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

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Mi­hirMishra@ times­

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 Ya­, 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.

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