Tribune News Service
Dharamsala, May 25
Air connectivity to district Kangra will get boost as airport in Gaggal, near here, is set to accommodate 50-seater planes, it will bring down air fare to almost half of what passengers pay for a Delhi-Kangra flight in present 18-seater Dornier service.
At present Jackson Airways offers a Delhi-Bhuntar (Kulu)-Kangra flight thrice a week and a Delhi-Kangra ticket costs Rs 5,043. But once 50-seater service begins, the fare is likely to be reduced to half of it, which would boost tourism in McLeodganj and adjoining spots, in the district.
Mr Sandeep Saini, Assistant Manager of the Gaggal Airport, said passengers would make a beeline for an aerial route to Kangra if the flight was made economical by reducing airfare to almost half. â€œTalks are on with Deccan Airways for starting a 50-seater service and a decision is expected soon. Frequency of flights in the new set up will depend on the service provider,â€ he says.
Deputy Commissioner Bharat Khera said the airstrip, which earlier was 3,900 feet long, had been extended to 4,500 feet making it longer than airstrips in Shimla and Kulu. Permission has also been taken from the Forest Department for felling of trees near the airstrip.
Mr Saini added the airport buildings had also been spruced up and a passengers terminal added to it. An Air traffic control tower has also been put up in accordance with the new set up.
One big hurdle to the expansion of the airport was the road that connects Dharamsala with the Pathankot-Manali highway. The district administration has now acquired land for the construction of an alternative road, work on which bas also begun.
Some area around the air-strip has to be kept vacant and the existing road was too close to the runway but the alternative route would soon be completed,â€ said Mr Saini.
Even though poor air-connectivity has always been a hurdle to the promotion of tourism in the area, the need for a proper airport was highlighted during the India-Pakistan Cricket Test match in 2004, when the Pakistani team had to be brought in two separate 18-seater planes as the air-strip was narrow for a bigger plane.
Regarding safety measures, we already have the system put in place and have sufficient fire staff. The security of the airport, which at present with the state Police Department, might be handed over to the Central Industrial Security Force after the expansion,â€ said Mr Saini.