Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 30
About two years after it came into being, the Bathinda airport has remained a non-starter.
Despite claims recently by Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal that Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pasupati had agreed to inaugurate the airport, sources said there was no indication of scheduled flights operating out of the airport in the near future.
“About a year ago, low-cost operator SpiceJet had envisioned interest in operating flights from Bathinda. But the airport seems to have disappeared from their radar at the moment. A team from Air India also visited the airport earlier this year, though we have not been conveyed anything about their plans,” an official said.
While Bathinda has expanded and developed over the past decade, with a refinery coming up and private power plants in the offing, airlines probably do not expect favourable passenger traffic levels to make regular operations commercially viable.
Bathinda is neither a commercial or industrial hub nor a home to large business establishments. It is well connected to the state capital Chandigarh and important cities in Punjab through luxury buses and roadways network, and has direct rail links to New Delhi through Haryana, western Punjab and north-western Rajasthan.
The state government had acquired 42 acres of land at Virk Kalan village and handed it over to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which had spent Rs 25 crore for constructing a civil enclave adjoining Bhisiana Air Force Station. While the airport building is under the control of the AAI, the runway, air traffic and emergency services are the domain of the Air Force.
The airport’s apron is small, being able to accommodate only two ATR-42 turbo-prop 50-seater aircraft at a time, while its car park can accommodate about 25 vehicles. This in itself is an indicator of the passenger traffic expected from Bathinda. Pushed for development by Harsimrat Badal’s husband and Punjab Deputy Chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the airport lies about 20 km northwest of the town.
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