Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Air traffic picking up pace as govt. allows more flights

Chennai: The State government on Monday announced its decision to allow 150 more flights to land in Chennai every day. If implemented, this will take the number of flights handled at the airport to over 300 a day. For passengers, this is significant because there will be more flights to key destinations and to more cities across the country.

But what happened in the past six months when the State government gave such similar announcements? Rewind to May. When the government allowed flight operations during the COVID-19, it came at a price, only a select number of flights could land in the city on a daily basis to ensure that the State did not witness a flurry of cases. Initially, the government allowed 25 arrival flights from other States. The number of flights gradually grew to 50 and then touched 100 in October. What impact the airport had when the State government increased the cap in the number of arrival flights to 100 a day? A month after this development, while there has been a steady increase every week, the number of flights is yet to touch that figure. At present, Chennai airport handles around 90 arrival flights a day.

Sources in Airports Authority of India (AAI) said while they were ready to give slots to airlines, there was no demand to operate over 200-250 flights a day. “There have been more passengers taking flights in the past few weeks, but not to an extent where airlines want to make an optimum use of the permitted number of flights. So far, we witness that many passengers travel from Chennai to Jodhpur, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru,” an official said. Once, there were only 11 passengers to a flight in Delhi and a mere seven on a flight to Tiruchi.

“Hence, they may think there is no point in adding more flights without the demand as they may end up making losses,” the official said.

But one positive trend through these months is that the number of people travelling has been constantly growing. While August saw 2.32 lakh domestic passengers, it was 3.5 lakh in September, recording a 54% increase. Till October 25, 3.72 lakh passengers travelled through Chennai airport. There were only about 2,000-3,000 passengers travelling a day when flight services were resumed. Now, there are 13,000-14,000 passengers a day and on some days, it touches 17,000 too.

11/11/20 Sunitha Sekar/The Hindu

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