Flights of fancy continue at Mysore airport

Operation

A view of the Mysore airport.Im leaving on a jet plane,
dont know when il be back again
                                 John Denver


Mysoreans would definitely want to leave on a jet plane but they surely do not know when a jet plane will land in the airport.

The inauguration of the revamped Mysore airport last September was a much awaited development in the heritage city. But ten months since the airport opened for operation it still looks deserted, with only a few security guards and policemen in sight. Where are the travelers? Where are the  planes?

Also known as the Mandakalli airport, the Mysore airstrip was built in the year 1948. Till the 1980’s the airport saw feeder planes like the Vayudooth take off from this airstrip.

Low traffic and absence of demand ceased the service of the feeder planes. The airport
became defunct after the mid 80’s.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) invested Rs 82 crore  to revamp the Mysore airport. The airport had a facelift and got an extended airstrip, a modern air traffic control tower, community hall and houses and even got the latest navigation equipment.

“This is now a fully functional, fully equipped airport with all facilities,” said Airport in charge, Airport Controller Rajeev Kumar Gupta. The new and improved airport was opened on September 22, 2010 , with Indian airlines, Jet Airways and Kingfisher planning to start operations from the city.

Where are the Planes?

Ten months since the opening of the airport, Kingfisher is the only operator which has started operating from the city. It has flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Mangalore and Pune all via Bangalore. All flights are feeder flights except for the one to Chennai. “We have around 75 per cent occupancy in each of these flights, tourists opt for these flights instead of taking the road and spending roughly the same amount,” says Gupta. Jet Airways is still planning to start operations.

With the Aviation Turbine Fuel prices gradually increasing and at a time where the aviation industry is struggling to bounce back after the economic downturn, operations from other players is still a distant dream from the city’s airport.

Airport Authority has sanctioned another Rs 140 crore for the phase two of the development of the airport. “If the second phase is completed even jumbo jets can land in this airport,” said the airport controller. The airport will then have a full fledged runway and can even have international flights operating from the airport. “The expansion has been put on hold by the State government as the Mysore –Nanjangud road needs to be diverted in order to make way for the new runway,” said Gupta. The State Government has said that the diversion is not economically feasible at this time and hence it is on hold, he added.

Mixed opinions

Tour operators in the city have mixed opinions about the airport. “Yes, airports are necessary for tourism but spending Rs 140 crore for an airport where volumes are so low is not necessary.

The existing feeder flights service can be improved and it will be more than enough,” says Sameer of Seagull Travels. While the manager of domestic tours in Skyway Travels feels that the expansion will be a boon for Mysore and the government should go ahead with it.

He says “We book around 60 to 80 tickets in a fortnight and that’s good , considering the other operators who also have the option of booking.”  One more operator feels that the increase in the number of corporates in Mysore will attract other players to the city airport.

Problems

The airport has its own set of problems. Situated 12 km away from the city, it is not well connected. “ I will have to book my own taxi, there are no buses I can rely on to reach the airport either,” feels Ramachandran who is a frequent flyer and prefers to take the road directly to the Bangalore airport. With terminal capacity of 200, the airport is considered very small by many operators.

 With alternative options of road and rail to reach Bangalore, travelers prefer to opt for the more convenient choice. 

“ Travelers have to wait for three to four hours in the Bangalore airport before they get their next connecting flight, businessmen and most travelers do not like to waste such time,” says Sameer.

Boost

Looking at all these aspects does the Heritage city really need a fully fledged international airport?  The boost for tourism can be an answer to this question but at what cost. Ten months have passed since the first makeover and we have still one operator providing feeder flights.

So if you are the kind who plan their trip ahead of time, may be you can plan for an international holiday from the Mysore airport in 2050.

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