• Rule tweaked to boost flights to HP, Uttarakhand

    The government has amended the route dispersal guidelines to enhance air connectivity to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

    Under these norms, airlines should deploy 10 per cent of their metro routes’ capacity on category-II routes to Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Lakshadweep, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Further, one per cent of the capacity on metro routes has to be deployed within Kashmir and the northeast. The government has now included airports in Himachal Pradesh (Shimla, Kullu and Dharamshala) and Uttarakhand (Dehra Dun) in the category-II routes.

    These airports were on the category-III list with all other non-metro routes. More destinations in category-II routes will make it easier for airlines to comply with norms. The move comes against the backdrop of an ongoing petition on the lack of air connectivity to Shimla and the Supreme Court criticising the government on the issue.

    Air India stopped operations to Shimla in 2012 and there are no scheduled flights to the city. Shimla airport runway can handle only an ATR-42 aircraft. No other scheduled airline flies ATR-42-type of plane at present. Air India Regional (Alliance Air) connects Delhi with Kullu and Dharamshala with ATR-72 aircraft.

    Apart from Alliance Air, IndiGo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet fly to Dehra Dun. In February, the ministry told the Supreme Court that Air India could lease ATR-42 aircraft to start a service to Shimla. But that would require viability-gap funding from the state government to bridge the gap between costs and revenue.

    The government also said Air India did not have a spare ATR-42 aircraft and hence it would have to take these on lease to start flights to Shimla. Harry Carson Womens Jersey

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