Legend Airlines A340 Carrying 303 Passengers, Mostly Indians, Allowed to Leave France

Radhika Bansal

26 Dec 2023

A Nicaragua-bound flight carrying 303 passengers, mostly Indians, was allowed to resume its journey on Monday, December 25, three days after they were detained by the French authorities at an airport near Paris over suspected "human trafficking", according to local media reports.

After authorising the A340 aircraft, operated by Romanian company Legend Airlines, to leave, the French judges chose to cancel the hearings of the over 300 passengers due to irregularities in the procedure, BFM TV, a French news broadcast television and radio network, reported.

Four French judges earlier in the day began questioning the passengers detained by the French authorities at Vatry airport, 150 km east of Paris, since Thursday, December 21, over suspected "human trafficking".

The hearings were conducted as part of the investigation opened by the Paris prosecutor's office on suspicion of human trafficking. The plane was expected to take off again on Monday morning. Its destination is not yet known. It could travel to India, where the passengers are from, to Nicaragua, its original destination, or Dubai, from where it took off, it added.

Another report suggests that The A340 aircraft, being operated by Romania’s Legend Airlines, is expected to land at Mumbai airport around 2.20 PM. The plane had taken off from the airport at Vatry near Paris where it was grounded, the source said.

According to the French media, some of the passengers spoke Hindi and others Tamil and are believed to have contacted their families by telephone. Ten of the passengers have requested asylum, the newspaper quoted a source close to the case as saying.

The plane includes 11 unaccompanied minors and two passengers in custody since Friday had their detention extended on Saturday evening for up to 48 hours, according to French prosecutors.

The aircraft is owned by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines. A lawyer for the firm, Liliana Bakayoko, denied any involvement in the trafficking. A partner company that chartered the plane was responsible for verifying the identity documents of each passenger, and communicated the passengers' passport information to the airline 48 hours before the flight, Bakayoko said.

Human trafficking carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in France. On Saturday, India's embassy in France said its staff are stationed at the airport near Paris to ensure the welfare of Indian nationals after the passengers were detained by French authorities over suspected "human trafficking".

In an updated message on social media on Saturday evening, the embassy thanked the French authorities for working over the long Christmas holiday weekend in pursuit of an early resolution of the situation. According to the reports, the travel may have been planned by the Indian passengers to reach Central America from where they can attempt to enter the United States or Canada illegally.

But an anonymous tip indicated that passengers were likely to be victims of human trafficking in an organised gang, alerted the authorities.

Two passengers held

Two passengers have not been authorised to leave and may face charges. They will appear before a judge to face possible charges including involvement in an organised criminal group helping foreigners enter or stay in a country illegally, the Paris prosecutor's office said. It did not specify whether human trafficking — which the UN defines as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, to exploit them for profit" — is still suspected, as prosecutors initially said. Prosecutors wouldn’t comment on whether the passengers’ ultimate destination could have been the US, which has seen a surge in Indians crossing the Mexico-US border this year.

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SriLankan Airlines Expands Fleet by Adding Airbus A320 Aircraft

Radhika Bansal

26 Dec 2023

SriLankan Airlines has added a newly leased Airbus A320 aircraft bearing the serial number 4R – ABS to the fleet bumping up its total aircraft count to 22. Leased for six years, the aircraft arrived from Malaysia to Colombo on December 21, 2023, and will be put into service immediately after customisation and branding. Its inaugural scheduled flight is currently expected to take place on December 29, 2023, to the Maldives.

The aircraft notably has Sharklet wingtips that reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. It will be primarily deployed on the airline’s short and medium-haul routes covering the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, and the Middle East. With 12 Business Class seats and 138 Economy Class seats, 4R – ABS will allow SriLankan to increase its seat capacity on these routes. 

SriLankan Airlines now has 12 narrow-bodied aircraft and 10 wide-bodied aircraft in its fleet.

SriLankan Leasing Aircraft

The year has been challenging for SriLankan and the whole industry with shortages of available aircraft and engines, and supply chain issues extending maintenance times. This has led to a reduction in flights. However, this aircraft is the first of several aircraft and engines that will boost the fleet in the coming weeks.

By the start of January 2024, SriLankan expects another three aircraft to be flying with the addition of a wet-leased A330 and the arrival of two more engines. The airline will also be taking another sister aircraft to 4R – ABS that is scheduled to arrive in March 2024.

