Mandi, June 15
Manali hoteliers have reiterated their demand for the expansion of the Bhuntar airport in Kullu. They say the poor air connectivity to Kullu is affecting the tourism industry.
Hemraj Sharma, a hotelier in Manali, says, “The issue of the expansion of the runway at the Kullu-Manali Airport has been hanging fire for long. Many surveys regarding the runway expansion have been conducted but nothing has happened”.
“The airport expansion is a long-pending demand of the hoteliers as well as other stakeholders of the tourism industry. Due to a short runway, a routine aircraft packed with passengers cannot land or take off from here,” he adds.
“At present, a 70-seater ATR-72 aircraft of Alliance Air is operating from the airport. This aircraft is allowed to ferry only around 20 passengers from Kullu to Delhi due to load stipulation because of the short runway,” he says.
“The airline generally charges around Rs 22,000 for a Kullu-Delhi ticket and over Rs 20,000 for Kullu to Chandigarh travel during the tourist season,” he adds.
Anup Thakur, president of Kullu-Manali Paryatan Vikas Mandal, says, “The runway expansion is a must to enable medium-size aircraft to operate and ferry more passengers. This will also encourage other airlines to start operations in this sector, thereby leading to reduction in airfares, besides promoting tourism and boosting the economy of the region”.
“A team of senior officials of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation had carried out a survey on March 6 last 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,” he says.
“In 2021, the Central Government had approved the expansion of the Bhuntar airport but till now no progress had been made in this direction. We urge Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to facilitate the expansion of the airport to give impetus to the tourism industry,” he adds.
20 allowed in aircraft
A 70-seater aircraft of Alliance Air is operating from the airport. The aircraft is allowed to ferry 20 passengers from Kullu to Delhi due to load stipulation because of the short runway. — A hotelier
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