Special Correspondent

SALEM: The solo ATR flight, being operated by the Kingfisher Airlines in the Chennai-Salem-Chennai sector, has been recording more than 75 per cent of occupancy since the start of April this year.

Frequent fliers here point out that despite inconvenient timing of operation, (around 3.30 p.m. from Chennai), people still patronize the flight. It has been enjoying nearly 50 per cent of occupancy since its maiden journey to Salem last year. From the first week of April, the flight has started recording steep increase in the occupancy jumping to 75 per cent.

But of late the flight cannot be operated twice in a week, since repair and extension works are going on in the runway at the Chennai airport between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Airport sources point out that the operators have approached the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to reschedule its timings to Salem on these two days.

After its flight to Hyderabad and Tuticorin, the ATR is redirected to Salem. But as the runway works are still on, the flight is forced to remain idle on these two days, the sources claim. The operators have asked for advancing the timing of departure from Chennai to 1.50 p.m. instead of the present timing.

The flight in return direction from Salem can land at Chennai at 4.20 p.m., they say by pointing out that by the time the day's works on the runway at Chennai would have been stopped. “A decision to this effect is expected soon,” says an official.

Meanwhile the AAI is seeking assistance from the District administration to expedite land acquisition process for airport expansion. The Airport sitting on the sprawling 136 acres of land needs an additional 563 acres for its expansion, which however is resisted by locals.

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