebook in his hand with his pen and asked, «  ؟You three, tell me: what else have you seen that demands change »

The doctors shared, one by one:

« … Well, we could certainly improve the conditions of the toilets »

« … We need new bedsheets and medical aprons »

« … I don’t like the brand of disposable thermometer we use .We can try to buy cheaper and from the Chinese »

« … The nurses are impossible to work with !We need to get them fired »

« … Women who work these types of jobs aren’t your slaves »

« .I said they worked badly .I didn’t say they were my slaves »

Father tried to annotate whatever he could and to whatever extent his wrinkled hands would let him. Within just ten minutes, there was enough to cover two full notebook pages. Some of the ideas would probably nowhere, but some of the demands were quite reasonable and easy to petition from the administration. And as they chattered, everyone was learning to get along. Dr Nuri and Dr Shah were starting to joke with each other. Dr Ahmedi’s smile relaxed the room.

Father excused himself for a bathroom break, closed the door, and looked in the mirror. He had to take a break to share a smile to himself that he didn’t want anyone else to see.

He was right to want to include the opinions of others rather than lead everything by himself. He didn’t want to just be paying lip service to an idea like Dr Safed; if he kept getting these doctors excited, and they started to get the doctors in their own social circles excited as well, then this could lead to more people demanding change. In time, they could form a group that would meet often and propose ideas that could become tangible.

It was all going so well. Father stared at himself in the mirror and never broke from his smile.

He was finally having the hope that something he was investing in could actually result in change.

The Immaculate Conception: Set In Macossa, Mozambique

The women, men, and children are seated as the pastor reads out his sermon to all within the walls of the mud brick church, and it is in the midst of this otherwise normal Sunday that a girl who looks to be around the age of seventeen comes inside and shouts.

« Pastor, tem de me ouvir. Te estou a dizer que estou grávida… »

Mother turns her head. She has her hair wrapped in a polka-dotted headscarf. She wears her day-to-day orange-and-grey dress. Her earrings chime as she flips her head to look behind. She feels self-conscious of the sound she has made in the house of God, but it is nothing compared to the loud interruption of this woman.

Light banners against the pastor, from the opening in the wall he is standing under.

The pastor speaks on as if he has not heard the intrusion. 

« Aqui estamos com ele. Para ser salvo, em nome de Jesus…Aleluiah. »

« Amen » the congregation resounds. 

The woman comes up to the front and shows her belly to the pastor. 

« Pastor, look at what has happened. I said, I am pregnant! »

The hall, used as a church on Sundays, is quite cramped. The men and women who are in attendance are either sitting on the pews baked out of the mud or on plastic chairs that they have brought from outside. There is usually little distraction in such a closed space, and one can only remain fixed on the Holy Word for so long. It is natural that the men and women begin to murmur to themselves.

The pastor looks nowhere else except towards the entryway, from which light is peering through. He clutches his microphone and grows loud again. Without modulating his glare he says: 

« Look, everyone, look. Witness this. Without having sex, this girl has become pregnant. »

The chatter of the men and women grow tenfold. The noise is almost like the ripple of a wave, overtaking the quiet of the village, until it crashes and causes everyone to stand. These men and women circle the girl and the pastor. The women are the first to have their interview. Some take the words of the pastor like gospel itself and praise the Lord for this miracle. Others ask the girl directly how she became pregnant, whom she was sleeping with, why she is interrupting their church to share the scandal. One of the oldest ones is already taking her hand and feeling up the woman’s skirt, testing her virginity, to see if it has been taken. 

The girl has too many questions to answer. All she says is « It is the truth. I am pregnant, yes. »

The pastor interrupts before she can say anything else.

« It is a miracle, it is true. We are close to the birthday of Christ, and so God has blessed this village with our own Virgin Mary. Come, everyone. We must come together and pray. »

The pastor bows down his head and keeps his microphone close to his mouth.

« I confirm this knowing we are not far from God. We have been given this gift of a miracle because we are meant to be saved. It will be like fresh waters from the rivers. It will be like the sweetest of breads on our tongues. A new child has been born from God. Amen. »

« Amen » resound the churchgoers again, as does Mother. Mother feels the pleasant taste of spring water in the back of her throat, just like when she savours the taste of Portuguese-style breads. She was feeling perplexed before hearing the pastor, but now she looks at this girl and feels a sense of wonder and calm.  The other men and women have come to the belly of the girl and are closing their eyes and praying. Some are saying blessings to the miracle, some are wishing this child good health, and others are repeating the prayers the pastor has already said.

When it is her turn, Mother comes up herself and puts a hand on the child’s belly. She sees the concern on the girl’s face but says, « What a blessing! You have been gifted an immaculate conception, sim! »

Mother is smiling because she wants the girl to smile. 

The girl stares at the pastor, and says, « Estou grávida, sim… »

World’s Longest River Cruise Launched, Trip Costs Rs. 20 Lakhs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off MV Ganga Vilas, the world’s longest river cruise, in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi through video conferencing. 32 Swiss tourists are part of the the maiden journey to reach Dibrugarh in Assam via Bangladesh.

The PM inaugurated a ‘Tent City’, developed on the lines of similar setups in Gujarat’s Kutch and Rajasthan, on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi. Over 200 tents will offer tourists a panoramic view of the famed ghats of the holy city on the other side of the river along with live classical music, ‘aarti’ in the evening, and yoga sessions. He also laid the foundation for several inland waterways projects, worth over ₹ 1,000 crore.

“With this cruise, many places of eastern India will now figure in world tourism map… What can be more unfortunate that since Independence the banks of the Ganga did not develop and thousands of people living along the Ganges had to migrate for job,” the PM said.

MV Ganga Vilas is the first cruise vessel to be made in India. It will travel 3,200 km in 51 days. The 32 tourists from Switzerland, who will take the first journey, were welcomed at the Varanasi port with garlands and tunes of shehnai. They will visit various religious and historical places in Varanasi before setting out on the cruise.

The cruise’s Director Raj Singh told news agency PTI that this five-star moving hotel has 18 suites with the capacity of 36 tourists. Apart from this, it has accommodation for 40 crew members. The modernist ship is 62 meters in length and 12 meters wide and requires a draft of 1.4 meters.

It will take tourists across 27 river systems and will cruise through various prominent destinations. According to a statement from Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Jaiveer Singh issued in Lucknow, the cruise will cover 50 tourist destinations including world heritage sites, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Shahiganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Guwahati in Assam.

The cruise has also been fitted with facilities such as spa, salon, and gym. It will cost ₹ 25,000 to ₹ 50,000 a day, with the total cost for the 51-day journey totaling to around ₹ 20 lakh for each passenger, Raj Singh said. The cruise is equipped with a pollution-free system and noise control technology, he added.

There is a Sewage Treatment Plant on this cruise so that no sewage flows into the Ganges, as well as a filtration plant which purifies the Ganga water for bathing and other purposes, the cruise director said.

“The journey will give the foreign tourists an opportunity to embark upon an experiential voyage and indulge in the art, culture, history, and spirituality of India and Bangladesh,” Union Minister for Port Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal told news agency ANI.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has criticized the initiative. In a tweet in Hindi with a photograph of the cruise, Mr Yadav said, “Now will the BJP take away the jobs of the sailors as well? BJP’s policy of earning money by making religious places tourist sites is condemnable. People from all over the world come to experience the spiritual splendour of Kashi, not for luxury. BJP will no longer be able to cover the darkness of real issues with external glare.”

“India has everything that you can imagine. It has a lot beyond your imagination. India cannot be defined in words. It can only be experienced from the heart,” PM Modi said in his message for tourists.

India To Issue E-Passport To Citizens From Next Year

The Ministry of External Affairs gave this information to the Standing Committee of Parliament in response to its action in this matter. The Ministry informed that National Informatics Center (NIC) and National Informatics Center Services Inc. (NICSI) have submitted various project proposals to the Ministry which include Detailed Project Reports (DPRs), Commercial and Draft Agreements.

As per the report, the total estimated expenditure for launching the e-passport project by NIC is Rs 268.67 crore. This is mainly in terms of creation of information and technology infrastructure for issuing e-passports.

This was stated in the Action Taken Report by the Government on the Recommendations contained in the Twelfth Report of the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs on ‘Demands for Grants of the Ministry of External Affairs for 2022-23’ in the Lok Sabha.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, it will take six months from the date of approval of the proposal received by the Ministry from NICSI to prepare the e-passport related arrangements under the Detailed Project Report (DPR). It has been said that after the planning framework is prepared, the ministry will get third party audit done, after which the issuance of e-passports to the citizens will be started.

The ministry told the parliamentary committee that “an estimated expenditure of Rs 268.67 crore would be incurred on this over a period of seven years.” The Ministry will be able to manage the e-passport project in the allocated amount. Rs 130.58 crore in the first year, Rs 25.03 crore in the second year, Rs 25.03 crore in the third year, Rs 25.03 crore in the fourth year under the project, according to the report of the committee headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP PP Choudhary tabled in Parliament on Thursday. Rs, Rs 25.03 crore in the fifth year, Rs 24.46 crore in the sixth year and Rs 13.51 crore in the seventh year.

The parliamentary committee said it welcomes the fact that the ministry will be able to manage the e-passport project every year from its allocated funds without any cuts, but it needs to ensure that the desired funds are released every year.

3 January, 2023: The Gas Leak set in Georgetown, Guyana

Smelly sweet sweat is all over that man’s brows. He sitting over in the break room. Father. The doctor man. The man sitting on that plush red chair made for Americans. The life saver. The patient grandchild favourite. That is Father. He is the one all the other doctors in that room like to forget. They like to eat their buns, they like to stash an extra banana in their lab coat, they like to turn on the cricket match keeping it loud, keeping it at a blast. And in the meantime they are bantering.

‘When yuh a go Trinidad fuh holiday?’

‘I gun go next week. Yuh wan come wid me?’

‘Man, I dun tell ya I was deh last week. This is why I was asking. I need ya to send something over there.’

‘Something for your wife, or for that woman ya slamming?’


‘Hey, hey . . . hey!’

The Father man ain’t listening. Father got his ten minutes to get his drink and that is that. He just finished looking at a patient with a bad case of the food poisoning, leaving his splattering all over the toilet for the janitors to clean.

He is feeling his own stirring in the stomach thinking about it. He could use something refreshing, but there’s no time to guzzle Cokes. He has to finish his break.

One of the senior men is talking to one of the other senior man. Five years back there was senior man and senior man and senior man and senior man. One by one they are retiring. Now this senior man and that senior man are the only ones that were there when Father was starting at the hospital.

When was the last time he gave a greeting? Father is about to say hello to them, but someone comes bustling in.

‘Get out!’ he shouts.

Which causes everyone to pause.  ‘Hey, hey, what’s going on?’

‘Gas leak,’ the man says. Everyone is looking serious as serious can be. The man says, ‘Move,’ and everyone listens. They leave and go downstairs. Father is following the line but can’t help looking at patients’  rooms that he is passing. They are empty. Who’s that someone who is clearing them?

They go downstairs and all the patients, they are already there. There are the cast-wearing men and women and then there are the wheelchair-stuck-in men and women and there are the random standing men and women. Father joins the doctors and the nurses. It is like a mob is outside of the hospital. And it is nothing like how the street does look normally. Normally these streets are empty.

The administration is coming out and the doctors are asking them questions.

‘Marlon, Marlon, ya hear?’

“Marlon, Marlon, ya tell me, what is this madness?’

‘Marlon, my patient is goin’ to die if he out like this.’

Marlon is on the phone or pretending to be. There are seven doctors shouting at him and Marlon does not address a single one of them.

Father is in another group of doctors standing with their arms crossed around their chests.

Father overhears one of the patients say, ‘It is like this hospital is Hell.’

This is not a kind thing to say and it is not a kind thing to hear. But Father sees how most of the nurses are already on their phones and Father sees it with some of the doctors as well. It is like they are getting a free break and that is all they are thinking of.

Father has seen a gas leak like this happen before, and it is like how Father once heard a rumour of how a doctor gave his patient insulin and caused him to have a cardiac arrest.

That is the doctor right in front of Father, playing Candy Crush.

And what about that petition Dr White was making them sign?

They were asking for more hospital computers, and yet they’re still writing all the records out by hand.

Or there were these medicines that the doctors visiting from America  gave to their patients, but the ones that they were prescribing were many years expired. There was the need for that new CAT scan machine, there was a whole lot of need for better surgical equipment.

Almost two years it had been, and not a single thing had come about from this document that a good hundred doctors signed.

There’s all this blathering, coming from some of the patients and some of the doctors.One of the doctors is defending Marlon.

‘Now, now, listen. This isn’t all the fault of that one man. He already done nuff ting for our hospital. And y’all talking about some petition like is some gospel but y’all nah ah go to dem patient on time.’

A doctor says in defense of himself: ’I  go to every patient and ask how their day is. Not like them nurses who don’t stand for ten minutes without complaining for a chair.’

And now a nurse says in defence of herself: ’A chair? We ten nurses sitting a desk when dey only have six chairs… and five a we crowd around at table which can only hold three . We don’t sleep in de day, we listen to every man complain.

‘This is different from a doctor ya say?’

‘Ya thinking it ain’t different, but it is. Ya just need to take a look at the pay cheque and sit back.’

‘The pay cheque?’

‘Yes, the pay cheque.’ Another nurse with blonde braids chirps in: ‘Twelve years done since I working at dis hospital.’ She takes a break to show off her name tag. ‘Twelve years.  And I know what I am getting paid.’

Another doctor starts at it again: ‘Ya listen to this…’

At this point the nurses and doctors are spitting words back to back, pointing fingers, forgetting who they were mad at in the first place.

Marlon puts his fingers to his mouth like he is fixing to whistle, but he keeps his two fingers at lips, because he knows what will happen if he calms them down really.  In the meantime the Father man is quiet because being quiet is what he likes to be.

The Father man doesn’t like to be a conflict man. The Father man likes to keep to himself and let everything happen and then go back to the work he tells himself he is supposed to be doing.

Why does the Father man speak up out of nowhere?

‘Ya all stop and listen here. Ya can’t stop blaming this on this person or that. The gas leak is one thing out of many. We are using hospital bed from the eighties. We have patients who are dying from our own neglect. We all have to be working hard.  If change has to come, change is what we have to be starting.’

The Father man feels like his legs are wobbling, the Father man feels like he is about to lose the breath in this chest. The Father man is becoming the warrior man, the Kofi kind of man.

The Father man might be changing but the Father man is thought by everyone as the passive man because that is how the Father man was thought of by the other men. The police cars are coming and the fire truck is coming and Marlon is leaving. He goes says something to the police. The firemen march into the building. The men and the women start talking about other things.

‘So, how ya missus doing?’

‘So, when ya go ta Port of Spain ya got ta change ya clothes so no one know who ya with.’

‘I’m getting hungry. Ya want a bake an saltfish?’

It is like no one even heard what Father said. It is like no one even felt like listening. That is normal for Father man. For decades in and decades out he has been that man no one listens to. Soon the fireman comes and says the gas leak has been fixed. Soon the doctors and nurses and patients are going back in. It is normal for  them that things go wrong in Georgetown, and they are fine now that it is getting fixed.

But the Father man said what the Father man said and the Father man mean it.

Another minute done pass, and another minute done gone, and Father’s legs aren’t moving.

India Enhances Covid Surveillance After Surge In China

India Will Randomly Test International Visitors For COVID-19

In the wake of Covid-19 surge in China and elsewhere abroad, the Union government has laid out a number of steps to be taken by the state governments, Union territory (UT) administrations, and the general public.

The government has instructed states to ensure genome sequencing of all positive cases in the country. India has begun randomly testing international passengers arriving at its airports for COVID-19, the country’s health minister said, citing an increase in cases in neighboring China.

India’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has asked the public to wear masks and maintain social distancing, even though there are no official mandates for either. India had relaxed its mask-wearing rules earlier this year after coronavirus cases began dropping sharply. It has reported the most COVID-19 cases in the world since the pandemic began, but confirmed infections have fallen sharply in the past few months.

He has also asked state governments to step up efforts to curb any possible spread during the Christmas and New Year festivities. India witnessed two deadly waves of Covid in 2020 and 2021, but has seen low infection levels this year.

According to government data, the country reports roughly 1,200 Covid cases every week. Over 2.2 billion Covid vaccine doses have been administered so far.

On Tuesday, the federal government asked states to send Covid samples of all positive patients to labs runs by INSACOG, a forum under the health ministry which studies and monitors various strains of Covid in India.

The move came amid growing concerns over the spread of Covid in China following the recent easing of strict lockdown measures. Hospitals and medical facilities in China have come under increasing strain as those who’ve tested positive at home seek medical support.

In a letter to all states, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said it was important to track new variants through genome sequencing due to the “sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Brazil and China”.

This would help authorities detect newer variants and take measures to contain them, he said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya met senior officials to review the situation and step up surveillance. India was one of the worst affected countries during the first two waves of Covid. Millions were affected and more than 530,000 people died, according to official figures.

But experts believe the real number of Covid deaths was likely to be much higher as many cases people who died were not tested or reported into official figures. The government had also come under heavy criticism for its poor preparation during the second wave in the summer of 2021 as many people died due to lack of oxygen and critical medicines.

Mandaviya said the Indian government has no plans yet to halt flights from countries where new cases have been reported. The increase in cases in China has also prompted Indian health experts to issue advisories for the public to wear face masks and receive vaccine booster doses.

India’s top doctors’ body, the Indian Medical Association, also appealed to people to wear masks in all public places and get vaccine boosters. It urged people to avoid public gatherings such as weddings, political and social meetings, and international travel. “As of now, the situation is not alarming and therefore there is no need to panic. Prevention is better than cure,” it said in a statement.

When Covid-19 broke out in China in late 2019, its government played down its seriousness despite the rising hospital occupancy. This lack of transparency from the Chinese side kept the rest of the world ignorant of the impending pandemic.  Three years later, China is again ‘not revealing’ the true scale of Covid-19 surge in the country. And a pandemic-hit world is concerned.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has administered more than 2.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, but only 27% of the population has received a third booster dose.

To Make It Modern And Friendly, Air India Orders 500 Jets

(Reuters) – Air India is close to placing landmark orders for as many as 500 jetliners worth tens of billions of dollars from both Airbus and Boeing as it carves out an ambitious renaissance under the Tata Group conglomerate, industry sources said on Sunday.

The orders include as many as 400 narrow-body jets and 100 or more wide-bodies, including dozens of Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s and 777s, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity as finishing touches are placed on the mammoth deal in coming days.

Such a deal could top $100 billion dollars at list prices, including any options, and rank among the biggest by a single airline in volume terms, overshadowing a combined order for 460 Airbus and Boeing jets from American Airlines over a decade ago. Even after significant expected discounts, the deal would be worth tens of billions of dollars and cap a volatile year for an industry whose jets are back in demand after the pandemic but which is facing mounting industrial and environmental pressures.

Airbus and Boeing declined to comment. Tata Group-owned Air India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The potential order comes days after Tata announced the merger of Air India with Vistara, a joint-venture with Singapore Airlines, to create a bigger full-service carrier and strengthen its presence in domestic and international skies. That deal gives Tata a fleet of 218 aircraft, cementing Air India as the country’s largest international carrier and second largest in the domestic market after leader IndiGo Air India, with its maharajah mascot, was once known for its lavishly decorated planes and stellar service but its reputation declined in the mid-2000s as financial troubles mounted.

Founded by JRD Tata in 1932, Air India was nationalised in 1953. Tata regained control in January and has since been working to revive its reputation as a world-class airline. The planned order reflects a deliberate strategy to win back a solid share of traffic flows to and from India, which are currently dominated by foreign carriers such as Emirates.

Air India also wants to win a bigger share of regional international traffic and the domestic market, setting up a battle on both fronts with IndiGo. Delivered over at least a decade, the 500 jets would both replace and expand fleets in the world’s fastest-growing airline market, while contributing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of expanding the economy to $5 trillion.

But experts warn many hurdles stand in the way of Air India’s ambition to recover a strong global position, including frail domestic infrastructure, pilot shortages and the threat of tough competition with established Gulf and other carriers.

Canada To Strengthen Visa Processing Capacity In Delhi, Chandigarh

As a Pacific nation, Canada constituted an ambitious plan, which initially provides for an investment of nearly $2.3 billion over the next five years as it recognises that the Indo-Pacific region will play an important and fundamental role in Canada’s future.

To foster greater diversity among those seeking to work and study in Canada, the government will invest in strengthening the visa processing capacity within the centralised Canadian network as well as in New Delhi and Chandigarh.

Each issue of importance to Canadians such as national security, economic prosperity, respect for international law and human rights, democratic values, public health and environmental protection will be defined by the relations that Canada and its partners maintain with the countries of the Indo-Pacific, an official statement said.

Decisions made in the region will affect Canadians for generations, and Canada absolutely must play an active role.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malanie Joly on Sunday launched Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. This strategy presents a comprehensive roadmap to deepen its engagement in the Indo-Pacific over the next 10 years, increasing its contribution to regional peace and security, consolidating economic growth and resilience, strengthening close ties between its people and supporting sustainable development throughout the region.

The central principle of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is that Canada acts for its national interests, while defending its values. The Strategy positions Canada as a reliable partner for the region, now and in the future. It constitutes an ambitious plan, which initially provides for an investment of nearly $2.3 billion over the next five years, said the statement.

This whole-of-society strategy outlines how Canada intends to work actively with its allies and partners to shape the region’s future in the context of global generational change.

To promote Canada’s regional peace and security interests, the government will invest more than $720 million. This investment includes, among other things: $492.9 million to strengthen Canada’s naval presence in the Indo-Pacific and increase Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in regional military exercises; and $47.3 million to launch a new interdepartmental initiative to build the cybersecurity capacities of selected regional partners.

To foster open, rules-based trade and support the country’s economic prosperity, Canada will invest $240.6 million. This investment includes, among other things: $24.1 million to create the Canadian Southeast Asia Trade Gateway to expand Canada’s business and investment networks in the region; $31.8 million to establish Canada’s first agricultural office in the region to increase and diversify agriculture and agri-food exports to the Indo-Pacific; and $13.5 million to expand natural resource linkages with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region in the areas of trade, investment, and science, technology and innovation.

To strengthen the close ties between Canadians and the people of the Indo-Pacific, Canada will contribute $261.7 million.

This investment includes, among other things: $100 million to fund development programmes related to the Feminist International Assistance Policy to support the Indo-Pacific; $74.6 million to strengthen Canada’s visa processing capacity within the centralised Canadian network as well as in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Islamabad and Manila, to strengthen the close ties between its people.

As part of its commitment to building a clean future, Canada has pledged a total of $913.3 million. This investment includes, among other things: $750 million will strengthen FinDev Canada’s ability to expand into the Indo-Pacific and accelerate its work in priority markets to support the development of high-quality and sustainable infrastructure; and $84.3 million to contribute to a healthier marine environment in the Indo-Pacific region, which includes strengthened measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

To strengthen its presence, visibility and influence in the region, Canada has pledged a total of $143.3 million. This investment includes, among other things: $92.5 million to significantly increase the capacity of Canada’s missions abroad and within Global Affairs Canada; $24.5 million for the opening of a new Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada office in the region to help build and strengthen relationships with local partners.

“The future of the Indo-Pacific is ours; we have a role to play in shaping it. To this end, we must be a genuine and reliable partner. Today we are presenting a truly Canadian strategy — one that addresses every aspect of our society. This strategy sends a clear message: Canada is present in the region and it is here to stay,” said Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Responding to investment to strengthen visa processing capacity, Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said, “The Indo-Pacific region is critical for immigration to Canada and will continue to be so in the future.”

“Today’s announcement brings significant new funding to strengthen Canada’s visa processing capacity at home and abroad. As we anticipate record growth in admissions in the years to come, this funding will help foster greater diversity among those seeking to work and study in Canada.” (IANS)

Vistara To Merge With Air India

In a major consolidation in the Indian aviation space, Tata group has announced the merger of Vistara with Air India. Vistara started flying in January 2015. Tata group owns a 51% stake in Vistara, and the remaining 49% shareholding is with Singapore Airlines. Pursuant to the deal, Singapore Airlines will have 25.1% stake in the enlarged Air India group. The proposed deal is expected to be complete by March 2024, subject to regulatory approvals.

Vistara airlines will be merged with Tata-owned Air India by March 2024, the company announced last week. Singapore Airlines, which owns minority share in Vistara in its joint venture with Tata, will own around 25 per cent of the enlarged Air India, into which it’ll infuse over ₹ 2,000 crore.

The rearrangement will mean a larger fleet and more routes under the Air India brand as Tata Sons rebuilds a mega aviation wing of its empire. At present, 51 per cent share in Vistara is with Tata, while Singapore Airlines owns the remaining 49 per cent in the join venture set up in 2013.

Since Tata bought Air India for ₹ 18,000 crore as part of a government disinvestment around a year ago, the plan has been to merge all its aviation brands under that name.

For Vistara, the two owners “aim to complete the merger by March 2024, subject to regulatory approvals”, said a Singapore Airlines release. Tata also owns low-cost carriers Air India Express and AirAsia India, both of which will be merged under the Air India brand, too, by 2024.

This will take the fleet size to 218, putting togetaher Air India’s 113 with AirAsia India’s 28, Vistara’s 53, and Air India Express’s 24. It will then be India’s largest international carrier and second largest domestic carrier, Tata Sons said.

Reports have also said it is likely to order 300 narrow-body jets, one of the largest orders ever in aviation history, which would be delivered gradually. Air India’s chief executive officer had said that it aims to triple its fleet of 113 over the next five years.

This is a big step towards the Tatas rebuilding Air India, a company founded by the family-run group but later nationalised, only to come back to Tata Sons after losses piled up and the government decided it’s best to sell it off.

“As part of the transformation, Air India is focusing on growing both its network and fleet, revamping its customer proposition, enhancing safety, reliability, and on-time performance,” the company release quoted Tata Sons chairperson N Chandrasekaran as saying.

6CommentsGoh Choon Phong, the chief executive of Singapore Airlines, said, “Our collaboration to set up Vistara in 2013 resulted in a market-leading full-service carrier, which has won many global accolades in a short time. With this merger, we have an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Tata and participate directly in an exciting new growth phase in India’s aviation market.”

Set in Lagos, Nigeria

It was the lunch hour, and as always Father had to determine where he was going to sit. The canteen and its tables were as crowded as the halls of the hospital itself. Though the hospital he worked for was private, and therefore modern in comparison to the ones maintained by the government, it was also not particularly big, just two storeys, and gated like any of the other residences on Bourdillon Road.

It had to be that the only table with a single chair available was the one at which Dr White was sitting. Father and Dr White weren’t friends. Father saw Dr White surrounded by the suck-ups he always had around him and knew the last thing he wanted to hear was them spew rants on Nigerian politics and football.

But Dr White saw that Father was standing there idly, not knowing where he could sit to eat, and he patted the plush of the chair next to him. ‘Come. You sit here.’

So Father sat, and had to greet each and every one of them with a little smile and ‘how is everything?’ They reciprocated with smiles but didn’t say much. Now that he was seated, Father let himself become comfortable. He broke his hand into his spiced chicken, mixed a bit of it into his jollof rice, and let the steam stir in his mouth as he fed himself.

Picture : TheUNN

The vibe at the table was odd for how these men normally behaved. They were all busy eating quietly, opening up their agidis or sliming up their hands with amala doused in ewedu. Father was used to seeing Dr White and his friends cackling loudly, talking to each other with the sort of camaraderie that he would see among the boys in his days in the village, fondly in arms with each other. It was all so bereft of the charm and pull that Dr White normally brought to the table,  flashing the wide-toothed grin he was infamous for.

