Round-the-clock operation is a prerequisite for international flights

Three years after the new terminal building was opened, round-the-clock operations continue to elude Visakhapatnam Airport. The assertion of the Navy that the watch-hours can be extended at short notice to facilitate the operation of international flights seems to be far from the truth.

This is evident from the fact that 10 days after the launch of the first international flight, the passengers coming from Dubai are being forced to wait for one hour in Hyderabad as Visakhapatnam Airport functions only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Dubai – Visakhapatnam (via Hyderabad) AI 952 reaches Hyderabad at 5.50 a.m. but is being detained there for more than an hour as landing in Visakhapatnam is not possible before 8 a.m. at present.

This is not all, when Jet Airways wanted to land in Visakhapatnam at 7.55 a.m., the Navy was said to have declined permission and SpiceJet' s plan to schedule its flight to take off at 8.30 p.m. had to be revised after the Navy refused to keep the airport open after 8 p.m., according to sources.

“The flight is arriving a few minutes prior to the opening of the airport and hovering around the city as ‘overstaying' at the Hyderabad Airport would make the airline operator liable to pay additional charges,” says D. Varada Reddy, president of the Air Travellers Association of India.

Round-the-clock operation of the airport is a pre-requisite for international airline operators to operate from the city. This is because the schedules have to be planned several months in advance and intimated to airports across the globe. Once the schedules are announced any delay in extending the watch hours would make the plans of the airline operators go haywire.

Watch hours

The Navy was justified to some extent in saying that keeping the airport open 24 hours without adequate number of flights operating is a ‘colossal waste of manpower'. Union Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju has categorically stated during his visit to the city a few months ago that the watch hours could be extended at short notice provided the airline operators came up with written proposals to operate flights. The disinclination of the officials concerned to extend the watch hours makes one feel that the airline operators are justified in seeking a written commitment from the authorities concerned.