‘Market viability important to start night operations at Srinagar airport’

  • Saqib Malik
  • Publish Date: Feb 24 2019 3:24AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Feb 24 2019 3:27AM
‘Market viability important to start night operations at Srinagar airport’Photo: Kashmir Ink

Gagandeep Singh Bhatia, Go Air Regional General Manager for North India was recently in Srinagar. Saqib Malik, Kashmir Ink reporter caught up with him.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Kashmir Ink: How do airlines see Kashmir as a tourism destination?

Gagandeep Singh Bhatia: Kashmir being a major tourism hub, we not just as corporates but as common people also do cherish the great memories of this place. I first visited this place when I was a school-going kid and since then I have been coming here. As far as the airlines are concerned, with the increasing capacity we are seeing tourists visiting Kashmir not just from North India but other parts of the country as well.

Tourists and locals travelling to southern parts of the country, Gujarat and Western India, have increased but certainly there is a need to promote Kashmir tourism. Government here must take cue from Kerala government, which has promoted the place through electronic, print media or through their tourism boards. We as an airline also need to promote Kashmir through communication with passengers. 

We have a product called ‘Go holidays’ which we utilise. There is a lot of scope for the pilgrims coming to Vaishno Devi to visit the Valley as well. This is a huge potential we can divert towards Srinagar as well.


KI: But often we notice airfares remain quite high, at times unaffordable on the Delhi-Srinagar sector.


GSB: I wouldn’t say the fares are on the higher side but rather they are dynamic. It depends on the demand and supply. During peak season, you see everything going on higher side. Be it hotel, airfares or anything to do with travel. The high airfare is a general trend, which occurs not just in Srinagar but in other cities as well. There has been an increase in the price of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) also but the charge of ATF is not being passed on to the passenger.


KI: How do you look at Srinagar as an airline market and do you have any expansion plans?

GSB: As of now we have flights from Delhi, Jammu and Mumbai to Srinagar. As we expand, Srinagar would be one potential market for us. This year we have started Srinagar-Chandigarh flight, which further gets connection to Ahmedabad. In my interaction with the local tour operators, I’ve got to know that there is huge demand for air travel between Srinagar and Bengaluru as there are lot of students, medical tourism and traders visiting between the two places. We will be keen to connect Kashmir to south and eastern parts of the country as and when we get new aircrafts and have expansion plans.


KI: Go Air was probably the first airline which has shown interest to start night operations to Srinagar. What is the status of that?


GSB: Yes, ours was the first airline to show interest in night operations to Srinagar but due to some local issues it has not firmed up yet. We would be keen for night operations to start here, but before that it is important to know what is the pattern the passengers choose to travel; whether the rush is more in the morning, afternoon or evening. So, there are multiple factors especially the market viability which needs to be looked into. We have a dedicated team that looks into flying slots which is working on night operations.


KI: Do you find any scope in making Srinagar airport an international one in the real sense by starting overseas flights?


GSB: There are a lot of people who travel to perform Umrah round the year which provides an opportunity for the airlines to cater to this segment. I have also got to know that many tourists are flying here from southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Thailand. But I would say it is too early to start direct international flights from here. There are already direct flights from Delhi to several countries and I believe these connections are sufficient.


KI: What is your take on the quality of service and infrastructure at the Srinagar airport?


GSB: This time around I could see a lot of difference at the airport in terms of hygiene, but I think a lot more needs to be done. The airport is brightly lit but my suggestion is that in order to promote Kashmir tourism there could be more hoardings around, which will be informative telling the tourists about places they could visit in the Valley. Tourists landing here could also be provided booklets that are informative about Kashmir. I wouldn’t be able to comment on the security aspect but would say that the waiting time for the passengers could be reduced. At present we enter the gate and go through scanning process. I think more facilities and better infrastructure will provide convenience to passengers.