The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed the Union ministry of civil aviation to file a status report by March 10 on the action taken by it on requests made by various airlines to commence international operations from Chandigarh International Airport.
During the resumed hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed seeking directions to authorities to commence international operations from the airport, the high court bench of justice SK Mittal and justice HS Sidhu was told that some airlines have already made requests while others have surveyed the facilities at the airport and have shown interest to commence international operations.
“We hope that respondent No. 1 (ministry of civil aviation) will immediately consider the requests of various airlines as per the existing policy. The counsel for respondent No. 1 is directed to submit the status report in this regard by way of an affidavit of a senior official within two weeks,” the high court directed further recording the statement of CEO, Chandigarh International Airport Limited (CHIAL) Suneel Dutt that efforts would be made to get requisite facilities from the ministry, without loss of time.
Earlier, the Punjab government told the high court that it had received proposals from Bulgarian carrier, BH Air and Flydubai, a Saudi Arabian airlines, seeking permission to start flights between Chandigarh and their countries and same had been forwarded to the ministry for consideration. Appearing for the Government of India, assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal told the high court that the ministry had written a letter to Air India as well to consider an international flight from the city airport.
DELHI AIRPORT AUTHORITIES TO BLAME?
Petitioner’s counsel Puneet Bali alleged before the high court bench that there could be a hand of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) behind the delay in start of international flights from the city airport. “There is a draft 2015 civil aviation policy pending, wherein the government is contemplating that there will be no new international flights within 5,000km area of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, till 2020. The condition has been imposed to benefit operations of DIAL. This may be the reason behind delay in start of operations from here,” Bali told the high court. However, Mittal told the court that it was a draft policy and had not been notified. Later, the high court also directed the ministry to decide on applications of airlines as per existing policy.
READY FOR AIRBUS 320, BOEING 737-900
The CHIAL told the high court that it was ready to commence international operations and submitted that there were only four airlines in India out of total seven which carry out international operations. And six of them were already carrying out domestic operations from the city airport. “Many airlines who are interested in starting international flights have also inspected the airport,” CHIAL told the court.
“There is no dif ference between a domestic or an international flight except the facility of immigration and custom area. The staff is to be provided by the customs department as soon as any flight is declared international,” CHIAL said, elaborating that the airport comes under the “4d” category as per the categorisation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an international aviation watchdog. The city airport was ready for big aircraft such as Airbus 320 and Boeing 737-900. With regard to CATIIIB facility, increase in watch hours and length of runway, the court was told that a proposal was pending for expansion of the runway so that bigger size aircraft could land and CATIIB facility for operations during dense fog hours was also under active consideration.
As of watch hours, the court was told that permission in this regard was to be given by defence ministry.