Regular flight operations from Shimla airport finally resumed on Thursday after a hiatus of nearly four years.
A nine-seater air carrier is set to connect Shimla airport from Chandigarh and Gaggal (Kangra).
Air services will be provided by Air Himalayas in collaboration with IIC Technologies Limited, Hyderabad. The flight will connect Chandigarh, Shimla, Kullu and Dharamsala through Cessna Grand Master Cervan nine-seater aircraft.
Due to thundershowers and overcast sky on Thursday, the flight could not take off from Chandigarh in time and arrived in Shimla around 45 minutes late from the scheduled time.
A small air carrier was flagged off by urban development minister Sudhir Sharma who travelled in the same flight to Gaggal in Kangra.
Non-scheduled flights used to land at Jubbarhatti airport, which is about 20 kilometres from the capital town, but it is for the first time in four years that a regular service has been started.
The flight from Chandigarh to Kullu will take off at 8.50am and from Kullu to Chandigarh at 9.50 am, Chandigarh to Shimla at 10.50 am, Shimla to Gaggal at 11.30 am, Gaggal to Shimla at 1 pm and Shimla to Chandigarh at 2.20 pm every day, said Air Himalayas’ founder and managing director Budhi Prakash Thakur. He said the fare for the Shimla-Chandigarh flight is Rs 2,500 while it is Rs 8,000 for other routes.
“We have made a commitment to fly the plane even if there is a single or no passenger at all,” he said, adding, “I am hopeful the service will be successful with time.”
Shimla airport director Sunil Maggirwar said after Supreme Court’ directives, other scheduled flights would likely start soon. “It is an effort of local air service provider. Our runway is ready after upgradation,” he told HT.
Supreme Court has also directed national air carrier –Air India to start flights to Shimla. In 2012, flights from the airport were suspended in the wake of soil erosion, leading to runway shrinkage from 4,100 feet to 3,800 feet. The Kingfisher Airlines stopped operations on September 6, 2012, affecting high-end tourism in and around the capital city.
In a trial run in February this year, an ATR-42 aircraft landed at the airport. In May 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee flew to the city in an Indian Air Force chopper that landed at Kalyani helipad. About 30 employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and 65 of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at the facility have been idle for years.
Daily flight schedule
Chandigarh to Kullu: 8.50am
Kullu to Chandigarh: 9.50 am
Chandigarh to Shimla:10.50 am
Shimla to Gaggal: 11.30 am
Gaggal to Shimla: 1 pm
Shimla to Chandigarh: 2.20 pm
Quote: “We have made a commitment to fly the plane even if there is a single or no passenger at all,” Budhi Prakash Thakur, Air Himalayas’ founder and managing director