Govt-Airlines at loggerheads
No Decision Over Alternate Options; Ticket Cancellation Begins
Srinagar, Aug 26: While the Jammu and Kashmir government is still in the process of “exploring options” of flights arrival to Srinagar, the commercial airlines have begun to cancel the tickets they had booked from September 1 to 12—the period during which the Srinagar ‘International’ Airport is closing on account of runway repairs.
Informed sources said the airlines including Kingfisher, Jet Airways, GoAir, SpiceJet and Indigo Thursday cancelled the booked tickets, asking the customers to “take the money back” from their offices. The tickets’ cancellation has perturbed hundreds of people, including the Non-Resident Kashmiris, who intended to visit the Valley to observe Eid-ul-Fitr with their families.
“I had to visit Kashmir on September 5 to observe Eid with my family. I had booked my ticket in the Kingfisher airlines, but its officials in Delhi office called me and asked me to take back the money as the flight has been cancelled,” wrote Gowhar in an e-mail to Greater Kashmir from Dubai. “It is unfortunate that we are being punished like this. The flight cancellation on account of runway repairs is unique to Kashmir. It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.”
Sources said the state government has to explore the options with the Defence Ministry, if it means business. “If anyone has to explore the options, it is the state government in consultation with the Defence Ministry because Srinagar Airport is strictly a defence airport manned by the Indian Air Force. So it is the IAF that has to decide whether it allows the state to use its Awantipora air-base or not, or if it comes up with any other option,” they said.
While reports suggested that the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah has taken up the matter with the Defence Minister, AK Antony, there is no response from the Ministry yet.
The indecision is only fuelling unrest among the people, who accuse the Defence Ministry of putting them to trouble. “Let the Indian Air Force do the job on alternate days. But it is bizarre that they are going for a complete blackout of flights to Kashmir,” said Idrees, a Kashmiri student studying in New Delhi. “On Eid, hundreds of people visit the Valley from different parts of India and abroad. The airport closure would mean huge inconvenience to them. There are patients who have to visit Delhi by air. What about them?”
Amid indecision, the airlines have reportedly made it clear that they won’t be shifting to the Awantipora air-base as “it lacked even the basic facilities like terminal building and security paraphernalia.” The state is asking the airlines to operate from the air-base temporarily. “We have already started canceling the tickets. Shifting to Awantipora is very unlikely. The only option with the government is to convince the Indian Air Force to conduct the runway repair work on alternate days,” said station manager of a private airline.
But the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah has assured to take up the matter with the Civil Aviation Ministry in case the airlines refused operate from Awantipora.
Pertinently, the Valley has no civil aerodrome. The two airports are under the direct control of the Indian Air Force. This however is not the case with other airports across the country that are manned by the Airports Authority of India. “The AAI has nothing to do with the issue. The IAF informed us that they are closing the runway from September 1. So we accordingly informed the public,” said Srinagar-based officials of the AAI.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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