Accusing the Centre of giving indifferent treatment to the local Sri Guru Ram Das International Airport, MP Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday said he along with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal would meet union aviation minister Ajit Singh on the issue.
Sidhu, who was heading an Airport Advisory Committee meeting here on Monday, said, "The airport has tremendous potential and has shown an upward swing in the passenger traffic in the past few years. But still it has been facing an annual loss of Rs 35 crore. This is just because despite it having all facilities, the aviation ministry is not giving it international routes."
And now they had heard that Air India might withdraw the Amritsar-Delhi-Toronto flight altogether, he added.
"The Air India flight has been cancelled from Amritsar till August 30 and we have learnt that this may not resume at all. If it happens, it would be a big setback to Amritsar and Punjabis and we will not tolerate this," he added.
Sidu, who was accompanied by airport director Suneel Dutt, said, "I feel the aviation ministry wants to benefit private companies. It is evident from the fact that in the past one year, the government has sanctioned 11 international routes and none was given to the airport operated by the Airport Authority of India."
Demanding connectivity to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Sidhu said, "According to the data available, every day tickets for 500 passengers are booked by Jalandhar-based travel agents and all these passengers take the flights from Delhi."
This was a loss to the Amritsar airport as well as to Punjab. If the government sanctioned routes for the Amritsar airport, all these passengers could be routed through Amritsar and bring the airport in profit, he added.
Saying he would raise the issue in Parliament, the MP said, "Amritsar has lesser landing and user charges and lesser VAT on air turbine fuel as compared to Delhi, so I fail to understand why this airport is being ignored."
He said it was a matter of their rights and they would take it up.
Also present in the meeting, travel agents and other members of the committee said the Centre must step up efforts to enhance international connectivity from Amritsar.
Though the domestic connectivity has got a boost, a lot needs to done on the international circuit. As many as 459 flights operate from the airport every month; of this 91 are international and the rest domestic.
To meet defence minister
With the Air Force allegedly having occupied around 360 acres of land belonging to the Airport Authority of India and not vacating it despite repeated requests, Sidhu said he would meet the defence minister on the issue.
Giving details, Suneel Dutt said, "With the runway bisecting the airport, its area has been occupied on both sides. We have been requesting them to vacate the front area and move to the back. This would give us area to build a taxi track as well as other construction. But they have failed to comply."