Sri Lankan Airlines expands its fleet with a new Airbus A330-200, wet-leased from Air Belgium. The 262-seat (22 in Business class and 240 in Economy) aircraft takes flight on routes from Colombo to Frankfurt, Dhaka, and Dubai from December 29th, offering enhanced capacity and convenient connections.

About the Airline

SriLankan Airlines currently maintains direct operations between Colombo and 36 cities in 21 countries and is a member of the oneworld Alliance. SriLankan Airlines, the National Airline of Sri Lanka, is an award-winning carrier with a firm reputation as a global leader in service, comfort, safety, reliability, and punctuality.

Launched in 1979, SriLankan is currently expanding and further diversifying its wide range of products and services to drive the country’s ongoing boom in tourism and economic development. The airline’s hub is located at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, providing convenient connections to its global route network of 112 destinations in 58 countries (including codeshare operations) in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Far East, North America, Australia and Africa.

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A350s Have a Long Waiting Queue? How did Air India Get It So Fast?

Abhishek Nayar

26 Dec 2023

In the dynamic world of aviation, Indian multinational conglomerate Tata's management faces an array of challenges as it undertakes the consolidation of Air India and Vistara while creating AIX Connect. The complexity of fleet decisions, route optimization, and branding synergies is compounded by post-Covid supply chain constraints and escalating costs, forcing Tata to adopt a pragmatic 'take while obtainable' stance.

Consolidation Efforts and Fleet Integration

Tata's ambitious consolidation plans involve merging Air India with Vistara and forming AIX Connect by combining Air India Express with AirAsia India. The group aims to complete this intricate process by March 2024. However, rising costs and supply chain challenges have necessitated a focus on immediate feasibility, relegating product commonality to a secondary consideration.

Airbus A350-900 Acquisition Strategy

In a strategic move, Air India seizes an opportunity presented by geopolitical events and sanctions on Russia. The airline is set to receive six Airbus A350-900s originally destined for Russian flag carrier Aeroflot but diverted due to sanctions. This 'take while obtainable' approach allows Air India to overcome time and supply chain constraints, with Airbus delivering these widebodies with the Russian airline's cabins.

Cabin Upgrades and Branding Overhaul

While retaining the existing configuration and seating platforms, Air India is implementing a soft cabin upgrade. The airline will replace seat covers, headrest fabric, and Aeroflot's logo with its own branding and colors. This extends beyond aesthetics, signaling Air India's commitment to a unique identity. The soft cabin upgrade is handled by Air France Industries-KLM Engineering & Maintenance.

Crew Uniforms and Overall Passenger Experience

Air India's commitment to product transformation extends beyond the aircraft interiors. The first A350-900 delivered showcases new interior colors, materials, and finishes, complemented by redesigned crew uniforms led by Indian designer Manish Malhotra. The airline is dedicated to enhancing the overall passenger experience, aligning with its ongoing product transformation initiative.

Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 Integration

Air India's 'take while obtainable' philosophy is also reflected in its successful integration of leased ex-Delta Boeing 777-200s and the arrival of the first batch of ex-Etihad 777-300s. These additions enhance the passenger experience on key routes, including those from Mumbai to the United States and upgraded London services. The fleet expansion aligns with Air India's broader strategy of elevating its service offerings.

A350-1000 Variant Order and Future Prospects

Looking ahead, Air India has placed a further order for 34 A350-1000 variants directly line-fitted by Airbus with new interiors. Deliveries are scheduled to commence in late 2025 or early 2026. This forward-looking approach reflects Air India's commitment to staying at the forefront of the aviation industry, anticipating future passenger demands and industry trends.


In the face of industry-wide challenges, Tata's Air India is navigating the complexities of consolidation and expansion with strategic acumen. The 'take while obtainable' approach allows the airline to overcome hurdles posed by supply chain constraints, while simultaneous efforts to enhance cabin aesthetics and overall passenger experience underscore Air India's commitment to excellence. As the aviation landscape evolves, Air India's proactive approach positions it for continued success and leadership in the competitive global market.

With Inputs from Runway Girl Network, Live from a Lounge

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South America's Largest Airline Group Commits to Five Additional B787s

Abhishek Nayar

26 Dec 2023

In a strategic move to bolster its long-haul capabilities, LATAM Airlines Group has announced an incremental order with Boeing for five cutting-edge B787 Dreamliners. This expansion marks a significant milestone for LATAM, positioning the airline group as a key player in the South American aviation market.