Father asked, ‘It is strange. Why is it that you are so quiet today?’

Dr White looked at him, as did all of the other doctors at the table. Father realised that the question he thought he had kept at the back of his head was actually voiced out loud. He felt deeply embarrassed, for he rarely did that. He usually even scolded his wife for being so quick to say things without thinking about whether a person wanted to hear it.

The surprise at the very least was temporary. Dr White noticed he was being engaged, and whenever he was engaged, he was quick. He put on that grin, he smiled also with his eyes. He asked, ‘Abaeze, my friend. It has been long since we have talked. How have you been?’

To be honest, Father did not feel comfortable with the question. This was because he had a lot to say in response, but he didn’t want to share such things to a relative stranger like Dr White. For example, he had a mother out in the mangroves of Delta State, whose back had healed enough so that she could somewhat stand, but walking was difficult. Inflation was a horror, and Father was the only person in his family who earned. Not to mention the crime in Lagos, which affected their suburban house in Banana Island as it did the shanty towns of Ilaje or Agege.

Father doubted that Dr White really wanted to hear his thoughts on any of this. He also had other things on his mind during this fifteen-minute break carved into an otherwise busy day; he was remembering in particular the patient he was in the middle of seeing, a sweet Igbo lady who was developing emphysema. Her lungs were starting to fill with mucus, and it could be fatal given her age. Father was wondering what the best medications would be for her. So Father said, ‘I am doing well, thank you for asking,’ and left it at that, in the hopes that he could eat his chicken and think in peace.

Dr White smiled. Father noticed it was now a quiet smile, with his lips curving upward, rather than his typically wider and aggressive grin. Father was not used to the diffidence. He tried to get back to his meal and his reflections, but he felt unsatisfied in what he had said to the table. It was far too polite, too flavourless.

He wanted to say something in that moment.

What he came up with was quite random.

‘Age is a funny thing. It will do us all in. It is worse than any disease.’

One of the doctors, a bald man with huge glasses, gave a nod. So did another, who had a wide, curly bush of grey hair on his head. The bald doctor said, ‘It is nice to see how technology is advancing. I think people of my grandchildren’s age, they will not know death. They will live infinitely.’

The doctor with the greying bush of hair laughed. ‘Ha-ha. Infinite life. There is not electricity for most of the day. And you are telling me we will have android children. You are watching too many movies, my friend.’

Another doctor said out of the blue, ‘He is watching too much Nollywood, that is it,’ and they all laughed, even Father.

The doctor with the glasses defended himself. ‘There is a lot of precedent you are misunderstanding. You must read more American books to know fully. They are doing a lot to advance technology there. And it will be like anything else. It will come to Nigeria.’

To the rich and powerful, if it does, was what Father thought, but he did not say it out loud. All of them qualified to be in that class, living in the best parts of Lekki and Ikoyi, and not a single person there wanted to be indicted for it.

Another doctor at the table said, ‘With climate change coming as fast as it is, with the inflation killing all of our wallets, I will be surprised if anything lasts another ten years.’

The table grew silent. Something of what he said brought down a dark and pressing spirit. There was a collective sense that the world wasn’t moving in the direction that the people of their class and generation had thought it would. There was a sense that all of their early beliefs in moving upwards and making things as rich and big and fancy as possible for a city like Lagos wasn’t going to provide the comfort they had expected in their later lives.

Father was almost done with his meal, but he was getting curious about something that this conversation reminded him of.

‘Hey, Dr White, let me say something. You have been telling us about all these new gadgets and equipment, you were going to ask the board to give us this, give us that. And we all signed something about it. So now, it has been almost a year, or longer than a year. And I don’t see any new equipment. What is happening?’

Dr White said, with his teeth pinching together, ‘Did you not just listen to everyone?’

Father said, ‘No one said anything about the petition. That is why I am asking.’

Dr White pressed, ‘No, did you hear what they said? There is inflation, there are a lot of problems that are everywhere but also in Nigeria. We do have the generators working every day. But now you are asking if we can have new equipment?’

‘Because you had promised that last year.’

‘Because that was last year, and things are changing.’

That was all fair and well, Father thought, and quite understandable. But what surprised Father was not what Dr White said, but how he was saying it. There was none of his usual charm or charisma. Dr White was speaking directly, and not holding any of his true feelings back. It almost felt like how a steamroller went across freshly melted pavement—the words suavely rolled across their trajectory, and yet they burned on impact. Even the other doctors were looking away. Father got the sense that they were not in the habit of Dr White showing emotion that wasn’t artificially pleasant.

Dr White looked at his tray of bones and napkins, and he stood to throw it away. When he returned, the decorum came back for a moment. He looked at each doctor in the eye, said some words of departure, and summated overall, ‘That was a good chat. I look forward to talking more some other day.’

The doctors gave their nods, said their goodbyes, and continued to talk about the petition even though Dr White had long left, announcing their agreement with him. Not a single one gave Father any more of their time or words. They were not friends, and it had been that way for decades.

Father sensed that something about Dr White was changing. Father had known the man for decades. He was quick to gregariously show off around others, in an effort to feign closeness to them. But this was the first time Father had ever seen Dr White not faking it. Father thought about going up to him after his shift to ask if anything was wrong But of course they weren’t friends. They were barely acquaintances. So what if Dr White was acting differently? It was simply his business, just like Father had his own problems and concerns.

Speaking of, it was getting a little late, wasn’t it? There wasn’t much time left, and he would have to figure out what to do with his patient when he got upstairs. Father scarfed down the rest of his rice and he drank some water so that it would not clog in his belly. He took a minute to remain seated to avoid the gas which came from standing too quickly. He normally would have relished that minute and the calmness that came with it, except when he glanced around the table at the doctors beside him, in their stress-laden faces and tired stares, Father noticed something else which caused him to leave quickly.

It was not only Dr White who was in the process of changing.

(Kiran Bhat is an Indian-American polyglot, traveler, and author. He has been to 149 countries. He is working on using these experiences to create a novel for Planet Earth. To read more, follow me here, or check out my novel’s page, at www.girar.world)

Canada-India Air Transport Pact To Allow Unlimited Flights Between 2 Countries

From visiting friends and family to getting goods to markets around the world, Canadians rely on the aviation industry to provide diverse international air services. Expanding Canada’s existing air transport relationships allow airlines to introduce more flight options and routings, which benefit passengers and businesses by providing greater choice and convenience.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, the Omar Alghabra, has announced the recent conclusion of an expanded air transport agreement between Canada and India. The expanded agreement allows designated airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two countries. The previous agreement limited each country to 35 flights per week.

This significant move will allow airlines of Canada and India to better respond to the needs of the Canada-India air transport market. Going forward, officials of both countries will remain in contact to discuss further expansion of the agreement.

The expanded agreement allows designated airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two countries, while the previous agreement limited each country to only 35 flights. The new agreement gives Canadian air carriers access to Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai, and Indian air carriers access to Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver as well as two additional points to be selected by India.

“The expanded air transport agreement between Canada and India is a positive development for air transport relations between our countries. We are pleased to expand this relationship with additional flexibility for airlines to serve this growing market. By making the movement of goods and people faster and easier, this expanded agreement will continue to facilitate trade and investment between Canada and India and help our businesses grow and succeed,” said Omar Alghabra, Canada’s Minister of Transport.

“The Canada-India economic relationship is built on deep-rooted people to people ties. With this expanded air transport agreement, we are facilitating even more exchanges of professionals, students, business people, and investors. As we strengthen our trade and investment relationship with India, we will continue building bridges like this that enable our entrepreneurs, workers, and businesses to access new opportunities.”

Quick facts

  • India is Canada’s 4th largest international air transport market.
  • Canada’s first air transport agreement with India was concluded in 1982, and was last expanded in 2011. This new agreement was reached under Canada’s Blue Sky policy, which encourages long-term, sustainable competition and the development of international air services.
  • The agreement gives Canadian air carriers access to Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai, and Indian air carriers access to Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, and two additional points to be selected by India.
  • Other cities in both countries can be served indirectly through code-share services.
  • Rights for all-cargo services are already unrestricted.

India Cancels Air Suvidha Forms For International Passengers

The self-declaration forms for Covid vaccination that had to be filled in by incoming international passengers on the Air Suvidha portal, will no longer be necessary, the government has said. The decision will come into effect from midnight.

The form on the aviation ministry’s Air Suvidha portal was mandatory for incoming international passengers. In it, passengers had to declare their vaccination status, including the number of doses received and their dates.

A notice from the Civil Aviation ministry this evening read, “In the light of sustained declining COVID-19 trajectory and significant advances being made in COVID-19 vaccination coverage both globally as well as in India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has issued revised ‘Guidelines for International Arrivals”.

Under the revised guidelines of the health ministry, the submission of self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal stand discontinued, the aviation ministry said. It, however, added a statutory warning: The rule could be reviewed if needed in view of the Covid situation.

The form on the aviation ministry’s Air Suvidha portal was mandatory for incoming international passengers. In it, passengers had to declare their vaccination status, including the number of doses received and their dates.

This was in line with the rules in most nations.

The ministry, however, said it was preferred that the passengers be fully vaccinated. It was also preferable that all precautionary measures for Covid — including the use of masks and social distancing at airports — be continued.

Last week, the aviation ministry had said the use of masks was no longer compulsory during air travel, but passengers should use them to prevent another surge of coronavirus.

Till then, the use of masks in flights was mandatory. The ministry said the decision was taken in line with the government’s policy of a graded approach to Covid-19 management.

Over the last weeks, Covid figures have been shrinking. Official data this morning showed that currently, active cases (6,402) comprise 0.01 per cent of the total infections. The national recovery rate has increased to 98.8 per cent.

Kerala-Born Godly Mable Is Youngest Licensed Flight Instructor In North America

A Keralite expatriate has become the youngest flight instructor in North America by obtaining Licensed Flight Instructor. Godly Mabel, a resident of Calgary, Alberta, became the youngest Licensed Flight Instructor in North America to obtain a flight instructor rating from Transport Canada at 19. In March 2022, Mabel also became the youngest Indian woman to get a Commercial Pilot’s License.

Picture : TheUNN

Mabel was born and bought up in South India (Kerala) and migrated to Canada with her parents in December 2017. In June 2020, she graduated with her High School Diploma from Bishop McNally High School. She did her Private Pilot License at Springbank Air Training College, her Commercial Pilot License with a Multi-IFR rating at Calgary Flying Club, and her Flight Instructor Rating at Kanata Aviation Training, High River.

According to Transport Canada regulations, one must be 21 years old to fly an aeroplane, thus Mabel will have to wait another two years to fulfil her dream. Soon after receiving her licence, Mabel was approached by a number of Calgary-area flying schools with offers to work as a flight instructor. The eldest child of Keralite immigrants Aby and Rose Aby, who moved to Canada in 2017, is Godly Mabel. Ryan Aby is her brother.

14th November, 2022 Set Between Gangtok, Sikkim, The Republic of India and Sakkyong, Sikkim, The Republic of India

Father is sixty-eight years old, and yet he wakes up somewhere between four and five in the morning from a nightmare, drenched in sweat. The sweat, to be clear, is related as much to his age as it is to the amount of blankets laid over his bed; it is winter in Gangtok, and he is in the habit of covering himself in excess to be less affected by the chill. He lifts himself out of the sheets, taking care to fold them properly so as not to disturb Mother’s sleep. He goes into the bathroom. The pipe in the sink is not working, so he washes his face with the small bucket they use to shower. There is a little moonlight coming through the window, but it is otherwise dark. Father cannot help but catch his reflection in the mirror. The pudge of fat above his eyebrows is covered in sweat.

In the last two months, Father has been assaulted by dreams of his mother. They usually involve the few sweet memories of his childhood juxtaposed against the agony of her current health condition.  Often, the situations are exaggerated in ways to draw out Father’s guilt, and they leave him going to the hospital in a disturbed and under-rested state.

However, as Father takes a better stare at the mirror, he sees the wrinkles over his sandy-coloured cheeks, the wear and tear and soot that have collected under the baggy hoods of his eyes. This was the exact same way his father looked. With age, their faces are almost identical.

Father feels a churning in his chest. Father feels an anger. It is not because time has made him the inheritor of a face that is aged, ugly, or unpleasant to look at.

It is because his nightmare for the first time in a long while revolved not around his mother or his son, but over this abusive farmer who spent most of his life traumatising his children.

2nd April, 1961

On the second of April in 1961, Father was a simple boy named Samjyor who was turning seven. This was the sixties. Life was different. His homeland of Sikkim was not yet an Indian state, just as his hometown of Sakkyong was completely ignorant of the outside world. If there were foreigners at that time, they would be Bhutias or Nepalis or other Lepchas from other places, not necessarily Tamils or North Indians or Germans in the mood for a village stay. People did not have any technology of any sort to distract themselves with. They tilled the land, survived the winters, and lived peacefully with their loved ones. A birth day was also not a birthday. No one fed each other pieces of cake or bought each other presents.

The 2nd of April, in other words, was not meant to be a particularly special day, until Samjyor’s Father came home and made him remember it that way.

Normally Samjyor’s father would come home around four or five in the afternoon, directly from the rice paddies, and he would ignore Samjyor or any of his other children. He would immediately find his cot, throw the sheets over himself, and fall asleep. On that day, however, Samjyor’s father came home closer to nine in the night, just when everyone was sleeping. There was the clear smell of rakshi on his clothes. Samjyor was too young to know what rakshi was, but the stale millet smell blending into his father’s unshowered musk imprinted onto him, becoming one of the most important memories he would ever grow to have.

Samjyor’s mother began yelling. Where have you been? Why are you coming home late? Her yelling was not confrontational but curious. This was before it became normal for Samjyor’s father to come home drunk, before Samjyor’s mother learned it would not be in her benefit to confront him at all.

Picture : TheUNN

As Samjyor’s father came in through the door, he knocked over a grass broom. He stooped to pick it up, almost out of habit, but it was at that moment that Samjyor’s mother asked her question, causing something in his body language to abruptly change. He threw herself close to her and smacked her against the head with the broom, suddenly and with very clear intention. Even though the handle of the broom weighed little, the damage was done. Samjyor’s mother looked up, unable to respond. It was more than just being caught off guard. It was complete and utter paralysis, except for when she reached for her skull to assess whether it was bruised or bloodied.

But Samjyor’s father threw her down. Samjyor’s father clutched her throat with his hands.

‘How can you . . .’ he shouted. ‘You would choose to . . . I will not . . . I’ll kill you! You are a whore, and I will kill you!’

Samjyor was too young to understand the full language of this drunken man, who was speaking in a mix of a shout and a slur. But what Samjyor did know was that there was this big oaf of a man, as crackle-eyed and overpowering as a raksasa, threatening the life of the woman who looked after them. Samjyor should have shouted outside to get one of his uncles to help, but he was too young to be sensible. Instead he grabbed his father’s leg and cried for him to get off.

Samjyor’s father kicked Samjyor’s face with the full force of a foot. It was so strong that he was knocked out by it, completely unconscious. He woke up sometime after, with his mother wrapped around him and crying. His nose hurt worse than any other time the boys beat him, and he could feel that his tooth was broken. If he wiggled it around, it would come out. At least it was a baby tooth, and in some time it would come to be replaced by another. Samjyor had no idea how he went to sleep like that, shocked and stunned, with a need to cry, deep and loudly into his mother’s chest.

Later on, his younger brother, Lekmoo, told him wild and extravagant stories about how their older brother, Tshering, was the one who had fought off his father. Later on, his mother told Samjyor that it was his own bravery which had scared his father off somehow, or made him realise that he was going too far, which was what made him stop attacking her. Whatever the case, Samjyor’s father never apologised for how he had behaved that night. He never acknowledged what had happened. If some transgression had happened between his mother and father, it was never clarified to Samjyor, neither at the age of seven nor at any other age as he grew up. It was just one of those things that was going to be left a secret, to haunt Samjyor for much longer than the rest of his father’s lifetime.

What Samjyor noticed after his seventh birth day was that this was the day when his father’s personality changed. He spent most of his time working in the rice paddies, he only went to places where he could procure alcohol, and he rarely interacted with his wife or children, unless he was going out of his way to hurt them in some form.

14th November, 2022

Father has banged his fist on the mirror. Without thinking, he has taken his fist and thrown it with utter force against the glass. The glass, several decades old, cracks, though all of the pieces remain intact. Father gasps and withdraws his fist immediately. In doing so, he feels a sharp sting on his finger. The thin shards of cut glass are nearly invisible in the darkness, but he can feel them poking into his skin. Father has cut himself, and though the pieces lodged in his hand are most likely smaller than a needle, the blood is getting all over the sink. Father pours himself some more water from the bucket to clean it up.

In the commotion, he has woken Mother.

‘What is going on?’ Mother asks, turning on the light. Her eyes widen, and she throws herself into a panic. She grabs Father’s hand, asking, ‘What have you done to your hand?’ Father can see it now. Blood has rushed out quicker than he realised, dripping all the way down his arm. Father applies pressure to the wound while Mother rushes to find some Band-Aids.

All the while, Father yells at himself. ‘What have you done to yourself? Why are you acting crazy at this hour? It’s late. It’s almost four in the morning. You will go to work soon.’

He looks at the cracks in the mirror. He sees the face staring back at him. He wants to beat it again, no matter how much the face belongs to him.

That is how much he hates what he is staring at.

16th December, 1968

There were five of them sitting on the wooden floors of their cottage, eating the chumthuk—Samjyor; his younger brother, Lekmoo; his older brother, Tshering; his mother; and Tshering’s recent wife, who had been married to him only a few months ago. His father was not with them. Coming back home only when he felt like had become his norm. The conversation around the bowls was light. People concentrated on spooning grains of rice and beef into their mouths, taking a break only to make casual remarks when the mood suited.

Towards the end of the meal, Samjyor’s father opened the door loudly, then closed it tightly behind him so that the winter wind would not enter. He took off his boots, unstrapped his jacket. He barked at his wife, ‘I am hungry. Where is food?’

Without a moment’s hesitation, Samjyor’s mother brought him a bowl of gruel. Samjyor’s father made a place for himself around them and started shovelling the food down his throat.

Her chumthuk had a plain taste. At that time, spicing was considered a luxury because everything and anything was a luxury. Only basic survival was the goal. Samjyor’s father had eaten this chumthuk day in and day out for many decades, before his own children were born, probably before he was even married to this particular woman.

So, it was a surprise when he took his first bites and started acting like he was choking. He spat out the rice back into the bowl while Samjyor’s mother came to his side, wondering if her husband in fact had something lodged in his throat.

He said, ‘You really can’t cook, can you?’ and laughed gregariously. It was like he was telling a joke to his other drunk friends, and he looked about his household, waiting to catch the eye of someone who would smile back at him.

No one was smiling. All of the children looked down, afraid to meet his eyes, afraid of the consequences.

Samjyor’s mother tried to take the bowl, only for Samjyor’s father to resist.

‘Don’t worry, I will eat it. We should not waste food. We cannot waste food. But I earn everything for this family. I am the reason why we can afford to have beef in this soup in the first place. Next time, I want momos or thukpa. Make something tomorrow with a lot of meat.’

‘Of course,’ Samjyor’s mother said. Samjyor wanted to shout at his father. How in the world would they get money to make any of that food when they had no money at all? His father was claiming to make money for them, but he was the one spending whatever he made, while Samjyor and his siblings tried to subsist on the little that they had.

Samjyor’s father continued, ‘You know, I remember when you used to kiss me like you liked it. I remember when you actually knew how to touch me. What happened to those days? When are we going to make more children?’

Samjyor’s mother looked into her gruel, all while Samjyor’s father spoke louder about his urges and needs. He wasn’t going to control himself. He had an audience of a full family, and he would not dare waste it.

‘My son,’ Samjyor’s father said, clearly addressing Tshering, ‘you are lucky to have a wife who is young and beautiful. I wish you have many children.’

He raised his bowl of gruel as if in toast, and Tshering smiled, not politely, but warmly, because he was getting the validation from his father that he often felt he deserved.

Then Samjyor’s father turned to face his other two boys. ‘I’ve done everything for you all. I’ve done everything for this family.’

He looked like he was going to scold them more, say something specific, but he was too drunk. He started to eat his chumthuk, wolfing it down like it was the most delicious thing he had ever eaten. He filled up his belly, then gave a blank stare to the fireplace in their house, watching the flames dance about.

Then he stood up, mouthing to himself. ‘I did everything for this family. I did everything for this family.’ He put on his shoes, dressed himself, and went back out into the freezing cold.

14th November, 2022

Mother returns with some bandages. She wraps them over his hand while complaining.

‘It is so early. I will have to do pooja soon. Why are you making a mess like this?’

Father does not want to tell Mother he had a bad dream. But she can see the frustration in his eyes and make her own guesses.

‘It must be hard on you to be so far from your mother. I understand. But it is not going to help you if you hurt yourself.’

‘I know.’

Father makes listless eyes, which makes Mother hug him.

‘Don’t feel this bad. You are doing your best. And you have done a lot. You have sent so much money. You have hired someone to help. They are there for her, but you have provided what they cannot, and they know this. They will come to respect all you do for them in time.’

Father leans into Mother’s hug and reciprocates it. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and remains there, holding her. He is glad no one else is in the room except her. He is also incredibly tired. He knows he will have a full day of work ahead of him in a few hours, and the thought exhausts him even more.

‘I am sorry for this disturbance. Let us sleep.’

Mother turns off the light. Mother and Father return to the bed, holding hands. It is not long before Mother is snoring again.

Father would have fallen asleep soon, too, if it were not for the dream.

29 August, 1986

It was said that on the day Samjyor’s father passed on, Samjyor’s younger brother, Lekmoo, touched his body before the lama began his phowa, to the chagrin of the ones who found him with the corpse. A body on its way to death should never make contact with another physical being as the lama works on directing its soul. It makes the soul easy prey to the cravings of a demon, where it may not make it to the other stages of the afterlife. Because Lekmoo touched the body, he was scolded by almost every passing relative, and threatened to be beaten and pushed out of the home he had grown up in.

Father was not there at the time, but Father wouldn’t have been surprised if Lekmoo was intentionally trying to damn his father and his soul.

That being said, Lekmoo did look visibly distraught and disturbed, shaking as the lamas chanted around the box the body was displayed on. Samjyor could not imagine what it was like for Lekmoo to walk in on his father lying on his cot, suddenly smelling of someone who was starting to decompose. Samjyor would have probably done exactly what Lekmoo had. He had seen plenty of patients pass on, he was used to death, but it was another thing to witness it occur to a loved one. It would have been easy to lose one’s control, and to touch the body, even though one would have known immediately after that one had condemned it.

There was a lot of noise, and there were a lot of relatives, many of whom Samjyor had not interacted with in years. Samjyor kept himself seated, tried to pay no attention to them. His role was to witness the pooja. There was the surreal smell of decomposed flesh mixed with the juniper branches used to preserve the box. He tried to listen to the chanting, but there were too many memories in his mind. There were the images of his father feeding him a momo for the first time and his tongue burning from the steam, or the images of when he was a little boy lost in the rice paddies and was afraid he was going to die, except that he was found by his father at once. There were the kind words his father said when Samjyor got married, there was the excitement he heard in his father’s voice whenever Samjyor visited and his father delighted himself by playing with Tshering’s children.

It was odd. Despite the fact that Samjyor objectively hated his father, during the death ceremony, during the funeral, during the rituals done at the monastery and in the village itself, Samjyor could not remember a single negative thought about him. He only remembered that he missed his father, that he owed so much to his father, and that he loved his father. And he hated himself for not being there the day his father had died. He hated that he had allowed a parent to die alone, in a way no child ever should.

Samjyor told himself then and there that he visit his village as much as possible so that such a fate would never pass with his mother. He also made it a point to attend the duentsi poojas for all of the forty-nine days in the monastery, even though it was Tshering who had been called to do so.

Samjyor became a good son after his father died. And a few years afterwards, he became a father himself. During the funeral ceremony Samjyor thanked his father for the lessons he had taught him. He also promised himself that when his own child would be born he would never make a single one of the mistakes that he felt his father had made.

14th November, 2022

It is during the second dream of this early morning that Father is in the rice paddies once more. A little boy walks around barefoot. He is under the monasteries which are common in Gangtok. Their red-and-gold walls are like squares stacked on top of the mountains. It is like each one has a little eye that is looking at Father. The child’s feet are sticking in the mud.

He is falling, and he is calling to the monasteries to find him, but not a single one responds. The eyes on the walls stare and almost look to be in pleasure as Father sinks alone. He clutches at the rice stalks but is not able to grasp any. And he is still falling, sinking, diving. The mud comes up to his waist. He pounds his fists against the earth.

Father shouts and shouts, and no one comes.

Until there is one person standing over him among the rice stalks.

That is his father.

‘Father, come help! Father, help me up.’

His father does not move.

‘Father, I am going to die. Father, help.’

The boy’s head moves deeper into the earth.

It is when the earth comes up to his chin that his own father begins to snicker. His father pats his belly and points at his son.

‘You are an embarrassment of a man. You don’t dare stand on this ground.’

Father does not know what he is saying. He thinks he is moving his mouth, but not a single word is coming out. The mud starts to get inside. He tastes the mineral notes of zinc and calcium.

Father shouts, ‘Father . . . Father!’

And his father responds, ‘You are no better than your mother . . . you let me die . . . you left me alone . . .’

Father snaps his eyes open. He does not want to stay in bed, or he will be committed to returning to this dream. But if he gets up, he knows he will wake up his wife again. He does not want to stand once more. He does not want to go into the bathroom, look at the cracks he created in his mirror, find sadness in the inherited roundness of his face that he will never be able to escape.

But there is him and his father, and there will always be a part of him from his father, whether he stares at his reflection or not.

Father feels the puff of his own eyeballs, and they weigh his eyes open, no matter how much he wishes they could close.

Air India To Acquire AirAsia India And To Merge With Air India Express

Air India has announced that it has signed agreements to complete the acquisition of 100 per cent shareholding in AirAsia India (AAI) and to subsidiarise it under Air India.

An operational review process is underway with a view to ultimately integrating AAI fully with Air India Express (AIXL). Consolidation of these two airlines, both of which operate as low-cost carriers, will be undertaken as part of the restructuring roadmap that is being envisioned for the Tata Group’s airline business and is expected to bring customer, revenue, cost and operational benefits through broader adoption of each airlines’ best practices, systems and routes, and the combined entity’s greater scale.

Air India CEO and MD Campbell Wilson said: “We are excited to initiate the creation of a single Air India Group low-cost carrier. This is a key step in the rationalisation and transformation of the Group, and we will be working closely with the management teams and staff throughout the process. We also look forward to the many new opportunities a stronger AI Group low-cost carrier will bring for customers and staff alike.”

A working group has been formed to evaluate and execute the integration of the AI Group’s low-cost operations, which will be co-led by Sunil Bhaskaran, CEO & MD, AirAsia India and Aloke Singh, CEO, Air India Express. The working group will report to a committee chaired by Wilson.

The assessment and implementation of full integration process of AAI and AIXL, through a possible scheme of merger or otherwise and subject to necessary corporate approvals, is expected to take approximately 12 months, with network and other synergies to be realised progressively during that period.

Founded by the legendary JRD Tata, Air India is synonymous with the growth and evolution of civil aviation in India. Since its first flight on October 15, 1932, Air India has spread its wings to become a major international airline with a network across the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, Far East and South-East Asia, Australia and the Gulf.

