With neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir seeing an escalation of violence, tourists are likely to opt for Shimla.(HT File)
With neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir seeing an escalation of violence, tourists are likely to opt for Shimla.(HT File)

As Modi arrives in Shimla, Delhi-Shimla flight to boost tourism

The resumption of regular flights after five years is expected to attract high-end tourists, especially foreign visitors and business travellers, to Shimla and nearby hill stations.
By Gaurav Bisht | Hindustan Times, Shimla, Shimla
UPDATED ON APR 27, 2017 12:03 PM IST

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Alliance Air Shimla-Delhi flight at the scenic Jubbar Hatti airport atop a hill, 35 km from here, on Thursday morning, Himachal Pradesh tourism is set to get a boost.

The resumption of regular flights after five years is expected to attract high-end tourists, especially foreign visitors and business travellers, to Shimla and nearby hill stations. “Yes, we are hopeful that the regular flights from Delhi to Shimla will boost Himachal’s tourism industry,” DP Bhatia, liaison officer with the Shimla-based Oberoi Group of Hotels said.

Kingfisher Airlines was the last commercial airline to have operated regular flights between Delhi and Shimla till it was grounded on September 6, 2012.

With neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir seeing an escalation of violence, tourists are likely to opt for Shimla.

Turbulent past

*The Delhi-Shimla flight service was suspended on September 16, 2012, when Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines was grounded. Since then, the airport was being used for unscheduled and army flights. The army’s training command or ARTRAC is headquartered in Shimla

*The airport has a runway of 1,100 metres. In 2012, a portion of it sank due to soil erosion, reducing the length by 200 metres. The AAI spent Rs 100 crore to restore the runway at Himachal Pradesh’s first airport. The full length landing strip was thrown open in December 2015

*Though unscheduled flights between Shimla and Delhi resumed soon after December 2015, air carriers were not keen to resume commercial operations as it isn’t a financially viable route

“Starting regular flights from Shimla ahead of summer is good for the tourism industry otherwise tourists usually prefer Srinagar to Shimla,” says Harman Kukreja, the president of the Shimla Hotel and Restaurateur Association.

FLIGHT FIVE DAYS A WEEK

The Alliance Air flight will operate five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday. It will depart from Delhi at 6.10 am and arrive in Shimla at 7.25 am. The same day, it will depart from Shimla at 7.45 am and return to Delhi at 8.45 am.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh and state Tourism Development Board vice-chairman Vijai Singh Mankotia raised the issue with Airport Authority of India (AAI) a number of times to restart the regular flight and to explore the possibility of expanding Shimla airstrip to facilitate landing of bigger aircraft.

Otherwise, this time again we are going lose business travellers to Srinagar,” Bhatia added.

Travel agent Bhanu Sood said air connectivity to Shimla will boost tourism. “Since there is no flight to Shimla, high-end tourists do not visit. To attract more foreigners, air connectivity is important,” he said.

“High-end tourists who visit shimla usually travel by taxi.” he said. It takes about seven to eight hours to travel to Shimla from Delhi by road. The fare for luxury bus from Shimla to Delhi is Rs 960 while a taxi charges Rs 4,500.

“Something is better than nothing. The government should step up efforts to start more flights not only to Delhi but other parts of the country,” he added.

Shimla is the erstwhile capital of British Raj and is famous with both domestic and foreign tourists.

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