New Delhi/Patna, Aug. 8: Airlines flying big aircraft like A320s and Boeing 737s to Patna are in wait-and-watch mode ahead of the August 16 date set by the aviation regulator for curtailing the runway length at the Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport.
The airlines are, however, hopeful that an amicable solution would be worked out before next Thursday’s deadline.
Around 130 flights are operated by five airlines — IndiGo, Jet Airways, JetKonnect, GoAir and Air India — to Patna. However, the airlines say they are yet to receive any order specifically barring them from flying to Patna.
IndiGo, which operates around five flights per day, said they follow guidelines from DGCA — the regulatory authority. “We will wait till the authorities take a final call on the issue,” said a spokesperson for IndiGo. Air India officials said much the same thing.
IndiGo, along with GoAir, has stopped selling seats on its flights to and from Patna for travel on or after August 16. IndiGo sources said plans are already afoot to withhold flights to Patna and steps to cope with the situation are being planned.
But the crisis has given some small airlines a window of opportunity.
“We are being approached by several airlines which have small planes for permission to operate from Patna airport. Though we do not intend to encourage such airlines, we would be left with no other option but to consider their proposal if the runway rule takes effect from August 16,” said a top source at AAI in Calcutta.
Aviation experts said some regional airlines would try to capitalise on the uncertainty. “There are four regional airlines in India which operate smaller aircraft. The first is Air India Regional, which has seven ATR 42 and four CRJ aircraft in its fleet. ATR 42 is 48-seater and CRJ has 70 seats. The other three regional airlines operating smaller aircraft are Air Mantra, which operates Hawker Beechcraft 900D (17-seater) planes, Jackson Airlines, which operates Dornier 228-200 (19-seater), and Jal Hansa, which operates Cessna 208 A (8-seater) planes. However, regular commercial operation of these aircraft would not be practical for sustaining the passenger load from Patna airport,” said aviation expert Mirza Faizan.
However, smaller aircraft have an air-range restriction of 500km. “Operation of these aircraft would act as feeder service to operations of bigger aircraft from Calcutta or Ranchi,” he said.