AFTER SHARJAH, Air India is eying Singapore for a direct international flight from Chandigarh.
“I am happy to announce that our parent company is planning to start more international flights from Chandigarh. The date is not confirmed, but the intention to start the international flight is firm,” K Shyam Sundar, CEO, Air India Express, told the media on Thursday. “I believe they [Air India] are examining Singapore as the potential destination. This is something the CMD of Air India has told me to inform that Air India has plans to start operations from Chandigarh.”
Air India Express (AIE), the low-cost arm of national carrier Air India, has already announced its first international flight from Chandigarh airport to (SHJ) Sharjah International Airport on September 15.
Asserting that there had been demands to start international operations from Chandigarh, Sundar said that the airline chose Sharjah as they didn’t get suitable slots for Dubai. “They gave us a slot which didn’t work out for us,” he added.
He said that the first flight to Sharjah was already booked with 50 passengers and the airline was “hoping that it will do well”.
Before addressing the media, Sundar held a meeting with Chandigarh Airport CEO Sunil Dutt. Sundar said that during the visit, he made some observations in the airport and noticed some shortcomings. One of the issues was availability of airport.
“On the weekend they want to close the airport at 8 pm and at 10 pm on other days. The operational time at the airport should be consistent and as wide as possible. The narrower the window, the more difficult it will become to operate,” said Sundar. “There are other operational issues like there is a requirement for baggage reconciliation system which we are attending to. Other smaller issues will be handled operationally.”
On the infrastructure available at the Chandigarh airport, he said, “What I have seen to begin with, yes, it should be alright. If there is a growth of traffic, I believe there may be issues of space near the queuing of immigration outgoing passengers but those things I suppose you will have to experience. Start a flight and then if volume dictates, I am sure they will do it.”
As for increasing the frequency from Chandigarh Airport, Sundar said, “When we find that the loads are encouraging and the flights are giving us profit margin, we will be able to increase the frequency of operations.”
On the Chandigarh International Airport lacking basic passenger amenities, he said, “He [Chandigarh airport CEO] has assured me that there will be facilities like snack bar and also they are working on duty-free (concept). At this time we want to be sure that customs clearance is available, emigration facilities are available so that passenger flow is smooth.”
He maintained that the airline would change the flight schedule during winters. “We will change the schedule during the period. We will target between 12 and 2 clock which is the safest (time to) come and go (when there is) neither the morning fog nor the evening fog. We have done that successfully in Amritsar, we are prepared for it,” he stated.
Sundar added that they did not have any plans to put Chandigarh and Amritsar on the same international flight route.