GEnx Engines: A Paradigm Shift in Powerplant Selection

LATAM Airlines Group's decision to opt for General Electric's GEnx engines for the newly ordered B787s is groundbreaking for South America. This move makes LATAM the first customer in the region to embrace the advanced GEnx engines, a departure from the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that currently power their existing Dreamliner fleet.

"The incorporation of GEnx engines is a decision that provides greater flexibility and options for the expansion of the long-range fleet. Furthermore, increasing the B787 fleet size will allow the group to operate with two different engine models, known for their cutting-edge technology and reduced environmental impact, in a complementary way," stated Chief Financial Officer Ramiro Alfonsin.

Current Fleet Overview and Future Plans

As of the latest data from the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, LATAM Airlines Group operates a fleet comprising ten B787-8s and twenty-three B787-9s. The B787-8s are distributed among LATAM Airlines and LATAM Airlines Perú, while the B787-9s are operated by LATAM Airlines, LATAM Airlines Brasil, and LATAM Airlines Perú.

Additionally, LATAM Airlines Group has set its sights on acquiring three more B787-9s from the fleet of ex-Norwegian aircraft, further solidifying its commitment to the Dreamliner series. The diversified fleet will now feature both Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and General Electric GEnx engines.

Strategic Focus on the B787: Retirements and New Directions

The airline group's strategic focus on the B787 series became evident with the retirement of all A350-900s by LATAM Airlines Brasil during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the recent exit of passenger-configured B767-300ERs underscores LATAM's dedication to streamlining its long-haul operations around the Dreamliner platform.

Despite this shift, LATAM Airlines Brasil continues to operate ten B777-300(ER)s alongside its B787s, demonstrating a balanced approach to its long-haul fleet management.


LATAM Airlines Group's decision to expand its Dreamliner fleet with Boeing's latest order and the adoption of General Electric GEnx engines showcases the airline group's commitment to innovation and efficiency. By incorporating two different engine models, LATAM aims to enhance flexibility while embracing advanced technologies with reduced environmental impact. As the aviation industry continues to evolve, LATAM's strategic choices position the airline group for a sustainable and dynamic future in South America's competitive skies.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

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Air Transat Faces Grounding of A321Neo Fleet Due to Engine Inspections

Abhishek Nayar

26 Dec 2023

Air Transat, a prominent Canadian low-cost carrier (LCC), anticipates significant challenges ahead as it expects up to one-third of its A321-200NX(LR) fleet to be grounded by the end of fiscal year 2024. The grounding is a result of mandated inspections on Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G engines, affecting not only Air Transat but also all carriers operating the same aircraft type with these engines.

Background on Grounding Situation

In a fourth-quarter investor presentation released on December 14, 2023, Transat AT, the parent company of Air Transat, disclosed that three A321-200NX(LR) aircraft are currently impacted by the mandated engine inspections. This number is expected to rise to five or six aircraft by the end of fiscal 2024. The affected aircraft include C-GOIE (MSN 8755), C-GOIH (MSN 9198), and C-GOIR (MSN 10866), with a total of twelve A321-200NX(LR)s in the airline's active fleet.

Mitigation Strategies

To address the challenges posed by the grounded aircraft, Air Transat is implementing various mitigation strategies. These include extending leases on existing aircraft, exploring additional short-term leases, and optimizing its overall fleet. The airline aims to minimize the impact on its flight operations caused by the two-month-long inspections.

Cooperation with Pratt & Whitney

Despite the operational disruptions, Air Transat CEO Annick Guerard emphasized the airline's close collaboration with Pratt & Whitney. The engine manufacturer has been supportive in all aspects, including discussions on future financial compensation. This cooperative approach highlights the importance of industry partnerships in navigating unexpected challenges.

Financial Performance and Outlook

Air Transat reported a modest profit of CAD 3.2 million (USD 2.4 million) for the three months ending October 31, 2023. However, the airline faced a significant loss of CAD 25.3 million (USD 18.87 million) for the entire 12 months leading up to October 31, with revenues reaching CAD 3 billion (USD 2.25 billion). Despite these financial setbacks, the presentation indicated optimism for the future, citing a new joint venture with Porter Airlines, ongoing capacity expansion initiatives, and increased operational efficiencies.

Future Fleet Expansion and Operational Adjustments

The presentation outlined Air Transat's plans to introduce four more long-range Airbus narrowbodies between April and June 2024. These additions, comprising two A321-200NX(LR)s and three A321-200NY(XLR)s, demonstrate the airline's commitment to growth. Additionally, as a strategic response to the grounded A321neo aircraft, Air Transat is considering deploying its A330 types on routes typically operated by the affected aircraft.


