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August 30, 2010

Vizag airport awaits Navy nod to go international

Filed under: Airports — aerotowfeeq @ 10:46 pm
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The Visakhapatnam airport is all set to go international once the Indian Navy gives its green signal as three international airlines are ready to operate flights from the industrial hub of the state.

However, highly-placed sources said the hitch is over the timings of the flights. While the international airlines – Air Arabia, Fly Dubai and Silk Airways – are asking for the night slot ie. after 11 pm till early in the morning, the airport currently functions only between 8 am and 8 pm because of the restrictions imposed by the Navy on night operations.

The Naval authorities claim it is not possible for them to operate night flights due to insufficient manpower and other logistics. “Due to this, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai and Silk Airways, which are keen to operate services from the port city to Sharjah, Dubai and Singapore are in a dilemma,” sources said.

Air Travellers’ Association of India Vizag chapter president D Varada Reddy told TOI that several private airlines are willing to operate domestic and international flights from Vizag. “Lack of night operating facilities is a major stumbling block,” he said.

The airport, which is under the control of the Indian Navy, handles 12 domestic services to cater to the needs of north coastal districts and the neighbouring districts of Orissa and some parts of Chhattisgarh. According sources, Air Arabia wants to operate its Sharjah-Vizag-Sharjah service in the early hours. The tentative schedule is that the flight would arrive from Sharjah at 4.30 am and leave Vizag at 6 am.

Fly Dubai Airlines, which has plans to run a direct flight to Dubai from Vizag, has asked for 12 am-2 pm time slot. Officials of Silk Airways, which has been evincing keen interest to operate flights since a year, visited the airport and even conducted a feasible study also. “It wants to operate the Singapore-Vizag-Singapore flight between 1 am and 2 am,” the sources averred.

However, the Navy said that it does not have sufficient skilled manpower to operate the air traffic control. Currently, 97 personnel man the Vizag airport through Navy’s INS Dega establishment. Sources said a requisition to sanction another 320 trained manpower has been sent to the civil aviation authorities.

Sources said six new flights are in the pipeline and waiting for clearance from the director general of Civil Aviation and the Navy. Spice Jet is planning to operate Chennai-Vizag-Kolkata, while Jetlite is planning Kolkata-Vizag-Kolkata flight. Jet Airways has a proposal to run Boeing-737 in Mumbai-Vizag- Mumbai and Delhi-Vizag-Delhi sectors.

The port city, which has a population of 18 lakh, has been growing rapidly with the influx of IT and industrial honchos setting up shop here. Nearly six lakh passengers fly in and fly out of the Vizag airport every year. “If we start operating international flights, the number would swell further,” Varada Reddy said.


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