The Supreme Court gave the director general of civil aviation till May 4 to ensure airlines agree to fly the mandated quota of flights to smaller cities such as Shimla largely ignored by the industry because of low passenger volumes.
India’s aviation policy requires airlines deploy 10% flights they have on lucrative category-I sectors (mostly metro cities) to routes falling under non-lucrative category-II which include cities like Shimla, northeastern states and remote islands.
“You (Centre) are like Hanuman and need to be reminded of your immense power,” the CJI told additional solicitor general PS Patwalia when he, as representative of the government and DGCA, said it was up to the airlines to implement the policy.
The bench asked the government lawyer to submit a list of all airlines that have 42-seater aircraft that are better suited to low-passenger routes.
“If by May 4, we get the answer that air connectivity to Shimla is not being ensured, then we will...fix responsibility against those,” the bench said.
Lawyers representing Air India and SpiceJet expressed reservations. Air India said it had only three small aircraft, of which one is damaged. The other two fly to Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshwadeep. SpiceJet said it does not have 42-seater aircraft.