The uncertainty over the commencement of international flights from Chandigarh International Airport persists, as Airlines have been dragging their feet on starting international operations from here. In a hearing in Punjab and Haryana High Court today, only two operators, Air India and IndiGo Airlines, informed the court about their preparations for international flights. IndiGo has issues with customs clearance, Air India is awaiting clearance from DGCA.
Jet Airways, Air Asia and GoAir apprised the court of Justice S S Saron that they have no plans to introduce international flights from Chandigarh Airport. Vistara said that 5/20 rule was a hitch but remain non-committal on connecting Chandigarh to international destination if the rule is relaxed. Go Air informed the court that it was not commercially viable for them to operate international flights from Chandigarh.
A PIL in Punjab and Haryana High Court was filed earlier on delay in international flights from the Airport that currently caters to 4.5 million passengers per annum and is utilizing 33 per cent of its capacity. It has been built at a cost of Rs 1,400 crore and annual maintenance cost of the newly built airport is over Rs 70 crore. According to estimates, about 40 per cent of the international passenger traffic at Delhi airport can be handled at Chandigarh airport.
The High Court has directed Air India and IndiGo to submit their contentions to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, for the delay in international flights and Government of India has to submit the ATR (Action Taken Report) to the court during the next hearing on 24 May.
The court observed that senior officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation should have come for hearing as it seems that the message has not been reaching the right authorities. Chandigarh Airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 11 September last year.
Chandigarh International Airport is an SPV in which the Airports Authority of India has 51 per cent stake and Punjab and Haryana hold 24.5 per cent each. Flights to this airport have been limited to operate between 7 am and 8 pm. Chandigarh Airport is a defence facility with a civil terminal. There have been reports that the Ministry of Defence has approved flight operations during night but so far the flights still operate between 7 am and 8 pm. Sources in the industry told that night landing facility is a must for international flights and this is one of the reasons for the delay in plans of airlines to commence international flights.