Jalgaon airport built to 'please' former President sees hardly any flights in 8 years

Development of infrastructure at the Jalgaon airport was neglected since carriers found the route to be non-remunerative

Jalgaon airport built to 'please' former President sees hardly any flights in 8 years
The Jalgaon Airport, built at an initial cost of Rs 61 crore, has failed to get off the ground. Image courtesy: Twitter/@aairedwr

By M Rajendran

The airport at Jalgaon in Maharashtra will be revamped to correct the faulty design and substandard construction. It was hastily constructed in 2012, allegedly to please the then President of India Pratibha Patil.

The newly-elected Shiv Sena Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Jalgaon (Rural) Gulabrao Raghunath Patil, speaking to Plane Vanilla, after taking oath in November 2019 said, “The Jalgaon Airport is not in good condition and it will be one of the top priorities to improve it.”

The airport, built at an initial cost of Rs 61 crore, does not have a proper security system to ward off wild animals that have time and again taken shelter at the airport. Local media has been regularly highlighting this issue. An Airports Authority of India (AAI) official at Jalgaon, said on the condition of anonymity, “It is an issue. The design of the airport is such that it is easy for anyone to stray inside the protected area.”

The airport infrastructure was neglected since carriers found the route to be non-remunerative. In the beginning, Air Deccan used to operate charter flights but later discontinued the service. Under the government’s ambitious programme to link small towns and cities with air-service under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (Udan) scheme the TrueJet non-scheduled airline had started doing a few flights to and from Mumbai. However, SpiceJet, which was also allotted the route along with TrueJet, is yet to start the service.

Patil informed that when the airport was inaugurated it did not have a fire brigade of its own and had to depend on nearby airports in case of an emergency. It was assured that this problem would be addressed soon. However, there is no fire brigade dedicated to the Jalgaon Airport yet, he claimed.

“There is also no night-landing facility and it has been a major demand for so many years. It should have been done at the time of opening the airport for service. We will now take it on a priority,” said Patil.

Patil pointed out that there is a huge demand for starting air connectivity to Mumbai, Pune and New Delhi from industrialists and businessmen from the Jalgaon district. Passengers from Buldana, Burhanpur, Dhule and Nandurbar districts will also benefit from the start of service.

Under the Udan scheme, nine airports in Maharashtra -- Nashik, Jalgaon, Kolhapur, Solapur, Nanded, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Amravati and Gondia were selected.

Air services, which were discontinued on these routes, resumed on February 13, 2017.

An AAI official in Delhi said that Mumbai-Nashik, Mumbai-Jalgaon, Mumbai-Kolhapur, Mumbai-Solapur and Nashik-Pune air services were allotted to two airline companies -- SpiceJet and TruJet (Turbo Mega).

Under the Udan scheme, 50% of seats in flights are offered at concessional rates to passengers. If 50% of the seats are empty, the Centre and the concerned state provide subsidy in the form of Value Gap Funding (VGF) to the carrier to compensate for the loss. The VGF is shared by the Centre (80%) and the state (20%).

It also has a provision that gives exclusivity to the airlines operating in that route and no other airline is allowed to operate in that route.