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WHY HARM AMRITSAR AIRPORT TO INCREASE CONGESTION AT DELHI AIRPORT? Harjap Singh Aujla
12 Nov 2011


The international airport at New Delhi has already become India’s busiest airport. A couple of years ago Mumbai International Airport was the busiest in India with 700 flights using it on a daily basis. New Delhi Airport was the second busiest airport with 600 flights per day. But within two years New Delhi Airport has forged ahead of Mumbai with 760 flights per day compared to 720 flights per day at Mumbai. The rapid increase in traffic at Delhi is partly due to the lopsided policies of the government, especially that of the union ministry of civil aviation. The ministry of civil aviation has adopted a policy of centralizing all North Indian flights in New Delhi. In this process, they are scuttling the aviation business at smaller non-metro airports.

At peak hours, especially between 8pm and 3am, several times the planes have to circle over the New Delhi Airport for up to forty five minutes, before they are cleared to land. A forty five minute delay in landing results in fuel consumption for a four hundred miles long journey.

On the other hand there is no waiting time at Amritsar, Jaipur, Lucknow and Patna airports. Out of all the non-metro airports in Northern India, only Amritsar handles a substantial majority of international flights. Amritsar Airport can not only handle the existing flights that are using it, but it can accommodate three times its present load without compromising efficiency.

If a route by route audit of all the flights operated by Air India is conducted, it will be proved beyond doubt that the Amritsar – London – Toronto flight is one of the most profitable flights of Air India. Prudent business practices demand that the profit making businesses are never discontinued. But Air India is alien to prudent business practices. Air India started Amritsar – Birmingham – Toronto route with three flights per week some five years ago. But the traffic was so overwhelming that they had to increase the frequency to six flights per week. But soon afterwards in 2008, Birmingham, with more than half a million Punjabi population, was dropped from the route and London serving only two hundred thousand Punjabis was added. Surprisingly even the Amritsar – London – Toronto flights became highly profitable. Initially the frequency on Amritsar – London – Toronto flights was six flights a week. Then suddenly it was reduced to three per week, but on popular demand, it had to be increased to seven flights per week. Rather than leaving this profit making flight alone, Air India during November of 2009, diverted three flights to New Delhi Airport, leaving Amritsar with only four flights per week.

It has now been learnt that Air India is going to discontinue the highly profitable Amritsar – London – Toronto flights with effect from November 1, 2010. Instead a non-stop New Delhi – Toronto flights is being planned. Under this proposed arrangement, Amritsar will no longer serve as the hub for the Toronto bound flights, but it will be relegated to a spoke (feeder) station. Most of the passenger load for this flight will be provided of course by Amritsar, which will hold the ckeck-in and customs facilities, but the larger planes will be flown from New Delhi Airport only. I strongly believe that the existing profitable Amritsar – London – Toronto route should not be discontinued. Rather the number of flights from Amritsar to Toronto should be increased to seven per week.

The Punjabis settled in California, British Columbia, Washington State and Alberta are keen to get Vancouver – Amritsar flights started as a first step for providing connectivity to their cities and villages, because their ancestral places can be conveniently connected via Amritsar. Rather than starting the expected to be most profitable Amritsar – Vancouver flights, the Government of India is bent upon denying the Punjabis their existing profitable Amritsar – London – Toronto flight. This is my humble request to every Punjabi, living in Canada and America to oppose the Indian Government’s poorly conceived move to make Amritsar as a spoke station instead of a hub station that it presently is.

This is the duty of the English speaking younger generation living in the United States and Canada to write to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Union Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel to restore the Amritsar – London – Toronto flights, which are being discontinued after October 31, 2010. The youth should also write to both the leaders for starting Amritsar – Vancouver flights as soon as possible. In fact the Amritsar bound passengers from the West Coast of America and Canada are a highly inconvenienced lot. They are made to take indirect flights via Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Rome to reach New Delhi and not Amritsar. Both Amritsar – Toronto and Amritsar – Vancouver flights are the lifeline of the Punjabis settled on the West Coast in America and Canada. These two links must stay alive. 

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