The Mysore airport has handled about 150 chartered flights between April 2009 and March 2010, underlining the immense potential and importance of the city from a tourism and industry standpoint.

A majority of these flights were handled after the airport located at Mandakalli was upgraded and modernised by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at an estimated cost of Rs. 60 crore.

Sources said there were chartered flights landing at the airport almost daily. They had increased after the completion of the runway, terminal and the air traffic control tower. This cancelled any doubts about the commercial viability of the airport, the sources added.

The airport was completed in all respects on September 15, 2009, but it has not yet been officially inaugurated as no private players have evinced interest in operating flights to Mysore, citing inadequate traffic. But the frequency of chartered flights to the city underlines the latent market and air traffic passenger potential of Mysore.

The airline operators are pleading with the State Government to reduce sales tax on aviation turbine fuel from almost 28 per cent to less than 20 per cent.

But sources said that officials in the Finance Department had rejected the demand as the State would stand to lose around Rs. 120 crore by way of tax. Software major Infosys is keen on the early commencement of commercial operations at Mysore airport as it plans to shore up its strength on the Mysore campus in due course.

Sources here told The Hindu that Infosys has written to the Government authorities in this regard.

Senior officials of Infosys, who participated in a stakeholders meeting in the city in December, had pointed out that nearly 800 employees of Infosys travelled from Mysore to other destinations on a weekly basis and in the absence of airport facilities, they were forced to use other modes of transportation. Infosys has made a total investment in excess of Rs. 2,055 crore on the Mysore campus, including Rs. 1,705 crore for education and training, by establishing a global education centre.

But what is significant for airline operators are the plans before the authorities to promote Mysore and increase the number of tourists from nearly 27 lakh during 2009-10 to at least 40 lakh in the next five years.

Firms such as Pricewaterhouse Coopers are likely to be consulted with regard to conducting a study and suggesting measures to boost tourist flow at the Mysore palace which is the key attraction. Once completed, airline operators will vie with one another to operate flights.

This will set in motion the second phase of the airport expansion and plans of upgrading.

Deputy Commissioner P. Manivannan said this should be reassuring for the airline operators with regard to their fears on the commercial viability of operating flights to and from Mysore.

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