Delhi-Goa round-trip may cost Rs 25,000 soon
Navy for halving number of civilian flights at Goa airport
In the midst of a steady rise in air traffic demand, the Indian Navy wants the number of civilian flights allowed at the Goa airport to be halved. The Navy has cited the requirement of airspace and facility for military exercise for drastically reducing the number of flights. The Goa International Airport, the only airport in the state, is a naval facility where state-owned AAI operates a civil enclave offering a few flying slots to airlines.
Carriers such as IndiGo and SpiceJet have taken the matter to nodal aviation ministry. They have argued that this forced reduction would render their capacity unutilised besides triggering a hike in airfare to this popular tourist destination. The airlines claimed that the Delhi-Goa round-trip could double to Rs 25,000 in case flight frequency is reduced. The issue was raised in a meeting with aviation secretary R N Choubey last week.
"There is about 20 flight movements (landing and takeoff) in an hour at the Goa airport. All of sudden, the Navy wants to cut it by half from coming summer schedule (travel season). We have been told that the Navy wants the restriction to continue till the new airport comes up in the state," said an airline executive wishing not to be named.
Goa is one of the few international airports that have witnessed high double-digit growth in the past few years. As per the latest data compiled by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the Goa airport saw 33.54 lakh passengers flying to and from Goa in the first eight months of FY17 registered a growth of 27.9 per cent.
Most of the airlines, including Vistara and Air Asia India, have mounted flights to Goa, which is famous for its beeches. It receives almost 30 lakh tourists every year out of which 3.42 lakh are foreign tourists.
Since 2014, the total tourist inflow has been exponentially rising, clocking a growth rate of 30 per cent year-on-year.
The executive quoted above said that if the number of flights is reduced the tourist flow would be hit. "If flights are reduced by 50 per cent, airfare would skyrocket and could touch even Rs 25,000 for a return trip," he said.
An official in the aviation ministry confirmed that the issue had been raised in a meeting with airline CEOs on December 27 and the matter would shortly be taken up.
"The good thing is that the defence minister (Manohar Parrikar) is from Goa. So, we hope that he would consider airlines' request and allow at least existing flights to continue, if not further expansion," he said.
The Goa international airport, the only airport in the state, is a naval facility where state-owned AAI operates a civil enclave offering a few flying slots to airlines. In view of the growing traffic, the state government has already awarded contract to build a new greenfield airport which is likely to be commissioned in 2019 at an estimated cost of Rs 3,000 crore.
Domestic airlines have quite often complained of not getting enough slots at the Goa airport due to restricted flying hours for civilian jets.
Columnist: 
Nirbhay Kumar
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