Capital fliers lose Jet wings

The festive season in Jharkhand will miss a take-off this year.

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh
  • Published 2.10.15
Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi is now left with three carriers - Air India, IndiGo and GoAir

The festive season in Jharkhand will miss a take-off this year.

Jet Airways - touted to be the second largest private carrier in India in terms of both market share and passenger count - formally shut down its operations to and from Ranchi on Thursday, citing commercial viability.

"Jet Airways has an ongoing process of evaluating its network with a clear focus on business viability. This has necessitated the withdrawal of flights to/from Ranchi with effect from October 1, 2015," said an email from the airline's corporate communications office in Mumbai.

The withdrawal of services comes roughly two years after Jet Airways operated a daily flight each to Delhi and Calcutta from the state capital.

An airline official in Ranchi maintained that they had communicated their pullout plan to Birsa Munda Airport authorities last month.

"It is a management decision taken a month ago. A communiqué from our Mumbai headquarters announced suspension of services to and from Ranchi from October and till further notice. Accordingly, we informed the local airport authorities. All businesses were closed down here (Ranchi) from today (Thursday). No flights took off or landed," the official said.

Birsa airport director Anil Vikram conceded the discouraging development in tourism times, but claimed they weren't aware of any specific reason behind Jet's decision to terminate operations. "I can't tell you why exactly they chose to withdraw flights in this sector. Jet was getting a good crowd from Ranchi," he said.

In 2014-15, Ranchi had an annual average air passenger footfall of 6 lakh. The figure was no less encouraging in 2013-14.

"Jet had to withdraw flights because of low yield. At a meeting, airline officials had told us that they had to sell tickets at fares much lower than the amount that would make flights profitable," said S.K. Bhaduri, east zone executive director of Airports Authority of India (AAI).

A Jet source said that had the fares been raised, there would have been no takers. "The decision to withdraw was because of route rationalisation. The same aircraft, if operated on other routes, will bring more profit," he added.

With Jet Airways gone, Ranchi is left with three other carriers - Air India, IndiGo and GoAir. While Air India operates a daily flight in Mumbai-Delhi-Ranchi sector, IndiGo runs four services to Delhi, Mumbai, Patna and Calcutta-Bangalore. GoAir has two daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi.

The pullout may serve as an eye-opener for Birsa airport where a Rs 138-crore integrated terminal is yet to take wings in true sense for two years.

Following persistent demands from the aviation industry, the government had on March 30, 2013, slashed aviation turbine fuel tax from 20 per cent to 4 per cent in a desperate bid to boost air traffic. During the same period, the AAI, the apex airline regulatory body, had announced free night-landing facility at Ranchi.

However, the measures didn't manage to put Ranchi on the global aviation map.

Airport director Vikram insisted that all hope was not lost and promised more flights in coming days. "IndiGo is planning to start a new flight. It hasn't revealed the destination yet. Also, we are in talks with Fly Easy, a regional airline, which is interested in launching services from Ranchi. The airline is working out modalities before it makes a formal approach," he said.