Shillong, Sept. 4: The operations of Alliance Air in Meghalaya are so far intact even after the North Eastern Council (NEC) discontinued paying Rs 49 crore annually to the Air India subsidiary as viability gap funding.
Since 2009, Alliance Air had been operating an ATR-42 aircraft from Shillong airport at Umroi in Ri Bhoi district, at least six days a week (except Fridays).
For three days, the flight travels on the Calcutta-Jorhat-Shillong-Calcutta route and for another three days on the Calcutta-Shillong-Jorhat-Calcutta link.
“Flights are running normally. There is no problem with the operations,” state transport minister Abu Taher Mondal stated here today.
The same view was echoed by an official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) who said that till date, flights to and from Shillong are running without any major hindrance.
Yesterday, NEC secretary U.K. Sangma had said that since December last year, the council had discontinued paying Alliance Air Rs 49 crore viability gap funding. Earlier, the amount was Rs 35 crore annually.
Since the Tenth Plan, the council had been subsidising routes which were supposedly not profitable to run commercially because of fewer passengers. Alliance Air identified such routes and the council used to fund the Indian Airlines subsidiary so that it would not run losses.
From 2004 onwards, a sum of Rs 323.49 crore was released to Alliance Air, but since December last year, the memorandum of understanding entered into between the council and Alliance Air was discontinued as the services rendered were found to be inadequate.
The state government, meanwhile, has approached Air India and also the Union ministry of civil aviation to bypass the Jorhat route for the Calcutta flight coming to Shillong in order to attract more passengers.
Mondal said when Jorhat airport underwent repairs, the flight from Calcutta to Shillong was usually filled with passengers.
“But if the flight has to go through Jorhat, people from Shillong prefer to go down to the Guwahati airport to catch a flight to Calcutta,” Mondal said.
He said Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) had expressed interest to set up two refuelling stations at Shillong airport.
At present there is no refuelling facility at the airport, thereby forcing aircraft to carry lesser number of passengers.
“Earlier, there was a problem with the location of the refuelling stations. But now that issue has been resolved and we have requested BPCL to come and install the stations,” Mondal said.
In February this year, the state government decided to waive tax on aviation turbine fuel to encourage airlines to operate from the airport.
On the Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the airport, Mondal said the same has been approved by the Airports Authority of India, only clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation was awaited.
The system, once installed at the airport, would provide better visibility to flights even during unfavourable weather conditions and would also open avenues for major private airline companies to include Meghalaya in their route maps.