HT Spotlight | Chandigarh airport records 1000% jump in passenger footfall in a decade
From a meagre 427 air travellers a day in 2006 to an impressive daily footfall of 5,000 now, passenger traffic at the Chandigarh airport has clocked 1000 per cent jump in a decade, making it one of the fast growing air hub in the country. In a three-part series, HT tracks the trajectory of the airport’s soaring connectivity and what it has done to economic growth of the tricity.punjab Updated: Jul 10, 2017 13:13 IST
A civil terminal since 1967, the Chandigarh airport had to make do with a single flight to Delhi for nearly four decades before it finally got wings. In the last 10 years, the airport traffic has grown exponentially from 1.5 lakh passengers in 2006 to 18 lakh now. The number of destinations has also soared from one to 11 with two international destinations as well.
Much of this growth, both in terms of footfall and diversity in air connectivity, came after the construction of a plush 1400-crore giant terminal in Mohali’s Jheourheri village in October 2015.
The Punjab and Haryana high court also helped it take off globally by goading the authorities to “make Chandigarh airport ‘international’ or use it for wheat storage”.
Thanks to this, the airport has flights to Dubai and Sharjah, which have been running houseful for nearly 10 months now.
Last year also saw the addition of many new domestic routes, connecting the Chandigarh region with destinations as varied as Srinagar and Leh in the north, the touristy Jaipur in the west, the cosmopolitan Pune in the southwest and the IT hubs of Hyderabad and Bengaluru in the south.
“The way the airport is expanding, it has a great future. It bodes well both for the country and the region, be it in terms of connectivity or business,” gushes airport CEO Suneel Dutt, who has seen it from its infancy.
- 2006: 1
- 2008: 2
- 2010: 14
- 2013: 18
- 2017: 38
Although quite happy with the domestic destinations offered by the airport, it is new international ports that will really tickle the footloose Punjabi traveler. The region that sends a large number of people overseas, both for leisure and work, is looking forward to destinations such as Bangkok and Singapore, which will make it easier to go globetrotting without a mandatory trip to the busy Delhi airport. Though on the airport agenda—every few months, the Air India announces a flight to either of these destinations—these two flights are yet to take off.
Direct flights to Goa, Kolkata and Chennai are also eagerly awaited in the domestic sector.
Although Dutt said these flights are in the pipeline, officials feel that Air India’s disinvestment plans may affect its flights from Chandigarh. And even if it pushes through with its plans, the proposed flights are not expected to take off before October or November. Air India’s local manager Gian Singh Tomar, however, did not share any details.
A section of the officials also believes that private lobbies in Delhi are scuttling the city’s international connectivity. “Around 30% to 35% traffic at the IGI airport in New Delhi comes from the Punjab region alone. Any improvement in Chandigarh airport’s connectivity will have a direct bearing on the Delhi traffic,” said an official.
ROOM FOR MORE
Almost 20 months into its operation, the new terminal has ATMs inside as well as outside the premises. The number of money exchange counters has also gone up.
But the airport lacks good eateries in the waiting areas on departure and arrival floors. Bhupesh Gupta, a regular flyer from Panchkula, says the airport needs some coffee bars and restaurants as most people have ample time at hand before boarding international flights.
Suneel Dutt said this demand will be met soon as they have awarded a contract to a master concessionaire to develop, build, operate and maintain the food and beverages outlets at important locations in the airport.
Apart from this, the concept of duty-free shopping too has not taken off here. Sources said the airport had issued tenders to call interested bidders for these shops in May but received a very poor response. Fresh tenders are expected to be floated soon.
While the new terminal in Mohali is bringing distant cities closer, its new location has led to connectivity issues with Chandigarh and Panchkula. In a recent passenger feedback survey at the airport, most respondents sought shorter connectivity to the airport from Chandigarh. At present, the road from Tribune roundabout is Chandigarh’s shortest route to the international airport, which is around 25 km away from the Sector 17 Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT).
From Panchkula too, the distance to the terminal is more or less the same as people from the township hit the Zirakpur-Patiala road before taking the Mohali expressway to the airport.
The UT authorities have reportedly hired the services of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to prepare a feasibility report for providing a shorter route to the airport. The administration is also considering the possibility of providing a route beneath the existing runway of the international terminal located on the Chandigarh side, which can curtail the distance by 10 Km. The airport CEO, however, refused to give any comment saying that it is UT’s administrative call.
2008: Connectivity to Mumbai was the first major step that let the airport fly beyond Delhi and attracted several private airlines. This growth coincided with the city’s overall economic growth
April 2011: The decade old terminal in Chandigarh was revived with modern facilities, leading to a big boost in domestic traffic. But international flights did not operate from this terminal despite the fact that it was declared custom airport.
October 2015: A new terminal was made operational in Mohali’s Jheourheri village two months after it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi
September 2016: The long wait for international flights got over when IndiGo and Air India started flights to Dubai and Sharjah, respectively, following the Punjab and Haryana high court intervention.
(Part-I of a special series by Hindustan Times on Chandigarh airport)