Ludhiana airport to operate daily flight to New Delhi
The flight will depart from New Delhi at 5.20pm and arrive at Sahnewal at 6.40pm. After a 15-minute halt, it will leave at 6.55pm and reach New Delhi at 8.15pm.punjab Updated: Jun 17, 2017 11:35 IST
Resuming operations after a gap of three years, the Sahnewal airport, located 12km from Ludhiana, will play host to a daily evening flight to New Delhi from August.
Sahnewal airport officiating director, Amardeep Nahar, said Air Deccan will operate a Polish-origin STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft between the two cities. The 18-seat M28 turboprop will depart from New Delhi at 5.20pm and arrive at Sahnewal at 6.40pm. After a 15-minute halt, it will leave at 6.55pm and reach New Delhi at 8.15pm.
But the flight will not be without its challenges even as the airport authorities hope that more airlines will start operations here.
Firstly, the flight’s departure time may not be conducive to passengers, especially for those in business, who will prefer to reach Delhi in the morning. Nahar, however, said a morning slot was also vacant and expressed his optimism that another airline could possibly fill that slot.
Secondly, the runway strip is less than 1.4km, as a result of which medium aircraft such as A320 or B737 cannot operate here. Unless the runway length is increased, only smaller and slower aircraft with limited seating capacity can operate from this airport. With half of the 18 seats on board Air Deccan M28 expected to be priced at Rs 2,500 each under the central government’s Udan (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, there is a question mark over its financial viability. This scheme promotes inexpensive regional connectivity.
Finally, the departure hall of this small and shabby airport can accommodate only 50 passengers. The only entrance gate to the airport is 15 metres from a level-crossing that, according to Nahar, shuts almost 116 times in a day. This is on the main railway line that connects the rest of the country to Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Pathankot, Jammu and beyond. The level-crossing is a major obstruction for a smooth drive-in for passengers.
A team of Air Deccan officials are expected to visit the airport next month to examine and plan for the arrangement. A team of directorate general civil aviation will also visit the airport to finalise plans.
20 chartered flights operate every month
What was once envisaged to be an international airport, the Sahnewal airport has been reduced to a mere airstrip for chartered flights at a considerable cost to the exchequer. It saw its last regular flight, Air India to Delhi, on May 16, 2014. Spread over 127.5 acres, the airport has a 4,800-foot runway, which is too short for high-capacity aircraft. The opening of an international terminal in Mohali, two hours by road from Ludhiana, has also dampened hopes here.