Despite major facelift, non-metro airports facing crisis

August 3rd, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sanjay Singh
New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Recession in the aviation industry on account of rising operational costs has taken its toll on non-metro airports, as national and international carriers have reduced flights to these destinations, despite these airports having been given major facelifts. Dr. Ambedkar International Airport, at Nagpur in Maharashtra - also coming up as an international cargo hub - now receives only 22 flights daily. The airport received 29 flights till June-end.

Major scheduled and low-cost carriers have withdrawn seven flights in the past month to this non-metro international airport.

India’s national carrier, Air India, which generally flies to non-metro and other non-profitable routes, said it too has cut flights to these destinations to cut down on the losses.

“Carriers do not find Nagpur a profitable destination. There is continuous reduction in flights every week,” Ambedkar airport director S.N. Borkar told IANS.

Air India has cancelled its Nagpur-Bangkok international flight from Nagpur. “We now have international flights for only Sharjah and Dubai,” Borkar said.

The non-metro international airport at Rajasansi in Amritsar, Punjab, also faces a similar problem. An official with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) here said many international and domestic flights to Rajasansi have been cancelled.

Trans-Aero Airlines, which had three weekly flights to Moscow from Amritsar, has suspended its operations temporarily.

Slovakia Airlines has also cancelled its direct flight to Bratislava from here this season, apart from temporarily suspending several other uneconomical flights.

“Airlines are also filing requests to cancel some of their uneconomical flights or reduce the frequency in wake of the rising prices of aviation fuel and operational costs,” an AAI official said.

The only non-metro airport not to have seen any flight reduction is the one at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. But that is because it operates very few flights.

“So far none of the airlines has cancelled flights from Bhopal. We only operate 10 flights a day, which is really very low for a big state like Madhya Pradesh,” said Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj Airport director J.P. Alex.

About 35 non-metro airports are being developed and modernised by the AAI and the deadline has been set for March 10, 2009, for which over Rs.80 billion has been earmarked.

This includes new terminal buildings and airside works that include expansion and strengthening of runways and creating more parking space for aircraft, besides city-side development through public private partnerships.

Incidentally, all scheduled and low-cost carriers have also cancelled flights to metro airports, which even includes profitable routes like the Delhi-Mumbai sector, to overcome losses.

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