The airline also has an extensive domestic network connecting over 55 cities in the country through its fleet of narrow and wide-bodied aircraft. Air India has been a member of Star Alliance, the largest global airline consortium, since July 2014.

Air Asia India, launched in 2014, as a joint venture between Tata Sons and Malaysia’s Air Asia Berhad, operates a fleet of 29 aircraft that flies over 50 direct and 100 connecting routes across India.

Upon Tata Sons acquisition of full ownership, the Bengaluru-based company was subsidiarised under Tata Sons’ 100 per cent-owned Air India. (IANS)

Perambulations set between Blantyre and Mvera, Malawi

By, Kiran Bhat

Help. Goodness. Oh Heavenly Father, I can’t get up. Help.’

Father does not hear anything, and yet he hears it, quite loudly. The nurse in the room has dropped the stethoscope and it has clanged against the floor. It is loud but not that loud. What is louder is the patient complaining that a doctor is giving a prescription for something he does not need, as another is demanding he be given some money – just any – to be able to afford his treatment. Father has heard the clank because he is in a hospital room and it is him and it is the nurse and it is the patient. What a blessing, this Chinese hospital. How much more modern it looks than the one he used to work at, the one that used to be right under this one. 

Father has his own mother and her name is Grace. If she were able to receive treatment in a hospital just as she had fallen she would have had a better cast, or access to medical therapy, or a proper bed to rest in. She certainly would not be ailing to herself on her cot, wishing that she could somehow get up.

How the straw smells. How the musk of the goat intrudes into the bricks of the hut. There are little baobabs suckling air out of the fields, unfurling their branches into tumbled directions, hoping to breathe what they can out from the dirt. The door to her house is open. There is her cot and some pots and some posters and that is all. She sees the baobabs. She wishes to be like them, out in the open, having the sweat of her skin evaporate in the hot day’s wind.

‘Why oh why can’t I move?’

A fracture is not an easy wound to heal. It takes many weeks for a bone to mend. In a modern city like Blantyre there are households in which a person would bide their time by sitting around, watching Netflix, talking on the phone with friends. However in the villages of Mvera life is on the hills. People farm maize or cassava, tend to their goats, or gossip by the grass fences around their huts. Father knows that his own mother is an active woman. She goes out into the fields and keeps herself busy there all day, and when she is not doing that, she likes to sit around the well and chat with her friends. 

But this gifted and diligent woman blessed with the name of Grace fell, and in one’s eighties, a small fracture could mean the end of much activity, and for much longer than a month. It has been just three days since the fall. It is a Saturday, but Father works day in and out, and he does not know when he will get a holiday.

Dear Heavenly Father, oh Heavenly Father. Please forgive me for I have sinned. I don’t know how I have sinned, but why else would you curse me this way if it were not for my sins? I have three beautiful boys, I have seen them all grow. I have lived a pleasant life, and I was grateful. There was a part of me who was sad that you took the most competent and diligent of my boys away from home and told him to work in Blantyre. Blantyre is hours away. He could have gone to Lilongwe, but he wanted to escape, I am sure. Who would not want to escape? Blantyre is green, Blantyre has proper streets, Blantyre has food that isn’t sweet potato and goat. He has a happy and fulfilling life for himself. Why would he want to come back? Even when his mother is stuck to the floor like it is her deathbed, he refuses to return. The reason must be because I have sinned.

I only ask my God my righteous God what was the sin which caused me to be stuck this way. I have been good to my children, I have good relationships with the men and women of our village. Why God? Why do you punish me with pain?

Father’s patient has returned from the toilet. This patient herself is an old woman, wobbling to herself like a pool of mud waiting to bake into clay. The woman is slow to get back onto the examination table, takes her time to push up her body and seats herself there. The nurse in the room and the patient banter to each other in Chichewa, while Father cleans the stethoscope. Her heartbeat is quite uneven. Her blood pressure is abnormally high. A more indolent doctor would prescribe blood thinners and be done with it, but Father is curious. Is the woman close to suffering from a heart attack? Are they about to catch something that will prevent this woman from suffering from a more serious disease?

‘Where is Chiyembekezo?’

‘Oh, Lord, my heavenly Father…’

‘Where is Chikondi?’

‘Please forgive me for I have sinned…’

‘Mavuto, he isn’t coming…’

‘Oh, Lord, my heavenly Father…’

‘A woman of my age should be with her children.’

‘Oh, Lord, my heavenly Father…’

‘Forgive me for I have sinned.’

Some tests pass and there is no sign of any medical abnormality. An elevated blood pressure can cause fainting spells to people of age. This dear old woman is suffering from the malnutrition, this dear old woman probably has a lot of problems in her head, and her son was just worried, which is why they spent the little money they had on a consultation. Father prescribes some blood thinners, knowing that they will probably be too expensive. The son and him debate and discuss and even bargain, but Father is not prescribing them because he wants to make money off of the prescription; he really believes it is this woman’s best interest to take them. And this woman’s son ultimately knows that. Father and the man exchange the truth in one felt glance. Nonetheless the man has no money, the man has to beg, and Father has nothing to give to him. If Father gave something to each and every patient who begged, he would leave the hospital each day with not a single kwacha in his pocket. And Father has his own expenses, just as Father has his own loved ones to worry over.

If my son Mavuto was here he would feed me one of those fried mice. He hates them as an adult but loved them as a child. We would eat them together. I would guzzle the mouse down in one bite. Crunching my teeth against the softness of their hairs, the slight brittleness of their bones, the saltiness of the flesh, I would remember too much, and I would want to cry. 

I did everything for my son and he knows this. But my son now calls Blantyre his home and it is almost a half-day away. If my parents were sick and I lived far I wouldn’t make an excuse. I would simply drop my obligations and leave. Parents should come first, especially after they have done everything to give their children their everything.

But times have changed, and Mavuto is an obsessive human being. He will think about the people he feels he serves and he will think about the obligations he makes for himself and he will consider it all service. He will put that first because service for him always comes first.

As for his mother well, she has grown too far from him.

His own mother… his own flesh and blood… How quickly time is passing. Soon she will be no more, and then he will regret it…  he will ask himself, why didn’t I spend more time with my own mother? 

Oh Heavenly Father, I should have never fallen.

Father sees a patient every twenty minutes for the next five hours until it is the end of his work shift. He leaves the hospital wanting to call his younger brother.

Chikondi comes after a long day in the field. The smell of his sweat fills the room. The mud bricks of the house cake out the heat. He sits in a corner to himself and rests. His mother expresses she is thirsty so Chikondi brings water from the well and lifts it from a bucket into her mouth. They talk on and on, share jokes with each other, until Chikondi’s wife and their children come. Her daughter-in-law prepares for all of them nsima, her grandchildren lay about her side and sing Gospel songs, and they all take turns feeding her pieces of mwankhwala, then pray that the root will heal her injury. Chikondi and their family have their own hut of bricks, and the sun is setting, but they sleep on the floor all around his mother, making sure that not for a single second of the night she feels alone.

But he chooses not to, because he knows Chikondi is responsible, and they have talked on the phone almost each and every evening. Chikondi keeps Father informed as to their mother’s condition. Father need not disturb him as he does look after their mother. 

Father thinks about what his older brother is doing.

Chiyembekezo is out in the fields. Chiyembekezo should be tending to his mother, or at the very least tending over the goats. Instead Chiyembekezo chews tobacco, playing rough with the group of men he hangs out with. They have been drinking all day. Their bodies reek of alcohol. Chiyembekezo should return to his mother’s side but it is his own scent which intimidates him, and then it is his lack of balance which embarrasses him. He tumbles around in the field, his body undulating about like the waves of the plains around him.

Or perhaps it is best he not think about his older brother. Father is already prone to worrying, and with his mother’s health on the surface of his conscience, it is best not to think whether or not Chiyembekezo is making things better, or making things worse.

And then there is Mavuto… Mavuto… 

Father gets into his car. He rolls down the window, despite knowing that the wind as his car gets going will not blow at him but past him. He pats at the red film of dust on his seat, despite knowing that it has been stained this way through decades of visits to his village, and it will never come off. 

The greenest of trees are in front of him, as are the tall buildings, yet nothing of respite is on Father’s mind.

Two men hoist a black mache creature in the shape of a horse, its black hair matted and long, two horns sticking out. The men wear grass skirts and tied clothings tangled around their legs and stomp their feet about, up and down the highway, right outside maize field of the village.

Death has come, and they trample the earth to grieve. 

Father can wonder of her health all he likes, but the truth is that unless he takes the time to return to his village, he will never know the extent to which his mother’s fall has affected her, and how long it will take for her to recover. 

The Triangle

Set in between Bangalore, Karnataka, India, Larkana, the Sindh, Pakistan, and Chongqing, the People’s Republic of China!

I hope you enjoy the story, and my apologies for the web inconveniences once more. If you are having any issue accessing your content, do let me know. I’m here to serve!

As for this story, it’s an extremely experimental one, deeply inspired by the fact that I am living in a relatively prosperous version of India, all the while in the northeast China is dealing with crippling drought and in the northwest Pakistan is submerged by flood. One cannot help but think of the climate disaster that we are witnessing all across the globe. I’m also wondering how many months or years I have until India too is affected.

There is a version of Mother, right now, sitting in front of the television, lazing idly in a suburb of Bangalore. The suburb in question is Indira Nagar, an upper middle class area.  The roads look like they have been pounded by foot traffic and rain and overall negligence into a hodgepodge of shapes. The main roads outside of the suburb are clogged with cars, buses, and auto-rickshaws. Otherwise the lanes are long and leafy, the temperature is cool and agreeable, the area around the temple is clean and trash-less, and the gate into the suburb is green and purple, decorated with the murthis of Ganesha and Shiva and Kali and Saraswathi and Vishnu, each one painted to perfection.

All of this is outside of Mother’s two storey bungalow. The entire bungalow is just for herself and her family. She leaves her house only when she has to meet relatives or go the temple. Ninety percent of the time Mother sits inside her home and minds her business.

This is a version of Mother who lives a good life. This is a version of Mother who has lived well, seen nothing but economic growth and prosperity for her and her family, and wishes for nothing to change.

On the television are the floods.

On the other side of that camera is another version of Mother, who has lived very differently. In some ways this version and that version are similar. They have similar racial features, a similar tint of skin, and a similar well-offed-ness to them. To be wealthy in Pakistan and to be wealthy in India; both offer a lot of privileges that show in the fairness of the complexion, the lack of dust or wrinkles in the clothing, and a relative lack of awareness of the outside world.

That is, until what would normally be deemed a problem of the outside world, or a problem befitting of the lower classes, or a problem that need not be a concern for the privileged — until one of these said such problems becomes a problem, and then this version of Mother has to pay attention, because then it is very much her problem.

Larkana, the gateway of the Indus Valley, is almost completely submerged.

There was a version of Mother who lived so well in Larkana. She had a full wing of an apartment complex to herself, with each room decorated with lavish designs and furniture imported from various corners of the world. Flooding came into the Sindh here or there each and every year, and with this apartment being on the second floor of a complex overlooking the river, she was used to the water getting into the staircases, or making it difficult to get out during monsoon.

But this was not just monsoon. This was a flood of scale that Pakistan had never witnessed before.

With half of the building underwater as it was now, Mother and the other tenants only had the stairs between the upper floor and rooftop. They had brought whatever food or beddings they could have managed, they perched wherever they could, all the while trying to live life well, still, somehow, through their gossip, or their complaining, or the time shared through prayer, during namaz. In the meantime the rainwaters soaked all the roads of their city, inundating not only their little world, but everything around.

This was a version of Mother who only a few weeks ago was comfortably middle class. This was a version of Mother who once had everything going for her. This was a version of Mother who now had a home underwater, a husband stuck at the hospital, and relatives in other parts of the Sindh, their livelihoods completely upended by a flood of catastrophic proportions.

Time is passing, time is slipping, time is morphing the earth into something else, and nothing of what life was once like seems to be returning.

Except for on the television, where ten minutes pass, and another news clip is shown. It is the Yangtze River, completely parched.

This is where another version of Mother lives. This is near the outskirts of Chongqing, the base of the Three Rivers Gorge. If this were Guangzhou or Shenzhen, the news of another wave of lockdowns would have been the source of this Mother’s crippled morale. But at least when one was stuck at home one had access to food, so long as they weren’t relying on the government for their rations, so long as one was prepared.

But this is Chongqing and not Shenzhen, and outside of Mother’s apartment complex, there are people all around, outside, taking their children to school, going to work, living their lives, all the while the source of their sustenance has completely dried.

Mother is out on her walk. It had been so hot, and yet now it is cloudy. The temperature is moderate again. The weather report earlier today claimed that despite the month of heat the city was soon going to be witnessing torrential rains. The irony is in the back of Mother’s mind, but now that the temperature is in the mid twenties, Mother is pleased to be able to go out and exercise, without the fear of getting sunburned or darkened.

These walks, these evenings in the park practicing tai chi with the other neighbourhood girls; these are the little things which made life normal, despite the very obvious signs that life is changing all around.

On the riverside is a long winding road, with trees and a bike path and exercise equipment and a playground. It used to be so refreshing to see the Yangtze splash to itself on the side, the wide and gushing torrents of the river burping contentedly to itself.

Today the river is just empty silt, with little puddles of water in the process of drying out.

A tourist spot has come to be born out of the silt. Mother sees other Chinese people taking pictures with a set of three carvings that have been unearthed out of the river. An excavation has not unearthed them, but the actual drying up of the river. Remnants of a culture from six hundred years ago has returned to being a present part of their megalopolis.

Mother does not take a picture. Mother instead stares. She stares at the Buddha but also at the other side of the Buddha, something outside of its physical form. There were once many buildings, monuments, and religious objects that were concealed by the waters, made into dust by the deserts. Where there was dust could be river. And where there was once river could be dust. Humans inhabit desert, humans inhabit the riverside, humans inhabit the mountain, humans inhabit anywhere. But it takes time, decades, centuries, arguably millennia.

With the pace at which the land was changing, it would be impossible for humans to adapt to anything. By the time that they could consider relating to this river as it were desert, or this desert as it became river, the land would change again, and humans would have to spend days to months to years not understanding its form.

It is not just this version of Mother that is realising this. There is this version of Mother and that version and countless others, infinite as the shapes of the humans, or the shapes of the animals, or the shapes of the rocks, realising that life is no longer as it used to be.

There was a somewhere that they chose to inhabit. There was a somewhere that they chose with their husband, believing deeply that despite the problems in their village that this new home would be the place for their family to thrive. They chose that somewhere in the full belief that all that this would be the anointed place from which they would find that success, that happiness that contentment.

But at that moment that somewhere is becoming a nowhere. That somewhere was subject to change, subject to patterns of response to outside stimuli completely outside of their control.

Life was in flux, nature was in flux, and therefore that somewhere to reside, that somewhere to call home; such a place had become undependable once more.

Chongqing, Larkana, and Bangalore. To connect the lines of their three dots would create a triangle. At those three points there were these three versions of Mother, each of which had built an idea of life on the assumption that their comfort, their style of living, and their containment would be assured.All three versions of Mother live in this moment of time, but there will come a time at which none of them will exist. Such a time would come for all humans, all animals, all existences, even the very layers of the earth itself.

All life crumbles. All matter decays. All existence perishes. That is the one truth that unites the nature of the universe.

In between the point of beginning and the point of the end are an infinitude of others. Something passes on, but nothing is known and nothing is guaranteed between them.

There are multiple versions of Mother, but Mother no matter her background knows this and only this. She will not survive for long, whether it is because of the floods or the droughts or her ageing health.

But she is bound to this universe because she has been given love, and she has love to share.

And so Mother takes a second to make a promise to herself. The next time her son calls she will take the time to tell him that she loves him. She will do so not wishing for control over his life, not even wishing to talk much to him at all, but to pass on the only thing that remains eternal, despite all which is guaranteed to end, in front of her or not.

(Girar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.)

Air Travel To Boom Between India – UAE

The India-Middle East sector is one that never sees a slump in demand. Whether it’s point-to-point flights for the significant Indian population residing in the Gulf countries or smooth layovers provided by hub airports for transit passengers, these routes are perennially in demand. With this in mind, it’s not all that surprising to see the UAE wanting a bigger slice of the pie.

The UAE has requested 50,000 more seats a week for air travel between the UAE and India.

This will allow for a greater presence of Dubai-based carriers in India, where air travel to the Middle East is growing increasingly popular. According to the New Indian Express, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority Director-General Mohammed A Ahli has written to India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and asked India to let Dubai based carriers to fly to more Indian cities, such as Amritsar, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Kannur, Goa, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, and Pune.

The report says that the UAE has been mounting pressure on the Indian government to allow more flights from there. Even Emirates President Tim Clark had earlier asked the Indian government to open up more routes.

Ahli, in his letter, stated, “As your esteemed offices will be aware, the current seat capacity of 65,200 seats was established vide the terms of the MoU between our respective Governments in 2014. In the past seven years not only has there been a very strong growth of passenger and freight between Dubai and India, but also both our countries have been at the forefront of major developments in aviation.”

Thousands Of Yellow Cab Owner-Drivers To See Debt Relief They Won After 45-Day Camp Out And 15-Day Hunger Strike

(New York, NY) Thousands of yellow cab medallion owner-drivers will finally begin to see the debt relief they won after NYTWA members held a 45-day camp out and 15-day hunger strike last November, as City Hall announced today that the program to provide a city-backed guarantee on restructured loans will be operational starting September 19th.

Under the program, loans that are reduced by medallion lenders to no more than $200,000 will receive a $30,000 grant and the remaining balance will be guaranteed by the city in case of default.

The average debt is currently $550,000 with average monthly payments at $3,000. Under the final program, the new loan term for thousands will be $170,000 payable at $1,234 per month.

The final program reflects an increase in interest agreed upon in November 2021 from 5% to 7.3% as rates have gone up due to inflation; and a longer term of 25 years from 20 years to help drivers offset some of that cost.

The loan will be secured by a city-backed guarantee, relieving thousands of drivers from the fear of losing their homes or thousands of dollars in case of default.

Marblegate Assets, the largest holder of loans, is ready to begin restructurings on September 19th – bringing immediate relief to the largest segment of owner-driver borrowers.

The City’s program is for all lenders and all eligible medallion owners (medallion owners who do not own more than 5 medallions.) Other lenders representing hundreds more loans are expected to also participate.

NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said: “We are finally at the starting line of a new life for thousands of drivers and our families. The city-backed guarantee is a ground-breaking program that will save and change lives. We are thankful to City Hall, the TLC, the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, the Law Department, and to Marblegate for burning the midnight oil to set up this historic program to address the crisis of debt across the industry. As we collectively work to end this crisis and hit re-start, we look forward to working with all lenders. I congratulate all of our union members who chose to organize, and not despair, and won back their lives. Against the darkness of a crushing debt, their courage remained the light, and today, the triumph is fully theirs.”


Since City Hall agreed to a city-backed guarantee in November 2021, the Adams administration’s TLC, Office of Management and Budget and Law Department have been working to make the program operational. The City negotiated program terms and documents with Marblegate Assets, the largest medallion loan holder, and NYTWA.

NYTWA members voted unanimously to give their sign-off at the end of negotiations.

The new terms for drivers means:

  • No personal guarantee in case of default
  • No Confession of Judgment; COJ are pre-signed documents by the borrower accepting responsibility in case of default and waving their right to a hearing. Lenders would be empowered to skip the court process including a trial to receive a judgment that could then be collected on immediately; including going after people’s homes as the COJ would be combined with a personal guarantee.
  • No balloon payments; Balloon payments meant that the lender could demand the full balance on a loan at the end of a balloon which would typically be every 3 or 5 years. Owner-drivers would be forced to agree to any new terms, including high interest rates, the lender would demand at the end of the balloon.
  • No pre-payment penalty in case a borrower wants to pay off the loan earlier


Click here to see our statement on November 3, 2021 when the agreement was first reached

A Space in the World

Set in Buenos Aires, from Son’s perspective

I am sitting outside of the school director’s office, one of these uncomfortable plastic chairs the students probably are used to. This British language institute isn’t one of the more famous ones. I found out about it from some ads I saw online, sent an email, and am now hopefully going to get my next job.

It is just my third day in Buenos Aires. A few days in Santiago and I thought, This city is too all over the place for me. I have to get out. A few days in the Southern Cone and I thought, This part of the world is just too cold for me. I flew all the way to the other side of Latin America because I wanted something different, but not in terms of temperature. A few days in Buenos Aires, and I’ve thought, Beautiful buildings everywhere, something that finally reminds me of what I bet the architecture of Spain or Italy would be like. The weather’s a little chilly, but not too bad, typical autumn fare. The wind picks up because there are tall and elegant buildings directing it to its lanes.

As for the people, they’re not always the nicest behaving. Most Argentinians are very white. I have the feeling that they see a person of colour and wonder if I’m out to steal something. Or maybe they are too busy to act nice. Buenos Aires seems like one of those cities in which life takes on the appearance of quickness. I say “the appearance” because even though everyone is running about, I also get the sense that they really don’t have that much going on at all. It’s like their empanadas—the steam runs out quick, but the flavour inside remains soggy for hours.

It’s been about fifteen minutes, past nine, the hour of our appointment. When is the director going to call me in for the interview?

Just as I’m thinking it, the rusty door creaks open and an olive-coloured face with glasses is waving me to come inside. I get off my chair and try to give the woman a handshake, but she avoids my hands even as her face gets closer. I think her lips are puckered, and I am confused.

Her lips go onto one cheek, and I remember that people greet this way in certain parts of the world. I lean in to kiss, but it’s too late. The woman hacks out a chortle.

‘You’re clearly not used to the way we do things,’ she says, in a somewhat forced but accomplished British style of an accent. It’s a little too perfected, if anything, and it makes her put-down that much more grating. I try to put on a smile. Obviously I don’t understand how to do these things. She’s the first local I’ve had to greet like this. In the backpacker hostels, everyone is from another country, and the youngsters who run it are so busy smoking up their cannabis that if they touch someone, it has a very different meaning.

Anyways, I’m thinking about what to say as I follow her into the room.

The woman takes her seat on the other side of her desk and slaps a file down, as if to signal that I should be sitting down on the other side of it. I take my seat and glance about. The room looks like it’s from the era of Eva Perón. There is a purple rug on the floor and posters of famous Argentinian intellectuals whom I can’t quite recognise. One is Borges, one looks like an actor, and some have the stare of politicians. There is a dusty smell to the room. I am glad I am wearing my mask, or I might be sneezing. Cabinets are open, files are laid out all over, and a half-drunk 1ate container is by her computer. She is even lighting a cigarette for herself as she opens up the file.

She is so different from the last boss I had in Mexico City.

I sit there awkwardly, not saying anything. She looks back alertly at me, as if she has remembered she was the one who called me in. She clears her throat and keeps the file in front of her eyes.

‘So, you are looking to teach English in Buenos Aires?’

‘Sí, señora.’

She gives me a little snubbing look through her glasses.

‘You can speak to me in English.’

And I thought my Spanish pronunciation was improving. ‘Yes, yes,’ and I add in Spanish for good measure, ‘Claro que sí.’

She opens one of the files and looks at something. She goes on, ‘So, you haven’t done an official course.’

‘A CELTA or TEFL? No.’

‘And you don’t have much work experience?’

‘I’ve taught a bit in Mexico, but otherwise, no.’

The director swats a bit of the air with her cigarette.

‘Then, why do you think we should hire you?’

I swallow the air, because I’m feeling a very annoyed swirl of emotion in my chest. It would be very easy for me to say exactly what I’m thinking.

Well, why not hire me? I’m a native speaker. Isn’t that enough? I didn’t hear a single native speaker when I was coming up to your office. I bet I could teach these students a more natural English register than your put-on British affect.

But I don’t say that, because I know being a teacher has little to do with pronunciation. The truth is, I might not know grammar better than any of these Argentinians, who probably have decades of experience.

I tell her instead what I’m feeling.

‘Look, señora, I just got into Buenos Aires, and I’m loving it here. Really, your country is amazing. And after spending so many months in Mexico and hating every second of it, I’d really love to be in a place where I’m happy, you know what I mean?’

The director smiles politely, strangely, and then types at her computer.

‘There are a lot of schools here who would hear your perfect English and hire you. We’re not one of them.’

She puts the papers she was looking at back into the file, and I’m able to get a quick glance at them. Huh. It wasn’t actually my résumé she was looking at,  just some internal tax returns that she was reviewing while talking to me.

So, I have my answer. I know how seriously she takes me. I stand up and thank her for her time. But in a bid to be just a little snarky, I also say, ‘I know there are many more schools willing to consider me. I’d be more than happy to be considered by them.’

The director smiles. I’m thinking she’s a little charmed by my temerity, but then she says, ‘I wouldn’t recommend you interview with them, either.’

I push the chair closer to her desk. A lot of emotion is coming out, and I don’t know why.

‘Because you think I’m not good enough for it?’

The director has finished her cigarette. She’s only been smoking it for a few minutes. I’m sure it has plenty more tobacco, and yet she’s snuffing it in her ashtray. And yet she’s looking at me, with the smoke fuming between us. I might have shown a bit too much of my insecurities.

But she’s looking like she’s feeling really sorry for me.

‘No, mi amor. Look at the state of this country you claim to have fallen in love with. We’re having some of the worst inflation in the world. Most of our population is going homeless. Even the teachers we already have, we are considering firing. There’s no space for anyone to come into this country and teach. That’s not just at this school, but any school.’

No, that can’t be true, is my first gut reaction. I’ve hopped all around Central America. I’ve spent hundreds of US dollars to get here all the way from Mexico. I’ve wasted money going up and down this country and Chile and god knows where else it’ll have to be if I don’t get a job here.

There’s no reason to say any of this to her face. She clearly has a busy day ahead of her. I tell her goodbye and take my leave. She doesn’t kiss me again on the cheeks, just shows me to the door, a fresh cigarette in her wrinkled fingers. I take the stairs three storeys down and out of the building.

This director was nice enough, but also not really, and it’d be a little bit of a cliché if I ended up working for some British school all the way in Argentina. I’m better than that.

I’m better than this, is all.

I get out of the school and am immediately greeted by the August chill. It’s a cold breeze that puts me back into the moment. People all around me are wearing sweaters or jackets. I’m probably the only one not well covered up. My hostel is just on the other side of some of these buildings, in a small lane next to a huge avenue, on the other side of one of the city’s major theatres. I’m not in the mood to head there yet. There’s a side of the city that’s on the port. I feel like going in that direction.

The director is right. There are a lot of homeless people about. The person cleaning the rooms at the hostel explained it away to me a few days ago, that all of it is recent, from the inflation and COVID. I was glad to hear it, but I knew she was telling it to me to make me less concerned about how poor Argentina looks. And that worked for a while. I stopped thinking about how discomforting or not it was to see so many people on the streets.

I never put that into the context of what it would mean if I were to try to work here, and in terms of the future of this city and country as a whole. It doesn’t matter how much the colours on these buildings gleam if the people under them are starving.

And that contrast is getting worse. The closer one gets to the port, the taller and more ostentatious the buildings get. It feels like you’re in the thick of New York or Chicago, with skyscrapers all around you. Not that I’ve been to either, but again, that’s just the foreigner’s feeling I am getting. But then at each side end of the boulevard is a person coming up to me and asking for pesos. I say no once, I say no twice, and by the third time I’m aggravated.

Why do I want to take work opportunities from people here, when all I have to do to have a good standard of living is go back home?

