Travelling via air came to a standstill on Saturday as the Chandigarh airport was closed for two days to carry out maintenance work on the runway by the Airports Authority of India. Only three flights that operated before 11am were of SpiceJet, Jet Airways and Air India. The airport would remain closed on Sunday also and would resume full operations from Monday.
According to sources, the city airport is expected to be closed for some hours that too after 1pm on December 1 and 15 also.
"The maintenance of the single runway being used both by the Indian air force and civilian aircrafts was behind schedule. The work involves resurfacing in a number of areas on the runway," said an airport official.
"It is obvious that we will suffer loss owing to the closure and regular travelers are harassed, but then we have no authority to speak on the issue and some of our flights may land at Amritsar airport," said an official of SpiceJet at the airport.
In the meantime, commuters are opting for other modes to travel, which are resulting in the high rates being asked by taxi operators and increases in the waiting lists of buses and trains. For trains, the waiting list was as high as 500.
"I think it is best to avoid travelling at this time, because trains are fully booked and taxis operators are overcharging. Buses are the best option if travelling to Delhi is an emergency," said Rahul Bajaj, who regularly travels via air as he has a real estate business in Delhi.
Railway station crowded
With the suspension of flights, people made a beeline to the Chandigarh railway station to board trains to reach Delhi.
"Yes, the footfall was heavy and we had long waiting lists of various trains on Saturday. There are businessmen who travel daily and because of weekend there has been an increase in the number of commuters," said Praveen Kumar, Chandigarh railway station superintendent.
The waiting list for Shatabdi's both Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi and Kalka Shatabdi had waiting list more than 350 to 500, respectively, while Unchahar Express saw a waiting list of around 250 to 350 on Saturday.
Heavily booked trains
Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi
New Delhi Janshatabdi
Reservations till Delhi for Chandigarh-Bandra and Kalka-Sainagar
Heavy taxi bookings over weekend
Commuters booked taxis to travel to Delhi in advance. For one-way journey the fare was Rs 2,000 for Indica car, Rs 2,200 for Indigo, Rs 2,800 Xylo, Rs 3,000 Innova, while for two-way trip the fare for multi-utility vehicles (MUVs) is Rs 6,500-7,000 and for hatchbacks it is about Rs 4,500.
Ajay Thakur of Sharp Time Travels said, "There is heavy booking for these two days and all hatchbacks have been booked a week in advance. One-way MUVs are being hired only if somebody has to travel to Delhi airport. All cars are in demand and for Sunday we have special bookings for marriage parties also."
Volvo buses too jam-packed
ISBT in Sector 17 also witnessed a huge crowd and buses for Delhi were jam-packed with passengers ready to shell out extra money for a seat.
Prakash Chaudhry of Sector 32, who had to reach Delhi by afternoon, said, "I am ready to pay extra. Thought the ticket is for around Rs 550, if they want more I can give them because I have to be in Delhi on Saturday. It is urgent and flights are cancelled."
Around 18 flights operate from Chandigarh on daily basis.
Chandigarh has 37 flights per week to Delhi
280 to 300 people travel daily to Delhi from city
1,500 to 2,000 people travel daily to other connected cities
At present, the city airport is connected to various domestic destinations like New Delhi, Mumbai, Jammu, Srinagar, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmadabad and Goa.
A Few frequent travelers and holiday pursuers who had to face tough situation from various professions are stuck in the city due to flight problems. HT asked them whether closing the airport runway is feasible for maintenance purpose or not.
Mandeep Sandhu, works in MNC
Yes, travelling to Delhi is a regular affair. It is surprising that the airport has just one runway. They should have concentrated on maintenance work at night time rather than disconnecting the city this way.
Jyoti Datta, teacher
This is marriage season when most of the people travel. We had to cancel travelling for a personal programme travelling by road to a far off place is not feasible. I don't closing airport is convenient, because Chandigarh is a growing city.
Vineet Thakur, Working in MNC
No, this is not proper because this is an important mode of connectivity and people count in airways for fast travelling. How can they close the airport altogether when they know they have only one runway and these flights are important and they connect the city to some of the major cities also.
Monika, Working in MNC
No this is not a good move, because the city needs air travels and it is an important part, while maintenance is also importance. Their should be an alternative because this way right now the city is stuck and some people who travel regularly cannot continue with their work, while travelling by road also is expensive.
Ajay Sharma, Teacher
Their should be an alternate, the airport has one runway and it needs repair, but is it logical to cut the entire city for this problem? There are so many people travelling regularly and there are people who face emergencies everyday, then how can one even think of disconnection all together.