If the road to your destination is bad, just fly out. That's the logic driving Mangaloreans to hop on the many low-cost flights, says M. RAGHURAM
It has opened up a completely different world for Ramakrishna, a PSU employee and a first-time flier, and his family. "My children who had not seen even an aircraft from close by were thrilled to travel in one. And how we wished that the one-hour journey to Bangalore had lasted a little longer," he says.Flying out of Mangalore has never been so easy and fast, thanks to the open sky policy... and bad national highways! The city has been complaining about the bad national highways on all sides - towards Bangalore (NH48), towards Mumbai (NH17) and the State Highway towards Mysore. These roads look as they have been bombarded by meteors and new-generation vehicles are unable to negotiate them. That has left only one alternative to the upwardly mobile Mangaloreans - fly if you want to get out of the city quickly. It is easy and only marginally expensive to catch a flight from Mangalore to immediate destinations like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai, any time of the day.
The price war and the no frills airline travel has come as a boon for enterprising people of Mangalore. The situation was just right for both the airlines and travellers. Incomes of average households are on the rise and youngsters in lucrative jobs in the IT and other industries have hit a high note on income scales. Airport transfers from the city and back have also become easy. Old timers remember how difficult it was to fly only till recently. . One had to take a taxi to the airport shelling out something like half the airfare. And that afterhavingpaid through their nose for the air ticket. In olden days the Mangalore airport was considered as a flyer's nightmare as it was a tabletop airstrip suitable only for smaller aircraft. But now the airport is as safe as any other in the country and wider bodied aircrafts can land and take off at any time of the day. The realigned runway and the highly advanced Air Traffic Control system has made air travel amenable to even the worst cases of aviophobia.The air traffic figures of Mangalore airport show how things have taken a dramatic turn during the last one year. In January, 372 aircraft were recorded at this airport, but in November the number suddenly grew to 588. The passengers arriving in the airport in January 2006 was 12,586 and departure was to the tune of 15,013. In November 2006 the arrival has increased to 19,747 and departure to 20,644 - a total of 40,391, an increase of a whopping 146 per cent. The introduction of no-frills services like Air Deccan has increased the middle-class passenger movement. Families have started thinking in terms of using their annual Leave Travel Allowance for one-way air travel just for the experience. The children love it, says Pundalik Prabhu, a bank employee. Air ticket agents in the city are having a field day with the assured increase in passengers. One such agent at Kodialbail said he sold at least a total of 60 tickets per day for Air Deccan, Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Indian. A frequent flyer, former president of the Indian Dental Association (IDA) U.S. Krishna Nayak says the night take-off and landing facilities at the Mangalore Airport was proving to be highly beneficial to the city. High-flying executives of corporate companies can now think of Mangalore as a meeting and conference destination as they can arrive in the morning and leave by the last flight to either Bangalore or Mumbai or even to the Gulf by Air India Express, cutting costs on overnight stays. B.M. Hegde, former vice-chancellor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, who is a jet-setting academician and visiting professor in many medical universities worldwide, is delighted at the prospect of being able to reach any part of the world from Mangalore by air. With the airport all set to get a fresh look and new international arrival and departure lounge, there is no doubt that flying is sure to hit a different plane altogether in Mangalore.