It’s been fifteen minutes of walking. I want to go to the port, but I’m also getting tired. I think I’ll have breakfast—some empanadas will be good. I find a place that has a clear queue of hungry people and decide to stand in it. This must mean the place is good.

I get to where I can order and see the sweat on the cashier’s face, and I think, Is it crowded because everyone likes the empanadas, or is it the only thing people nowadays can afford?

I try to order in my bad Spanish. The cashier gets impatient and says something firm with me. I don’t understand because I don’t know Spanish, and she makes a very angered face, passionately swatting the air with her hands and shouting on in her language. A person pulls me aside. I think they’re going to help, but they push me away. Others in the line move forward. One by one they get their empanadas and leave. I’m thinking someone, just anyone, who speaks English will soon come up and help me order, but no one does.

I feel so angry and humiliated that I force myself to go.

This is nothing like Mexico. There, at least, they would have made an effort to help. The people I met liked getting to know foreigners. And if someone didn’t understand me, they might not have liked it, but they were at least polite.

Maybe I shouldn’t have left. It was getting boring, but every place gets boring. I made a huge gamble in coming here, and I just have to accept that it’s most likely not going to pay off. I can hop to Brazil, I can go up north towards Bolivia, but that doesn’t mean that any of it is going to work out.

A calmer voice in my head is trying to tell myself, If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Let it go.

In reality, there’s nothing but tension running up and down my throat.

“Fuck Buenos Aires,” I shout.

I didn’t want to say that out loud, and now people are staring.

“Fuck Buenos Aires,” I say again.

This time some young guys are looking at me with a smile, nodding to themselves.

“Fuck Buenos Aires,” I say, this time laughing at myself.

I like this city. I really do. People are a little too blunt, people show frustration more than what I’m used to, but I’m still at peace at the end of the day, standing here, with the flow of traffic all about me, with the cedars and the buildings. If I’m not able to find teaching work once classes start, and prices are indeed going up, well, that’s no good news at all. But if I like it here, then I like it here. That is it. I have to give it a shot. There’s nothing wrong with trying a few other interviews here or there. I have the rest of the day—no, I have the rest of the month. I can try to scrounge something up.

I have to have faith in the possibility of being successful in what I want. We need that faith to go anywhere, literally anywhere in life. Otherwise there’s not a chance at all that I will pull through. I’ll go give myself that faith, even if no one else has it in me.

The only one who can give myself space to be in this world is myself.

We are all in our own ways trying to survive—and that includes me.

(KIRAN BHATi is a global citizen formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, to parents from Southern Karnataka, in India. I think since I was a teenager I was interested in global themes. Around seventeen, I re-member wanting to tell people I wanted to write a collection of stories for each country in the world, telling a myriad of tales of things happening there. For more details about his journey to over 100 countries in the world, please visit: Kiran Bhat – A a playspace for one person who pretends to be seven billion people at once. (kiranbhatweldgeist.com)

Air India Launches Additional Flights To Connect Key Metros

Aiming to boost connectivity between key metro cities, Air India will start 24 additional domestic flights from Saturday onwards.

Most of these flights will be deployed on the routes of metro cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, among others.

While Air India will add two new frequencies from Delhi to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and from Mumbai to Chennai and Hyderabad, one new frequency on the Mumbai-Bengaluru route and Ahmedabad-Pune route will be included as well.

“The additional 24 flights include two new frequencies from Delhi to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and from Mumbai to Chennai and Hyderabad, as well as one new frequency on the Mumbai-Bengaluru route and Ahmedabad-Pune route,” the airline said in a statement.

Commenting on the network expansion, Campbell Wilson, MD and CEO, Air India, said: “This expansion bolsters connectivity between key metros, and improves connectivity between Air India’s domestic and international networks.Over the past six months, Air India has been working closely with our partners to return aircraft to service, and we are delighted that this effort is now bearing fruit.”

Air India’s narrow body fleet currently stands at 70 aircraft, of which 54are currently serviceable. The remaining 16 aircraft will progressively return to service by early 2023. (IANS)

India Plans 1,000 Routes, 220 Airports By 2026

People will have more options to fly from one city to another as nearly 220 destinations including airports, heliports and water aerodromes with 1,000 routes have been planned to be completed under UDAN regional connectivity scheme.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s flagship programme Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN has completed 5 years of success since the launch of its first flight by the Prime Minister on April 27, 2017.

The scheme was initiated on October 21, 2016 with the objective to fulfil the aspirations of the common citizen by following the vision of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’, with an enhanced aviation infrastructure and air connectivity in tier II and tier III cities.

On the occasion, Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “The success of RCS UDAN is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’. It has played a great role in the transformation of the Indian aviation industry. So far under this scheme, we have 425 routes aiming to go up to 1,000 routes, 68 new airports aiming to touch 100 airports.

“In the next 4 years, we are expecting 40 crore travellers through Civil Aviation in India. That day is not far when along with rail transport and road transport Civil Aviation will become the bulwark of the transportation in India.”

In the last five years, UDAN has significantly increased the regional air-connectivity in the country. There were 74 operational airports in 2014. Because of the UDAN scheme, this number has increased to 141 by now.

At least 68 under-served/unserved destinations which include 58 Airports, 8 Heliports and 2 Water Aerodromes have been connected under UDAN scheme.

With 425 new routes initiated under the scheme, UDAN has provided air connectivity to more than 29 states/ UTs across the length and breadth of the country. More than one crore passengers have availed the benefits of this scheme as on August 4. (IANS)

India’s Outbound Tourism Sector To Expand Beyond 42 Billion Dollars By 2024

A report by leading business consulting firm Nangia Andersen LLP in association with the Federation of Indian Commerce and Industry says that outbound trips from India will surpass US$42 billion by 2024. The report, titled “Outbound Travel and Tourism – An Opportunity Untapped”, was presented in the recently-held second edition of the Outbound Tourism Summit. The report was concerned with the rapidly developing Indian travel market, outlining a framework for creating a more value-for-money experience for Indian tourists and travelers.

Outbound trips from India will surpass USD 42 billion by 2024 and the government could bring about certain policy changes to boost this growing market, a report said.

The report’ titled ‘Outbound Travel and Tourism – An Opportunity Untapped’ by Nangia Andersen LLP in association with FICCI, highlights the up-and-coming Indian travel market and outline a framework for creating a more value for money experience for Indian tourists and travellers.

To facilitate ease of doing business and promote the interests of Indian firms dealing in outbound travel the government could look at steps like increasing direct connections to popular and upcoming destinations, allowing foreign cruise vessels to operate on Indian waters, besides taking concerted and coordinated efforts on multiple fronts to propel the outbound tourism market, the report said.

Nangia Andersen LLP Head – Government and Public Sector Advisory Suraj Nangia said Indian outbound tourism is going to surpass USD 42 billion by 2024.

“We are soon going to be the most populous country in the world with the fastest growing economy. The Indian outbound travel market is among the fastest growing markets globally with approximately 80 million passport level of purchasing power, especially among the middle class.”

The report noted that allowing foreign cruise vessels to include Indian destinations as a stop would encourage both inbound and outbound tourism as well as increase revenue for Indian ports.

With a growing economy, young population, and growing middle class, India is ideally positioned to become one of the most lucrative outbound tourism markers in the world. Europe sees 20 per cent of the travellers from India’s outbound traffic. 10 per cent travel to Australia and New Zealand, while the rest of the traffic is towards South east Asia, it said.

Nangia Andersen LLP Partner – Government and Public Sector Advisory Poonam Kaura said, “With the positive response of foreign delegations and their policies, our government can surely establish bilateral relations with tourist-friendly countries for both inbound and outbound tourists.

In 2021, Indians spent approximately USD 12.6 billion in outbound trips, compared to USD 22.9 billion in 2019. While the reason for decrease in spending could be due to the pandemic but these figures point out the huge value that can be captured from Indian outbound travellers, the report added.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Air India To Induct Wide-Body Aircraft

With a view to expand its network, Air India has planned to induct wide-body aircraft into its fleet. Total 10 grounded aircrafts will be brought back into service by early 2023, reporst suggested.

A wide-body aircraft is generally deployed on International routes as its bigger fuel tank allows it to travel on long-haul international routes like India-US and India-Canada.

Air India’s wide-body fleet currently stands at 43 aircraft, of which 33 are operational. This is a significant improvement from 28 aircraft that the airline was operating till recently,” said the airline.

The airline on Sunday also announced that it will operate daily flights between Delhi and Vancouver (Canada) from August 31 onwards. Currently, it operates Delhi-Vancouver service three times per week. Frequency on this route has been increased keeping in view the growing traffic between India and Canada and has been enabled by the return to service of the wide-body Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft.

The airline said that Boeing has been working closely with Air India following its acquisition by Tata Group to restore aircraft that had been grounded for prolonged periods due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other reasons.

“The progressive restoration of these aircraft has already allowed Air India to increase schedule resilience and will allow further frequency and network increases over the coming months,” it added.

It was on January 27 this year when the Tata Group took control of Air India after successfully winning the bid for the airline on October 8 last year. Air India’s newly appointed CMD Campbell Wilson had in the last week of July asked the airline’s Integrated Operations Control Center (IOCC), which is the “nerve centre” of any carrier, to report directly to him and give recommendations on how to improve the on-time performance. Wilson said in a statement that the increase of frequency on Delhi-Vancouver route marks the first step in restoring Air India’s fleet and international network.

US Dollar Gains Are Boon To Americans Traveling Abroad

The surging value of the U.S. dollar in recent weeks is a boon to the American traveler, who will get more bang for their buck overseas despite surging inflation at home.  

But a strong American currency could limit international visitors to the U.S., where tourism firms are still licking their wounds from the height of the pandemic.  

The dollar recently hit parity with the euro for the first time in two decades, making trips to Europe 10 to 15 percent less expensive for Americans than at the same time last year.  

The dollar is also soaring in destinations like Thailand, India and South Korea — countries with ample tourism interest from Americans and relatively weaker economic growth than the U.S. 

“With the rising cost of travel, the strong U.S. dollar is a net positive amidst all the disruption in the industry,” said Erika Richter, vice president of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors.  Richter noted that Americans are spending 11 percent more on travel compared to 2019. 

The idea of a strong dollar might seem like a farce to Americans after annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June and the price of gas and food rose far faster. But the dollar has still become more valuable abroad even as it yields less in goods and services at home. 

Demand for the U.S. dollar in other countries has skyrocketed amid concerns about a global recession caused by high inflation, the war in Ukraine and lingering COVID-19 supply shocks.  

While the U.S. is not immune from those threats, the economy has held up far stronger than other nations, making its currency more valuable abroad. The dollar is also used as the world’s reserve currency, meaning foreign individuals and companies will often boost their holdings and conduct transactions in dollars to protect themselves from financial shocks. 

The strength of the U.S. economy has allowed the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates at a much faster pace. That makes the U.S. dollar more expensive to acquire — and more valuable in other countries. 

“A stronger dollar benefits American households directly if they want to travel to Europe, as the relative cost of everything is cheaper. It also makes imports cheaper for American households and businesses,” explained Angel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics. 

Half of American travelers say high prices kept them from traveling in June, up 8 percentage points from the previous month, according to a recent survey from Destination Analysts. 

But favorable exchange rates blunt the impact of inflation, which has risen at similar rates to the U.S. in Europe. Expedia data found that searches for summer trips to popular European destinations such as Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam and Dublin rose by double digits last week. Copenhagen, Athens and Madrid saw similar increases in lodging interest, according to Hotels.com. 

“The U.S. has never really developed its tourism infrastructure the way Europe has, so a lot of our inventory sold out months ago,” said Leslie Overton, an advisor at travel firm Fora. “While I’m not saying either is cheap, Europe might be considered more competitive than some of the higher end product here in the U.S. right now.” 

One dollar buys roughly 15 percent more than it did one year ago in the 19 European countries that use the euro. The dollar is trading at its highest ever level against India’s rupee and Thailand’s baht. The Mexican peso and Canadian dollar have remained mostly flat.  

But currency fluctuations won’t help much with soaring airfares. While domestic airfare is 13 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, international flights are 22 percent pricier, according to data from travel firm Hopper. 

Those traveling to parts of Europe face a heightened risk of delays or cancellations.  London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets after staffing shortages forced the airport to delay roughly half of its flights this month. The Netherlands’ largest airport is similarly making large cuts to its flight schedules, driving up prices.  

Conversely, the strength of the dollar will make trips to the U.S. far more expensive for many international travelers, potentially weakening the U.S. tourism industry as it aims to claw back some of the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.  

A stronger U.S. dollar also boosts pressure on global economies to raise their own interest rates to keep up, a force that raises the risk of a severe global recession that could bounce back to the U.S. in dangerous ways. 

The U.S. welcomed 22.1 million inbound travelers in 2021 — down 79 percent from 2019 — amid COVID-19 travel restrictions that lasted throughout most of the year, according to the International Trade Administration. The agency found that the lack of tourism in the U.S. in the first year of the pandemic accounted for 56 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product decline.

US Drops Pre-Travel Covid Testing Requirement For International Travelers

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention citing a “new phase” of the Covid pandemic in a statement confirming the rule change, lifting the requirement for international travelers to have Covid test prior to within 24 hourrs of traveling to the United States, as of Sunday, June 12th, 2022.

“Widespread uptake of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States” have all helped lower the risk of severe disease and death, the agency said.

Many travelers in the United States and abroad have been waiting for it. The travel industry has been pushing for it. And now an end has come to the requirement for travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the US. Navigating ever-shifting entry requirements across the globe has been a source of great confusion for travelers everywhere.

Here’s what we know about how the new policy will impact US arrivals:

When does the the pre-travel testing requirement be lifted?

The requirement ended on Sunday, June 12, at 12:01 a.m. ET.

That means flights departing to the US from a foreign country at or after that time no longer have to present a negative test result or documentation of recovery in the past 90 days from Covid-19.

Departures before that time will require testing.

Is the decision final?

Like many measures targeting Covid-19, the rules are subject to change.

“CDC continues to evaluate the latest science and state of the pandemic and will reassess the need for a testing requirement if the situation changes,” the agency said in a statement.

Do foreign arrivals to the US still need to be vaccinated?

Yes. The vaccination requirement for foreign arrivals has not changed.

Travelers 18 and older who are not US citizens, US nationals, legal permanent residents or immigrants must be fully vaccinated to travel to the US, with limited exceptions.

Children 17 and under are not required to be vaccinated.

What about unvaccinated Americans?

The end of the testing requirement applies to all travelers previously required to present negative test results, and vaccination requirements to enter the United States do not apply to US citizens.

What is the CDC’s recommendation for travel?

The CDC still recommends that travelers remain up to date on vaccinations and test for infection before and after travel and after any known exposure to someone with Covid-19.

The CDC also continues to recommend wearing masks in indoor public transportation settings. Masks are no longer required.

Are land border and ferry port arrivals affected by the rule change?

No. The rule change applies to air travel. Covid-19 testing has not been required for entry via a land or ferry port. Non-US travelers 18 and older must be fully vaccinated to enter the US.

According to Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, there were good reasons to have the testing requirements at other points during the pandemic. “Having the testing requirement is not doing much, if anything, to keep the coronavirus out of the US, and instead is creating a major barrier to people who wish to travel abroad and return,” Wen said. “Of course, if people have symptoms or exposure while traveling, they need to get tested, and if they test positive, to follow CDC’s isolation guidelines.”

Why Are We Paying More To Fly?

High airfare is a global worry now. In the United States and around the world, travelers have been complaining for quite some about unusually high airfares almost on all routes. These are the times of summer vacation in schools in many parts of India, and also in courts. So, if you booked or attempted to book air tickets, you must have felt a bigger hole burning in your pocket.

Blame Covid-19: The pandemic forced the governments across the world to impose travel restrictions and opt for travel bubbles with highly regulated flight operations. Now, with the worst of Covid-19 seemingly over, restrictions are gone or in the days of force.

A travel burst: The international travel observers are saying that the demand for air travel is “off the charts” – even about 30% higher than the pre-pandemic levels. This is the pent up travel demands accumulated over the past two years. This is why internet searches show sky-high airfares for many routes.

Costlier fuel: The prices of Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has been skyrocketing for several months, also due to the Russia-Ukraine war. ATF makes up about 40% of the operational cost for airlines. With lower ATF prices in pre-pandemic time, it formed 25-30% of the operational cost.

Fewer staff: The pandemic saw airlines reducing their fleet strength as well as the number of pilots, flight attendants, ground handlers and other aviation workers. Reports suggest that new hirings have begun but it takes time to put things in order for flight operation.

Repairing finances: Aviation sector, a capital-intensive business, runs on wafer-thin margins. Huge rush of travellers and an unusually high airfare are offering the airlines an opportunity to repair their balance sheets. This high-price situation, experts say, is likely to last a few more months globally.

Noida To Have India’s Largest Airport

Tata Projects will construct the Noida International Airport in Greater Noida. Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100% subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida Airport

Tata Group’s infrastructure and construction arm, Tata Projects, has bagged the contract to construct the upcoming Noida International Airport at Greater Noida’s Jewar, in Uttar Pradesh.

As part of the contract, Tata Projects will construct the terminal, runway, airside infrastructure, roads, utilities, landside facilities and other ancillary buildings at the airport, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) said in a statement today.

Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida International Airport.

In 2019, Zurich Airport International AG won the bid to develop the airport. The Uttar Pradesh government signed the concession agreement with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited on October 7, 2020, to commence the development of the Noida International Airport.

Noida International Airport will be India’s largest airport once constructed fully.

The greenfield facility, spread in 1,334 hectares, will have a single-runway operation in the first phase with a capacity to handle 12-million passengers per annum at an investment of ₹ 5,700 crore.

“YIAPL has selected Tata Projects Ltd to undertake the Engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of Noida International Airport. The company has been selected from three shortlisted teams with demonstrated experience in the design, procurement, and construction of large infrastructure projects,” the statement said.

The new airport is expected to be functional by 2024, as per the developer. With the closure of the EPC contract, the first phase of the airport is on track to be delivered within three years of the commencement of the concession period, YIAPL said.

“We are pleased to partner with Tata Projects for EPC work at Noida International Airport. With the award of this contract, our project enters the next phase, which will witness a rapid increase in the pace of construction activities on site,” said Christoph Schnellmann, Chief Executive Officer, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited.

The company, together with Tata Projects, is working to deliver a passenger terminal, runway, and other airport infrastructure with a capacity of 12 million passengers annually, by 2024, he said.

“Tata Projects will work closely with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited to deliver the airport on time. We will deploy the latest technologies in its construction, while meeting the highest standards of quality, safety, and sustainability,” said Vinayak Pai, CEO and MD-designate at Tata Projects Ltd.

Comments Tata Projects’ other major projects include the New Parliament Building, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, and metro rail lines across various cities, as per the statement.

With DGCA Nod, Jet Can Fly Now

Jet Airways  was granted the airline operating permit (AOP) or licence by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week, more than three years after it suspended operations in April 2019. The airline, which is expected to start operations by September, bought Air Sahara initially in April 2007 for Rs 1,450 crore though the deal fell through and was finally concluded in 2013 for Rs 2,300 crore.The DGCA has granted  Jet Airways NSE 4.98 % its air operator’s certificate (AOC), officially paving the way for the grounded airline to take to the skies once again.

The grant of the AOC was the final step in a comprehensive regulatory and compliance process involving several procedural checks for the airline’s operational readiness.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation chief Arun Kumar told PTI the AOC has been granted to the airline, which saw turbulent times before being grounded three years ago.

In its old avatar, the airline was owned by Naresh Goyal and had operated its last flight on April 17, 2019, due to financial distress. The Jalan-Kalrock Consortium is currently the promoter of Jet Airways. The airline intends to restart commercial flight operations in the July-September quarter.

With DGCA officials on board, the airline had successfully operated five proving flights on May 15 and 17. Proving flights are the last step before an airline can obtain an AOC.

In a statement, Jet Airways said with the receipt of the AOC, the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium has fulfilled all the conditions under the resolution plan approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.

“Aircraft and fleet plan, network, product and customer value proposition, loyalty program, and other details will be unveiled in a phased manner over the coming weeks,” it noted.

Additional senior management appointments will be unveiled in the next week, and hiring for operational roles will also now commence in earnest, with former Jet Airways staff getting preference wherever possible, it said.

Murari Lal Jalan, the lead member of Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, said, ”Today marks a new dawn for not just Jet Airways, but also for the Indian aviation industry.”

“We are committed to making this an extraordinary success story in Indian aviation and in Indian business,” he added.

Financial distress forced Jet Airways, which flew for more than two decades, to suspend operations on April 17, 2019 and a consortium of lenders, led by State Bank of India, filed an insolvency petition in June 2019 to recover outstanding dues worth over Rs 8,000 crore.

In October 2020, the airline’s Committee of Creditors approved the resolution plan submitted by the consortium of the UK’s Kalrock Capital and the UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan.

In June 2021, the resolution plan was approved by the NCLT.

AAHOA Celebrates the Retirement of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., with Lifetime Achievement Award

AAHOA celebrated the career of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., as he retired as Marriott International Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board on May 6th As stated by Marriott International, “he leaves the company after 66 years of unparalleled service and leadership.” 

During AAHOACON22 last month, Mr. Marriott was presented with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to an individual whose contributions and dedication to the hotel industry have spanned their entire career.

Individuals are honored with this prestigious award because they raise up not only their own organizations, but everyone in the profession.

“Anyone could recite and recount his many achievements, innovations, and the legacy he has established over the course of his career,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel. ”But, for AAHOA Members, he is defined by the courage, empathy, and strength of character he has displayed through his many leadership roles with Marriott International.”

Marriott, like AAHOA, has a rich history and a family tradition of passing down a legacy. As a young teenager, Mr. Marriott worked for his father, doing odd jobs in the business to help out. Many of AAHOA’s hoteliers and members can relate to that – many of them growing up in their parent’s hotels and working toward achieving the American Dream.

“Because of his unique and visionary contributions to the hospitality industry, on behalf of AAHOA’s more than 20,000 members, we are honored to present Mr. Marriott with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award,” Patel said.

AAHOA congratulates Mr. Marriott for an incredible career that will leave a lasting impact on the industry for generations to come and also congratulates David S. Marriott for assuming the position as Marriott International’s Chairman of the Board. 

“We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Marriott under David’s leadership, and we thank Mr. Marriott for all he has done for our industry and our members,” Patel said. 

India’s First International Cruise Conference To Be Held In Mumbai

Giving a boost to both the shipping and tourism sectors, India will host the first-ever Incredible India International Cruise Conference in May, 2022 months before the commissioning of the iconic cruise terminal in Mumbai.

On May 14-15, the Mumbai Port Authority (MPA) will hold the event in India’s financial capital. Mumbai will open the first-of-its-kind iconic sea cruise terminal in July 2024.

The conference will also showcase ports on the west coast, such as Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Lakshadweep, as well as Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Andaman as cruise centers of the country.

The two-day event in Mumbai is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Minister noted during a news conference in Mumbai that the Indian cruise market had the potential to develop tenfold over the next decade, owing to increased demand and disposable incomes.

According to the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Sagarmala programme connects the ports of Chennai, Vizag, and Andaman with Goa, which attracts the most tourists.

Sarbananda Sonowal also revealed the Conference’s brochure, logo, and mascot, Captain Cruzo. During the press conference, he also launched the event website, www.iiicc2022.in. The focus of the conference will be on Developing India as a Cruise Hub.

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Rajiv Jalota, Chairman of the Mumbai Port Authority, and Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, all spoke at the event.

Travel Mask Mandate Suspended After Judge Strikes It Down

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is no longer enforcing the federal government’s mask mandate for travel after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) directive, media reports here suggested.  

“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps,” a Biden administration official said. “In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.” 

“Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time,” the official said.  

The Biden administration is still encouraging travelers to wear masks on public transit in order to protect against COVID-19 in the wake of Monday’s ruling. But those who do not wear face coverings on planes and other modes of public transportation will not face consequences.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Monday that the ruling was “disappointing” and that the administration was reviewing the decision.  

The Justice Department would make any decision on litigation, she said. The administration could choose to appeal the ruling.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of former President Trump, voided the CDC’s mandate earlier on Monday, writing that the agency exceeded its statutory authority with the order requiring mask use on planes, trains and other forms of public transit.  

The ruling came just days after the CDC extended the mandate for 15 days through May 3. In extending the mandate, the agency said it was reviewing the impact of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.  

Delhi Airport Is World’s Third Busiest Airport

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was the third busiest airport in the world. The information was revealed by a report based on the data provided by the UK based data provider Official Airline Guide (OAG). The organization monitors global travel data and analyses multiple aspects like busiest airports, busiest flight routes and a myriad of other travel-related data.

US airports dominated the list of busiest airports in March, claiming five of the top 10 spots.

According to a report published by the UK-based Official Airline Guide (OAG), Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is the world’s third busiest airport.

Atlanta International Airport in the United States is first on the list, followed by Dubai International Airport. According to the OAG report, Delhi’s IGIA airport has eclipsed China’s Guangzhou airport, moving up six points to take third place. Guangzhou airport in China is now the world’s fourth busiest.

Other airports on the top 10 list include Dallas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Tokyo International (Haneda), and London Heathrow Airport.

US airports have significantly dominated the list of busiest airports, capturing five out of the top ten positions in the list for the month of March. The OAG report says, “Growth of the US airports has come at the expense of Asian presence in the Global Top 10 as some of the big global airports of 2019, such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, slide down from their 2019 positions affected by travel restrictions.”

2,210 Additional Planes Needed In India Over Next 20 Years

Reuters: -Airbus expects Indian airlines to order 2,210 planes over the next 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 1,900, it said on Thursday, citing growth in the country’s aviation sector.

With low-cost carriers making up the bulk of the Indian market, Airbus expects airlines will need 1,770 narrowbody planes to grow their fleets and replace old planes, with the remainder being widebody planes, Brent McBratney, head of airline marketing for India and South Asia, said at an air show.

India’s domestic and international air travel market is expected to grow 6.2% per year over the next 20 years, outpacing average global growth of about 3.9%, McBratney said.

While a proliferation of low-cost carriers has spurred demand for narrowbody planes in India, McBratney also expects growth in long-haul travel, which he said was a largely untapped market for Indian carriers.

Domestic air travel in India is recovering from the pandemic, helping airlines such as IndiGo, which is Airbus’ biggest customer for its A320 narrowbody planes, and Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, to boost capacity and utilisation levels.

But as crude prices hit record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of jet fuel has risen, which could lead to higher ticket prices and temper demand.

However, Airbus expects domestic air travel in India to reach pre-COVID levels by mid-2022, while international travel traffic is expected to recover by next year. Airbus said in November it expected a market total of 39,020 jetliner deliveries over the next 20 years, fractionally lower than the 39,213 it forecast two years earlier.

Chandrasekaran Appointed As Air India Chairman

Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran has been appointed as Air India Chairman, a group spokesperson said. The development comes as the Tata Group scouts for a new Air India CEO-MD.

Earlier this month, ex-Turkish Airlines head Mehmet Ilker Ayci, who was named as the new Air India CEO-MD, declined the position. No reason was given for Ayci’s decision.

Last month, the Tata Group-led Air India announced the appointment of Ayci as the new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the airline. At that time, Ayci while accepting the position said he is “delighted and honoured to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group”. He was expected to take the charge on or before April 1.

Ayci, 51, until recently was the Chairman of Turkish Airlines and was also on its Board of Directors prior to that.

Recently, the Tata Group bought the debt ridden state-owned Air India from the Central government by placing a bid of over Rs 18,000 crore at an auction and on January 27, it took over the full control of the airlines.

