AFTER BEGINNING amid fanfare and seeing a good response last month, the heli-taxi service from Shimla to Chandigarh has now started to slow down. As of Tuesday evening, there was 70 per cent seat availability for the flights in July, including the one on Wednesday.
The service, which was inaugurated by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on June 4, has reduced the travel time to 30 minutes between Chandigarh and Shimla. Last month, the flights on both the two routes were running almost full and hardly any seat was available.
As of Tuesday evening, the website of Pawan Hans was showing 15 out of 20 seats vacant in Wednesday’s flight from Chandigarh to Shimla. For Shimla-Chandigarh flight, there were 17 seats available on the route for Wednesday.
More than 70 per cent seats were available in the flights on both the routes for the rest of this month.
The Pawan Hans is yet to open bookings for August. Officials said a call would be taken only after seeing the response this month. “The service will run only if there are passengers. We are hopeful people will continue using this service. The bookings for next month would open after July 15 only,” said an official.
The Pawan Hans officials say the rush seen last month on the route was because of the summer vacation and the inaugural fare of Rs 2,999. “Now the summer holidays have ended and the peak tourism season is over in tourist destinations like Shimla and Manali. So, there may be a little drop in the passenger number,” said the official.
A senior Himachal tourism official told Chandigarh Newsline all efforts are being made to continue the service on the route. “We are even planning to start the service to Manali. This is the initiative of the government to promote tourism and we will continue it as far as possible,” he said.
When the helicopter service was started in June, it started twice a week (Monday and Friday). But later seeing the response, one more day was added. The fare was increased from Rs 2,999 to Rs 3,499.
The helicopter takes off from Shimla at 8 am and lands at Chandigarh at 8.30 am. It again leaves from Chandigarh airport at 9 am and arrives at Shimla at 9.30 am.