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Plea to continue air services

- NEC urges Air India to stay till Oct.

Shillong, May 29: The North Eastern Council (NEC) has requested the Air India subsidiary Alliance Air to continue the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong flight service from the Umroi airport until October, and assured that the necessary viability gap funding would be provided.

Reacting to a news report published in The Telegraph today, NEC adviser (transport and communication) P.K.H. Singh said from next month onwards, Seven Sisters Alliance would be providing air connectivity to Umroi airport from Calcutta, and the airports at Tezpur, Lilabari and Dimapur from Guwahati.

Singh said Seven Sisters Alliance was chosen following the process of open bidding.

Alliance Air had yesterday announced that it would discontinue the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong flight from the Umroi airport with effect from June 1.

Air India sources had yesterday pointed out that Alliance Air was “constrained” to issue the notice “due to irregular payment of viability gap funding by the NEC”.

However, Singh clarified that the NEC had sought details from Alliance Air for making payment for the services it had rendered between Umroi airport and Calcutta. The services had commenced from July 10, 2013.

At the same time, he said Alliance Air has been requested to continue the services until the end of the summer schedule (October 25, 2014), for which, the council would provide the necessary viability gap funding.

The ATR aircraft from Umroi airport used to operate five days a week, except Tuesday and Friday.

In June last year, Air India was directed to resume the flight to Shillong after it was suspended from January 2013.

From January to June 2013, Alliance Air had suspended its flights from Calcutta to the Shillong, Tezpur and Lilabari airports after the council had stopped the viability gap funding to Alliance Air from December 2011.

Singh said the NEC had provided the viability gap funding to Alliance Air since the Tenth Five Year Plan period, initially from Janu- ary 1, 2003, to December 31, 2007, at an estimated cost of Rs 175 crore, and further extended it until December 31, 2011.

“The payment for this arrangement was made in time without any delay on the part of the NEC based on a MoU with Alliance Air. As the services were unsatisfactory, this arrangement was not extended further,” Singh said.

However, he said, Alliance Air continued its services to the region even after the expiry of the MoU beyond December 31, 2012, at its own cost without a valid memorandum of understanding.

Alliance Air discontinued the service from January 1, 2013, but the Centre and the Union ministry of civil aviation decided that the service from Umroi airport to Calcutta should be resumed.

Singh said it was also agreed that the NEC, based on cost minus revenue formula, would pay the viability gap funding for this service. The service was then resumed from July 10, 2013.