Kullu, August 21
The matter of extension of the runway of the Kullu-Manali Airport at Bhuntar has been hanging fire for long. Many proposals and surveys concerning the runway extension have been conducted but these have remained only on paper.
A team of senior officials of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation had on March 6 carried out a survey to explore the possibility of runway extension. There is a proposal to increase the length of the runway from 1,052 metres to 1,712 metres by diverting the Beas.
At present, an ATR-72 aircraft by Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of national carrier Air India, having 70 seats was being operated to Kullu. The aircraft is allowed to ferry only around 20 passengers from Kullu due to the load stipulation because of a short runway. The airline generally charges above Rs 22,000 for a Kullu to Delhi ticket and over Rs 20,000 for Kullu to Chandigarh travel to meet its expenses.
- At present an ATR-72 aircraft of Alliance Air is operating to Kullu
- The aircraft is allowed to ferry only around 20 passengers while departing due to load stipulation because of the short runway
- The airline charged above Rs22,000 from Kullu to Delhi and Rs20,000 from Kullu to Chandigarh to meet the expenses
- Travel agents say the runway extension will encourage other airlines to start operations, thereby reducing the airfares
Travel agents say that the extension of the runway is a must to enable medium-size aircraft to operate and ferry more passengers. They say that this will encourage other airlines to start operations in this sector, thereby reducing the airfares, which in turn will promote tourism and boost the economy of the region.
They add that Alliance Air is charging exorbitant fares because of the monopoly and the airfares are out of the reach of the common man.
Kullu-Manali Airport Director Neeraj Kumar Srivastava says that the possibility to extend the runway has been deliberated upon and a plan has been sent to the higher authorities. He adds that the state government will have to procure the land for the runway extension as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) does not bear the land acquisition cost.
Bhupender Thakur, patron of the Kullu Travel Agents Association, says that a team of experts from the IIT, Roorkee, had earlier evaluated the feasibility of the runway extension and the state government had agreed to provide the required land.
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