Bhopal: Air connectivity of the state capital has undergone a drastic change in past one month or so. The city now has direct flights to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Shirdi, Ahemdabad, Goa, and Jaipur and besides Air India and Jet Airways; two new airlines – SpiceJet and IndiGo – have started operating from Bhopal.
Though well-connected by train and despite being located at the heart of the country, Bhopal was, for long, deprived of adequate air connectivity. For the past many decades, Delhi and Mumbai were, by far, the only two cities one could fly to from Bhopal. This was a major dampener for the business and leisure travellers to the capital.
The city residents are elated. A campaign run by the residents— Support Bhopal for Air connectivity (SBFAC), on social media from July 2018, has played a key role in bringing about the welcome change. The group is supported by over 65,000 individuals.
Members of the group told Free Press that they are very thankful to the government as well as the Airports Authority of India and the different airlines for fulfilling their demand. They stressed that their struggle is far from over as the city is yet to get air connectivity with Pune, Kolkata, Lucknow, Patna and Chandigarh, among other places. Their aim is to ensure that Bhopal should be connected by air to all the major state capitals of the country. The group is also vouching for international flights to Dubai, Singapore and the US.
Having won a small battle in their war for improved air connectivity the group wants that MP government should bring rate of VAT on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) from 20% at present to that in Chhatisgarh where it is 4%. Excerpts Prachi Baluapuri, group head, SBFAC We are very grateful to all the authorities concerned. But we also demand for air connectivity to cities like Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Lucknow etc. We also demand that a direct flight to Dubai, be started from Raja Bhoj airport. Recently, a memorandum regarding this was handed over to Chief Minister Kamal Nath who assured his support to the campaign.
Tushar Kulkarni, researcher We are proud and happy that Bhopal ki demand ko izzat di gayi…. It is a big thing for the people of Bhopal. We had started the campaign in July last year and we got huge support from the former and new government as well as authorities of Bhopal airport. Earlier, there were only direct flights to Delhi and Mumbai from Bhopal. But we are not going to rest our oars.
We are also demanding international flights to Dubai and Singapore. Also, we have requested our chief minister to reduce VAT on ATF from 20% to 4 %so that some new airlines like GoAir can start their services from and to Bhopal. We are very proud that the first Mumbai-Bhopal IndiGo flight that will land here on Saturday will be piloted by two Bhopalites.
Manish Jha, core member, SBFAC We are very glad and thankful to the government as well as people of the city for their huge support. It will definitely save our time and energy. But still, there are no direct flights to eastern states like Bihar, West Bengal and Assam and also Punjab. We want that there should be at least one flight daily from all major state capitals to Bhopal.