HC takes note of misery faced by populace, orders prompt start of Delhi – Umroi flights

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SHILLONG, March 19: Taking note of the misery faced by the general populace in the absence of a fully functional Umroi airport, the Meghalaya High court has given the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airport Authority of India (AAI) two weeks time to come up with concrete plan to start operation of flights from Delhi to Umroi airport.

The division bench comprising chief justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice HS Thangkhiew in its order passed on Tuesday said, “Faced with unique and strange situation as is now created, we are persuaded to grant two weeks’ time as prayed for by the counsel for Civil Aviation and AAI so as to enable them to hold immediate meeting with stakeholders which may include Zoom Airways and Air India and to come up with a concrete plan.”

“We impress upon the authorities of Civil Aviation and AAI to prioritize the matter by holding a meeting and to come up with a concrete plan as to how and in what manner and by what time either CR Jets or ATR 47, ATR 72-600 and Bombardier-Q400 can start operation from Delhi to Umroi airport,” the bench added.

It said that the matter has been catching attention for quite long time now it is compounding misery of the people of Meghalaya and also compounding difficulties of people to visit this tourist place.

“…more particularly, we are concerned about the plight of the people in urgent situation like having medical facilities and other things or require a convenient travel from Umroi airport to Delhi airport,” the bench said.

The Court has also directed to issue notices to the in-charge of Zoom Airways and Air India for filing their respective responses about operation of CR Jets from Delhi to Umroi airport.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) in its affidavit filed on March 15, has revealed that Umroi airport is ready for operation of ATR 72-600 aircrafts.

It further stated that technically ATR 72-600 and Bombardier-Q400 aircrafts can operate between Umroi airport and Delhi airport. However, commercial viability is entirely in the domain of airliners.

It said that after detailed deliberation with the representatives of the concerned airliners, it has emerged that ATR 72 aircraft can be technically operated from Delhi to Shillong but they have to undergo huge load penalty on the said route on account of distance which will have an adverse impact on the commercial viability of operations.

However, representatives of airliners informed that they would explore the possibility of operating flights from Delhi to Shillong and vice versa based on the technical and financial viabilities.

While pointing out that initially the airport extension was done with the objective of making it fit for operation, the court noted that a strange situation arose when the airliners started showing their disinclination for want of commercial viability.

It may be noted here that ATRs 72-600 are being operated in different areas only by few airliners i.e. Indigo, Spice Jet Airways and AASL (Alliance Airline Allied Services Limited).

Faced with a strange situation all the airliners were put on notice. Some airliners clearly stated that they do not possess ATR 47 or ATR 72 therefore, rightly they have stated that they cannot operate. However, airliners who possess ATR 42, ATR 72 and Bombardier-Q400 projected difficulty of commercial viability.

While the Ministry of Civil Aviation was asked to convene a meeting with the airliners and to come up with a solution to the problem, the court noted that in terms of the affidavit filed, indirectly they are showing helplessness by stating that it is within the domain of airliners to operate or not to operate with a caveat that now airliners have been sensitized about the impact of Court’s order.

“Thereafter, all the participants were requested by Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider mounting air services from Shillong airport to Delhi,” the bench said.