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99 Yatra
After 7 years, skies open again for Kandla
29 September 2006

Wait over, Air Deccan to operate daily flight between Mumbai and Kandla from October 30
   FINALLY, the long wait is over for Kandla. Air services will resume next month after a gap of seven years at this commercial capital of Kutch. The daily services between Mumbai and Kandla will be operated by Air Deccan with the first flight taking off on October 30.
Confirming this on Thursday, Mumbai-based operational manager of the airline, Vipul Sheth, said, “We are going to start booking for our regular flights, probably the 72-seater ATR aircraft, from October 7. Currently we are working out timings for our Mumbai-Kandla-Mumbai morning flight. The departures from Mumbai and Kandla would be 6.30 a.m and 8.35 am spectively.” 
When asked whether this would affect the existing air traffic of another private airline from Bhuj since over 60 per cent air passengers were from Kandla, Sheth ruled it out. “The traffic potentiality being much more these days in this region, we may start one more service from Bhuj. So traffic will not be any problem for two private airlines operating in the district,” he said.

But sources say that Air Deccan agreed to operate its services from Kandla only when it was given guarantee of traffic by a private industrial house. The Wellspun Group which has set up three different big industrial units at Anjar near Kandla airport has given an undertaking in writing that it would book daily half the seats in the plane for its personnel who fly on an everyday basis between Mumbai and Kutch. In fact, the Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce and Industries had long ago promised air traffic for the first three months to Air Deccan and other private airlines, but no airlines came forward to start the air service.

“Giving such guarantee means an investment of Rs 45 lakh which as a service organisation of traders we cannot make. Our assurance was based on actual traffic from Kandla on the Mumbai-Bhuj route from Bhuj. But we still feel that owing to rapid post-quake industrialisation of the border district, particularly in the Kandla-Gandhidham and Bhachau areas where already industrial units worth over Rs 15,000 crore are operational, even Boeing would not suffice,” says Mahesh Tirthani, honorary general secretary of the chamber. The biggest beneficiary for the flight from Kandla would, however, be the country’s first free trade zone at Gandhidham, now rechristened as Kandla Special Economic Zone. “Now that this part is going to witness a boom of SEZs, perhaps the largest in any other district of the state, a regular air service is a must here. In fact, the first question of the SEZ investor to us was whether Kandla had a direct flight. Now many new industries, especially high-valued ones like gems and jewellery, would come here as their export cargo consisted of parcels to be sent by air,” says Thomas Kurien, deputy development commissioner of the zone.

Frequent flier and one of Kandla’s top businessmen, Vimal Gujaral, whose company is credited with pioneering the transport industry in the border district too is happy at this development.

“Kandla, which boasts of a major port and free trade zone, was crippled by the suspension of air services in 1999. But now since Air Deccan will resume its service in the morning as demanded by the business community of the area and other air passengers, Jet Airways which runs its service from Bhuj to Mumbai must continue with its noon service if the late evening service is not possible for any reason. This will help Kutch passengers to return to Kutch after finishing their day’s work in the metropolis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kutch police personnel who had volunteered to provide security service at the airport are being trained, at Kandla airport located between Anjar and Adipur. But the airport has yet not received any formal letter from the airlines for resumption of air service. “We are yet to get a formal letter without which no commercial service can start. Also we need to get X-ray baggage checking equipment,” a high-level official of the civil aerodrome said.

Courtesy -, New Delhi,India kutchhis globally , from Mumbai

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