Shimla, June 15
Even as tourists make a beeline to the hills to escape heatwave in the plains, absence of commercial flights for the last around three years and the Dhalli heliport failing to become functional even six months after its inauguration have enraged the hotel industry.
Shimla is probably the only state capital sans commercial flights from the Jubbarhatti airport, 22 km from here, for almost three years. The hopes of the hotel industry of having a heliport within the town at Dhalli have also been dashed with the facility not being made operational even after its inauguration.
Shortcomings pointed out by the DGCA during the last inspection of the Dhalli heliport have been removed. We are awaiting the DGCA nod as we have completed all formalities. Amit Kashyap, Director, (Tourism)
“Having suffered huge losses for the past two years, we were hoping to make some gains, but irritants like water shortage, absence of air connectivity and the heliport not being thrown open have added to our misery,” lamented Anil Walia, adviser of the Hoteliers Association. High-end tourists skip Shimla and suburbs due to connectivity issues, he says.
“Shortcomings like absence of safety net and security staff pointed out by the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) during the last inspection of the Dhalli heliport have been removed. We are awaiting the DGCA nod as we have completed all formalities,” said Amit Kashyap, Director (Tourism). Hopefully, it would be made functional shortly, he said.
Even as officials remained tight-lipped about the real cause for delay, sources said the consultant company, entrusted the task of air operations in the state had been lackadaisical in getting the Dhalli heliport functional.
Though helli-taxi services are being operated by Pawan Hans from Jubbarhatti to Delhi, Chandigarh, Dharamsala, Kullu, but the Dhalli heliport remains non-functional.
“This is one reason why tourists are heading for Srinagar, which has over 80 flights daily,” hoteliers say.
PM Modi launched the subsidised air flights from the Jubbarhatti airport, 25 km from Shimla, under the UDAN Scheme on April 27, 2017. Though 50 per cent of the seats on each flight were meant to have a fare cap of Rs 2,500, the flights never became operational on regular basis.