Monday, October 23, 2000,
 Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

IA fare increase put on hold
More flights to Chandigarh

By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Oct 22 — Indian Airlines has put on hold its proposed increase in fares, says its Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Mr Sunil Arora, maintaining that the immediate priority for the airline is to consolidate its passenger load factor and improve its services.

Mr Arora, an IAS officer of the 1980 batch and belonging to the Rajasthan cadre, said that from December 1 this year, the airline would double its frequency of flights to Chandigarh from two to four as it had been expecting five new Boeing 737 aircraft to join its fleet by the end of November this year. He was accompanied by Mr Naresh Chand, General Manager (Operations), North, and Mr Rajinder Kumar, Station Manager, Indian Airlines, here.

The new aircraft, being taken from an international consortium, would be on dry lease for five years. These aircraft were 12 years old as the Director-General of Civil Aviation's guidelines stipulated that no aircraft older than 15 years could be taken on lease. On an average, each of these five Boeing 737 aircraft would cost Indian Airlines US $3.30 lakh a month.

Mr Sunil Arora said that in April next year, the airline would get two more Airbus 320 aircraft on lease to supplement its aging fleet.

After the induction of five Boeing 737 aircraft, Mr Arora said, the airline would concentrate on improving its services to Chandigarh, the joint capital of two states besides being a Union Territory and a gateway to Himachal Pradesh.

A team of senior officials, including the Directors of Planning, Operations and Commercial besides the General Manager (North), would visit Chandigarh in the first week of November to hold discussions with representatives of the travel industry, business and industrial houses, to work out the new schedule of air services to Chandigarh to be effective from December 1.

“We want that the new schedule should be designed in such a way that besides being financially remunerative, it meets the requirements of air travellers from Chandigarh,” said Mr Arora maintaining that depending upon the success of the increased frequency of flights, the airline might after two months introduce a daily connectivity to the Union Capital.

“We will explore all possibilities of connecting Chandigarh with other cities, including Mumbai, Calcutta,Chennai and Bangalore, besides keeping in mind two other major important destinations — Jammu and Amritsar,” Mr Arora said.

Certain members of the travel industry, with whom Mr Arora interacted, wanted that it should be a “turnaround” flight from Chandigarh as a detour to Amritsar on the way to Delhi or Mumbai made the service “unattractive”.

Representatives of the industry wanted it to be a daily flight rather than four times a week while suggestions were also made to him about the time of the flight. The consensus was on an evening flight with connections to both major destinations in the domestic and international sectors.

Mr Arora said that the government had set up a committee to look “de novo” into the requirement of smaller aircraft. The airline had proposed to acquire ATR 50-seater jet aircraft to replace its aging fleet.But an earlier committee, which went into various aspects of inducting smaller jet aircraft, opined that it would be ‘‘uneconomical”.

Mr Arora said the management of Indian Airlines had put on hold any increase in fares.“Had we gone for an increase in the fares, as was projected in the last week of August, the increase of 10 per cent announced by some private airlines now would have been a minimum of 20 per cent. We are sticking to the existing fares for the time being," he added.

Mr Arora, who earlier in his capacity as Joint Secretary, Civil Aviation, looked after the Airport Authority also, said that work on the upgradation of facilities at Amritsar international airport was getting top priority.

“Last month, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had a meeting with the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Sharad Yadav, and demanded more international flights from Amritsar international airport. The Civil Aviation Ministry has set up a committee to examine the whole issue and it will submit its report in a week's time from now. Changes, if any, will be effective from the new schedule of December 1,” Mr Arora said.

About the introduction of new services, Mr Arora said from November 1 a new flight from the South to Doha was being introduced.“Other than that there are no immediate plans though Indian Airlines will prefer to have more short-haul flights on international sectors. On the domestic front also, there are no immediate plans to bring any new destination on the air map.”

Mr Arora said the management of the airline might consider charging the normal fare from holiday revellers and tourists to Leh while simultaneously extending the subsidised fare to the security forces and government officials on duty there. The flight to Leh, especially after the Kargil operations, had been doing very well, Mr Arora added.

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