Flight operations to Shimla are unlikely to commence in the near future despite the airport being fully equipped and ready.
Government-owned Air India has expressed its inability to operate on Delhi-Chandigarh-Shiimla route because it was not commercially viable. Air India informed the Supreme Court that it needs partial funding from the state government since India’s flag carrier is already running into loses and “is thriving on equity infusion” from the Centre.
Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar Air India’s counsel said that in view of the topography of Himachal Pradesh ATR-42 was a suitable plane to fly to Shimla. But, the airline did not have any aircraft.
Its wholly-owned subsidiary Alliance Air Limited had the planes, but the same were already engaged in the North-East and Andaman and Nicobar.
If Air India still flied on this route, it would have to take planes from international airlines or a domestic private airline on lease for which viability gap funding was needed from the state government as the number of passengers wasn’t that high.
As the Air India counsel told the bench that it might start flights to Shimla under the new civil aviation policy Udan - a regional connectivity scheme, the bench sought to know what kind of funding it wanted.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) counsel, Ashwarya Sinha, opposed Air India’s argument and its request to seek funding. On its part AAI has said the airport was fit to accomodate ATR-42 aircraft.
But, the bench gave time to Air India to come back and inform the court as to when can it start the air service and posted the matter for further hearing to April end.
SC is hearing Air India’s against the Himachal Pradesh High Court order to start scheduled flights on trial basis between Delhi and Shimla. On earlier hearings the top court took strong note of lack of connectivity to Shimla and other hill regions.