Runway upgrade hits footfall at Chandigarh international airport
The curtailment of operation hours for work on runway expansion has taken its toll on the footfall at Chandigarh International Airport.
The latest figures obtained from the Airport Authority of India (AAI) reveals that the airport saw a 13.7% rise in domestic passenger traffic in the just concluded 2017-18 fiscal year (April to March). This is the lowest growth recorded in five years.
This is major dip from 2015-16, when a whopping 27% growth in domestic airport traffic was recorded by the airport when it shifted to a new terminal in September. The number of domestic flights had almost touched 40 that year.
Two and half years later, the local skyline is not as upbeat. The number of domestic flights is also not more than 27 at present.
Go Air recently put on hold its Ahmedabad-Chandigarh-Srinagar and Hyderabad flights on hold due to upcoming 20-day closure from May 12 to 31, which is the second shut down since February.
Hopeful of better growth in future: Airport CEO
Airport CEO Sunil Dutt told HT that the passenger growth was bound to be hit because the number of flights had gone down due to limited operation hours, permanent closures on Sundays and then two-week shut down in February.
“We are looking forward to more flights after runway expansion work gets over and the number of operation hours increases,” he said. He added, “The Chandigarh International Airport has got a lot of potential. Once airport is ready and there is 24-hour operation, the growth will definitely be much higher in both domestic and international circuits.”
Dutt, however, did not comment on the when the ongoing construction work will be completed, saying that this work is in the domain of Indian Air Force. A defence spokesperson told HT that the construction was being done in a phased manner.
“The unrestricted operation and extended runway is envisaged in a year’s time,” the spokesperson added.
International traffic up but number of flights falls
As per the figures, 1.48 lakh international passengers travelled in the international circuit in 2017-18, which is 93% up from 2016-17. However the growth is a bit misleading as there was no international operation here before September, 2016 followed by two more flights to Sharjah and Bangkok in the last fiscal year.
Sanjeev Vashisht, former president, Mohali Industry Association, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in high court for starting international operations from Chandigarh airport, said, “It is high time that the airport authorities start marketing the airport for better international and domestic destination.”
“We must have 24-hour operation once the repair work is over. If that does not happen, the international flights that mostly operate during night hours can’t start. This closure exercise will be futile then,” he said. He demanded a flight to Canada and Australia soon after the completion of the repair work.