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

Srinagar-bound Air India flight makes emergency landing in Delhi

The travel portals and airlines have been witnessing a considerable increase in bookings and travel queries on Srinagar sector by the forces personnel. 

The rise in bookings and queries has come after government of India recently approved air travel for low-ranking officials of the central reserve police force, national security guards and other forces from Delhi to Srinagar, Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa “to lessen the threat of attacks on the forces’ convoys and reduce vehicular pressure on highway”.

A travel portal based in Maharashtra, the only dedicated portal for armed forces in the country, expects the travel bookings by the armed 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) travel scheme for the forces personnel is being seen as a boost for the air business.

“On a daily basis we book almost 500 tickets for armed forces to and from Srinagar and Leh airports,” said the official.

He said the company which has a presence at the Srinagar Airport, 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 back from 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-sector owned Air India. “It needs to be extended to low-cost private carriers as well.”

“There are only a couple of flights of Air India to Srinagar which logistically does not make it possible to meet a huge demand of travel of armed forces. We hope it is extended to other private carriers as well,” said the official.

An official of a private airline company said they have also recently seen a rise in demand of air ticket bookings from armed forces. “We will have the consolidated travel data ready next month but the government nod to travel of central forces will encourage air travel of armed forces,” said the airline representative.

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

According to a source, earlier only high-ranking and middle-rung officers of the CRPF and other forces were entitled to travel by air. But, the source said, even a constable can travel by air from Jammu and Srinagar 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), ITBP and Sahastra Seema Bal, apart from the NSG and other forces,” the source said.

The MHA recently conveyed approval of the “competent authority” 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 official duty/transfer/tour and leave.

“The approval of competent authority is also conveyed to allow non-entitled personnel of CAPFs and NSG to travel by air from Delhi to Srinagar and back on official duty/transfer/tour as per the provisions contained  in SR 48 B4 (a) subject to review after one year. This will be effective from the date of issue of this order,” the MHA’s order read.