Darbhanga airport beats bigger airports in footfall amid Covid pandemic
Boosting regional air connectivity under Centre’s UDAN scheme, Darbhanga airport continues to register large footfalls amid Covid pandemic despite very low human resources support.
As many as 221,414 passengers have travelled to and from Darbhanga airport till May 22 since flight operation to Bihar’s biggest city in the north was launched by low cost carrier Spicejet on November 8 last year.
Despite very few flights, Darbhanga airport has recently been way ahead of other airports in the eastern region, including Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Bhwaneshwar (Odisha), in terms of passenger footfall.
Past one week’s (May 16- 22) data released by the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) regional headquarters reveals that despite being a single operator airport,
Darbhanga airport handled 56 flights and 7,468 passengers, while Raipur, with 88 flights and 4,191 passengers and Bhubaneswar, with 132 flights and 7,092 passengers were far behind in terms of flight occupancy. The Bagdogra airport in West Bengal operated 110 flights and handled 6,080 passengers during this period. In Bihar, Gaya stood at the bottom of the pile with 10 flights and 296 passengers during this period.
Jai Prakash Narain (JPN) airport in state capital Patna, however, served 25,573 passengers and 297 flights. The Birsa Munda Airport at Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital, operated 112 flights and served 8,287 passengers during this period.
According to AAI’s daily updates, the passenger footfall at many regular and RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) airports, such as Jharsuguda in Odisha, Port Blair, Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh and Pakyong in Sikkim, were nowhere close to the footfalls seen recently at Darbhanga airport.
Likewise, between May 1 and May 7, Raipur airport handled 142 flights while catering to 6,158 passengers. In this period, Darbhanga airport handled 8,516 passengers and 68 flights.
An AAI official pointed out that Gaya airport, with the worst footfall of air travellers in Bihar, has 63 staff members whereas Darbhanga airport has only seven to man the operations of the airport. A few outsourced staff working at the airport were also said to be facing retrenchment threat, the official, who didn’t wish to be identified, added.
The staff strength at Deoghar (Jharkhand) airport, which was yet to become operational, stood at 12, more than Darbhanga airport.
According to an official figure, the staff strength at various airports are: Patna- 196, Bhubaneswar- 188, Ranchi-126, Raipur- 111, Port Blair- 46, Jharsuguda-45, Bagdogra-39 and Pakyong- 20.
AAI eastern region director (Kolkata) Manoj Gangol couldn’t be contacted for his comments in this regard
The number of daily flights from Darbhanga has risen to six from three, besides two additional daily flights to Bengaluru and Mumbai till June 15. Apart from these, Darbhanga airport is connected to Delhi, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.