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Lack of repair base trips flight hope

An aircraft lands at Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneswar, April 30: Lowering of VAT on aviation turbine fuel and announcement by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to allow free night parking have failed to attract commercial airlines to avail parking facility at the Biju Patnaik International Airport allegedly due to absence of maintenance base here.

On November 27 last year, the state Cabinet lowered the sales tax on aviation turbine fuel from 20 per cent to five per cent in order to boost growth of aviation sector, while the AAI had also declared waiver of night parking fees shortly after.

Maintenance base is a facility available at the airport by airline operators with their engineers and support staff so that major problems of an aircraft can be rectified there.

At present, engineers of various airlines are engaged only in supervising safety aspects of the aircraft before take off from the Biju Patnaik Airport.

Airport director Sharad Kumar said: “The maintenance base is mainly considered by an airline according to the route plan of their services. If the airport concerned is on the tail end of the route of the service provider, they may consider a proposal. Deployment of adequate engineering staff is needed for the base to maintain it properly.”

He said that steps were taken to pursue airline operators to initiate the process to have full-fledged maintenance base here.

“Indigo is considering to start such a base here, but there is no official communication as yet. The company is having an internal assessment on the proposal,” said Sharad Kumar.

The Union civil aviation ministry is also encouraging various airlines to have their maintenance bases outside major airports, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai, so that the big airports have less and manageable air traffic.

In case of a major breakdown or technical snag, travellers suffer a lot without a maintenance base as the technical staff have to be flown in from outside.

At present, there are 15 operations from the city airport — Indigo has 11 operations and Air India has four. So, there are 30 flight operations, including landing and take off.

With development of the maintenance base, air travellers can also have the option of getting morning flights to metros as the airlines have to connect flights between 5.30am and 6.30am with major destinations.

“If the flight starts early, passengers could have the entire day with them as they would reach their destinations by 8am. The airlines, on the other hand, could use their aircraft on other routes after reaching a metro airport,’’ said travel planner Debashish Mohapatra.

Frequent flier Nihar Das said: “The concept of maintenance base is good for an airport such as that of Bhubaneswar. But, the airlines concerned will look for more passengers from here to have their morning flights full.”