Shimla: Those heading for the cooler climes of Himachal by air have to compete fiercely at online booking counters for all flights to the states three airports in Shimla, Kullu and Dharmshala are sold out at a premium that is three times of what a ticket costs during off-season days.
â€œThe airlines are making a killing,â€ says Deepak Sood at Ambassador Travels who handles much of the air ticketing jobs in the city. Since May 10, load full of ATR aircrafts with permissible capacity have been landing at all the three airports,â€ he said.
While Kingfisher Airlines operates a daily flight to the three airports at Jubbarhatti near Shimla, Bhuntar near Kullu and Gagal near Kangra and close to Dharamshala but the rush was Dharamshala increased to a level that the airline operator starting operating two daily flights since March. Besides the private airline, government owned Air India operates three flights a week to Kullu.
Due to the short runaways at the airports, flights restrict 45 passengers on a inward flight at Shimla airport as it is a table top run and a maximum of 24 passengers are permitted for an outward flight, said an airport official. Located at an altitude of 5065 feet, the runway is only 3800 feet long and falls short for landing larger planes.
Air fares for the half hour flight between Delhi-Shimla which drop to Rs 4000 in winters, even after commanding a price of Rs 12,600 per ticket are not available these days, says Deepak. Fares are likely to drop only in July, he adds. The 45 minute Delhi-Kullu airfare these days is Rs 13,600 and the Delhi-Kangra flight fare is Rs 11,000.
However the weather has been playing spoilsport. Frequent rains have disrupted flight schedules on at least 10 days during the peak season, says Vinayak, a hotel owner.
Feeling cheated about having paid such high fares, Pooja Sharma, a IT engineer with a reputed company in Bangalore complained, â€œWhen planning out a holiday, one does not realize the exorbitant fares being charged while making an online air ticket booking for Shimla.â€
Unmindful of the fares, many catch the first summer flight available to Dharamshala – the seat of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama who attracts many visitors from the Buddhists and western world.
In Kullu, the lure of being up close to snow peaks around Manali attracts many, which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singhâ€™s daughter Upender Kaur, who passed through the Kullu valley on Monday and is headed for Leh.