India To Resume Scheduled International Flights From March 27

India will allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from March 27. “After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India from March 27, 2022,” an official communique said on Tuesday.

“The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India, thus, stands extended only upto 2359 hrs IST on March 26, 2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only.”

Last year, the Centre had decided to allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from December 15. However, the decision was suspended after the spread of Omicron variant of Covid-19. (IANS)

A New Phase For AIR INDIA Begins As Tata Group Appoints Former Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci As New Air India MD And CEO

The Tata Group has appointed Ilker Ayci — former Turkish Airlines Chairman — as Air India’s Managing Director and CEO effective on or before April 1. The development is in line with the Tata Group’s plans to appoint an expatriate chief to run the airline it took over from the Indian government last month.

The Air India board met on Monday last week to consider the candidature of Ayci, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, and approved his appointment, Tata Sons said in a statement. Ayci’s appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.

The announcement also comes a day after Air India asked its cabin crew to wear minimal jewellery to avoid delays at security checks and not to visit duty-free shops after clearing the immigration process as part of the airline’s efforts to improve its on-time performance.

Commenting on the appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era.”

Ilker Ayci was chairman of Turkish Airlines since 2015, and his resignation from the post was announced by the airline on January 27 this year — the same day Tatas were handed over Air India by the Centre.

During his professional career, Ayci has been an advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, where he took part in a number of development projects in Turkey’s largest city. Erdoğan is currently the President of Turkey.

Ayci was born in Istanbul in 1971. He is 1994 alumni of Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, according to the Tata Group statement. After a research stay on political science at the Leeds University in the UK in 1995, he completed an International Relations Master’s program at the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.

“Tata Group made the winning bid at ₹18,000 crore to bag the airline in October last year. Of this, ₹15,300 crore is in the form of debt, while the remaining ₹2,700 crore is in cash. The cash consideration has been paid to the government.

The airline is run by Tata Sons’ wholly-owned subsidiary Talace. Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore has been transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle formed by the government in 2019 for holding debt and non-core assets of Air India.

Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1932, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India in 1946, and it began flights to Europe in 1948 under the banner of Air India International. The airline was nationalised in 1953 by the nation’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, and AIXL a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these are owned by the company. More than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues comes from the international market.

Tata Group Chairman Tells Air India Staff To Look Ahead On A New Journey

Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has called upon Air India employees to work together to build ‘the airline our country needs’. In a communication to the employees, Chandrasekaran said: “Now is the time to look ahead.”

The communication to Air India employees came on a day when Tata Group subsidiary, Talace Private Limited, formally took over the managerial control of the airline.

“I, like many others, have enjoyed reflecting on stories from the airline’s brilliant past. My first flight was with Air India in December 1986, and I will never forget how special it felt to be onboard, or the exhilaration as we soared into the sky,” the letter read.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future,” it added. Notably, the purpose of the letter was to welcome the employees into the Tata Group “family”.

“Our group has its own storied past. I have learned that to preserve what is best about the past, requires constant change. It is by evolving, adapting and embracing the future that we best honour a glorious history,” Chandrasekaran said in the letter.

It added that the “golden age” of Air India lies ahead and the “journey towards it starts now”.

Indian Government has handed over the management control of Air India to Tata Group subsidiary Talace.

With this, Air India’s strategic disinvestment was complete after the Centre received a consideration of Rs 2,700 crore from the ‘Strategic Partner’ — Talace — which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tata Sons subsidiary Talace, which took over the managerial control of Air India on Thursday, will get more than 140 aircraft and eight logos, among other assets such as human resources.

However, the transaction does not include non-core assets, including land and building, valued at Rs 14,718 crore, which are to be transferred to government of India’s Air India Asset Holding Limited (AIAHL).

Besides, Tatas will also not get the world-famous art collection of Air India.

Nevertheless, the group will get Air India’s 117 wide-body and narrow body aircraft apart from 24 aircraft of Air India Express. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.

It will also get to operate these aircraft on over 4,000 domestic and 1,800 international routes.

Also, eight brand logos would be transferable to the Tatas, which they have to retail for a period of five years.

As far as revenues are concerned, more than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. The airline is still the largest player from India in the international market, having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe and Middle East, with attractive slots and bilateral rights.

Additionally, Air India comes with a frequent flyer programme which has more than three million members.

In terms of manpower, the conglomerate will get the total talent pool of Air India and Air India Express, which stands at over 13,000, including permanent as well as contractual employees.

Under the agreement with the Centre, no employee will be removed for one-year. In the second year, if an employee has to be removed, a VRS option will be provided.

The employees will be provided gratuity, provident fund and post-retirement medical benefits.

Financially, Tatas will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. It had to pay Rs 2,700 crore to the Centre as the cash component.

In addition, Tatas will need to take care of the Rs 20 crore loss per day that the company suffers.

There is also a three-year business continuity clause in the agreement.

Tatas would also need to maintain 51 per cent stake in the airline for at least one-year. Besides the upfront payment, Talace will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore.

The transaction covered three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS. Post the formal take over, a new board was constituted which included Tata Group’s executives.  (IANS)

Air India Set To Be Handed To Tata Group

AIR INDIA will likely be handed over to the Tata Group on January 27 with the disinvestment process reaching the final stages, according to the airline’s officials. The airline’s balance sheet was finalised and shared with the Mumbai-based conglomerate on Monday, and the company is expected to review it by Wednesday, following which the transfer will be made.

On October 11, the central government had issued the Letter of Intent (LoI) to the Tata Group, confirming its willingness to transfer 100 per cent stake in the airline. At the time, the expected timeline for transfer was set for December-end. This was extended to January-end on account of various pending approvals from global regulators and finalisation of the balance sheet by the lenders and the airline’s lessors.

The closing date of the balance sheet was set at January 20.

In a communication to the airline’s employees on Monday, Air India’s Director, Finance, Vinod Hejmadi wrote: “The disinvestment of Air India is now decided to be on the 27th January, 2022. The closing balance sheet as on 20th January has to be provided today, 24th January, so that it can be reviewed by Tatas and any changes can be effected on Wednesday”.

“We have done an excellent job till now in providing all support for the disinvestment exercise. The next three days will be hectic for our department and I request all of you to give your best in these last three-four days before we get divested. We may have to work late in the night to complete the task given to us. I seek the cooperation of one and all,” he wrote.

In October, the government had announced that the Tata Group placed the winning bid for 100 per cent stake in Air India at Rs 18,000 crore, of which Rs 15,300 crore was the debt component and Rs 2,700 crore was the cash component to be paid to the government.

The final balance sheet has been prepared with approvals from the various regulators, lenders and lessors of the airline. This balance sheet, provided to the Tata Group, is expected to account for the Rs 20 crore loss being incurred by Air India on a daily basis, till the cutoff date of January 20.

The Indian Express reported Sunday, citing an RTI response, that government departments and ministries had pending payments to Air India adding up to Rs 278.49 crore till October last year. This included Rs 244.78 crore from over 700 government departments and sections as of September 2021 and Rs 33.71 crore towards VVIP flights as on July 27, 2021, as per the data.

It also included dues from the Prime Minister’s flights of Rs 7.20 crore and the President’s flight dues of Rs 6.14 crore. The airline has already begun recovering pending dues from government departments – it had recovered Rs 30.38 crore as of November 30 last year.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Air India Curtails US Operations Due To 5G Roll-Out

National carrier Air India will not be able to operate a number of US-bound flights on Wednesday, the airline said.

Accordingly, the airline informed passengers via it’s official Twitter handle that it will not be able to operate the Delhi-JFK-Delhi and Mumbai-EWR-Mumbai flights amongst other on Wednesday.

The deployment of 5G communications in the US has been cited as the cause for flight cancellations.

However, in another tweet the airline said that it will operate the flight to Washington DC from Delhi by AI103 on Wednesday.

As per industry insiders, the 5G network deployment might cause certain crucial flight instruments to malfunction.

“#FlyAI: Due to deployment of 5G communications in USA, our operations to USA from India stand curtailed/revised with change in aircraft type from 19th January 2022,” the airline tweeted. (IANS)

India Observes National Tourism Day

Government of India is celebrating ‘National Tourism Day’ on January 25, 2022.  This important occasion will be followed by commemoration of the 73rd Republic Day.

This year, India will cross a milestone when it completes 75 years of Independence on 15th August 2022. The landmark occasion is being celebrated as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The series of events are receiving overwhelming participation from Indians and all people of Indian origin abroad. The grand celebration of progressive India and history of its people, culture, and achievements, commenced on 12th March 2021. Since then, began a 75 week countdown to India’s 75th Anniversary of Independence and will end post-a-year on 15th August 2023. Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi has launched a vision of activating India 2.0 fueled by the spirit of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The ‘National Tourism Day’ needs to be seen against this backdrop.

For the celebration of the ‘National Tourism Day’, the Ministry of Tourism has been designated as the lead Ministry and Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Textiles, and Ministry of Railways will be the partnering Ministries. The Day will sensitize everyone about Government of India’s efforts to promote its Tourism potential.

The ‘Tourism Fortnight’, a special drive to promote Incredible India with a series of activities, conversations at the India Pavilion of the Expo 2020 Dubai, and a special ‘Tourism Pavilion’, in association with FICCI where various state governments took part and showcased their tourism potential are special promotion drives undertaken by the Government of India recently.

On the occasion of celebration of ‘National Tourism Day’, let us have a virtual tour of India’s select National Monuments.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Tamil Nadu:

Mahabalipuram is pre-eminently testimony to the Pallavas civilization of south-east India.The sanctuary, known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs, is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva. The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modelling, spread widely (Cambodia, Annam, Java).

Founded in the 7th century by the Pallavas sovereigns south of Madras, the harbour of Mahabalipuram traded with the distant kingdoms of South-East Asia: Kambuja (Cambodia) and Shrivijaya (Malaysia, Sumatra, Java) and with the empire of Champa (Annam). But the fame of its role as a harbour has been transferred to its rock sanctuaries and Brahmin temples which were constructed or decorated at Mahabalipuram between 630 and 728.

Most of the monuments, like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple (the sleeping Mahavishnu or Chakrin at the rear part of the Shore temple complex) are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.

Great Living Chola Temples

Tamil Nadu

The Great Chola Temples of southern India are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization in southern India. They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower).

The Cholas were the second great historic dynasty of the Tamil Nadu, the Tamil country, which was the home of the ancient Dravidian culture whose influence was so considerable in the whole of south-east Asia. The great temple of Tanjore was built in a few years, from 1003 to 1010, during the reign of the great king Rajaraja (985-1014), true founder of the Chola Empire which spread throughout the whole of southern India, part of Ceylon and the Maldive and Laccadive archipelagos. Richly endowed by the sovereign, the sanctuary, which also bears his name – it is sometimes called Rajarajesvaram – had a permanent staff of several hundred priests, 400 devadasi (sacred dancers), and 57 musicians, according to inscriptions and chronicles. The Brihadisvara’s income in gold, silver and precious stones during the Chola period has been precisely evaluated. These vast resources were efficiently managed and provided not only for the upkeep and improvement of the buildings (which was continued until the 17th century) but also for real investments to be made. The temple lent money, at rates which could sometimes reach 30%, to shipowners, village assemblies and craft guilds. Dedicated to Shiva, the Brihadisvara stands to the south-west of the historic city. A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary.

Sun Temple, Konârak


 Konârak is an outstanding testimony to the 13th-century kingdom of Orissa. It is directly and materially linked to Brahmin beliefs, and forms the invaluable link in the history of the diffusion of the cult of Surya, which originated in Kashmir during the 8th century and finally reached the shores of eastern India.

On the eastern coast of India, south of the Mahanadi Delta, is the Brahmin temple of Kimarak (still spelled as Konârak or Konârka), one of the most famous Brahmin sanctuaries of Asia. Konârak derives its name from Konârka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konârka is a combination of two words, kona (corner) and arka (Sun). It was one of the earliest centres of Sun worship in India. Built around 1250 in the reign of King Narasingha Deva (1238-64), it marks the apogee of the wave of foundations dedicated to the Sun God Surya; the entire temple was conceived as a chariot of the Sun God with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.

The present Sun Temple was probably built by King Narashimhadev I (1238-64) of the Ganga dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. Samba was afflicted by leprosy and after twelve years of penance he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.

Elephanta Caves


The island of Elephanta, the glorious abode of Lord Shiva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Mumbai which, with their decorated temples and the images from Hindu mythology, bear a unique testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly in the huge high reliefs in the main cave.

The island of Gharapuri, the ‘City of Caves’, situated about 10 km from Mumbai on the east side of the harbour, owes its name to the enormous stone elephant found there by Portuguese navigators. This elephant was cut into pieces, removed to Mumbai and somehow put together again. It is today the melancholy guardian of Victoria Gardens Zoo in Mumbai, the great metropolis of Maharashtra State and India’s second city population-wise.

The date of the famous Elephanta Caves is still very much debated and varies from the 6th century to the 8th century according to different specialists. They constitute one of the most striking collections of rock-art in India. There are two groups of caves. To the east, Stupa Hill (thus named because of a small brick Buddhist monument at the top) contains two caves, one of which is unfinished, and several cisterns. To the west, the larger group consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave is universally famous for its carvings to the glory of Shiva, who is exalted in various forms and act ions. The cave consists of a square plan mandapa whose sides measure about 27 m

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal


Pattadakal represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there.

Three very closely located sites in the State of Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities – Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the ‘City of the Crown Rubies’ (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the ‘laboratory’ of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty’s political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.

In UAE Desert, Camels Compete For Crowns In Beauty Pageant

Deep in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, the moment that camel breeders had been waiting for arrived.

Families hauled their camels through wind-carved sands. Servers poured tiny cups of Arabic coffee. Judges descended on desert lots.

A single question loomed over the grandstand: Which camels were most beautiful?

Even as the omicron variant rips through the world, legions of breeders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar traveled to the UAE’s southwestern desert this week with 40,000 of their most beautiful camels for the Al Dhafra Festival.

The five-man jury at the annual pageant insists beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Camel aesthetics are evaluated according to precise categories determined generations ago. Only female camels participate because males fight too much, authorities said.

As hundreds of woolly black camels trotted through the dusty pastures, necks and humps bobbing, one of the organizers, Mohammed al-Muhari, outlined the platonic ideal.

Necks must be long and slim, cheeks broad and hooves large, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Lips must droop. They must walk tall with graceful posture.

“It’s not so different from humans,” al-Muhari said, his robe sparkling white amid clouds of dust.

The high standards have prompted many breeders to seek an advantage, using banned Botox injections to inflate the camel’s lips, muscle relaxants to soften the face and silicone wax injections to expand the hump.

Festival spokesman Abdel Hadi Saleh declined to say how many participants had been disqualified over plastic surgery this week. All camels undergo rigorous medical exams to detect artificial touch-ups and hormones before entering Al Dhafra Festival.

Since Emirati investigators began employing X-rays and sonar systems a few years ago, Saleh said the number of cheaters has plummeted.

“We easily catch them, and they realize getting caught, it’s not worth the cost to their reputation,” he said.

A great deal is at stake. Al Dhafra Festival offers the top 10 winners in each category prizes ranging from $1,300 to $13,600. At the main Saudi contest, the most beautiful fetch $66 million. Camels change hands in deals worth millions of dirhams.

But breeders insist it’s not only about the money.

“It is a kind of our heritage and custom that the (Emirati rulers) revived,” said 27-year-old camel owner Saleh al-Minhali from Abu Dhabi. He sported designer sunglasses over his traditional headdress and Balenciaga sneakers under his kandura, or Emirati tunic.

Gone are the days when camels were integral to daily life in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, a chapter lost as oil wealth and global business transformed Dubai and Abu Dhabi into skyscraper-studded hubs with marbled malls, luxury hotels and throbbing nightclubs. Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the country.

However, experts say Emiratis are increasingly searching for meaning in echoes of the past — Bedouin traditions that prevailed before the UAE became a nation 50 years ago.

“Younger Emiratis who have identity issues are going back to their heritage to find a sense of belonging,” said Rima Sabban, a sociologist at Zayed University in Dubai. “The society developed and modernized so fast it creates a crisis inside.”

Camels race at old-world racetracks in the Emirates, and still offer milk, meat and a historic touchstone to citizens. Festivals across the country celebrate the camel’s significance. Al Dhafra also features falcon racing, dromedary dancing and a camel milking contest.

“People in Dubai may not even think about them, but young people here care deeply about camels,” said Mahmoud Suboh, a festival coordinator from Liwa Oasis at the northern edge of the desert’s Empty Quarter. Since 2008, he has watched the fairgrounds transform from a remote desert outpost into an extravaganza that draws camel lovers from around the world.

In a sign of the contest’s exploding popularity, about a dozen young Emirati men who call themselves “camel influencers” filmed and posed with the camels on Wednesday, broadcasting live to thousands of Instagram followers.

The digital likes have proven important this year, as the coronavirus pandemic curtailed tourism to the festival and dampened the mood. Police checked that visitors had received both vaccine doses and tested negative for the virus. Authorities nagged attendees to adjust their face masks, threatening fines. There were few foreigners or other spectators strolling the site Wednesday.

Each category in the 10-day pageant is divided into two types of camels: Mahaliyat, the tan breed that originates from the UAE and Oman, and Majaheen, the darker breed from Saudi Arabia. Wednesday’s showcase focused on 5-year-old black Majaheen camels.

For hours, judges scrutinized each camel, scribbling lists of the animal’s body parts for scoring purposes. Breeders shouted to startle camels so they’d look up and show off elongated necks.

As the sun set over the sands, the winning breeders were called to accept their gleaming trophies. Down below in the dirt rings, camels were crowned with gold and silver-lined shawls.

“Until now we are the first in the category … We’ve received over 40 prizes (in various camel contests) this year alone,” beamed Mohammed Saleh bin Migrin al-Amri as he juggled four trophies from the day, including two golds.

Then he jumped into his Toyota Land Cruiser. The victory parade of honking SUVs and grunting camels faded behind the desert dunes.

Jet Air In Talks With Boeing, Airbus For $12 Billion Order

The new owners of once-bankrupt Jet Airways India are in talks with Boeing and Airbus to purchase at least 100 narrowbody jets for the carrier’s fleet in a bid to revive what used to be the biggest private airline in the South Asian nation before it collapsed under a pile of debt.

The winning bidders for Jet Airways in a state-run bankruptcy resolution process — Dubai-based, Indian-origin businessman Murari Lal Jalan and Florian Fritsch, the chairman of London-based financial advisory and alternative asset manager Kalrock Capital Management Ltd. — plan to start flights in the first three months of next year, Ankit Jalan, a representative for the consortium, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The group will invest around 15 billion rupees ($200 million) via equity and debt in the airline over the next six months, half a year earlier than originally planned, Jalan, who is Murari Lal’s nephew, said earlier this week.

The potential revival of Jet Airways, which forced creditors to take a 95% haircut, will be the first for any airline under India’s bankruptcy laws and will intensify competition in one of the world’s most cut-throat aviation markets. Founded by ticketing agent-turned-entrepreneur Naresh Goyal after India ended a state monopoly on aviation in the early 1990s, Jet Airways became popular among fliers as an attractive alternative to Air India Ltd., offering full-service flights to cities including London and Singapore, before a bunch of low-cost airlines ushered in cheap fares for no-frills services.

“The reaction that we saw of the Jet Airways brand coming back was motivation in itself,” 37-year old Jalan, who’s leading the consortium’s airline venture, said from the old offices of Jet Airways just outside of New Delhi on Wednesday evening. “That’s exactly why Jet is coming back; to serve the loyal fan base, to serve the people who miss Jet.”

Shares of the airline rose as much as 5.6% Thursday in Mumbai, their biggest jump in more than three months.

Jet Airways — which had almost 21,000 creditors seeking claims of around $6 billion under the bankruptcy process — is reentering a notoriously tough market. Kingfisher Airlines, founded by beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, ended operations in 2012 after failing to clear its dues to banks, staff, lessors, and airports. SpiceJet almost collapsed two years later before its founders returned to gain control and revive the company. Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. have also set up local affiliates, but they aren’t making any money.

Jet Airways is now left with a fleet of 11 planes, including Boeing 737s and 777s, as well as Airbus A330 jets. But those aircraft are mostly old and need to be sold and replaced with newer, more fuel-efficient ones, Jalan said. A deal for the most popular model of Boeing 737 Max jets could cost more than $12 billion, although discounts are common in large orders.

Options for the plane deal includes both outright purchase and leasing, Jalan said. While Airbus is looking at possible early delivery of its most popular A320neo jets, which are already sold out for several years, Boeing may potentially relook at an old 225-plane order for 737 Max aircraft, which Jet Airways had placed before going belly up, Jalan said. A decision is expected by early next month.

“It will be at least something that covers us for the next five to six years,” Jalan said, in what is the new owners’ first interview to media since taking control of the airline. “Our plan is to be a 100-plus airline in five years, a 100-plus aircraft fleet. That is our plan. So the order has to support that.”

India still has “enough room” to accommodate more planes, particularly compared with China, which has a lot more aircraft and a comparable population, and the U.S., which has 10 times the number of aircraft versus India with just one-quarter the population, Jalan said. Jet Airways has already hired most top management for the company, Jalan said, declining to elaborate before a formal announcement.

The Jalan family, little-known in India, is based in Dubai and has businesses spanning healthcare, real estate and renewable energy primarily in Uzbekistan, Dubai and Russia, said Jalan, who was educated in both Dubai and the U.S. Murari Lal Jalan has been a so-called nonresident Indian for more than three decades, with the majority of his businesses outside India.

Jet Airways 2.0 — as it is dubbed by the new owners — will be a full-service airline, with a business class in most planes once the venture takes off. It will also offer a frequent flyer program. The airline will target the corporate market in particular, which Jet once dominated, and have connections to major metro cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, Jalan said.

“We are working on all the things that we need to do to make an airline operational — whether that’s the training infrastructure, whether that’s the IT systems, whether it’s the marketing plan — all that is being worked upon as we speak. All these things will come beautifully together in the next two or three months,” Jalan said. “This is how we are doing it, in the present tense, not in the future tense.”

U.S. COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Begun

Beginning Monday, December 6th, travelers heading to the U.S. are required to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flight instead of three days prior.

Also, President Biden is extending the federal rule requiring passengers on planes, trains and buses to wear face masks through March 18. It was scheduled to expire in mid-January.

The Biden administration’s moves come after the White House announced a ban on travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals who have been to South Africa or seven other African countries within the previous 14 days.

That travel ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and it’s possible the ban could be lifted soon.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the restrictions “travel apartheid,” and Dr. Anthony Fauci said U.S. officials “feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only on South Africa but the other African countries.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that ban in a quite reasonable period of time,” Fauci said.

Here’s what travelers should know:

New testing requirements

Starting Monday, the U.S. has begun requiring all inbound international travelers to test for COVID-19 within one day of their flight to the U.S., regardless of their nationality or vaccination status.

That will replace a similar three-day requirement in effect since early November, when the administration scrapped country-specific travel bans.

“This tighter testing timetable provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the omicron variant,” Biden said during a brief appearance to announce his latest measures against the virus.

Do testing requirements apply to children?

Yes, but children under 2 years old do not need to get tested. There is also an option for people who can prove they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Learn more about these requirements.

Do you have to get the test exactly 24 hours before travel?

No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s policy specifies that travelers must get tested one day before the flight’s departure, but does not say it has to be exactly 24 hours before.

“The Order uses a 1-day time frame instead of 24 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator,” the CDC says. “By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken.”

That means if your flight is at 1 p.m. on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday, the agency explains.

Face mask rules

The Transportation Security Administration will extend the requirement to wear a mask on planes, trains, subways and other public transportation including airports and bus terminals through the winter.

Fines, which were doubled earlier this year, will remain in a range of $500 to $3,000.

The mask rule has become a flashpoint on flights, and some in the airline industry are eager to see the mandate go away. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to federal authorities since the start of the year, with about three-fourths of the events involving passengers who refuse to wear a mask.

Is testing and quarantine required after arrival?

No, it is not required but the CDC recommends that all travelers get tested three to five days after travel.

Travelers are advised to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if they do develop symptoms.

It is also recommended that those who are not fully vaccinated stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if they test negative within three to five days after arrival.

Unvaccinated travelers who don’t get tested are advised to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

If the traveler has recovered from a documented coronavirus infection within the past 90 days before travel, they do not need to get a test three to five days after travel, even if they’re unvaccinated, the CDC says.

While Regulating Travel From Abroad Over Omicron Risk, India Resumes Overseas Flights

India announced that it will resume international passenger flights from mid-December with COVID-19 linked curbs for “at risk” countries, and ordered tightened screening at borders as fears over a new coronavirus variant spread globally.

India’s Health Ministry has revised guidelines mandating that all international passengers entering India have to submit 14-day travel details and upload a negative RT-PCR test report on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey, effective December 1st. The RT-PCR report to be uploaded should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to the journey.

Travelers from “countries at-risk”, including the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel, will need to take the COVID test post-arrival and wait for results at the airport, according to the guidelines. If tested negative, they have to undergo home quarantine for seven days followed by a re-test on the eighth day.

“On arrival, the passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility as per health protocol. If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed as per laid down protocol,” said the updated guidelines.

Travelers from countries not considered ‘at risk’ will be allowed to leave the airport and must self-monitor their health for 14 days post arrival. A sub-section (5% of the total flight passengers) will be required to undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport.

The guidelines have also stated that children under five years of age are exempted from pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic on arrival or during home quarantine, they shall undergo testing and treated as per protocol.

Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew. Also, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive (during home quarantine period) would be subjected to quarantine for 14 days and tested as per government protocol.

Earlier the Central Government in a release issued following a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, said it will review “the decision on effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passengers service as per evolving global scenario while keeping a closer watch on emerging pandemic situation within the country.”

The meeting held to review the global situation in wake of Omicron virus was attendant by various domain experts including Dr. V K Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister and senior officers from Health, Civil Aviation and other Ministries.

It has also been decided that Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) will be sensitized for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports/ ports, added the release.

“Various preventive measures in place and those to be further strengthened were discussed besides reviewing the update of Standard Operating Procedure on testing and surveillance of incoming international passengers, especially for those countries identified ‘at risk’ category. The strengthening and intensification of genomic surveillance for variants through the INSACOG network was agreed upon with a focus on sampling and whole genome sequencing of international passengers especially from those countries where Omicron variant has been detected,’’ added the release.

At meeting the criticality of scrupulous implementation and rigorous monitoring of the three-pronged surveillance strategy of screening and testing international travelers and their contacts, routine sentinel surveillance and surge surveillance, and timely sending of RT- PCR positive samples to designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) were stressed upon along with enhanced testing and monitoring of COVID-19 hotspots.

Earlier on Saturday Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the emerging situation and India’s preparedness in terms of public health measures. The Health Ministry too has advised States/UTs regarding testing, surveillance, monitoring of hotspots, augmentation of health infrastructure, genome sequencing, and enhancing public awareness.

The federal health ministry said reports of mutations in the variant, identified as B.1.1.529, had “serious public health implications”, and asked states to adopt rigorous screening and testing for all passengers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries.

“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states late on Thursday.

India’s civil aviation ministry said it had decided to let airlines resume scheduled international flights from Dec. 15, lifting a nearly two-year-old ban imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The resumption of flights would be based on the coronavirus risk levels of individual countries, according to a formal government order. Some countries in Europe and Asia have rushed to tighten border controls and restrict travel nL1N2SH089 because of the new variant.

