Sikkim: Extra flights set for Pakyong
An additional flight is likely to operate out of Sikkim’s sole airport at Pakyong daily for a fortnight in April this year, the same time when services would remain suspended at the Bagdogra airport for the recarpeting of the runway.
Ramatanu Saha, the Pakyong airport director, said talks were on to run additional flights from April 11 to 25.
“This is because the April May period is of peak tourism season in Sikkim and Bagdogra airport will undergo maintenance works during that time. There might be even some nonscheduled flights during the tourism season, depending on the number of passengers,” said Saha.
Sources at the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said Spicejet, the private airline company that runs flights to Pakyong from Calcutta and Delhi, had approached them, seeking clearance to run an additional flight between Pakyong and Calcutta. This would increase the number of daily flights to three at the airport.
“The clearance has been provided to them and now, they are waiting for the approval of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation,” a source said.
The sources said there was also a plan to run another additional flight in the second and third weeks of April between Pakyong and Delhi.
“Airline companies can also run some unscheduled flights, for which a 24hour notice is enough. For such flights, one does not need the approval of the DGCA. Considering the inflow of tourists, unscheduled flights might also operate during the period,” the source added.
The Pakyong airport, the 100th operational airport in India, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018 and flights co¬mmenced in October that year. Pakyong is 120km from Siliguri.
The Indian Air Force, which manages the runway and the air traffic control at Bagdogra, the second largest airport in Bengal, has decided to close down the runway for repairs from April 11 to 26.
The shutdown of the Bagdogra operations would synchronise with the rush of tourists to north Bengal in the summer.
The North Bengal Merchants’ Association, a trade body based in Siliguri, has demanded that the railway ministry attach additional coaches to trains which connect the region with Calcutta, New Delhi and other metros of the country.
The association on Wednesday sent a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee who is touring north Bengal now, seeking her intervention.
“We have urged the chief minister to take up the matter with the railways. The complete suspension of flights at Bagdogra for a fortnight would inconvenience passengers, ranging from critical patients to tourists to the business fraternity. If additional coaches are added to the trains, it would provide travel opportunities to more people,” said Ayush Tibrewal, general secretary of the association.