March 23, 2016 (Airportchandigarh.com): International flights were long awaited at Chandigarh/Mohali airport. For the last several years, several announcements were made, a huge amount of money was spent, however in reality, no international flight ever took off.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

The public's patience finally gave in after years of hearing promises that were never kept about starting international flights. Mohali Industries Association pioneered in dragging the authorities responsible to Punjab and Haryana high court recently.

After a few hearings, when the high court did not get any satisfactory replies from AAI and the Centre, the bench told in no unclear language that FIRs will be filed and a CBI probe will be initiated in case clear answers were not provided regarding why the international flights have not started, what is holding them back and when exactly the flights will start. The high court termed it as a scam - embezzlement of funds which is taxpayers' money.

INDIGO TO START A DIRECT FLIGHT TO DUBAI

A recent email from IndiGo received by the authorities was submitted to the bench which mentioned that IndiGo will commence international operations on Chandigarh-Dubai and Mumbai-Dubai routes in the forthcoming summer 2016 schedule. As of March 23, IndiGo's website is not showing any information about such schedules.

AAI submitted that indiGo, a private carrier would start international fights by March 27, however they are battling shortage of planes. The court did not consider this excuse and grated another 10 days to AAI and the Union government to provide a clear picture about which flights would start international operations and when. The next hearing is on March 31.

NO MORE BEATING AROUND THE BUSH

It seems that the court is not in a mood to hear any ambiguous reasons from the authorities about why the international flights have not started so far, although the new terminal in Mohali was inaugurated in September last year. The construction of the new terminal in Mohali started in 2012 and it has been almost four years - which is sufficient time to plan and prepare the airlines to start international operations. In fact it was in 2011 that the old terminal was upgraded to handle international flights by spending Rs. 80 crore and since then only announcements were made about starting international flights and one reason or another was given for not starting them.

The old terminal closed in 2015 when the new terminal in Mohali was opened. There was no need to spend Rs. 80 crore when there was no surety of starting international flights at the old terminal. Now the new terminal has been meeting with the same fate - although the stakes are much bigger.

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HISTORY OF NEWS ABOUT STARTING INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AT THE OLD TERMINAL

June 2014:  Indian Air Force still unable to manage night landing at Chandigarh Airport.

June 2014:  Flights to Dubai and Bangkok get clearance confirmed by Union Civil Aviation minister during a meeting with Mr. Badal, CM, Punjab.

March 2014: Ministry of Defence provides permission for night landing.

October 2013: Indian Air Force denies permission for international flights because of their inability to offer extra staff and extended hours.

September 20, 2013: Union Civil Aviation Ministry gives clearance to Chandigarh Airport to operate international flights. Indigo, Spicejet got approval. Jet airways should get soon. Flights may start to Dubai and Gulf.

November 1, 2012: Badal to approach the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to request international flights from Chandigarh.

May 9, 2012: Badal talks to Union Civil Aviation Minister to start international flights and get Ministry of Defense to approve flights for Air Arabia and also for Air India.

May 1, 2012: Air India plans to launch international flights to Bangkok and Dubai from Chandigarh. They say that approval from Ministry of Defense will not be required because it is a national airline.

April 2012: Ministry of Defense denies permission to Air Arabia to fly international flights from Chandigarh Airport. Punjab government will take up the matter with them directly.

February 2012: Airport director says large number of formalities need to be completed before international flights can operate.

November 2011: Chandigarh Airport Director H.S. Toor announced that first international flight will not fly on Nov 15, 2011 as announced before and may get delayed by another one month.

October 2011: Airport Authorities provide November 15, 2011 as the date when the international flight to Sharjah will take off. Airforce says application for night landing pending with Civil Aviation/Ministry of Defence.

September 2011: X-ray machines set up. Immigration staff trained at Amritsar. 1500 Square feet space provided to customs officials.

August 2011: Civil Aviation Ministry notifies that Chandigarh Airport is now a "Customs Airport".

July 2011: "Customs Airport" status pending. Customs and Immigration facilities are needed from the government.

June 2011: Night landing permission sought from the Air Force in order to operate international flights.

May 2011: Chandigarh Police employed to handle immigration for international flights.

April 2011: Chandigarh Airport opens new terminal capable of handling international flights.

 

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