In a move that has dismayed hoteliers and tourist operators in the Kullu-Manali region, budget carrier Air Himalayas will terminate services to Bhuntar airport on June 26.
With the onset of monsoon, airline officials had become apprehensive about bookings for its charter flights, employing an eight-seater light aircraft from Kullu to Chandigarh
The carrier's chief managing director, Budhi Perkash, told HT it had become difficult to continue services after bookings dropped sharply. "Flights will be resumed next year, and if the state government asks us to operate flights before that, the airline will rethink its decision," he added
The airline launched Kullu-Chandigarh flights on April 2, 2014, and resumed operations on April 22 using a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft with a seating capacity of eight passengers.
Hoteliers in Kullu district, who had earlier pressed the state and central governments to expand air services to Himachal give an impetus to the floundering tourism industry, have expressed their disappointment over the decision.
The hospitality industry faced a difficult time during last winter season due to heavy snowfall and rain, while summer brought more woes. Taxi operators in Manali went on an 11-day strike following the National Green Tribunal's order restricting movement of vehicles on the Rohtang Pass, which further hit the industry.
Kullu-Manali Hoteliers Association president Anup Thakur said: "The closure of Air Himalayas flights to Kullu will definitely affect inflow of high-end tourists in the coming days.
However, it won't have a significant impact because Air India is already operating flights to Kullu six days a week using 70-seater planes. Both the state and central governments should provide subsidies to budget carriers to operate in Himachal, which may help spur the depressed tourism sector that is hampered by poor road connectivity in the state."