The chairman and managing director of SpiceJet, Ajay Singh said the airline on the first day of beginning operations in Gujarat, received an “overwhelming” 3000 bookings for the route between Sabarmati riverfront and Statue of Unity.
The country’s first seaplane route was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. “Prime minister Narendra Modiji encouraged us a lot to begin this flight and today he not only inaugurated the flight, but he was also our first passenger. This the country’s first scheduled sea plane service that will connect Statue of Unity to Ahmedabad,” Singh told media persons after returning from Kevadiya Colony on the 18 seater aircraft which can accommodate 15 passengers, two pilots and an attendant.
“We will be trying to connect Statue of Unity with other cities. Our first attempt will be to connect Surat. The existing (one-way) fares will be between Rs 1500-5000… It is not like any other common flight. It is a special experience as it would fly at low altitudes from where the surrounding beauty can be seen near Statue of Unity. People who have a habit of uploading pictures of social media will be able to capture very good pictures on this flight,” he added.
According to Singh, only 30 percent of the seats will be priced at Rs 1500 under the UDAN scheme. “The rest of the seats will be priced as per the market demand,” he added. Spice Jet began taking bookings on http://www.spiceshuttle.com for the sea plane service between Ahmedabad and Statue of Unity on Friday. “There were too many bookings and so we have now started making a list of people who are interested. We will be intimating them. From tomorrow there will be regular commercial flights… The demand seems to be pretty overwhelming. We have received 3000 requests so far. We had started bookings last night,” Singh said adding the first commercial flight “already happened” on Saturday.
Airline officials said that the airline was still fine tuning the booking system which has already received 3000 bookings, most of which are from the Gujarat region. A message on the spice shuttle website read: “We are experiencing heavy traffic and there is limited inventory on our flights. We will try out best to accommodate your request. Please wait for our confirmation.” The website is currently only taking requests from interest passengers for the four flights on the route.
He said the airline was negotiating for more sea planes which will be taken in lease. “We will add two more planes to this service soon. This is a commercial project, but the interest of the country will also be served, as we will connect tourist spots,” Singh remarked.
The water aerodrome at Sabarmati riverfront is located in a highly populated zone near the Vasna barrage on the river Sabarmati. During the initial flights, the sea plane has been facing issues of birds flying in and around the water body that also has a large slum at the opposite side of the water aerodrome. “Yes, we are forced to take a bigger circle to reach (the Sabarmati waterfront) due to the birds. We are also placing bird diverters,” he added.
On Saturday, the slums at Khodiyar Nagar, which lie bang opposite the water aerodrome at the Sabarmati riverfront were barricaded with white cloth. “These barricades that covers the front portion of our houses were not there till yesterday night. It seems the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) put it up at night,” said Sahil Parmar who had steeped out a hole in the barricade to watch the seaplane land with Prime Minister Modi. “When we objected, the people who were setting up these barricades, told us that it was to stop our children from accidentally entering the riverfront road which will be closed for traffic when Modiji arrives,” said Dinesh Parmar, a resident of the slum. When contacted on the issue, the AMC commissioner Mukesh Kumar did not respond.
Apart from beginning seaplane services to Surat, SpiceJet also plans to introduce seaplane services between Port Blair and Havelock in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kaziranga in Assam, Delhi to Naini lake, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Tehri Dam. Similar operations are also planned in Srinagar, Ladakh, Udaipur, Sunderbans in West Bengal and backwaters of Kerala.
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