The national carrier Air India resumed its Ludhiana-Delhi flight from the domestic airport Sahnewal on Saturday, almost three years after the flight was discontinued in 2014 due to financial losses and lack of facilities at the airport.
The 70-seater ATR-72 plane (of Alliance Air under Air India) carrying 41 passengers landed at Sahnewal airport at 1.50 pm and then departed for Delhi with 48 passengers.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pawan Kumar, assistant manager, air traffic control, Sahnewal airport, said the flight would be operational four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).
He said that from Monday onwards, it would be leaving at 3 pm from Delhi and landing at Sahnewal airport at 4.15 pm. Then it would leave for Delhi at 4.45 pm and reach Delhi at 6 pm.
“We are keeping the window of 1 hour and 15 minutes but it reaches much before. Like today, it left Delhi at 1 pm and reached Sahnewal at 1.50 pm. Timings will be changed November onwards and then it would run in the morning due to weather issues in winters,” he said.
Restarted under the UDAN (Udey Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme launched by the central government, 50% of the tickets are for Rs 2,000. “Price for rest of the tickets will depend on daily demand and supply formula. Like today, it was even available for Rs 1,500,” said Kumar.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders, including Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and MLAs Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Sanjay Talwar and Amrik Dhillon, also reached the airport and welcomed the passengers.
They claimed it was only due to the efforts of Punjab government led by CM Captain Amarinder Singh that flight has been restarted.
“The Congress government in Punjab convinced and pushed the central government to restart this flight as Ludhiana is an industrial hub,” Bittu said, adding that now Punjab government “will not allow the flight to be discontinued at any cost”.
“In fact, if residents of Ludhiana and Delhi cooperate, we will also push private airlines to start more flights. In case, Air India again suffers losses and there are less bookings, the Punjab government will compensate them. Captain Amarinder Singh has assured us of this,” Bittu said.
Ludhiana-Delhi Air India flight from Sahnewal was first discontinued in 1999 but resumed in 2010 following the efforts of former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari and demand from local industrialists.
Air India was running one ATR aircraft on Ludhiana-Delhi route since 2010 but discontinued in May 2014 citing erratic bookings, low passenger volume and inadequate facilities at Sahnewal airport.
None of the airlines, including Air India, showed any interest in running Delhi-Ludhiana flight till 2016. Then in 2016, private company Jetsmart started its eight-seater luxury aircraft, Beech B200 King Air, from Sahnewal to Delhi and tickets were priced from Rs 10,000-13,000. The service was discontinued within three months.
The company cited weather as reason for “temporary suspension” but sources confirmed it was due to financial losses. City residents were of the view that tickets were too expensive and timings irregular. In May 2014, the then Public Works Development minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon had announced Sahnewal airport expansion project but Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA), owing to financial crunch, de-notified the acquisition of 1,125 acres of land and returned it to the farmers.
*To run four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday)
*Will leave at 3 pm from Delhi and land at Sahnewal airport at 4.15 pm. Then, it would leave for Delhi at 4.45 pm and reach Delhi around 6 pm.
*50% of the 70 seats subsidised at Rs 2,000 under UDAN scheme.