India’s foreign ministry said there was no immediate information on steps the government was taking. “This is a developing incident,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a news conference.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency said the new variant has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based and could make existing vaccines less effective. Britain has banned flights from six African countries, and asked returning British travelers from those destinations to quarantine.

India, the world’s second-worst affected country by COVID-19, posted the smallest rise in new cases in one-and-a-half years this week, due to increased vaccinations and antibodies in a large section of its population from previous infections. Its total cases of coronavirus reached 34.56 million last week. India’s daily caseload has halved since September and it reported 10,549 new cases on Friday.

Earlier this month, India identified 10 countries “at risk” including Europe, China, South Africa, and New Zealand, among others, and has opened its borders to 99 countries overall. Indian shares fell more than 2% on Friday, in line with declines in markets across Asia as investors fled risky assets panicking over the potential impact of the new variant.

New International Airport In NOIDA Inaugurated

Noida International Greenfield Airport, also known as Delhi Noida International Airport or Jewar Airport, is proposed to be built in Jewar, Greater Noida, in Uttar Pradesh, India. The proposed airport will help relieve congestion at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) and serve the fast-developing industrial region between Delhi and Agra.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, said that the Noida International Airport will develop the tourism and agriculture sector in Uttar Pradesh and pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in the state. Modi added that the Noida International Airport (NIA) in Jewar, would make Uttar Pradesh  known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The new airport is expected to increase demand for commercial and residential projects and hotels in the region, while also boosting the real-estate sector.

Speaking on the occasion of the foundation laying stone ceremony of Noida International Airport here, PM Modi said, “Tourism of land-locked states like Uttar Pradesh will greatly benefit from the Noida International Airport. Now, pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in Uttar Pradesh.”

“The agricultural potential of Western UP will witness a sharp rise and help the small farmers in exporting goods easily, efficiently and instantly,” he said.  PM Modi further said that Uttar Pradesh will now be known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The airport is being developed by Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL), a 100 per cent subsidiary of the project’s Swiss concessionaire Zurich International Airport AG. Yamuna International Airport Pvt Ltd (YIAPL) is developing Noida International Airport under the PPP model in close partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Government of India.

According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the International Airport near Jewar will be developed as an Aviation Hub which is conceived to provide all the modern, efficient and hi-tech facilities.

The airport area when fully operational is expected to have Aero and Non-Aero activities along with MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) facilities. The present project envisages an area of land requirement measuring 3500 acres. In the first phase of development, only 1327 hectares of land would be developed.

Noida International Airport is strategically located, which is at a road distance of about 72 km from IGI Airport, 40 km from Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad respectively, 28 km from Greater Noida, 65 km from Gurugram and 130 km from Agra.

The projected cost of the proposed project is estimated at around Rs 15000- 20000 crore and the development of the first phase of the airport is being done at a cost of around Rs 10,050 crore. The work at the airport is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

American Airlines Resumes New York-New Delhi Direct Flight After 10 Years

American Airlines, the US aviation major announced the resumption of its non-stop New York- Delhi flights after almost a decade. American Airlines’ inaugural New York-New Delhi flight landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA)on Saturday night marking the resumption of the American carrier’s flights to the country. The flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be run daily throughout the year.

American Airlines flight 292 took off New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at 7.27 pm local time on November 12  and landed at IGIA on Saturday night. The carrier was supposed to start operations in October but it was deferred by a couple of weeks as the US announced the reopening of international travel on November 8.

Also, American Airlines’ Bengaluru-Seattle that was supposed to start from January 4, 2022, stands deferred to March-end as corporate travel is yet to pick up and expected to revive till then. The Airline suspended its India flights in 2012 when it terminated its Chicago-New Delhi flight which it started in 2007.

American Airlines MD (sales) Tom Lattig told Times of India, “there is a tremendous demand for travel between US and India thanks to a large diaspora and growing business ties between the two countries. People now want to fly direct instead of one-stop flights especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. We are looking at Mumbai closely. We will look at the two routes announced and then take a further call”.

With 881 aircraft, it’s the world’s largest airline by fleet size. Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic flight, was an airmail pilot for American Airlines, whose two airlines were commandeered by hijackers on Sept 11, 2001 to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The American has deputed its 304-seater Boeing 777 on the Delhi route with four cabins, 52 in business and 8 in fist. The airline recently entered into a code-sharing agreement with IndiGo for nationwide connectivity. Air India and United operate non top flights on several routes between the two countries. Delta suspended its India operations last March and is yet to revive the same. Before the pandemic, a majority of travelers took a one-stop flight via hubs in Gulf, Europe and Southeast Asia.

US Reopens Borders To Fully Vaccinated, After 20 Months

The U.S. opened its doors to international travelers on Monday after more than 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, and some airports across the world celebrated the milestone with pomp and circumstance.

Starting Monday, November 8, 2021, fully vaccinated international travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of travel. The new policy, which was first announced last month, applies to both land borders and air travel.

The United States is largely wide open, although there are some state and local restrictions that still apply. For example, there are mask mandates in Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Washington, DC and Puerto Rico also require masks in indoor public spaces.

In some cities, including New York and San Francisco, there are vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces including restaurants, reported CNN.

Hawaii, which had some of the strictest entry requirements in the US, will now align with the new federal rules for international air travel. Although capacity restrictions in the state are easing, there are still some limits in place.

Getting vaccinated is the key requirement for the vast majority of international travellers hoping to enter the United States, reported CNN. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. The CDC has the full slate of air travel requirements on its website.

Travelers must meet CDC criteria for being “fully vaccinated.” Paper and digital documentation are acceptable. Airlines are responsible for gathering and verifying this information from air travelers.

Air travelers also need a negative COVID-19 test. Testing is required of all fully vaccinated air travelers ages 2 and up, regardless of nationality. Passengers are required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their flight’s departure for the United States.
Unvaccinated Americans and a very limited number of unvaccinated international travellers exempted from the vaccination requirement must test within one day of departing for the US.

Many airlines have mobile apps and portals on their websites where vaccination and testing information can be processed digitally, reported CNN.

Customs and Border Protection anticipates an increase in travel volumes and wait times at land and ferry crossings and is encouraging travelers to have their identification and vaccination documents ready. The agency also encourages travelers to use its CBP One app. Staffing levels will be at pre-Covid levels, according to CBP, but the agency will be balancing multiple priorities.

“Trade and travel facilitation remain a priority,” a Department of Homeland Security Q&A about the new policy says. “However, we cannot compromise national security which is our primary mission.” Digital and paper documentation is acceptable for proof of vaccination, and vaccine cards do not need to be in English.

Travelers should be prepared to attest to their vaccination status and reason for travel. They should also be prepared to show proof of being fully vaccinated if requested by a CBP officer. Covid tests are not required at land and ferry crossings. The web of rules and requirements to travel internationally right now is undeniably tangled, reported CNN.

The U.S. opened its doors to international travelers on Monday after more than 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, and some airports across the world celebrated the milestone with pomp and circumstance.

Starting Monday, fully vaccinated international travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of travel. The new policy, which was first announced last month, applies to both land borders and air travel.

Travelers can be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all of which are authorized in the U.S., in addition to shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US Releases Details For Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System

As the countries around the world continue to work to protect people from COVID-19, the Biden Administration has released additional detail around implementation of the new international air travel policy requiring foreign national travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated. This updated policy puts in place an international travel system that
is stringent, consistent across the globe, and guided by public health.

Starting on November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S., with only limited exceptions. The updated travel guidelines also include new protocols around testing. To further strengthen protections, unvaccinated travelers – whether U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or the small number of excepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to test within one day of departure.
Today, the Administration is releasing the following documents to implement these

1) A Presidential Proclamation to Advance the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic;

2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Orders on vaccination, testing, and contact tracing; and

3) Technical instructions to provide implementation details to the airlines and their passengers. With science and public health as our guide, the United States has developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel. The additional detail released today provides airlines and international air travelers with time to prepare for this new policy ahead of the November 8 implementation date. As previously announced, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will also be able to travel across the Northern and Southwest land borders for non-essential reasons, such as tourism, starting on November 8. Additional detail on amendments to restrictions with respect to land borders will be available in the coming days. Travelers can find full details about today’s air travel announcement on the CDC and Department of State websites. A summary is below:

The White House has outlined new rules for foreign travelers to the US, as flight restrictions lift for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020.

  • The plan to reopen the US border next month to foreign flights includes a requirement that almost all foreign visitors be vaccinated against Covid.
  • The US travel ban has grown to include dozens of countries, including the UK, much of Europe, China and India.
  • The travel industry has been asking for US President Joe Biden to lift the ban.
  • Originally imposed by Donald Trump, the ban on flights from most foreign countries was extended when Mr Biden took power in January 2021.
  • The rule bans most visitors from Brazil, China, South Africa, the UK, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, Ireland, India and Iran.

The proclamation signed by Mr Biden on Monday, October 25th says that airlines will be required to check travelers’ vaccination status before they can board departing planes.

“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States,” Mr Biden’s proclamation says.


Fully Vaccinated Status:
• Starting on November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S.

Proof of Vaccination:
• For foreign nationals, proof of vaccination will be required – with very limited exceptions – to board the plane.

  • Passengers will need to show their vaccination status, and the airlines will need to:
    Match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination;
    Determine that the record was issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given;
    .Review the essential information for determining if the passenger meets CDC’s definition for fully vaccinated such as vaccine product, number of vaccine doses received, date(s) of administration, site (e.g., vaccination clinic, health care facility) of vaccination.
    • The Biden Administration will work closely with the airlines to ensure that these new requirements are implemented successfully.Accepted Vaccines:
    • CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.
    • Individuals can be considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks after receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO EUL approved single-dose series (i.e., Janssen), or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series (i.e. mixing and matching).
    • More details are available in the CDC Annex here.

    Enhanced Testing:
    • Previously, all travelers were required to produce a negative viral test result within three days of travel to the United States.
    • Both nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.
    • As announced in September, the new system tightens those requirements, so that unvaccinated U.S. Citizens and LPRs will need to provide a negative test taken within one day of traveling.
    • That means that all fully vaccinated U.S. Citizens and LPRs traveling to the United States should be prepared to present documentation of their vaccination status alongside their negative test result.
    • For those Americans who can show they are fully vaccinated, the same requirement currently in place will apply – they have to produce a negative test result within three days of travel.
    • For anyone traveling to the United States who cannot demonstrate proof of full vaccination, they will have to produce documentation of a negative test within one day of departure.

    Requirements for Children:

  • Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travelers, given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated.
    • Children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
    • If traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure.Limited Exceptions from the Vaccination Requirement:
    • There are a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for children under 18, certain COVID- 19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), and other very narrow categories.

    Contact Tracing:
    • The CDC is also issuing a Contact Tracing Order that requires all airlines flying into the United States to keep on hand – and promptly turn over to the CDC, when needed – contact information that will allow public health officials to follow up with inbound air travelers who are potentially infected or have been exposed to someone who is infected.
    • This is a critical public health measure both to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of new variants of COVID-19 as well as to add a critical prevention tool to address other public health threats.

AAHOA Applauds Lifting of Travel Restrictions with Canada and Mexico

America’s hoteliers applauded the Biden administration’s announcement that it will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals from Canada and Mexico to enter the United States starting in early November after a 19-month freeze. For air travel, the policy would require travelers to be fully vaccinated and to test negative for the virus. No testing will be required to enter the country by land or sea, as long as travelers meet the vaccination requirements.

AAHOA is working with the administration to promote vaccine awareness in the hospitality industry and called for new measures to restart international travel safely earlier this year. “This is a big win for our Members, families, business, and tourism industries, especially those living in Texas and in the states bordering Canada,” said AAHOA President & CEO Ken Greene. “Cross-border operations were halted at the start of the pandemic, and AAHOA pressed the administration on the financial toll the travel ban took on small businesses.”

Travel industry studies estimate that international travel spending in the U.S. fell 76% year-over-year compared to 34% for domestic travel in 2020. “Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers from Mexico and Canada is a significant step in the right direction and signals yet another phase of recovery for the hotel industry,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “This decision from the Biden Administration will help return two significant sources of travel and tourism to the U.S., visitors who have historically visited by the tens of millions annually.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

As Australia Expects Boom In Tourism, Qantas Moves Up Flights

Qantas Airways has brought forward its plans to restart international travel from Sydney as Prime Minister Scott Morrison predicted tourists would be welcomed back to Australia this year. Vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens will be free to travel through Sydney from Nov. 1 without the need for hotel quarantine on their return.

Two weeks ago, Morrison said Australians, skilled migrants and students would be given priority over foreign travelers in coming to Sydney. He predicted tourists would return in 2022 or later. But while tourists would retain their low priority, Morrison now expects they will return this year. “That is very possible and very achievable before the end of the year,” Morrison said.

Sydney-based Qantas announced services to Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and Fiji had been brought forward by weeks or months. A new service to New Delhi would begin in December, the first to India in almost a decade. The 22,000 staff employed by Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar would return to work in December, six months earlier than planned.

The changes are being driven by New South Wales’ rapid uptake of vaccines. By Friday, 83% of the population aged 16 and older was fully vaccinated and almost 93% had at least one dose of a vaccine. Only the national capital Canberra has a higher proportion of the population vaccinated.

Australia had one the lowest vaccination rates of any wealthy country due to supply problems and public distrust of locally manufactured AstraZeneca. It now has one of the highest due in part to supply deals done with Britain, Poland and Singapore.

Melbourne, Australia’s most populous city after Sydney, came out of 77 days of lockdown on Friday after Victoria state reached a benchmark of 70% of the target population fully vaccinated. Pandemic restrictions were eased despite Victoria recording its deadliest day of the delta variant outbreak with 16 COVID-19 deaths. There were also 2,189 new infections detected in the latest 24 hours.

“Victorians, it’s fair to say, have done a quite amazing thing. So many people going and getting vaccinated so quickly,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. “We’ve always said that lockdowns were a function of not having the vaccine that we needed but if we got vaccinated, we’d have so many more options,” he added.

Sydney, where the delta outbreak began in June, came out of lockdown last week after reaching the same 70% vaccination benchmark. New South Wales reported five COVID-19 deaths on Friday and 345 new infections.

U.S. Passport Renewals Are Taking Months

Last spring, Tera Wages was looking forward to a mid-July trip to Casa Chameleon Hotel in Costa Rica when a friend happened to mention the U.S. passport renewal process, which has been suffering delays during the pandemic. Wages panicked, realizing she hadn’t checked the expiration date on her own passport. “You could have sucked the air out of the room in that moment,” she says.

Sure enough, both Wages’s and her partner’s passports had expired during the pandemic. Wages immediately sent them off to USPS, four weeks before they were set to depart—exactly the time the U.S. Department of State said passport renewals were estimated to take back in the spring. But mere days prior to scheduled travel, the Alabama-based couple was still passport-less, despite herculean efforts to secure an in-person agency appointment through a case worker assigned to them by Congressman Mo Brooks’s office.

“Ultimately we realized our case worker was not able to make anything happen,” Wages says. “We’d spent hours refreshing the page to get appointments, and nothing was becoming available. We decided there was no way [we could still go on the trip].”

Situations like Wages’s are common right now, with many Americans being forced to cancel international trips due to expired passports, and a long and frustrating renewal process. Though travel agents have always recommended giving the government a few months to process a U.S. passport renewal, the timeline is now much more complicated. Processing times are currently up to three times longer for both routine and expedited passport renewal services compared to before the pandemic.

Due to a huge influx of requests as the world reopens, travelers who need to renew (either in person or via mail) will have to allow extra time to do so. The best advice? Check your passport expiration date now—whether you have a trip planned or are just dreaming of one—and don’t forget many international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your planned return date to the United States.

We tapped travel experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, including what to do if you have an upcoming trip.

How long are passport renewals taking right now?

“We’ve seen varying timelines, but generally the passport renewal process can take anywhere from four to 18 weeks via mail, with in-person meetings even harder to come by,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn. The government’s passport renewal website says travelers should be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks from the day their mailed-in passport reaches a processing facility.

Any travelers who can provide proof of necessary urgent travel, such as life-or-death emergencies, or can show that their trip is within 72 hours, though, are given the chance to score an in-person appointment, Spence says. “However, we wouldn’t count on this unless it’s a last resort,” he adds.

If you are able to get an in-person appointment at one of the government’s 26 passport agencies or centers in the country, a passport agent will review your application and potentially issue a passport on the spot, if you’re eligible for one. Or, the agent may ask you to return at a specific time to receive it, depending on the agency, their workload, and the date of anticipated travel.

Appointments at these centers have been so scarce, however, and in such high demand, that some who’ve been able to secure one have taken to selling them illegally to other travelers. Wages says that in researching how to get appointments online in their attempt to continue with their Costa Rica trip, they discovered users on Reddit who would post appointments for sale—starting around $200—as soon as someone canceled or more spots opened up.

In a briefing on July 14, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt addressed the situation, condemning this behavior. “We are aware of the issues and we are working to prevent them,” she said. “The Department of State does not charge a fee to solely book an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers, so if anyone receives a request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment, that should be considered fraudulent.”

As a result, on July 21 the Department of State temporarily disabled the online appointment booking system for urgent travel service. No timeframe was specified as to when online booking for appointments will open back up. In the meantime, you must call to make an appointment (though Traveler editors have been unable to get through in recent days, with the call dropping off after the initial menu).

Note that the above measure only applies to the 26 passport agencies in the country, and not the many passport acceptance centers—found in libraries, post offices, and local government offices—which continue to take online appointments. Wait times at passport acceptance centers are aligned with mail-in timelines, meaning the process can take up to 18 weeks once you’ve had your appointment and your passport has reached the federal government. Find a passport acceptance center near you here.

What to do if you need a passport, fast

If not being able to renew your passport could mean cancellation of a major trip, it makes sense you might consider extreme measures to score an appointment—even if that means paying for one. However, Spence says he’d never recommend illegally purchasing an appointment. “Although it’s tedious, we always advise going through the official application and renewal process through your local passport agency,” he says.

One creative way to potentially move quickly through the official channels? Contact your local representative, including the office of your U.S. senator or congressional representative, and ask for help getting an appointment, says Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit. She says that a client set to travel to Mexico realized last minute that their passport was expired. With travel in two days and no luck booking an appointment with the Department of State, they contacted their government representative and were able to get assistance—and continue with their planned trip, fresh passport in hand.

“I would probably recommend that route,” Schmidt says.”Reaching out to anyone who may [be able to] help in a crisis is worth a try.” Every district is different, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right person to call; more than likely, though, it will be your U.S. congressional representative who might be able to help in the eleventh hour. That said, it’s not a guarantee that lawmakers in either the House or Senate will be able to assist in a timely manner, as Wages experienced with her caseworker.

Of course, if you’re in panic mode and willing to throw money at the problem, there are always third-party passport services you can pay to handle your renewal. Throughout the summer, many passport application and renewal services—some of which traditionally advertise 24-hour turnarounds—have posted notices to customers that they cannot guarantee rapid renewals, though some are advertising wait times shorter than the government’s. RushMyPassport is a service Traveler staffers have used for a guaranteed 4-week return time, for $189. Another, GenVisa, says they will be able to offer passport renewals within 7 to 10 business days beginning in early August for $370.

What about the government’s expedited service?

During COVID, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. However, expedited service resumed in September 2020. You can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport renewal faster; however, the turnaround time is also delayed and may take up to 12 weeks.

What should I expect if I renew by mail?

Mailing your passport without knowing when it may be returned is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it, you should be able to track your application status through this page. Enter your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.

Always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, says Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”

If the worst happens and you can’t get a passport in time, you can always book a domestic trip instead. Wages, who is still passport-less, ended up booking a weekend getaway to The Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach with her husband. Though she says the experience was a “10 out of 10,” it was still a consolation to the international vacation they didn’t get to take. Still, Wages acknowledges it could have been worse. “We’re fortunate our [travel] was not an emergency and that we have the privilege to be able to reschedule and plan again,” she says. “But for people who don’t have that ability, it would be really tough.”

U.S. To Allow Vaccinated International Travelers From Nov. 8th

After a nearly 19-month pause, the U.S. has announced that fully vaccinated international travelers will be able to enter the country as of November 8. This follows a Wednesday announcement from the White House, saying the U.S. would open its land borders and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico for non-essential purposes—but only to those who have completed their approved vaccination doses.

That means travelers looking to enter the country, whether it’s to reunite with family and friends or as a tourist, will be able to do so again for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The policy will start November 8, “in alignment with the new international air travel system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, referring to the newly announced date given by the White House for when all international plane passengers coming into the U.S. will need to be vaccinated.

The reopening of the Canadian and Mexican land borders will happen in two steps. First, international travelers with non-essential business will be able to enter starting November 8 by showing documentation that they are fully inoculated with an approved vaccine, while those who haven’t been vaccinated still won’t be able to enter the country for non-essential reasons. Then, in the second phase starting in January 2022, even those who do have essential travel purposes—like students, truckers, and health care workers—will also need to have proof of full vaccination to cross the borders.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of [COVID-19] and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official told reporters, according to CNN.

While international travelers coming in by plane will also need to show a negative COVID test in addition to being fully vaccinated, those crossing the borders by land will only need proof of vaccination, The New York Times explained. Any of the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will be accepted, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, and Sinopharm. The procedure for those who received doses of different vaccines —which was commonplace in Canada—is still being determined, according to the Associated Press.

Since both the northern and southern borders were sealed off in March 2020, the timeline for reopening had been continually pushed back, most recently in 30-day increments, with the latest one in effect until October 21. But the reciprocal policy hadn’t been the same, as Canada reopened to American travelers August 9, while Mexico never shut down its border.

The reopening news is being lauded by the travel industry, with many expecting the relaxed restrictions to rev up leisure tourism. “U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Friday. In a previous statement, Dow noted that the closed borders have meant losses of about $700 million per month to the U.S. economy, totaling an estimated $250 billion in lost export income and likely more than a million lost jobs in the U.S.

The news is especially welcome at border cities, where restrictions have had a serious impact on their bottom line for the last 19 months. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” Mayorkas said. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Those steps have been slowly coming, as news of the November welcoming of vaccinated air passengers first was limited to those in the U.K. and European Union, but started to become more general as a White House senior administration official said in September, “We’ll be moving to a consistent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States,” explaining that “strict protocols” would be put into place in early November “requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling here be fully vaccinated.”

As of now, vaccination requirements for domestic travel aren’t on the books, though they have been talked about. President Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday: “It’s always discussable, we always wind up discussing it, but right now I don’t see that immediately.”

India To Lift Ban On Tourists

In a move aimed at boosting the economy through tourism, the government has decided to lift the Covid barrier for international travelers by resuming the grant of tourist visas. The Ministry of Affairs will start granting fresh tourist visas to foreigners coming to India from November 15. For those coming on chartered flights, visas would be granted starting October 15.

The move comes a year and a half after grant of tourist visas was suspended in the wake of Covid pandemic. The ministry said in a statement that the decision was taken following consultations with stakeholders like the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism and state governments.

“MHA had been receiving representations from several State Governments as well as various stakeholders in the tourism sector to start Tourist Visas also, to allow foreign tourists to come to India. After deliberations we have decided to ease travel restrictions,” a senior Home Ministry official said. The official said states have been asked to follow Covid protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the tourists, the carriers bringing them into the country and other stakeholders must also stick to the guidelines.

Grant of all visas to foreigners had been suspended in the wake of the pandemic last year. After considering the evolving situation, the government had allowed foreigners to avail any kind of visa other than tourist visa for entry and stay in India. India has said the country’s Covid-19 graph was plateauing even though about 20,000 fresh cases were being reported every day. It said the challenge of Covid-19 was not over yet and warned people not to let their guard down during the festive season

New Travel Rules In UK From October 11. What Changes For Indians?

Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain on the red list of the UK. Apart from India, vaccinated travelers from Brazil, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey are now exempt from quarantine.

The United Kingdom is easing its travel restrictions starting from October 11 allowing travellers from more countries to enter the UK. Indians were already allowed to travel to the UK but what changes from October 11 is that those who are vaccinated with both doses of Covishield will not require to undergo 10-day mandatory quarantine in the UK.

Here is all you need to know:

If you are fully vaccinated then before travelling to the UK, you will have to book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test which is to be taken after your arrival. The passengers will also have to complete a passenger locator form 48 hours before arriving in England.

You will be considered fully vaccinated if you had taken the second dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in Englan. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days, the government advisory said.

The UK government has accepted Covishield and India’s vaccine certificate. “India will be added to this list of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination 4am Monday 11 October. If you arrive in England before that date you must follow the rules for people who are not fully vaccinated. If you arrive after that, you can use a vaccine certificate to prove your vaccination status,” the UK advisory said.

Only 7 countries on UK red list now In the latest revision of the travel rules, UK now has only seven countries on the red list which means people from these countries can’t travel to the UK. Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain on the red list.

Apart from India, vaccinated travellers from Brazil, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey will be treated the same as returning fully-vaccinated UK residents so long as they have not visited a red-list country in the 10 days before arriving in England, it said.

Tata Group Is Frontrunner To Acquire Air India

The new owners of Air India will be decided in the next few days as the financial bids for India’s flag carrier, AIR INDIA are being scrutinized. The Tata Group, which was the original founders of the now largest air carrier in India, is one of the bidders, and is said to be the frontrunner to get hold of the carrier.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

On the official front, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey on Friday tweeted: “Media reports indicating approval of financial bids by Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect. Media will be informed of the Government decision as and when it is taken.” The tweet comes after a media report indicated that the Centre has selected a winning bid.

Furthermore, sources said that at present senior government officials are conducting separate meetings with the two bidders regarding other aspects of the sale such as the indemnity clause and carry over debt levels of the airline. More or less, the final decision can be made within the next few days by the AISAM (Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism).

The AISAM headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is an empowered GoM, which has the authority to take the final call on the matter, without the need of a Cabinet approval. The AISAM is scheduled to meet after all its members are back in the country.

After the announcement of the winning bid is made, the process of a complete handover is expected to take place within three-four months time. The Centre on September 15 had received multiple financial bids for divestment of Air India. The government has of late taken several steps to fast-track the much-delayed privatization of the national carrier.

Recently, the Centre decided to waive taxes on the transfer of assets from the national carrier to Air India Assets Holding Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV). During the Budget speech for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the proposed privatization process would be completed by the end of the fiscal, including the much-delayed strategic disinvestment of Air India.

This is the second attempt of the current Central government to divest its stake in the airline. In the pre-pandemic era, the airline, on a standalone basis, operated over 50 domestic and more than 40 international destinations. Besides, it operated over 120 aircraft prior to the Covid pandemic. During that period, the airline had over 9,000 permanent and 4,000 contractual employees.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Travel In India Returns To Near Normal

India’s taking off! Domestic air travel demand was on a steady rise globally until August when concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus reversed the trend in countries such as China, US, Japan, Australia and Brazil. However, in India, buoyed by vaccination drives and a drop in Covid cases, domestic traffic demand has continued its steady month-on-month climb since June, per recent data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airlines’ trade body.

In India, the climb recommenced in June after a huge drop in April-May during the second Covid wave, which made India’s domestic air travel demand take the deepest plunge worldwide. Domestic air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres: number of kilometres flown by all passengers) was the lowest in May. It fell 71% as compared to the pre-Covid month of May 2019, showed IATA data. Only Japan with a 68.5% drop in demand as compared to May 2019 came close. But India caught up in August: its domestic travel demand rose to almost half of that in pre-Covid August 2019. It had been down 60% in July.

In August, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai airport touched 1.4 million, which is what the airport had handled in March, the month air travel demand began its sharp drop due to the second wave, showed Airports Authority of India data.

