Around 70 per cent of the civil operations at Chandigarh International airport may be affected if the Indian Air Force (IAF) launches runway upgrade work by limiting the watch hours to between 5am-1pm. Airport Authority officials also believe that two international flights operating from Chandigarh Airport could also see a temporary closure as it is “impossible” to get slots in Dubai and Sharjah, as per the feasibility of the Chandigarh airport.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the Chandigarh Air Force Station had recently issued a letter to all the commercial airlines operating from Chandigarh that the ATC anticipates starting the work for resurfacing, extension and widening of the runway and taxi tracks on the Chandigarh airfield from the month of April. The letter had said that the runway would remain open for commercial airlines only between 5 am till 1 pm during the resurfacing work. The letter was, however, later withdrawn.
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Last week, the Central government gave an assurance to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying that there would be no curtailment of flight operations at the airport because of re-carpeting of the runway in the months of March and April.
A senior Airport Authority of India official told Chandigarh Newsline on Wednesday that if the IAF comes up with the same plans and limits the watch hours, the decision would hit the airport’s operations badly.
“They have given assurance in the court. But, if in the coming days they come up with such a plan again, the AAI won’t agree to it as it would cause huge inconvenience to the general public. Several flights won’t agree to operate at the airport within those limited hours,” said the official. He added that two international flights are unlikely to operate, as it won’t be easy to get the slots in Dubai and Sharjah.
The AAI has already written a letter to the IAF, requesting them not to disturb the watch hours and also to take Airport Authorities on board before making any decision.
While the Central government has assured the high court no curtailment will take place, the airline operators are apprehensive about starting the new flights in the summer schedule, which starts next month.
A senior official of a commercial airline which operates several flights from the airport said that they are “waiting to see the final decision about the watch hours.”
“Nobody knows what is going to happen. During the summer season, new flights are added every year. This year, the recent developments about the runway watch hours has caused confusion among the airline operators,” said the official.
He added, however, that the upgrade was also important for the safety of the passengers and for the future of the airport. “But the work needs to be done in a way that doesn’t bring the airport operations to a halt,” said the official.