No new international flight from Chandigarh airport this summer
Despite runway expansion being completed and 24x7 operations becoming a reality from April 10, Chennai is the sole destination added in new scheduleUpdated: Mar 29, 2019 23:03 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Except a flight to Chennai that will take off on April 30, there has been no new destination added from Chandigarh International Airport in the summer schedule that came into force on Friday.
It has come as a disappointment to travellers, industrialists and tour operators, who were expecting better connectivity, especially in the international sector, with the airport going for round-the-clock operations from April 10.
Chetan Mittal, assistant solicitor general of India, told the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday that the airport expansion work will be completed on schedule by April 9. “We will be able to start 24x7 operations as per schedule on April 10,” he told the bench of chief justice Krishna Murari and justice Arun Palli during a hearing.
Except the existing Sharjah and Dubai flights, there is no international flight listed in the summer schedule. However, with the operations becoming round the clock, six domestic flights have been added post 6pm. The last departure is at 8:30pm and arrival at 11:30pm (see box).
Meanwhile, the number of flights has gone up to 38 from 33 last summer and 27 in the winter schedule that just ended. Ten of these 11 additional flights are to the existing domestic destinations, including Delhi and Mumbai.
“It is disappointing that the airport authorities failed to attract new flights, even as the airport is fully equipped for global connectivity,” said Sanjeev Vashisht, former president of Mohali Industry Association that had moved a public interest litigation in the high court regarding poor connectivity of the airport.
Vashisht said when the airport can connect to major Asian and European countries, the authorities should have played a proactive role in improving connectivity.
‘Poor response so far’
The 24-hour operations were held up so far as the runway length restricted the long-haul aircraft operations. The expansion works that cost ₹450 crore and included runway length upgrade from 9,000 feet to 12,400 feet — which is set to be completed after a year and a half on April 9 — will allow wide-bodied aircraft to operate from here and connect the city to destinations in Europe, US and Australia.
Sources in the airport said that they have approached major Indian as well as foreign airlines on multiple occasions in the recent past, but the response so far has been poor, as reflected in the summer schedule.
Airport chief executive officer Suneel Dutt said it was not possible for the airlines to submit proposals for fresh flights as the notification of 24X7 operations was made just ahead of finalising the summer schedule. For introducing a new flight, an airline can take around six months after studying financial viability and market potential, said sources.
“We are hopeful of adding more air traffic in near future,” said Dutt.
In the past year, there has been a decline in overall passenger growth at Chandigarh International Airport. According to the latest data available with the Airport Authority of India, 19.14 lakh passengers travelled from here between April 2018 and February 2019 as compared 19.56 lakh from April 2017 to February 2018.
Meanwhile, the high court bench has directed the Airport Authority of India to expedite decision-making on the installation of CAT-3B, for which the latter is in talks with a private firm. It will help flights to operate in near-zero visibility conditions.
First Published: Mar 29, 2019 22:49 IST