Bathinda misses air-connectivity bus in flight winter schedule
Bathinda Air connectivity to Bathinda from Delhi and Jammu has drawn a blank from the service providers for the forthcoming winter season. Bathinda airport director Varinder Singh confirmed on Wednesday that according to the new schedule for October 27-March 28 issued last week, air connectivity will continue to remain grounded indefinitely.
Bathinda was the only district in southern Punjab with air connectivity. Alliance Air (AA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, has been the sole service provide from here since 2016, and it chose not to extend operations after its contract ended last year.
The airline had discontinued air services on the Delhi route from November 28, 2020, whereas flights to Jammu were suspended on October 27, 2019. Flights from the Bathinda airport were grounded after a lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. Even as domestic flights have restarted over the past few months, Bathinda has continued to be a ‘no-go zone’ among players from the public and private sector.
Before the suspension of the flight service, Bathinda was connected to New Delhi thrice-a-week, with an average occupancy of 80%. Flights to Jammu had an average occupancy of 70% with most taking it to reach Vaishno Devi and Amarnath. Bathinda-Jammu flight operated five days a week, barring Tuesday and Thursday.
“Early this year, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had approached two private service providers to consider running the Delhi-Bathinda flight. We are yet to get a response,” said the director. Sources said since the Covid-19 outbreak aviation sector was struggling to get back to normalcy as there are few takers for the air services.
Air service to Bathinda was started with much fanfare in December 2016 as part of Centre’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme (RCS) of Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (Udan), with fares were kept low. Less than four years of this launch, air connectivity to the under-developed south Malwa was suspended. Now, no player is keen to start or resume services.