THE CHANDIGARH International Airport has seen a decline in the number of passengers since October 2017 when the work on runway upgrading began, revealed the latest figures compiled by Chandigarh International Airport Limited (CHIAL). From September to December 2017, the airport saw a decline of over 40,000 passengers.
Due to the work on the runway, the Indian Air Force (IAF) curtailed the watch hours for civil flights at the airport. From October 3 to March 31, 2018, the runway is available for commercial flights from 5 am till 4 pm only. Subsequently, airlines announced temporary suspension of flights due to the limited timings.
Data provided by CHIAL revealed that between March and September 2017, the monthly passenger traffic was between 1,91,840 and 2,29,014. In September, the number of passengers was 1,91,840. But, it dropped to 1,63,860 in October. The number, however, rose to 1,65,168 in November before dropping to 1,47,759 in December.
“Yes, after October 3, the number of passengers has seen a little decline,” Sunil Dutt, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the airport, told Chandigarh Newsline. “The number has gone down because the number of flights was reduced due to the runway upgradation. But, the ongoing work will help in the future growth of the airport,” he added.
Will the number again increase once operations normalise? “This airport has a huge potential and we have seen in the past that with more number of flights, the air traffic has unprecedentedly increased,” said Dutt. “I am sure that once work is complete, there would be more flights. We will again get back those passengers which we have lost recently,” he added.
The CEO said there were no evening flights at present and a large number of passengers use the airport in the evening to take the connecting flights to go abroad.
Officials of airlines operating at Chandigarh airport also believe that traffic will increase. “The number has gone down because several flights had to be suspended because of limited operational timing,” said a senior official of an airline, adding, “Once the airport has upgraded runway, more flights will operate and passenger traffic will again increase.”
In September 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the new terminal known as Chandigarh International Airport, located in Mohali.
The airport, built at a cost of Rs 1,400 crore, has seen several new destinations since its inauguration. The CHIAL said the airport has recorded a growth of 20 per cent passenger traffic in March 2016-17.
Flight operations at the airport will remain closed for 15 days from February 12- 26 due to the ongoing work.