Mantra Airlines has fixed a stupendous Rs. 10,000 per passenger in the Jammu-Kargil sector

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah launched the first ever civil aviation service between Kargil and Jammu as he travelled to the frozen Ladakh township in a private company’s aircraft along with a number of his Ministerial colleagues and J&K Pradesh Congress chief and Rajya Sabha member Saif-ud-din Soz on Monday. The landing of Mantra Airlines’ 17-seater at Kargil created history as never before has a civil passenger aircraft been spotted there.

Kargil is one the world’s coldest towns, frozen under a minus 20 degree Celsius temperature. Air Mantra aircraft conducted a trial flight between Jammu and Kargil on November 3 last year.

The Indian Air Force has been operating an AN-32 aircraft three times a week in the Jammu-Kargil sector and once a week between Srinagar and Kargil. It carries 40 to 45 passengers. However, the service has been highly erratic, with passengers often complaining of cancellation of flights on flimsy grounds. Yet it is a cheaper service; the rate per passenger between Jammu and Kargil stands fixed at Rs. 1,450 and at Rs. 1,100 between Srinagar and Kargil.

Mantra Airlines, according to informed sources, has fixed a stupendous Rs. 10,000 per passenger in the Jammu-Kargil sector.

Sources said regular operations in the Kargil-Jammu sector would start on January 10. It would not connect the summer capital of Srinagar with Jammu or Kargil but was expected to extend to Chandigarh in the near future.

“I am the most fortunate Chief Minister of the State that a historic event of air service to Kargil is taking place in my tenure for which so many Chief Ministers cherished and worked,” Mr. Abdullah told an enthusiastic audience that had gathered at Kargil. He underlined the need for a similar service between Kargil and Srinagar and said it would boost the prospects of tourism and winter sports in Jammu and Kashmir.

Responding to a compelling demand from local leaders of the Congress and the National Conference, the Chief Minister assured the gathering that he would take up the matter of subsidised air travel with the Government of India.

Mr. Abdullah said the construction of Z-Morh and Zojila tunnels and the four-laning of the 420-km Srinagar-Leh National Highway, along with the regular air service, would transform the conditions in Kargil district and open new vistas of growth and development in the entire Ladakh sub division.

“Completion of Srinagar-Leh Transmission Line would give further boost to projects in Leh and Kargil districts. By this line we will be able to extract surplus power from this region to other parts of the State and the country,” he asserted.