In April, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai was down to 0.9 million and in May, fell further to 0.4 million, before the trend reversed in June and domestic traffic increased to 0.6 million. Similarly, Delhi airport’s domestic passenger traffic had peaked in March with 2.9 million passengers and the airport inched close to that number in August with 2.6 million.

India, UAE Working On Speedy Normalization Of Air Services

India and the UAE will aim to ensure speedy normalization of air transport operations between the two countries. Accordingly, the need for normalisation of air transportation, was discussed at the ninth meeting of the ‘UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force on Investments’ held in Dubai on Saturday.

“Given the importance of air transport in facilitating bilateral ties and people-to-people connections, both sides agreed that their respective civil aviation authorities should continue to work together on a priority basis, for their mutual benefit, to ensure the speedy normalisation of air transport operations between the two countries,” the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said .

Saturday’s meeting was co-chaired by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles.

The Joint Task Force was established in 2013 as a key forum for promoting economic ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India, which were further strengthened by the signing of the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement’ between the two countries in January 2017. Besides, the meeting reviewed the progress of ongoing discussions for the ‘India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’. “In this regard, both sides appreciated the efforts made to expedite discussions towards a well-balanced agreement that will considerably deepen bilateral economic ties and benefit the economies of both countries.”

According to the statement, participants also considered the ongoing efforts to amend the UAE and India’s longstanding ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty’ and noted the importance of concluding the negotiation process as soon as possible. “At the meeting, discussions were also held on exploring mutually beneficial methods and incentives to facilitate further investment from UAE sovereign investment entities in key priority sectors in India. The positive steps made by the Indian government in this context were noted and both sides agreed to continue to focus on ways of providing tax incentives to certain UAE sovereign investment entities.”

“The importance of active involvement from the UAE Special Desk within Invest India, the National Investment Promotion Agency of India, in expediting the resolution of both legacy issues and current difficulties experienced by UAE companies and banks in India was discussed.” (IANS)

India Orders 10-Day Quarantine For Visitors From UK

In a massive diplomatic response to the Boris Johnson administration’s vaccine racism, India has mandated that British nationals arriving in India from UK will have to undergo mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after the arrival, sources said.

From October 4, irrespective of their vaccination status, all UK nationals landing in India, will have to undertake a pre-departure COVID-19 RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travel, Covid test on arrival at the airport, and a final test 8 days after arrival. The move is being seen as retaliation against the UK government’s decision to impose a similar quarantine for Indian travelers vaccinated with Covishield, which is a WHO approved vaccine.

The new rules, issued by the health ministry, makes it mandatory for all travellers from the UK to submit a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report, not older than 72 hours before date of departure. Not only that, it makes a Covid-19 test mandatory on arrival at the airport and 8 days after arrival, at the expense of the traveler.

The new rules mandate that while Indians returning home as well as NRIs and PIOs can quarantine at their homes, those who have no place to stay will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense, which could prove to be an expensive affair. It’s similar to the policy travelers from India need to follow when visiting other countries.

India’s action comes even as both countries have been in talks, with New Delhi impressing upon the British authorities to recognize India’s vaccine certification — which is still pending more than 10 days after the culmination of technical discussions held to resolve the matter. Earlier, the UK had refused to recognize Covishield as an approved vaccine, despite it being biologically similar to AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria.

According to an initial travel advisory by the Boris Johnson government, people travelling to the UK from India and a few other countries will be considered ‘unvaccinated’ even if they are fully vaccinated. The primary advisory also did not recognise Covishield, which is a formulation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. After criticism, the Serum Institute of India produced a vaccine was recognised by the Uk. However, Indians are still made to undergo mandatory quarantine upon their arrival irrespective of their vaccination status.

India’s response to UK’s Vaccine rules: Key Highlights

  • New regulations will come into force on October 4
  • All British citizens will have to take the pre-departure COVID test within 72 hours before travel
  • COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport
  • RT-PCR test on the day of arrival
  • Mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after arrival in India
  • RT-PCR test 8 days after arrival

Kerala’s Travel Restrictions

Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that the state will have new mandatory quarantine stipulations for international travelers from Monday, on the basis of Union Health Ministry guidelines.

Travellers from UK will have to undergo ten-day quarantine at home or destination address, according to the new guidelines. Passengers from South Africa, Brazil, and Europe will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine mandatorily on arrival.

The Minister, in a statement, said that all international travellers irrespective of their vaccination status will have to take RT-PCR tests on reaching the airports in the state.

Travelers from other countries will have to undergo self-monitoring for 14 days if they test negative in RT- PCR test. Samples of passengers from countries like Botswana, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, European nations, of the Middle East, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe will be sent for virus mutation tests.

The Centre had ordered 10-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from the UK, after it imposed such quarantine measure for Indian visitors.

George also said that three RT- PCR tests are required for an international passenger to the state – One prior to 72 hours of the journey, the second on arrival at an airport in the state, and the third eight days after arriving in the state.

U.S. Allows Vaccinated Travelers from the E.U. and U.K

After nearly 18 months of barring almost all travelers who are foreign nationals from entering the country, U.S. travel restrictions are being rolled back. The U.S. said Sept. 20 it will ease airline restrictions this fall on travel to the country for people who have vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test, replacing a hodgepodge of rules that had kept out many non-citizens and irritated allies in Europe and beyond where virus cases are far lower. The changes, to take effect in November, will allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications and allow foreigners with work permits to get back to their jobs in the U.S.

As per reports, fully vaccinated travelers from E.U. countries and the U.K. will be allowed to enter the U.S. by November, according to the Financial Times. The new travel policy also reportedly allows U.S. entry for travelers who are part of clinical trials for vaccines not yet approved in the U.K., the Times report says—a rule that would render about 40,000 additional people eligible for travel to the U.S.  The new E.U. and U.K. travel policies are expected to be part of larger sweeping changes to the travel bans that have disallowed most foreign national visitors to the U.S., with few exceptions made for the immediate families of American citizens, green card holders, and other select exemptions.

“In early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing on Monday. The U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed by former President Donald Trump in early 2020 as the coronavirus took hold in the country.

Two months after it green lit Americans for travel, the European Union has reverted its recommendation amid rising coronavirus cases. The decision to reopen U.S. borders to foreign visitors was applauded across the travel industry as a milestone on the path to restoring pre-pandemic operations. “This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.

U.S. airlines—one of the sectors hardest hit by the international travel restrictions—are “eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Nicholas E. Calio, president of lobbying group Airlines for America, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks a positive step in our nation’s recovery, and we look forward to working with the Administration over the coming weeks to implement this new global system.”

Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told NBC News that the vaccine requirement will eventually apply to all foreign nationals entering the U.S., who will also need to be tested for the virus three days before departing for the U.S. and show a negative test result upon arrival. Unvaccinated Americans will need to test one day before departure and be tested again upon arrival, the report says. Currently there are no plans for a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel, but according to NBC, Zients said nothing is off the table.  Last week, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., made a similar comment about a potential vaccine requirement for domestic air travel. “It’s on the table,” he said in a podcast interview. “We haven’t decided yet.”

What’s UK’s New Covid-19 Travel Rules Mean For A Flyer From India?

The UK has changed its Covid-19 travel rules, placing Indians who are vaccinated with Covishield in the category of ‘unvaccinated’. While it has relaxed the rules for those vaccinated with two doses Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the same version of the vaccine being manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute of India has been kept out of the list.

What are the UK’s current travel rules?

The UK currently has a system that designates countries in ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ list. If a person has been in a ‘red list’ country in the 10 days before arrival in the UK, she has to quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel; and take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 or after day 8 of quarantining. Even fully vaccinated people have to follow these rules: The penalty is up to £10,000 for violation of quarantine rules, and £5,000 for arriving without a prior negative test.

India features in the ‘amber list’.

If a person has been in an ‘amber list’ country in the 10 days before arrival in England, she has to take a Covid-19 test in the three days before travelling to England. If a traveler arrives without proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure, the fine is £500. After arrival, the traveler has to take a Covid-19 test on day 2. The prior test is necessary for fully vaccinated travelers, too — but they are exempt from quarantine if they have taken the full course of an ‘authorized’ vaccine. ‘Authorized’ includes two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine (traveler must have the final dose at least 14 days before arrival in England), or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If the traveller from the amber list is not fully vaccinated with the authorized vaccine, she has to quarantine on arrival at home or in the place where she is staying; take a test on or before day 2 of arrival; and take another test on or after day 8. If the traveler tests positive for Covid-19, she and the household must quarantine for 10 days from the day of the test. If tests on the traveller’s samples detect a ‘variant of concern’, all her contacts too will be asked to take a test. Travellers from ‘green list’ countries too need to take a test Covid-19 test three days before the trip to England; and book a day-2 test after arrival in England. There is blanket exemption from quarantine for the green list, unless the test result is positive on day 2.

What about travelers from India?

The list of authorized vaccines recognizes the full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua, and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan – and even mixing of two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna). Although, India’s vaccination drive predominantly uses Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, India has been kept out of the list.

What does excluding Covishield mean?

This effectively means that Indians administered with Covishield, the same vaccine as the UK’s AstraZeneca, have to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in the 3 days before travelling to England; book and pay for day-2 and day-8 tests to be taken in England; and quarantine at home for 10 days. The traveller can end the quarantine early, if she can pay for a private Covid-19 test through a ‘test to release’ scheme. For instance, if she arrives in England on a Monday, Tuesday will be her first full day of quarantine, and she can opt for a second test not earlier than the fifth day, which will be Saturday. If the result for the day-5 test is negative, she can stop quarantine, but she will still need to take the compulsory day-8 test.

What happens hereafter, then?

Government sources said they are invoking the reciprocity principle. They said a ‘note verbale’ has been sent to the UK Embassy, where they have said UK citizens will also be subject to 10 days’ quarantine. Government sources also told The Indian Express that the UK decision is not related to the addition of Serum Institute of India as an alternative manufacturing site on the ‘Vaxzevria’ licence granted to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Senior Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh Monday spoke out against the UK government’s decision to consider people vaccinated in India, Africa, South America and several other countries as unvaccinated, and make them go through a 10-day quarantine. Tharoor, Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha MP, has pulled put of a debate at Cambridge Union and withdrawn from the events for the launch of the UK edition of his book “The Battle of Belonging”. Quoting a thread of tweets by UK news analyst Alex Macheras, Tharoor wrote: “Because of this I have pulled out of a debate at the @cambridgeunion & out of launch events for the UK edition of my book #TheBattleOfBelonging (published there as #TheStruggleForIndiasSoul). It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine. The Brits are reviewing!”

Rajya Sabha Congress MP Jairam Ramesh too termed the country’s new travel policy “absolutely bizarre”. Quoting the same thread, he wrote: “Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism.” India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has raised with the UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss her country’s rules that require vaccinated Indian travellers to be quarantined and urged an early resolution of the issue. “Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” he tweeted after meeting Truss in New York on Monday as he began holding bilateral meetings with leaders from around the world.

Immigration Overhaul Won’t Be Part of the $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

The Senate’s wonk-in-chief has once again shown who’s really in charge as lawmakers try to push $3.5 trillion in spending through an arcane budget rule. On Sunday, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough foiled Democrats’ efforts to include long-sought changes to immigration laws in the enormous spending package winding its way through Congress. Democrats have been moving forward with plans to tuck a sweeping immigration overhaul into the package and pass it along partisan lines with only Democratic votes . But MacDonough stepped in with a polite but pointed piece of advice to lawmakers: This is too big of a change to take advantage of the budget trick known as reconciliation; the bill being considered, she wrote, carries “tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.”

In other words, she said, lawmakers cannot squeeze giving eight million immigrants a pathway to legal citizenship into a legislative loophole that allows lawmakers to conduct budget revisions without a super-majority 60 votes. In the most routine of times, the rule is a way for staff to reconcile Senate and House edits of the budget without re-running the entire legislative tape from the beginning.  This year, it’s already been used to shepherd a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package. Now, Democrats were looking to use the same loophole to insert into a $3.5 trillion follow-on provisions that would have opened the door for legal status to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, those who were granted entry for humanitarian reasons, farmworkers and other essential workers like those in hospitals, nursing homes and grocery stores.

The setback was not unexpected. “I always knew this would be a long process,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, the Senate’s highest-ranking Latino who has been advocating for the package of immigration changes. “I and my Democratic colleagues intend to continue working until we get to yes with the Parliamentarian.” The budget trickery Democrats are planning to use has very specific rules, including a requirement that the tool be employed only to deal with federal spending and revenue. Those limits have thwarted earlier efforts to slip things into budget bills: earlier this year, Democrats were not allowed to tack an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour onto the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, and in 2017 Republicans’ were unable to use a tax-cuts package to end a ban on churches playing politics while keeping their tax-exempt status. Democrats had considered trying to use the process to advance a voting-rights bill, but ultimately saw that as unlikely to win MacDonough’s approval.

MacDonough has been persuaded to change her mind before. Last year, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden—the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee—argued that part of Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal to leave the World Trade Organization was inappropriate for a vote because it had not gone through their panel. MacDonough initially sided with Hawley but two weeks later changed her ruling. But that’s very much the exception and far from the norm.

MacDonough has already handed Senate Democrats a big win, issuing an advisory earlier this year that they could reopen a budget bill to fold in a package to spend $1.9 trillion along party lines to ease pandemic woes. In the past, lawmakers were given one chance per budget year to send things into law with just 51 votes, but MacDonough said they could treat themselves to multiple bites of the legislative apple if they treated the add-ons as amendments to the budget. Absent that, they’d have to wait until the new budget year opens on Oct. 1.

As the presiding officer of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris can, of course, overrule the Parliamentarian. The last time it was done was in 1975, when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller presided over a change in the number of votes to end a filibuster from 66 to 60 in a fully-staffed Senate. Democrats could also fire MacDonough, and there’s more-recent precedent for this. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott did so in 2001 to pass the Bush-era tax cuts through the loophole now in question.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain says the Biden team isn’t looking at those options, though it’s worth noting that President Gerald Ford didn’t know Rockefeller was going to go rogue on the rostrum. There is nothing that gives Biden or his deputies any power over what Harris does in her twin role as the Senate’s chief. But it’s tough to imagine Harris unilaterally going against the norms of a body where she served as a Senator for four years and where Biden served for 36.

Absent any drastic action, Democrats’ immigration reforms face an uncertain future. In 2013 , the Senate passed a massive and comprehensive immigration bill with 14 Republicans supporting it. But of those original 14, just five remain in the Senate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. In fact, those last two helped write the bill and—in a sign of how the Republican Party has changed in recent years—Rubio had to distance himself from it during his 2016 race for the White House, calling it a mistake.

That bill never had a chance at a vote in the then-Republican controlled House, and that was before President Donald Trump made immigrant-bashing a central plank to both of his White House runs. Any hope of passing changes to the nation’s immigration laws with Republican votes now is almost zero. Trump may be gone, and this weekend’s rally in support of the insurrection he inspired may have been a failure, but the mark he leaves on this country is not fading any time soon.

UAE Lifts Travel Restrictions For Indians

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said that it is lifting restrictions from September 12 on entry for residents who have been fully vaccinated with a shot approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). It said that residents from India can fly into the UAE from September 12.  It has also allowed residents from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria and Afghanistan as well to fly into the UAE from September 12.

It also includes residents who stayed abroad for over six months, according to the NCEMA. “Those who are fully vaccinated with any WHO-approved vaccines and who have been staying in one of the countries in the suspended list for more than six months since the suspension decision was issued for each country, can come to the country under a new entry permit and rectify their status after entry,” the NCEMA said in a statement.

The passengers will be required to follow certain procedures to enter the UAE again:

— Apply via the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) and complete the vaccination application in order to get the necessary approval. They must present the approved vaccination certificate before their departure to the UAE.

— Provide a negative PCR test result, taken within 48 hours before their departure at an approved lab that has a QR code.

— Take a Rapid PCR test before boarding and another PCR test on the fourth and eight day of arrival while complying with all precautionary measures in place.

Dubai is due to open the Expo 2020 World Fair on October 1, for which it has been preparing for almost a decade, after a year-long delay due to the pandemic. The nation which is a regional business and tourism hub is relying on Expo 2020 World Fair to give its economy a boost.

The organizers said they expected that the remaining flight restrictions imposed by the government will be lifted in time for Expo 2020. The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority on Twitter however said that approval needs to be sought from the government and various PCR tests will be conducted before entering the country. The NCEMA said that children under 16 years old are exempt from these procedures. All other previously announced precautionary measures for unvaccinated people coming from the above-mentioned countries remain in place, it added.

India Bans International Flights Until September End

Commercial international flights have remained suspended since March 23, 2020, to check the spread of the Covid-19 infection. International commercial flights will remain suspended till September 30 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre said on Sunday. Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), extends the ban on scheduled international flights to and from the country until September 30, 2021.  “In partial modification of circular dated 26-06-2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 30 September 2021,” stated the order issued by the DGCA on August 29, 2021.

The restriction does not apply to international cargo operations. Exceptions are also made to international flights under travel bubble agreements or flights approved by the DGCA. India currently has travel bubble agreements with 28 countries, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry website indicates. The DGCA also said that scheduled international flights might be allowed on selected routes on a case-to-case basis. Commercial international flights have remained suspended since March 23, 2020, to check the spread of the Covid-19 infection. The Indian government had initially imposed international travel restrictions in March 2020, which have since been prolonged by almost 18 months Special international flights were also operating under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ since May 2020 to bring home thousands of Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The restrictions were later eased for certain countries with which India has had an air bubble arrangement during the past year. The air bubble pact between the two countries allows the operation of special international flights by the national carrier between their territories. India was considering lifting the restrictions on international commercial flights on August 31. However, the ban was extended as a threat of a third wave of infections looms large. This comes on a day when India reported 45,083 new cases and 460 deaths in the last 24 hours. The active cases have also increased to over 3.6 lakh.

India To Launch Mega Tourism Event In Leh

To promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on adventure and culture, a three-day tourism event — ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals — will commence from Thursday in Leh, the Union Tourism Ministry said last week. The Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Radha Krishna Mathur, and Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, G. Kishan Reddy, will address the event being organised from August 26-28. Reddy will virtually address the event, which will also be attended by Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal.

The objective of the event is to promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on aspects of adventure, culture and responsible tourism. The event aims to provide indigenous product knowledge to the industry stakeholders and also a platform to local stakeholders for interaction with the tour operators from the rest of the country. The three-day event will include activities like exhibition, panel discussions, B2B meetings, technical tours and cultural evenings to showcase the tourism facilities and products of Ladakh.

During the event, ‘A Tourism Vision for Ladakh’ document would be unveiled which focuses on the overall development of the region. The document envisions promoting tourism in the backdrop of sustainable ecological practices, building on local materials and human resources. The Ministry of Tourism is organizing the three-day event in collaboration with Ladakh’s department of tourism and the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI).

In a statement, the ministry said, “Domestic tourism plays an important role in the overall development of the tourism sector in India. The ministry undertakes various promotional activities for the promotion of domestic tourism and these activities are primarily aimed at increasing awareness about tourism destinations and products, promoting domestic tourism with focus on priority areas like the Northeast, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. “The ministry has been promoting Ladakh in domestic as well as international markets through various campaigns and initiatives such as ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ wherein a dedicated webinar on Ladakh was conducted. Promotion of Ladakh is also undertaken through the ‘Incredible India’ website, social media platforms of the ministry etc.”

In Ladakh, Airbnb & SEWA Hosts Will Offer A Unique And Immersive Experience

Airbnb will train Self Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) members on home sharing, hospitality, quality standards and responsible hosting practices under the ‘Hum Sab Ek’ (We are One) initiative, while fostering digital inclusion and enabling these women Hosts to connect with a global community of travelers. Together they represent 1.5 million self-employed women living mostly in India’s rural areas, and have now extended their partnership to onboard SEWA members from Ladakh as hosts on the Airbnb platform. This partnership will expand livelihood opportunities for women in rural Ladakh and form part of broader efforts to rebuild tourism in a way that delivers positive outcomes for communities.

Ladakh is well-known as a pristine and unique hub for culture and ecotourism. SEWA hosts in Ladakh will offer a unique and immersive experience in the ancient village of Phayang in Leh Ladakh. These hosts will also be leading the way on energy efficiency and responsible resource use through accommodations with amenities such as newly installed solar lights. Women make up a significant portion of Airbnb’s Host community in India. As of August 11 this year, new women Hosts in India with one listing have earned almost Rs 30 million since the start of the pandemic and women make up almost 30 per cent of our entire Indian Host community. Through home sharing, women hosts are able to significantly augment their earnings and some women entrepreneurs have embraced being home hosts full-time.

This extended collaboration was announced at a seminar titled ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals’ organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said: “The Airbnb-SEWA partnership is an excellent example of how the benefits of tourism can better serve communities and help rebuild tourism across the country, especially in Ladakh. The region is a significant draw for domestic and international tourists, and these partnerships enable not only a wealth of tourism experiences, but economically empower communities with the help of platforms such as Airbnb.”

Hosts on Airbnb to secure their financial independence and bring valuable tourism dollars into their communities. As part of our broader efforts to help rebuild tourism for the benefit of local communities, we aim to work together with these micro-entrepreneurs to promote sustainable and responsible travel and stays that contribute to resilient local economies and support jobs. Airbnb will continue to work closely with these women Hosts through training and best-practice sharing,” said Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager — Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“‘Hum Sab Ek’ is our rural innovation. We have worked together with Airbnb to create meaningful livelihood opportunities for our women members. Gandhiji’s Oceanic Circle perspective advocates helping each other rather than competing with each other. Together with Airbnb, our goal is to build a strong community of SEWA hosts who can learn from one another, constantly improve hosting standards, and together create a more welcoming environment for Indian women in hospitality,” said Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA.

Dubai To Allow Indian Expats With Expired Residence Visa To Return

In a move that brings relief to thousands of Indian expats, Dubai announced it will allow them to come back even if their residence visas have expired. Also allowed to return were residence visa holders from Pakistan, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. Anyone holding an expired Dubai residence visa now has time to return until November 10. A large number of Indian expats had flown back to the country earlier this year when the second wave of Covid-19 was rampant, and were then unable to return to the UAE as the flights were suspended.

Fly Dubai, the low-cost carrier operating from the emirates, posted on its website: “The GDRFA has extended the expiry date of Dubai-issued UAE resident visas for nationals of India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda who are stranded outside of the UAE. “This applies to Dubai-issued UAE resident visas which have expired or will expire between April 20, 2021 and November 9, 2021 inclusive.”

However, the airline said that the expiry will not be extended for holders of Dubai-issued visas who have stayed outside of the UAE for more than six months, if they left before October 20, 2020. It was unclear at the moment if the same offer applied to residence visas issued by Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, or other emirates.

The move was later confirmed by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to Gulf News. In a statement, the GDRFA said: “The procedure will be done according to certain conditions and procedures including that the beneficiaries must be outside the country since the expiry date of residency between April 20, 2021 and November 8, 2021. GDRFA-Dubai will extend the residency visas until November 9.” Once the expats return with expired visa enter the country, the system will give them a 30-day grace period from the date of entry to change their status and renew their visas. (IANS) Boom! United Airlines Just Bought 15 Supersonic Jets That Fly on ‘Sustainable’ Fuel .The airline plans to buy the Overture jets from Boom Supersonic to make its fleet faster and more sustainable.

United Airlines Plans To Purchase 15 Supersonic Overture Jets From Boom Supersonic

The US airline is the first to announce plans to go supersonic, reviving dreams from the late 1960s when British Airways and Air France offered transatlantic flights aboard the Concorde. Only 20 were built during the aircraft’s 24-year operational life. The Overture, which would seat between 65 and 88 passengers, would cut flight time in half over a conventional commercial airliner, with a top speed of Mach 1.7, or 1,304 mph. A flight from New York to London would take just 3.5 hours, according to Boom, and Los Angeles to Sydney would be about eight hours. Unlike the Concorde, which was neither fuel-efficient nor quiet, the Overture will be designed to be “net-carbon zero,” and will cut emissions, according to Boom, by running on sustainable aviation fuel. The first aircraft is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and carry its first passengers by 2029.

“United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable to include supersonic planes,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.” The announcement is not the first of an intended partnership between a supersonic firm and a large aviation company.

Both Flexjet and NetJets announced that they planned to buy business jets from Aerion. The Reno-based company had the fastest, most ambitious rollout of its AS2, while also planning to break ground on a new research and production campus near Orlando sometime this year. Last week, it abruptly said it was shutting down because it couldn’t secure long-term funding. Boom seems to be farther along in its development stages than its former competitor. It rolled out a third-scale demonstrator aircraft, the XB1, last year. Boom CEO Blake Scholl recently told a Congressional panel that it plans to fly it for the first time by the end of 2021 or in early 2022.

Overture will be designed with in-seat entertainment screens, large personal space and contactless technology. “At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations,” said Scholl in announcing the deal. United also has the option to buy 35 more Overtures. Scholl recently said that the Overture represents the first dramatic speed gains in new aircraft since the Concorde. “We see ourselves as picking up where Concorde left off, and fixing the most important things which are economic and environmental sustainability,” he told CNN recently, adding: “Either we fail or we change the world.”

U.S. Eases Travel Advisory For India To Second-Lowest Level

The U.S. State Department Aug. 16 eased its travel advisories for India, taking it to its second-lowest level, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Asian nation now has a “moderate level of COVID-19.” “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 2 travel health notice for India due to COVID-19, indicating a moderate level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers,” the State Department said in a statement.

It also urged American citizens not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir, except for the eastern Ladakh region and its capital of Leh, due to terrorism and civil unrest. They have also been advised not to travel within the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict. “Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Avoid all travel to this state (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh),” it said, adding, “India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border.” In April, the U.S. issued a level 4 travel health notice for India as the country was reeling under the second wave of COVID-19.

Vinay Patel Takes Charge As AAHOA Chairman

Virginia hotelier Vinay Patel is the new Chair of AAHOA’s Board of  Directors. Patel became chair at the conclusion of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show , which was the first major convention in Dallas since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The  convention was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. “Serving America’s hotel owners as the AAHOA Chair is an honor, and I look forward to working  with AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 members on the road to recovery,” Patel said. “Industry estimates continue to project a full recovery some time in late 2023 or 2024.

Coming together as an industry is  paramount to economic recovery, especially as new variants threaten to inhibit the reopening of America. I am confident that AAHOA’s enhanced advocacy and education efforts as well as the  implementation of our new strategic plan will help our industry get back on track.” Patel plans to focus on elevating the association’s advocacy and engagement at the state and local  level including coordinating political education efforts with the American Hospitality Alliance.

“We  must be united in our advocacy efforts, especially as we engage with local governments,” Patel said.  “I am also committed to broadening our outreach to lawmakers who have not necessarily engaged on  the issues we champion. Building a broad coalition that supports small businesses and their  employees will help draw more attention to why issues such as 1031 like-kind exchanges and the  Save Hotel Jobs Act are so important to rebuilding our economy with new, good-paying jobs.”

In his inaugural address, Patel highlighted the importance of the industry’s collective efforts to keep  the lights on during the pandemic as well as the necessity of remaining optimistic about the recovery  and efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. “We are in uncharted territory as a country as we  emerge from this crisis. In a way, we are all letting our eyes adjust to the sunlight after spending  more than a year in the darkness. It will be challenging. It will be frustrating. But AAHOA is here to  help guide us as we rebuild, reinvest, and recover.”

