SILCHAR, Jan 19: The “open air policy” of the Centre to provide more connectivity has in fact ushered in not only competitive but also economic travel for the Northeast region. Gone are the days of Indian Airline’s Vayudoot and Fokker Friendship flights which kept passengers on tenterhooks for hours, often culminating in their cancellations.
The skyline of the region is now dotted with the airways of Kingfisher, Alliance Air, Air India Domestic, Jetlite, Jet, Indi Go, Paramount and Spice Jet. Among all the 10 airports now operational in the region, only Guwahati has direct flights to the national capital, New Delhi.
Other airports on the map include Agartala, Aizawl, Dibrugarh, Dimapur, Imphal, Jorhat, Shillong, Silchar and Tejpur. Agartala has eight flights daily followed by Imphal with seven flights, Silchar and Aizawl with five flights each, Jorhat with three flights, Dibrugarh and Dimapur with two flights each while Tejpur and Shillong with one flight each. All these flights are connected with Kolkata and some of them with Guwahati.
Passengers bound for Delhi have to take two Kolkata or Guwahati flights and disembark there for connectivity or link to Delhi which is not only time consuming but also an over-exhausted exercise on their parts. Delayed departures from their destinations of travel in foggy or rainy conditions or on mechanical ground result in missing the connectivity for Delhi, adding to their travel – woes. Besides, going through intricate security checks, quite essential considering the looming threat – perception, also cause mental and physical exertion for them.
According to a recent survey, there has been significant increase in the volume of both passenger and cargo traffic. Air India, in particular, has registered phenomenal rise in the number of passengers on all its flights in Northeast. It is the only Airlines that has connectivity to all the airports of the region. Silchar, the fourth busiest one after Guwahati, Agartala and Imphal, as a specific instance, according to the Airport Authority of India sources, has on an average nearly 1 lakh passengers who embark and disembark and around 80,000 mt of cargo annually handled here.
Airliners buoyed by the appreciable traffic and load-factor have been competitive to provide comfort to passengers by inducting new aircrafts with more space and gracious look and even with video-screen facing their seats for entertainment along with sumptuous dishes. Feedbacks from air passengers are collected against specific information related to their flight experience from the ground level to on board for improving the services.
It has also brought relief to passengers as the airliners in order to beat each other offer relatively cheap air tickets. All this and the improving economic status of people in general are motivating them to take to air travel. Besides, the long detour of bus or train journey leaves with no option than to be air-born. For a passenger of Aizawl or Agartala bound for Delhi has to undertake arduous journey by bus or train covering more than 500 kms to reach Guwahati to be on board a train.
Passengers of this land locked and poor connectivity Northeast demand direct flight to Delhi in a selective manner which can be introduced from Silchar, Aizawl and Agartala once in a week. Airlines operating their services in the region, passengers hope, will consider the feasibility of extending their flights direct to Delhi en route Guwahati or Kolkata. Kabindra Purkayastha BJP MP has requested the Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to examine the matter for positive action. THE SENTINEL