Navy Clips Airlines’ Wings, Leaves Goa Tourism at Sea
Airlines and travel industry see red as navy cuts flight movements at Dabolim by more than 10% amid surge in passenger arrivals
New Delhi: Brace for costlier flight tickets to and from Goa for six months starting April this year as the Indian Navy has reduced flight movements at Dabolim airport, which it controls, by more than 10%.
Coming amid a surge in international and domestic passenger traffic, the reduction in flights will lead to higher ticket prices as supply dwindles. “The Indian Navy has informed us that they will reduce the number of flights allowed between 12:30 and 15:30 by about 15 flights due to operational reasons. It is a reduction of about five flights per hour from 15 flights per hour allowed earlier,” said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official, who did not want to be identified.
Commercial operations at the naval facility are managed by AAI. The airport is also shut for four hours daily for training exercises conducted by the navy.
Travel industry executives said the curbs will act as a drag on passenger growth, which was 25.1% in January from the year earlier, a rate that’s reckoned as among the highest in the world.
“It is a big negative for airlines as well as travel and tourism sector in that area,” said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer at Yatra.com, India’s second-largest online travel portal. “Any reduction in capacity, when the market is growing, would lead to a spike in fares in and out of Goa. High fares might impact tourism in Goa too. Moreover, it is counter-productive for airlines, which have fleet expansion plans.”
Airlines feel the government should seek to ensure that they are allowed to increase flights rather Month Oct 2016 Nov Dec Apr-Dec (Source: AAI) Growth than the opposite.
“Reduction in flights may lead to higher fares. But the bigger question one should ask is, how are flight operations being curtailed when Goa requires increase in flights and the government should have worked towards increasing the number of slots,” said an airline executive, who did not want to be identified.
This curtailment order has also worried the civil aviation ministry, which has taken up the issue with defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who is from Goa and was previously chief minister of the state.
“Aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has written to Parrikar. The ministers are likely to sit together to discuss the issue,” said a senior aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified.
The defence ministry couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.