B. Madhu Gopal

VISAKHAPATNAM: Traffic from the Visakhapatnam airport has recorded a quantum jump by nearly two lakh passengers in the last one year. It is poised for further growth but undue delays in implementation of 24-hour operations and upgradation of the airport are hindering progress.

The airport has, no doubt, witnessed the initiation of several development works during the last few years but the pace of their progress is no match for the steady growth in passenger traffic. If the situation continues, international airlines could drop their plans to introduce direct flights to various destinations. Private carriers in the domestic sector are also said to be thinking twice about introducing new flights to Visakhapatnam.

“International carriers prefer to fly to airports that operate round the clock. These flights normally operate during nights,” says president of Visakhapatnam Air Users’ Association D. Panduranga Rao.

While equipment is in place for starting of 24-hour operations, the Navy, which mans the ATC (Air Traffic Control) at the airport, has been dodging the issue on the plea of lack of staff. After a lot of dilly-dallying on the issue, the Navy agreed to extend the ATC operations from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. But, in view of the extended hours, the ATC operations between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. were suspended. The only benefit for passengers due to extended hours is that Spicejet and Kingfisher fly during that time.

“Passenger traffic at the airport, which was 3.4 lakhs during 2006-07, had gone up to 5.1 lakhs during 2007-08. We expect it to grow much more once 24-hour operations commence,” Airport Controller C. Pattabhi told The Hindu.

Hopefully, this is the last monsoon that can cause inconvenience to passengers.

“The earthwork on the floodwater diversion project, being executed by the Irrigation Department, is almost complete and dredging of the canal is likely to be finished before the start of the cyclone months. In the unlikely case of flooding of the old approach road this year, the new approach road laid to connect the new terminal building to the NH-5 would be opened so that passengers wouldn’t have any difficulty in reaching the old terminal building,” GM (Projects) H.S. Suresh said.