Govt nod to air travel of central forces personnel a boon for airlines

Govt nod to air travel of central forces personnel a boon for airlines
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The travel portals and airlines have been witnessing aconsiderable increase in bookings and travel queries on Srinagar sector by theforces personnel. 

The rise in bookings and queries has come after governmentof India recently approved air travel for low-ranking officials of the centralreserve police force, national security guards and other forces from Delhi toSrinagar, Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa "to lessen the threat of attacks onthe forces' convoys and reduce vehicular pressure on highway".

A travel portal based in Maharashtra, the only dedicatedportal for armed forces in the country, expects the travel bookings by thearmed forces to further increase as "the situation in Valley becomes stable",said a senior official of the company, wishing not to be named.

He said the union ministry of home affairs (MHA) travelscheme for the forces personnel is being seen as a boost for the air business.

"On a daily basis we book almost 500 tickets for armedforces to and from Srinagar and Leh airports," said the official.

He said the company which has a presence at the SrinagarAirport, has also received more queries.

"Although we provide flight bookings for all sectors,Srinagar sector is the busiest. There are many travelling to the Valley backfrom leave via air," he said.

However, he said the MHA travel scheme for the armed forces,offers several "travel benefits" which are applicable only for public-sectorowned Air India. "It needs to be extended to low-cost private carriers aswell."

"There are only a couple of flights of Air India to Srinagarwhich logistically does not make it possible to meet a huge demand of travel ofarmed forces. We hope it is extended to other private carriers as well," saidthe official.

An official of a private airline company said they have alsorecently seen a rise in demand of air ticket bookings from armed forces. "Wewill have the consolidated travel data ready next month but the government nodto travel of central forces will encourage air travel of armed forces," saidthe airline representative.

The new travel scheme has been formulated in the wake of asuicide bomb attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir's Pulwama district that leftmore than 40 forces personnel dead on February 14.

According to a source, earlier only high-ranking andmiddle-rung officers of the CRPF and other forces were entitled to travel byair. But, the source said, even a constable can travel by air from Jammu andSrinagar now while going on leave or returning from his home to join duties.

"The new travel plan will help the forces personnel,especially those from the CRPF, central industrial security force (CISF), ITBPand Sahastra Seema Bal, apart from the NSG and other forces," the source said.

The MHA recently conveyed approval of the "competentauthority" to allow non-entitled personnel of the central armed police forces(CAPFs) and NSG to travel by air from Jammu to Srinagar and back on officialduty/transfer/tour and leave.

"The approval of competent authority is also conveyed toallow non-entitled personnel of CAPFs and NSG to travel by air from Delhi toSrinagar and back on official duty/transfer/tour as per the provisionscontained  in SR 48 B4 (a) subject toreview after one year. This will be effective from the date of issue of thisorder," the MHA's order read.

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