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Govt seeks report on flights

Shillong, July 7: The Meghalaya government has sought a status report on the decision of Alliance Air to stop operating flights from Umroi airport to Calcutta.

While seeking the report, the Meghalaya government is examining the offers it received from few private operators expressing interest in operating flights between Umroi and Calcutta.

“We have received offers from some private operators and the government is examining those proposals,” transport minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh told reporters today.

Lyngdoh said the government has also sought a status report on the discontinuation of Alliance Air to operate flights from Umroi Airport to Calcutta.

Asked if Umroi airport is not economically viable, the transport minister said, “The reasons would be known only after receiving the status report as to why Alliance Air has decided to withdraw the flight services.”

Lyngdoh said the state government would also take up the matter with the ministry of civil aviation.

On May 28, Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, had announced stopping of flights for the Calcutta-Shillong-Calcutta route from June 1.

Alliance Air used to operate ATR aircraft for the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong route five days a week, except Tuesdays and Fridays.

Alliance Air was reportedly “constrained” to discontinue its services “due to irregular payment of viability gap funding (VGF) by the North Eastern Council (NEC).”

Alliance Air resumed its flights for the Calcutta-Shillong-Calcutta route only in July last year.

Suspension of flight service by Alliance Air had let down air travellers from Shillong to Calcutta via Umroi airport and an alternate option was to travel down to Guwahati airport for boarding a flight to Calcutta.

The NEC had requested the Air India subsidiary to continue the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong flight service from the Umroi airport until October, and assured that the necessary VGF would be provided.

NEC adviser (transport and communication) P.K.H. Singh also said from July onwards, Seven Sisters Alliance would be providing air connectivity to Umroi airport from Calcutta, and the airports at Tezpur, Lilabari and Dimapur from Guwahati.

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

In June last year, the Union civil aviation ministry had directed Air India 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 NEC had stopped the VGF to Alliance Air from December 2011.

Air India has also suspended services to Jorhat and Tezpur in Assam for the same reasons (viability gap funding by NEC and operational limitations) and because the runways of those airports are under repair.

But in April last year, the NEC had slammed Alliance Air for claiming VGF subsidy stating that the memorandum of understanding entered between the council and Alliance Air to operate aircrafts in the three airports — Tezpur, Lilabari and Umroi — had expired since December 2011.

Alliance Air, the subsidiary of cash-strapped national carrier Air India, has repeatedly claimed VGF subsidy from the NEC worth Rs 52 crore and Rs 55 crore for 2012 and 2013 respectively.


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