Srinagar: Even as COVID19 has been playing a spoilsport for the aviation and tourism sectors, the passenger footfalls at the Srinagar International Airport and the Jammu Airport have witnessed considerably high growth.
As many as 31.15 lakh passengers travelled to and fro Srinagar and Jammu airports between April and December 2021. As per official figures, while the Srinagar Airport recorded 2218088 passenger footfalls with 17579 flight operations, the Jammu Airport recorded 897073 passenger footfalls with 9175 flight operations.
Officials said while tourism and local travel was a reason for the robust passenger footfalls to Srinagar, they said the decision of the Government of India to remove the 30 per cent “load penalty” on airlines operating to Jammu Airport last year provided a boost to air travel to this region.
The load penalty, which restricted the number of passengers an airline could ferry by 30 per cent, was done away with after the Indian Air Force, which handles the runway and air space at the Jammu Airport, carried out the runway expansion work.
Besides, Jammu and Kashmir administration’s decision to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) and sales tax on the Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) for airlines operating in the J&K region, from twenty-six per cent to one per cent also proved to be a valuable addition for air travel to Jammu and Kashmir.
It may be mentioned that to provide a boost to the aviation sector in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M Scindia has recently announced that two new airport terminals will be established in Jammu and Srinagar.
The Srinagar-Sharjah direct flight, which completes two months of operations next week, has been a runaway success as the flight is witnessing good occupancy. The flight was flagged-off by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on October 23 and despite witnessing initial hiccups, the flight operating from a longer route now has gained popularity among the Kashmiri travellers.
Pertinently, Srinagar airport witnesses operations of almost 40 to 45 commercial flight arrivals every day. As per AAI data, the annual footfalls of passengers at Srinagar is expected to increase from the current 3 million passengers to 5.2 million passengers per annum. Considerably affordable airfares coupled with a drop in the number of COVID cases has doubled the passenger footfalls and air traffic at the Srinagar International Airport this year, officials said.
Amid the positive side of the Srinagar Airport, the flight cancellations have been proving to be a damp squib. While the inclement weather had forced the cancellation of just over 100 flights between January 4 and 9 last year, as many as 273 flight cancellations were witnessed during the same period this year at the Srinagar International Airport.
The whopping jump of more than 150 per cent in flight cancellations is mostly due to the increase in the number of scheduled flights operating this winter. In 2021, only 25 to 30 daily flight arrivals were seen at the airport. The number of flights has increased to almost 35 to 40 daily flights this winter.
As a result over 53 flights were cancelled at the Srinagar airport daily on an average for the last six days due to poor visibility owing to inclement weather. Flight operations since Thursday mostly remained suspended due to poor visibility at the airport even though a few flights took off intermittently.
As per a spokesman at the airport, a total of 273 flights to and fro the airport were cancelled between January 4 and 9, including 138 from Srinagar to various destinations.