Srinagar: Even as international flight operations to and from India are all set to resume on Sunday, March 27 after a hiatus of two years, bringing cheer among travellers, the prospective flyers of Srinagar- Sharjah direct flight continue to be a disappointed lot. Reason: frequent cancellations.
The business community in Kashmir as well as the travellers are up in arms as the Srinagar-Sharjah direct flight, which resumed operations on March 16, after being grounded for the last few months, has again started witnessing cancellations in the last ten days.
A cursory look at various travel portals shows that the Srinagar-Sharjah direct flight is scheduled for the rest of the days in March and the month of April.
However, travel agents in Srinagar whom Greater Kashmir spoke to said there has been a trend with this flight since January this year, that closer to the date of departure, “the flight gets cancelled abruptly.”
“If any airline has to operate a flight they need to book slots with the concerned airport authority. However, this flight operated under an air bubble agreement between India and UAE. Hence even when the routine international flights were not operating the Srinagar to Sharjah flight was operating as a part of the air bubble,” said a travel agent, wishing not to be named.
He said 180 seats were the total occupancy on the Srinagar-Sharjah flight and the flight was operating successfully till January 21 this year.
However, after the outbreak of Omicron, the occupancy rates dropped drastically and as a result, the flight is now witnessing cancellations at the last moment.
“One can say this flight is just about symbolism as in practicality it gets cancelled time and again,” the travel agent said.
“The concerned airline is first scheduling the flight and then cancelling it just one day prior to the departure date. This is quite unfair for travellers who wish to travel on this flight" said the travel agent.
Notably, the Srinagar-Sharjah flight was benefiting thousands of Kashmiris working or studying in the UAE as they were travelling on this direct service.
"The biggest benefit of the flight was that it saved one from travelling via Delhi, which also meant less exposure to crowds and hence safety from COVID. But unfortunately, the flight is now getting cancelled every now and then" said a Kashmiri working in the UAE.
”My father was scheduled to travel to the UAE but at the last moment he cancelled his tour as the direct flight is quite uncertain now and he does not want to travel in a connecting flight," he said.
For the last several months, this newspaper has been doing a series of stories on the cancellation of the Srinagar-Sharjah flight.
Notably, after initially allowing the Srinagar-Sharjah flight to operate over its air space, the decision by Pakistan to refuse air space for the direct flight connecting Srinagar and Emirates has led to a detour of this direct service, which also led to costlier air tickets due to a longer route.
This Srinagar-Sharjah flight faced the first hiccup after Pakistan refused airspace to the airliner, forcing it to take a longer route.