Concerned over the declining number of tourists visiting the state, the Himachal government has once again urged the central government to take up the issue of resumption of domestic flights to Shimla airport on priority basis in order to improve air connectivity.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh along with the vice chairman of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Board, Vijay Singh Mankotia, met aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati in New Delhi on Wednesday and apprised him about the lack of air services to the states, particularly to its capital to which flights were suspended in September 2012.
“Shimla is probably the country’s only state capital not connected by air to the national capital,” Virbhadra said.
The chief minister also raised the issue of expansion of runways at the state’s major airports – Shimla, Dharamsala (Gaggal) and Kullu-Manali (Bhuntar) to enable landings by large aircraft, expressing concern about the “causal approach” of the Airports Authority of India on the matter despite repeated requests by the Himachal government on upgrading the airports.
He also requested operational hours and frequency of flights to these airports be extended, saying tourist inflows had been severely hit due to poor air services.
Virbhadra also urged the aviation minister to take up the issue of setting up fuelling facilities, which so far existed only at Bhuntar airport, at Dharamsala and Shimla airports. Pusapati assured him the central government would extend all possible support to Himachal and instructed senior aviation ministry officials to draw up a “developable action plan” on expanding runways at airports in the state in a time bound manner.
He suggested airlines operating flights should set up their own fuelling stations at airports instead of depending on the Airports Authority of India.
Mankotia endorsed the urgent need for improving air connectivity to Himachal to draw in more visitors to the state.