Air India’s regional arm Alliance Air has written to the Himachal Pradesh government seeking “financial support” to resume flight operations to Shimla after a gap of five years. The monetary aid will help the airline mitigate losses due to restriction on the payload or the number of passengers it can fly to and from the Himalayan capital because of the short runway and temperature, according to Alliance Air.
The airline, in its letter has proposed to operate daily flights on Delhi-Shimla-Delhi route from this summer and has written to the Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh government seeking an amount of Rs 1,41,960 per return flight. “The Shimla runway and temperature restricts the number of passengers onboard. We can fly only 35 passengers from Delhi to Shimla on our 48-seater ATR aircraft and 15 from Shimla to Delhi. In order to ensure that the airline doesn’t go red we have requested financial support,” CEO, Alliance Air, C S Subbiah said in an interview.
Shimla’s airport at Jubbarhatti, located at 2,196 metres above sea level, has been shut for scheduled flights since September 6, 2012 because of soil erosion leading to shrinking of the runway.
Last week, Alliance Air conducted a test flight at the airport in the presence of DGCA officials and submitted its SOP on resumption of operations to the aviation regulator. The airline expects a clearance “within a few days”.
The demand for financial aid comes despite the fact the Alliance Air will be getting a viability gap funding for operating flights to Shimla under the government’s regional connectivity scheme – UDAN. “The physical problem of flying to Shimla isn’t calibrated into UDAN scheme and, therefore, we will need additional funds,” said Subbiah.
The airline estimates a total expenditure of Rs 4.06 lakhs per return flight. However, the revenue it will be able to generate will be a mere Rs 2.64 lakhs, including the viability gap funding from the Centre. Therefore, the airline has requested the HP government for the balance amount of Rs 1,41,960 per return flight. Last year, Air India had received a rap from the Supreme Court for lack of air connectivity to Shimla.
“You (government/Air India) are only promoting interests of operators and you don’t think about connectivity,” SC had said in April last year. The apex court also sought to know the national carrier’s “ultimate plan” to connect Shimla with New Delhi and Chandigarh.
It had also ordered maintenance of status quo on the December 7, 2015 direction passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court asking Air India, Airports Authority of India and others concerned to start scheduled flights on a trial basis from Jubbarhatti airport.