Patel joined AAHOA in 1993 and has served on its board since 2014. AAHOA members elected him  as Secretary in 2018. He is the President of Fairbrook Hotels which owns and operates eleven  properties including IHG, Hilton, Radisson, Choice, and Wyndham brands. Patel also serves on the  Board of Directors for the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association and is the president of the  Herndon Hospitality Association. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vinay prior to joining AAHOA, and he truly embodies the  characteristics, qualities, and values that make a great Chairman,” AAHOA Interim President & CEO  Ken Greene said. “I have seen him in action as a property owner and as Vice Chair of AAHOA, and I  couldn’t be more excited to work with him now as the Chair. As we continue to lead AAHOA into its  next chapter, I am certain his leadership, commitment, and enthusiasm will play a pivotal role in  AAHOA’s future success.”

Miraj S. Patel, MBA, CHO, CHIA of Houston, Texas, is the new  AAHOA Secretary. Patel is the President of the Houston-based Wayside Investment Group. AAHOA members also elected the following twelve members to the Board of Directors:

Female Director Western Division: Tejal N. Patel, CHIA, CHO
Gulf Regional Director: Vimal Patel
Mid Atlantic Regional Director: Mahendra (MZ) Patel
Mid South Regional Director: Harikrishna (HK) Patel
North Pacific Regional Director: KP Patel
Northeast Regional Director: Sunil (Sunny) Patel CHO, CHIA
South Carolina Regional Director: Fenil Desai
South Central Texas Regional Director: Kiran (Kevin) Patel
Southeast Texas Regional Director: Ailesh Mulji
Southwest Regional Director: Dharmesh Ahir
South Pacific Regional Director: Mike Riverside CHA, CHO
Upper Midwest Regional Director: Mehul (Mike) Patel

“Congratulations to our new AAHOA Secretary and all of our newly elected board members. It
is encouraging to see so many members volunteering to serve America’s hotel owners. I look
forward to working with new AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel, the board officers, our board of
directors, and the entire AAHOA team as we assist the hospitality industry on the road to
recovery. AAHOA’s value and resources have never been more apparent as we work tirelessly to
reopen our economy and ensure that our communities are prepared to welcome back guests as
the nation starts to travel again,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60  percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million  employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a  proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Indian-Americans Own 60 Percent Of Hotel Industry In U.S.

Accounting for 34,260 hotels across the United States, Indian Americans owned hotels account for 60 percent of all hotels in the U.S., according to a new study conducted by Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in partnership with Oxford Economics, a global leader in forecasting and quantitative analysis. The study analyzed the share of U.S. hotels and rooms owned by the members of AAHOA, which is predominantly made up of Indian-origin hoteliers, hotel operations, hotel guest ancillary spending, capital investment, and indirect and induced impacts supported by AAHOA hotels in other parts of the U.S. economy.

In all Indian Americans own and operate 3.1 million guestrooms, and 2.2 million direct impact jobs. The study’s topline results were presented to AAHOA Members during the general session on the first day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas on August 3rd.

“The findings laid out in this new study are a testament to the strength and influence of AAHOA Members and serve as yet another reminder of hotel owners’ vital economic contributions to communities across the nation,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Guests at AAHOA hotels spend billions of dollars in local economies. AAHOA Members employ as many workers as FedEx and Home Depot – combined, and the 1.1 million employees who work at AAHOA Member hotels earn $47 billion annually. AAHOA Members are the heart and soul of the hospitality industry and will continue to play an essential role in our nation’s economic recovery.”

The study shows that AAHOA supports a total economic impact of: $680.6 billion of business sales (representing revenue plus sales and lodging taxes); 4.2 million jobs with $214.6 billion of wages, salaries and other compensation; $368.4 billion contributed to U.S. GDP; and, $96.8 billion of federal, state and local taxes.

With the ownership of the majority hotel industry, the economic impact and industry influence of AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 Members, is very impressive. “This study gives us the clearest picture to date about the scale, reach, and economic impact that AAHOA Members have in the United States,” said AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel. “It is remarkable how far AAHOA Members have come since the association’s founding in 1989 when a small group of hoteliers banded together to fight discrimination. That commitment to helping hoteliers grow their businesses and realize the American Dream is reflected in the impressive numbers revealed today. We are proud of what our Members have accomplished and remain committed to being the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners.”

A comprehensive report will soon be made available on the AAHOA website. AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

On the third day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, the association recognized achievement and excellence in the hospitality industry with its annual awards. Winners received their awards on the main stage during the general session. The 2020 award winners are:

  • AAHOA Award of Excellence: Nanda Patel
  • Cecil B. Day Community Service Award: Mitesh Jivan
  • IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year: Hotel Lexen
  • Outreach Award for Philanthropy: Masudur Khan
  • Outstanding Women Hotelier of the Year: Priti Patel
  • Outstanding Young Professional of the Year: Saajan Patel
  • Political Forum Award for Advocacy: Bijal Patel

“Each year, AAHOA recognizes and honors hoteliers who go above and beyond in service to the hospitality industry,” said Immediate Past Chairman Biran Patel. “During such a challenging year, these individuals made significant contributions to the industry and to AAHOA. We are all honored to highlight their service and commitment to excellence.”

“These awards recognize the best of the best. Following an extremely difficult year for AAHOA Members and the entire industry, these award recipients demonstrate their commitment to excellence in the hospitality industry, regardless of the landscape,” said Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed, and it is through their leadership, grit, and determinations that the industry continues to thrive.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. “With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community,” the organization said, adding, “AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.”

CDC Adds 16 Destinations To ‘Very High’ Covid-19 Travel Risk List

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 16 destinations to its “very high” Covid-19 risk level on Monday, August 2nd including Greece, Ireland and the US Virgin Islands.

According to the CDC, a risk designation of “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” means people should avoid travel to these locations. Those who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

In its overarching guidance, the CDC recommends against all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency says.

Destinations that fall into the “very high” risk category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters.

The Caribbean during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Direct travel of noncitizens from Ireland and Greece to the United States has been suspended since January 25, 2021, under an executive order limiting travel from multiple countries. The White House recently said those restrictions would remain in place amid surging cases from the Delta variant

The following 16 destinations moved to the CDC’s “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High” category on August 2: Andorra, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Libya, Malta, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin and US Virgin Islands.

The new list is in addition to several others, including India placed on the list to avoid to travel. On India, CDC suggests,“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to India. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to India. Because of the current situation in India, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

You can look up the CDC’s risk level of any destination on its travel recommendations page.

U.S. Passport Renewals Are Taking Months: If Your Us Passport Expires Within The Next Year, You Need To Get Moving

Last spring, Tera Wages was looking forward to a mid-July trip to Casa Chameleon Hotel in Costa Rica when a friend happened to mention the U.S. passport renewal process, which has been suffering delays during the pandemic. Wages panicked, realizing she hadn’t checked the expiration date on her own passport. “You could have sucked the air out of the room in that moment,” she says.

Sure enough, both Wages’s and her partner’s passports had expired during the pandemic. Wages immediately sent them off to USPS, four weeks before they were set to depart—exactly the time the U.S. Department of State said passport renewals were estimated to take back in the spring. But mere days prior to scheduled travel, the Alabama-based couple was still passport-less, despite herculean efforts to secure an in-person agency appointment through a case worker assigned to them by Congressman Mo Brooks’s office.

“Ultimately we realized our case worker was not able to make anything happen,” Wages says. “We’d spent hours refreshing the page to get appointments, and nothing was becoming available. We decided there was no way [we could still go on the trip].”

Situations like Wages’s are common right now, with many Americans being forced to cancel international trips due to expired passports, and a long and frustrating renewal process. Though travel agents have always recommended giving the government a few months to process a U.S. passport renewal, the timeline is now much more complicated. Processing times are currently up to three times longer for both routine and expedited passport renewal services compared to before the pandemic.

Due to a huge influx of requests as the world reopens, travelers who need to renew (either in person or via mail) will have to allow extra time to do so. The best advice? Check your passport expiration date now—whether you have a trip planned or are just dreaming of one—and don’t forget many international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your planned return date to the United States.

We tapped travel experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, including what to do if you have an upcoming trip.

How long are passport renewals taking right now?

“We’ve seen varying timelines, but generally the passport renewal process can take anywhere from four to 18 weeks via mail, with in-person meetings even harder to come by,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn. The government’s passport renewal website says travelers should be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks from the day their mailed-in passport reaches a processing facility.

Any travelers who can provide proof of necessary urgent travel, such as life-or-death emergencies, or can show that their trip is within 72 hours, though, are given the chance to score an in-person appointment, Spence says. “However, we wouldn’t count on this unless it’s a last resort,” he adds.

If you are able to get an in-person appointment at one of the government’s 26 passport agencies or centers in the country, a passport agent will review your application and potentially issue a passport on the spot, if you’re eligible for one. Or, the agent may ask you to return at a specific time to receive it, depending on the agency, their workload, and the date of anticipated travel.

Appointments at these centers have been so scarce, however, and in such high demand, that some who’ve been able to secure one have taken to selling them illegally to other travelers. Wages says that in researching how to get appointments online in their attempt to continue with their Costa Rica trip, they discovered users on Reddit who would post appointments for sale—starting around $200—as soon as someone canceled or more spots opened up.

In a briefing on July 14, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt addressed the situation, condemning this behavior. “We are aware of the issues and we are working to prevent them,” she said. “The Department of State does not charge a fee to solely book an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers, so if anyone receives a request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment, that should be considered fraudulent.”

As a result, on July 21 the Department of State temporarily disabled the online appointment booking system for urgent travel service. No timeframe was specified as to when online booking for appointments will open back up. In the meantime, you must call to make an appointment (though Traveler editors have been unable to get through in recent days, with the call dropping off after the initial menu).

Note that the above measure only applies to the 26 passport agencies in the country, and not the many passport acceptance centers—found in libraries, post offices, and local government offices—which continue to take online appointments. Wait times at passport acceptance centers are aligned with mail-in timelines, meaning the process can take up to 18 weeks once you’ve had your appointment and your passport has reached the federal government. Find a passport acceptance center near you here.

What to do if you need a passport, fast

If not being able to renew your passport could mean cancellation of a major trip, it makes sense you might consider extreme measures to score an appointment—even if that means paying for one. However, Spence says he’d never recommend illegally purchasing an appointment. “Although it’s tedious, we always advise going through the official application and renewal process through your local passport agency,” he says.

One creative way to potentially move quickly through the official channels? Contact your local representative, including the office of your U.S. senator or congressional representative, and ask for help getting an appointment, says Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit. She says that a client set to travel to Mexico realized last minute that their passport was expired. With travel in two days and no luck booking an appointment with the Department of State, they contacted their government representative and were able to get assistance—and continue with their planned trip, fresh passport in hand.

“I would probably recommend that route,” Schmidt says.”Reaching out to anyone who may [be able to] help in a crisis is worth a try.” Every district is different, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right person to call; more than likely, though, it will be your U.S. congressional representative who might be able to help in the eleventh hour. That said, it’s not a guarantee that lawmakers in either the House or Senate will be able to assist in a timely manner, as Wages experienced with her caseworker.

Of course, if you’re in panic mode and willing to throw money at the problem, there are always third-party passport services you can pay to handle your renewal. Throughout the summer, many passport application and renewal services—some of which traditionally advertise 24-hour turnarounds—have posted notices to customers that they cannot guarantee rapid renewals, though some are advertising wait times shorter than the government’s. RushMyPassport is a service Traveler staffers have used for a guaranteed 4-week return time, for $189. Another, GenVisa, says they will be able to offer passport renewals within 7 to 10 business days beginning in early August for $370.

What about the government’s expedited service?

During COVID, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. However, expedited service resumed in September 2020. You can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport renewal faster; however, the turnaround time is also delayed and may take up to 12 weeks.

What should I expect if I renew by mail?

Mailing your passport without knowing when it may be returned is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it, you should be able to track your application status through this page. Enter your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.

Always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, says Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”

If the worst happens and you can’t get a passport in time, you can always book a domestic trip instead. Wages, who is still passport-less, ended up booking a weekend getaway to The Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach with her husband. Though she says the experience was a “10 out of 10,” it was still a consolation to the international vacation they didn’t get to take. Still, Wages acknowledges it could have been worse. “We’re fortunate our [travel] was not an emergency and that we have the privilege to be able to reschedule and plan again,” she says. “But for people who don’t have that ability, it would be really tough.”

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date. We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find our latest coronavirus coverage here, or visit our complete guide to COVID-19 and travel.

US To Continue Travel Restrictions As Covid Spreads

The United States served notice this week that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant. It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The United States said it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant at home and abroad. “We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks. The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are unvaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.” The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates. “The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said. Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic. Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there. Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell. But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

Maldives’ Tourist Arrivals This Year Surpass 2020

The Maldives has received more tourist arrivals between January and July 2021 than that for the whole year of 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism released last week. Tourism Ministry data showed that the Maldives received 559,000 tourists as of July 17, 2021, the same number of tourists it received for the whole of 2020, reports Xinhua news agency. Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom was quoted by state-owned PSM News as saying that the government was targeting 1.3 million tourist arrivals by the end of the year.

Mausoom said that the Maldives is currently receiving an average of 5,000 tourists per day and 23 per cent of arrivals are from neighbouring South Asian countries. Tourist arrivals to the Maldives declined significantly in 2020 due to border closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Maldives must maintain an average of 4000 daily arrivals throughout the year or experience a significant influx of tourists during holiday periods in order to reach the set target of 1.5 million tourists in 2021.

At present, 148 resorts and 364 guesthouses are known to be fully operational in Maldives.Maldives reopened borders to all nationalities from 15th July 2020. All visitors are granted a 30-day free on-arrival visa with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.

While there is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, tourists traveling to Maldives are required to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 96 hours prior to their departure. The negative PCR test result must be attached while completing Traveler Health Declaration form, which has to be submitted online via IMUGA (www.imuga.immigration.gov.mv), by all arriving passengers before arrival (but not exceeding 24 hours before arrival time).

Canada To Open Its Borders To USA On August 9th

The long wait will soon be over for foreigners who have been banned from entering Canada for nearly 16 months.  Beginning August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada.Non-essential travel into Canada has been banned since March 2020, something the Canadian government said was necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning September 7, provided the “COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable,” the Canadian government said in a statement Monday.

Entry to Canada will continue to be prohibited for all foreign travelers who are not fully vaccinated.  All fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents must have received the full series of a vaccine — or combination of vaccines — accepted by the Canadian government at least 14 days prior to entering Canada, according to the statement. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Other vaccines, including those from China or Russia, will not be recognized by Canada. Officials say they are continuing to “look into it” and will announce policy changes accordingly.

Travelers must provide proof they have been vaccinated. In a significant concession, unvaccinated minors younger than 12 entering Canada with vaccinated parents or guardians will not have to quarantine for 14 days. In another change to policy, fully vaccinated travelers will not need a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected at the port of entry to complete a Covid-19 molecular test. All travelers coming into Canada, regardless of vaccine status, will need a negative PCR or molecular test within 72 hours of requesting entry.The White House declined to commit to reopening its northern border to Canadians, though.

“We are continuing to review our travel restrictions and any decisions about reopening travel will by guided by our public health and medical experts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “We take this incredibly seriously, but we look and are guided by our own medical experts. I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention,” Psaki said. The United States has set up working groups with allies in the United Kingdom and the European Union on reopening travel, but the results of those discussions haven’t been clear. The EU lifted travel restrictions for US citizens last month.

In COVID-19 Travel Advisory for India, US Asks Americans to ‘Reconsider Travel’

The United States has improved the travel advisory for India, upgrading from Level 4 category to Level 3 which urges citizens to reconsider travel. The Level 4 category means no travel. “Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers,” the advisory by the U.S. State Department said.

The State Department advisory comes after the CDC issued a Level 3 ‘Travel Health Notice’ for India due to COVID-19. The CDC suggests that people reconsider travel to destinations that are classified as Level 3, and that if people travel there, they should make sure they are fully vaccinated before they go. The updated advisory further asked its citizens to “exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism.”

In April, the U.S. issued a Level 4 travel health notice for India as the country was reeling under the second wave of COVID-19. In related news from Ottawa, Canada, the Canadian government, in a statement July 19, announced it would open its borders for international travel from Sept. 7, 2021. The government intends to open Canada’s borders to any fully vaccinated travelers who have completed the full course of vaccination with a Government of Canada-accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements, the Canadian government said in a statement.

“Subject to limited exceptions, all travelers must use ArriveCAN (app or web portal) to submit their travel information. If they are eligible to enter Canada and meet specific criteria, fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.” In the first step, starting Aug. 9, 2021, the government has planned to allow entry to American citizens and permanent residents who are currently residing in the United States and have been fully vaccinated. This strategy will allow the government to continue monitoring variants of concern in Canada and vaccine effectiveness. Using these layers of protection, the Government of Canada can monitor the COVID-19 situation in the country, respond quickly to threats, and guide decisions on restricting international travel, the statement said. (ANI)

Neha Parikh Is CEO Of Waze

Neha Parikh, the former president of Hotwire and a board member of Carvana, has been named CEO of Waze, the app that leads millions on the road tyo reach their destinations. Parikh replaces Noam Bardin, who stepped down as CEO of the Google-owned navigation service last November after leading the company for 12 years.Neha Parikh, a former president of the travel website Hotwire, comes with a broad experience in the travel and navigation-based industry. Parikh was previously a board member of Carvana, an Israeli online car retailer and stepped down as the CEO of the company after 12 years.

She has also worked as the board member of Tailwind Acquisition Corp. and worked in several positions for nine years at Hotels.com which is a subsidiary of Hotwire and became the youngest and first female president of the company. Parikh started her career in 2000 as a Management Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is a multinational professional services network of firms. After working at the company for a year, she worked in several other positions like a business analyst, marketing manager, and demand and growth strategy consultant.

At Hotels.com, which is a subsidiary of Expedia Group, Parikh started as a Product Manager and in her nine-year career in the company, she achieved the position of Senior Vice President. Before starting her career in the field of business and management, Parikh completed her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin and her Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University.

After Parikh was announced as the CEO of Waze, a spokesperson of the company said that as she leads into the future, Parikh will remain hyper-focused on the passionate community of the company, their beloved brand, and the best-in-class products. About joining the company, Parikh said in a statement that she is thrilled to align with a company that puts its customers first as relentless customer focus has been central to her career.

A month before joining Waze as a CEO Parikh shared a post on her Linkedin account announcing that she would be joining the company in a month. Talking about Waze in her post, Parikh said that anyone who knows her well knows that she is a fan of the company as it is about helping other people.

“As Neha leads Waze into the future, she will remain hyper-focused on our passionate community, beloved brand, and best-in-class products,” a spokesperson for the company said. A month before assuming her new role at Waze in June, Parikh shared a post on her LinkedIn account that detailed her inclination for the brand. “Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a (vocal!) Waze superfan both because it 100 percent helps me outsmart traffic but also because at its core, Waze is about people helping other people,” she wrote.

The San Francisco, Calif.-based executive is a veteran of the online hospitality brand Expedia, and has served in a variety of positions at two of the corporation’s subsidiaries: Hotels.com and as Hotwire’s youngest and first female president, according to PTI. Waze, according to the agency, currently has over 140 million active monthly users in more than 185 countries who drive more than 40 billion kilometers every month. The app can give out directions in 56 different languages and employs over 500 people, a significant number of which are based out of Israel.

Parikh first started with Expedia Group in 2008 with Hotels.com, where her responsibilities and expertise spanned product development, customer relationship marketing, pricing and strategy, culminating in her role as senior vice president of global brands for Hotels.com before assuming the role of president of Hotwire in 2017. In addition, Parikh has held marketing and product development roles at Dade Behring (a Siemens healthcare company) and worked as a management consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLP. Parikh was also appointed to the board of Carvana, the online car marketplace, in April 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

As Travel Returns To Normal, United Airlines To Buy 270 New Planes

United Airlines is placing a jumbo-sized order of narrow-body aircraft. The company is purchasing 270 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.Last year, U.S. airlines were fighting to survive. Struggling in the depths of the pandemic, they received an infusion of cash and cheap loans from the U.S. government and, between aid packages, furloughed tens of thousands of workers. Business and international flights are still down from pre-pandemic levels, but domestic leisure travel, the kind where single-aisle planes dominate, is roaring back. United is planning for growth and ready to spend billions to get there, though it did not mention a specific price tag on Tuesday.

“It’s a plan that’s a nose-to-tail plan for the future,” United’s Andrew Nocella told reporters on Monday. “And it’s something we’ve actually been working on for many, many years.” The company says this is the biggest jet purchase placed by a U.S. airline in the past decade. (In 2011, American Airlines purchased 460 planes in one fell swoop.) And factoring in the new planes that United had already ordered, the company will get 500 new jets over the next few years. They’re intended to replace some older planes and expand the total size of the fleet, allowing for more daily departures. In addition to adding new planes, United will also be retrofitting every narrow-body plane in its directly operated fleet, a process that will take several years. The retrofits will put more premium seats per aircraft, as well as add seatback entertainment on all seat backs and improve carry-on bag storage.

“It’s really making the gate-checked bags a thing of the past,” promised United’s Toby Enqvist in a call with reporters on Monday. “We’re going to have space for each and every customer’s [carry-on bags] … even on a full flight.” The order will include 200 Boeing planes from the 737 Max series (which returned to service six months ago after nearly two years grounded over a deadly software flaw) as well as 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft. United, perhaps anticipating criticism for planning big investments so soon after requiring taxpayer aid, heavily emphasized the potential positive ripple effects on the U.S. economy from placing this order. The company argued that the purchase will directly create 25,000 new unionized United jobs, while indirectly supporting many more jobs at manufacturers, airports and travel destinations. And the company was adamant that air travel, even the still-depressed international and business travel, would come roaring back.

Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry analyst with the Teal Group, notes that these kinds of bulk airplane orders aren’t exactly written in stone. Airlines can place a big order but then shift exactly when the planes get delivered (and actually paid for), based on how business is going. “We’re talking about the last of these planes being delivered, if things are great, four or five years hence,” he says. “If they’re not so great, six or seven years hence. If they’re terrible, how about never — does never work for you?” And he noted that now is a reasonable time to place these orders. Borrowing money is cheap, fuel prices are rising, and new planes are more fuel efficient than their predecessors.

Canada Extends Border Restrictions To July 21

The Canadian government has announced that the Canada-US border agreement on travel restrictions will be extended for another month to July 21. “In coordination with the US, we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the US until July 21st, 2021,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet on Friday.
Blair also said the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter the country and will provide further details on June 21.

The new extension comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers met to discuss the possibility of opening the land border between the two countries, which has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020. The restrictions, which do not cover trade or travel by air, has been extended several times. he current restrictions were to expire on June 21.

Trudeau said on June 13 he had spoken with US President Joe Biden about how to lift the restrictions, but added that no breakthrough has been achieved. The Trudeau government closed its borders to non-essential travellers in March 2020. Since then, it has adjusted the rules to require Covid-19 testing before and after arrival, as well as a period of mandatory quarantine. Canada also limited international flights to just four airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. In the fall of 2020, Canada expanded the list of travellers who were exempt from travel restrictions.

International students going to a Designated Learning Institution with a Covid-19 readiness plan were allowed to come to Canada to study. The exemptions also included extended family members, as well as travelers coming to Canada for compassionate reasons such as a funeral. In February 2021, Canada also added the mandatory hotel quarantine on incoming international travelers. New airport arrivals were to go immediately to wait for the results of a Covid-19 test at a government-approved hotel at their own expense.


Europe Lifts Ban On US Travelers

The European Union is officially recommending that the 27-member bloc lift restrictions on US travelers, a long-anticipated move that will allow a return to near-normal travel with the continent for the first time since the pandemic began, according to diplomats.The European diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement planned for Friday. EU ambassadors decided Wednesday to approve a proposal to add the United States — along with Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia — to its “white list” of places where nonessential travelers are allowed in from across the bloc, sources said. Although this list is nonbinding, it seeks to harmonize travel rules across the European Union. Some European countries, including Greece, Portugal, and Spain, are already accepting vaccinated US travelers.

Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved a European Commission proposal from May 3 to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere.The full resumption of transatlantic travel still has one further hurdle: The United States has yet to say when it will reciprocally lift its ban on E.U. travelers, although that move is similarly expected within weeks.Inclusion on the “white list,” created in June 2020, means E.U. countries can accept travelers regardless of their vaccination status, although each individual country can set its own requirements for entry and quarantine. Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand are among the countries already on the list.

Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.   The current main criterion is that there should be no more than 25 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days. The trend should be stable or decreasing and there should be a sufficient number of tests, which would need to show a minimum percentage of negative tests. Variants of concern can be taken into account.

The resumption of travel will be a major boost to tourism-dependent economies across the continent. Following a slow start to vaccine rollouts, European officials and policymakers hope that the bloc will reach herd immunity by July. So far, around 45 percent of the nearly 450 million E.U. residents have been inoculated with at least one shot, and around half of those have been fully vaccinated.Earlier this week, the E.U. Parliament also formally approved legislation to create a digital certificate system starting July 1 that would scrap quarantine requirements for people who can prove they are vaccinated or that they have recently recovered from covid-19 or tested negative for the virus.

U.S. CDC Eases Travel Recommendations On 61 Countries

(Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased its travel recommendations for 61 countries, including Japan from its highest “Level 4” rating that had discouraged all travel to recommending travel for fully vaccinated individuals, the agency confirmed Tuesday. The new ratings, which were not previously reported and posted on a CDC website Monday, lower 61 countries to “Level 3,” including France, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Italy. A U.S. State Department official said it was in the process of revising its travel advisory to reflect the CDC changes.The CDC said the change comes after its revised its criteria for travel health notices. The CDC said it has also revised its rating for the United States to “Level 3” from “Level 4.”

On May 24, the State Department had urged against travel to Japan, citing a new wave of coronavirus cases before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin July 23.The CDC said the new criteria for a Level 4 “avoid all travel” recommendation has changed from 100 cases per 100,000 to 500 cases per 100,000. The CDC added that many countries have lower ratings “because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled.” The CDC added it expects more countries to get lower ratings.Other countries being lowered to “Level 3” include Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Panama, Poland, Denmark and Malaysia.

Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the U.S. government’s list of countries subject to severe travel restrictions — and most have been subject to the restrictions since early 2020.The United States bars nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have been in China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls within the previous 14 days.

OCI Card Holders Allowed To Visit India By Updating Their Newly Issued Passports

There are reports that OCI Card holders transiting through 3rd countries have been denied permission to board flights to India as these OCI cardholders were not carrying their old passport bearing its number in the OCI Card.

In view of the above, it is once again reiterated that it is mandatory to carry both old and new passports in case the OCI card holders are traveling on the strength of OCI card bearing old passport number in it.

  • The OCI guidelines on renewal which have been in force since 2005 are as follows:
  • OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is required by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years.
  • OCI card is required to be re-issued once and acquiring a new passport after completing 50 years of age.

The Government of India has given an extension in time till June 30th 2021 to get OCI Cards re-issued in accordance with the above guidelines. (Source: Consulate General of India, New York press release.)

The OCI card, which allows lifelong visa free travel to India with certain limitations to people of Indian-origin, was suspended by the Indian government on April 11 amidst a nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The sudden decision had created chaos and anxiety among the hundreds and thousands of Indian-origin people. A large number of them had taken to the social media platforms like Twitter to vent out their anger.The travel restrictions on those having OCI cards were subsequently relaxed, which so far has been mainly in the emergency categories, those travelling for work or minors with OCI card holders whose parents are Indian citizens.

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