While facing challenges associated with the grounding of a portion of its A321-200NX(LR) fleet, Air Transat remains resilient and forward-looking. The collaboration with Pratt & Whitney, coupled with strategic initiatives and partnerships, positions the airline for a strong performance in 2024 despite the temporary setbacks. As the aviation industry continues to navigate unforeseen hurdles, Air Transat's adaptive strategies and commitment to growth underscore its determination to overcome challenges and thrive in the evolving landscape.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

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Vistara Increases Flight Frequency From Mumbai To London & Singapore

Radhika Bansal

25 Dec 2023

Vistara is adding international flights from Mumbai to tap the growing travel demand. The airline will increase its frequency on the Mumbai-London route to daily from four weekly flights from March 1 and double its flights to Singapore from February 1.

The airline has been growing international connectivity from Mumbai and now flies to 14 overseas destinations from the city including Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Colombo, Dammam, Dhaka, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Jeddah, London Heathrow, Male, Mauritius, Muscat, and Singapore.

The airline will increase the flight frequency between Mumbai and London Heathrow, from 4x weekly to daily flights, starting 1 March 2024. Additionally, Vistara will introduce a second daily flight between Mumbai and Singapore from 1 February 2024, using its A321neo aircraft. Vistara also operates daily flights between Delhi and London Heathrow and flies daily to Singapore from Delhi and 6x weekly from Pune.

Additionally, Vistara operates six weekly flights from Pune to Singapore and daily flights from Delhi to Singapore and London. Although Vistara is well-established in India, it has expanded its global network considerably.

Schedule of Flights Between Mumbai and Singapore Effective February 01, 2024


Flight No.

Days of Operation



Mumbai – Singapore

UK 105


00:55 hrs

09:15 hrs

UK 107


10:50 hrs

18:45 hrs

Singapore – Mumbai

UK 106


10:30 hrs

13:45 hrs

UK 108


19:45 hrs

23:35 hrs




Schedule of Flights Between Mumbai and London Heathrow Effective March 01, 2024


Flight No.

Days of Operation




UK 015


14:45 hrs

19:00 hrs


UK 016


20:55 hrs

11:15 (+1) hrs

Vistara boasts the highest rating among Indian airlines on both Skytrax and TripAdvisor. It has garnered numerous ‘Best Airline’ accolades, consistently upholding world-class cabin cleanliness and maintaining rigorous safety standards. As the sole Indian carrier featured among the World’s Top 20 Airlines, Vistara has secured the 16th spot on the global stage and has been honoured as the ‘Best Airline in India and South Asia’ for the third consecutive year. Additionally, it has received distinctions such as ‘Best Airline Staff in India and South Asia’ for five consecutive years, ‘Best Cabin Crew in India and South Asia’ for three consecutive years, and ‘Best Business Class Airline in India and South Asia’ for the second consecutive year at the esteemed World Airline Awards 2023 presented by Skytrax. Furthermore, Vistara has received the ‘ch-aviation Asia’s Third Youngest Airline Fleet’ award for the second year running.

Flights to Doha

Earlier, the airline started a flight service from Mumbai to Doha with 4 direct flights weekly. On December 15, at 18:45 (IST), the first flight, using an A321neo aircraft from Vistara, took off from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai and landed at Hamad International Airport in Doha at 20:30 (local time zone).

Vistara has been concentrating on growing its footprint in the Middle East due to a steady increase in demand for travel between India and the area. According to its representatives, the airline currently provides direct service to five locations in the area: Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Dubai, Jeddah, and Muscat.

Vinod Kannan, Chief Executive Officer, of Vistara, in a statement, said, “Based on the remarkable response to Vistara’s Middle Eastern routes, we are confident that the launch of operations to Doha will further strengthen our footprint in the region. Doha–an essential commercial hub and home to a large Indian diaspora–is Vistara’s 50th destination and the sixth in the Middle East. We firmly believe that Vistara’s widely appreciated product and globally awarded service make for just the right combination to cater to the market requirements and customers’ demand.”

The airline recently celebrated the arrival of its 50th Airbus A320neo, bringing its total fleet to 66 aircraft. This comprises 50 Airbus A320neo, 10 Airbus A321, and six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The increased capacity from the additional Dreamliners has facilitated the expansion of its European operations with more flights.

It has started operating many foreign routes recently, including Delhi-Hong Kong, Delhi-Bali, and Frankfurt-Mumbai. It also accomplished the significant feat of running 300 flights each day in September.