Carpeting work at Lohegaon airport from October 26 will affect 13 night flights as the runway will remain shut from 8 pm to 8 am. These flights have been rescheduled to fly in the day, said Airports Authority of India (AAI) on Tuesday. Owing to distancing norms to be followed at airports, the Lohegaon airport is operating at a reduced capacity. Presently, 35 to 42 flight movements are taking place daily, which is a drastic reduction from over 160 movements before March.
After a meeting of the airport advisory committee chaired by Pune MP Girish Bapat, AAI officials said 13 flights, which are now operating between 8 pm and 8 am, will be rescheduled during the daytime and the runway carpeting work will be started by the Air Force for about a year on October 26.
They added that although the airport director said none of the night flights would be cancelled, due to distancing norms additional slots for new flights did not seem possible with the current capacity.
Kuldeep Singh, airport director, said, “We have 12 hours with us and, with the distancing norms, we can operate about four flights in an hour and, currently, we have about 42 flights and a capacity to run 48. We cannot squeeze in more flights since we have to follow distancing norms. Although the airport will be open through the night, flight operations will continue only from 8 am to 8 pm.”
Bapat said expanding cargo capacity at the Pune airport was the top priority, as lack of capacity to meet the demand was not only causing inconvenience to traders, but was also a cause of massive revenue loss for the airport.
“The airport is losing an income of about Rs 2.5 crore on a daily basis. We are trying hard to acquire land for cargo facility. Local industries not just from Pune but nearby districts, including Satara and Ahmednagar, transport their goods to Mumbai airport and, so, if Pune’s cargo facility is improved we can tap a daily business of about Rs 2.5 crore in freight. The Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, which was also part of the meeting, said with increased cargo facility, there could be an increased trade,” he said.
Bapat also said it was crucial to improve cargo from Pune airport, given the fact that the city could be supplying the Covid-19 vaccine in the future for which the airport will play a crucial role.
Stating that Covid-19 has impacted air travel drastically, Singh said, “In 2018-19, we had a passenger footfall of about 9 million at the peak, but in January-February, we saw a footfall of only 2,000 to 3,000. Since flight operations resumed on May 25, we have seen a footfall of about 1.63 lakh passengers until September and 1,948 flights have been operated from Pune airport.”
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