Hailakandi: The frequent cancellation of night flights to Silchar's Kumbhirgram airport has created immense problems for travellers coming from Guwahati and Calcutta.
S. Meena Kumari Devi, a passenger, said the fate of her journey often depended on air force authorities as they allow flights to land at night only sometimes. "If they don't allow the flight to land, passengers coming from Calcutta, Guwahati or Bangalore face a horrible situation. The airlines just announce the Silchar flight has been cancelled and request the passengers to initiate a refund. Shifting the airport or the government taking it over from the air force is the only solution," she said.
The defence ministry had in March allowed night-landing at Kumbhirgram airport till 8pm. Officials of the bureau of civil aviation visited the airport a few months back and conducted a survey to assess night-landing facilities and found them satisfactory. The deployment of adequate CISF personnel has also been sorted out. However, the airport's security and technical issues are under the control of the air force. Sometimes they cancel the night flights for unexplained reasons, said an airport employee.
Silchar MP and chairperson of Kumbhirgram airport advisory committee, Sushmita Dev, said, "It is unfortunate that the people of Barak Valley and neighbouring states are suffering due to a logistical problem between the air force and the airlines. I will meet the air force officer and airport authorities on Tuesday to sort out the problem. I have already demanded a new greenfield airport in Silchar. It should be the next air hub after Guwahati." Silchar airport is the second busiest in Assam after Guwahati, having handled 2.12 lakh passengers in 2016-17. The number is expected to increase to 3.80 lakh in 2017-18. Defence sources said Kumbhirgram airport has been included in the regional air connectivity scheme along with Imphal, Dimapur, Aizawl and Agartala.