May 12 to 31: Chandigarh airport to close for 20 days, not two weeks

Chandigarh, March 14: It’s happening again. Weeks after all flights were suspended for 12 days from February 12, the Chandigarh International Airport will close down again from May 12, but this time for 20 days instead of the two weeks announced earlier.

This information was given by the Central government to the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday even as major airlines operating from the airport expressed reservations against the move, saying it would hit business during the peak holiday season in May.

Assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal informed the Punjab and Haryana high court that the closure period had been extended to facilitate airport upgrades. This would help in timely completion of runways and installation of the instrumental landing systems by the year end.

Mittal’s contention was that the monsoon from June to September was likely to hamper work as June on an average received 11 days of rain, July and August received 19 days each and September 11 days. May received just eight days of rain, he said. “If the closure window is postponed till October, the upgrade work can’t be finished by the year end,” he added.

The high court bench of justices AK Mittal and AS Grewal seemed satisfied with the proposal and said that security of passengers could not be compromised with for the sake of airlines’ business, referring to the recent air crash in Kathmandu. Forty nine 49 passengers and crew lost their lives as a plane veered off the runway on Monday in the capital city of Nepal.

Giving details of suspension of operations, Suneel Dutt , CEO of Chandigarh International Airports Limited, said during this period no civil and military flight will operate from Chandigarh and no further closure was likely after May 31.

Chandigarh airport, where upgrade work started in October 2017, operates 28 flights, three of them to Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok. The remaining airlines fly on the domestic circuit between Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Leh, Jammu and Jaipur. Ten flights cater to Delhi alone with an average load of 750 to 800 passengers a day.

Ten more flights will be added from March 25 and to accommodate them airport operations will be increased by one-and-a-half hours in the evening.

The present timings of 5 am to 4 pm on weekdays will now be revised to 7:20 am to 5:30 pm, but the airport will remain closed on Sundays to enable the contractor to complete the upgrades.

The high court was hearing a petition on deficiencies in infrastructure at the Chandigarh airport filed in December 2015. Runway upgrades will extend its length from 9,000 feet to 10,400 feet to enable operation of wide-bodied aircraft for long haul flights to Europe, the US and Australia.

After the May closure the available runway length, reduced to 7,200 feet due to repair work, will be extended to 9,000 feet and later to 10,400 feet after runway resurfacing work, Dutt said.

Once work on the runway was complete, lighting work for night landing facility will start and be completed on time, he added. Meanwhile, the high court also asked the Centre to ensure timely payments to the contractor as the firm had told the court that the government would have to ensure that bills are cleared on time if it wants work to be completed on time.

Source Hindustan Times