The Sree Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport here is not alone struggling to get international flights, its financial health is in dire straits as well. The yearly losses this tear have accumulated to Rs 56 crore against Rs 37 crore the previous year.
This was revealed by the airport's director, Suneel Dutt, during the advisory committee meeting chaired by Amritsar member of Parliament Navjot Sidhu.
Dutt claimed that losses have gone up due to the recent pull out by the British Midland International (BMI) and non-resumption of Air India's Amritsar-Delhi-Toronto flight.
Terming the situation really grim, Navjot Sidhu said, "Even though this airport and city has a great potential but still the airport is running into financial losses. We have all the facilities at this airport but I feel the step-motherly treatment being meted out to the airport is responsible for it woes. The Amritsar-Birmingham-Toronto was the best flight and was catering to the people of Punjab in a big way, but suddenly it was stopped by Air India. Now it's been more than a year since the Amritsar-New Delhi-Toronto flight was suspended. This all is bringing us losses."
Answering a question, Sidhu said, "We all feel that even though this is vastly visited city, still the union government is not concerned about this airport. Need of the hour is that two international flights are sanctioned for Amritsar on two routes-Toronto via Birmingham and Australia via Hong Kong."
Sidhu claimed that he would be raising the issue in the Parliament and urge the Centre to intervene and bail out this airport. "If nothing is done, the losses can go up to Rs 100 crore," said the MP.
Sidhu and Dutt also pointed out that despite regular reminders, the Indian Air Force had not removed its structures from the land of Airport Authority of India (AAI).
The airport in the recent past has seen a brand new terminal building, various facilities such as aerobridges and few domestic connections. But lack of International flights is a major worry.
Sidhu said that more than 1 lakh people of Punjab annually fly from Delhi. Government must bring in airlines to the Amritsar airport, so that this huge rush of passenger can be tapped. The MP appreciated the Punjab government for cutting down VAT on the Air Turbine Fuel from 24 to 5%.
Help desk inaugurated
Sidhu inaugurated the help desk in the visitor's area for the facility of passengers. Aimed at giving all the required information to the passengers, the help desk would attend to passengers during check-ins. A list of prohibited items would be displayed on LCD at various check-in counters at the airport. A helpline- 98883-98888-has also been put in place to take up the queries of travellers.
'Australia is the real test for Indian cricket team'
On upcoming India vs Australia cricket series, the former Indian cricketer, Navjot Sidhu, said, "With a series of poor outings in Test matches, the Indian team has already lost its number one crown. Now the real test is against Australia. Indian squad will have to play top cricket to face the Aussies."
On Sachin Tendulkar, Sidhu said, "We perhaps can find an actor to match Amitabh Bachchan's caribre in the world, but there is nobody even near Sachin."