Closure threat haunts airport

Amritsar, November 14:

Touted till recently as competition to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), Rajasansi Airport in this Sikh holy city has fallen on bad days and faces the threat of virtual closure, with international and domestic airlines pulling out flights.

Till recently, the airport was catering to nearly 100 flights per week.

Last year the airport, which is very popular among non-resident Indians (NRIs), catered to nearly 600,000 passengers. Nearly 490,000 of these passengers were international fliers.

Now, however, Rajasansi Airport seems to have fallen on bad days with many airlines, including Singapore Airlines, announcing closure of operations from the airport due to an overall slump in the aviation sector, high landing costs and lack of adequate facilities here.

This has been reflected in the the flights per week going down by 20 percent. A drastic fall in passenger traffic is expected from January next year if airlines close operations from the airport.

For landing at Rajasansi Airport, the civil aviation ministry is charging Rs154,000 per flight in Amritsar from Singapore Airlines as compared to Rs 75,000 charged by the Delhi airport. Similarly, Jet Airways is shelling out Rs 94,000 as landing fee for domestic flights compared to Rs 69,000 paid in Delhi.

It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of the total passenger traffic to the IGI airport comes from Punjab alone; so there is plenty of scope for the airport here to grow. But airlines and passengers have been complaining of poor facilities at Rajasansi Airport despite so many international flights operating from here. The expansion of the airport, which was to be done by last month, is nowhere near completion.

Luggage trolleys are in a bad condition, forcing passengers to hire coolies. Facilities for passengers inside the terminal are also not of international standards.

Newer airlines like Malaysia’s Air Asia, which had recently shown interest in operating from here, have also pulled back for now, airport officials said.