Air India on Monday faced some searching questions from the Supreme Court which wanted to know from the loss-making airline about its “ultimate plan” to connect Shimla with New Delhi and Chandigarh.
“You file a status report as to the feasibility of air service connecting Shimla with Chandigarh and Delhi,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said while asking Air India’s Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) to place the report within six weeks.
The Bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi, ordered maintaining of status quo on the December 7, 2015 direction passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court asking Air India, Airports Authority of India and others concerned to start scheduled flights on trial basis from Jubbar-Hatti airport, 22 km from Shimla.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Air India’s CMD, submitted that the loss-making airline is examining the suggestions to at least connect Shimla and Chandigarh with 40-seater aircraft as the runway at Jubbar-Hatti Airport is very small.
However, the Solicitor General’s submission that Air India is running in loss did not go well with the bench which said the airline should be ready to address such issues.
“So many stories go around why Air India is at loss and why private airlines are profit-making... You are in catch 22 situation. You can’t say... You have to make effort,” the Bench said.
It was told that private players like Jet Airways have refused to operate on the route.
At the outset, the Bench wanted to know from the Solicitor General whether Air India has any plan for connecting Shimla with Chandigarh and New Delhi.
“What is your ultimate plan. Are you connecting this capital city,” the Bench wanted to know from the airline.
The senior law officer explained various constrains, including non-avaibility of refuelling facility in Shimla and certain security hazards. He also brought up the issue of economic viability.
He told the Bench that two tourist towns —— Kullu and Dharamsala —— are already connected by air.--PTI