With the growth of Amritsar’s Ram Das Jee International Airport outclassing most other airports in the country, it seems that its flight towards success has finally taken off. Largely fuelling this welcome development is the doubling of direct international flights from the Holy City to eight last year. As flights to Birmingham, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Bangkok were launched, foreign air traffic in Amritsar soared by 48 per cent as compared to 2017, as per the Airports Authority of India. The growth in the domestic passenger footfall was also a significant 8.6 per cent, taking the number of flyers choosing to board from or land here from nine destinations to the highest-ever mark.
Riding on the steady increase in passenger traffic and new connectivity, the airport is now airborne on the revenue path to black. While the loss incurred in 2015-16 was Rs 43 crore, it declined to Rs 39 crore in 2016-17. In the fiscal year ending 2018, it registered a 66 per cent slide in losses as they trickled to a mere Rs 13 crore. Aided by an infrastructural push, the airport should soon be out of the red. On the horizon are three new destinations — Patna, Jaipur, Kolkata — awarded under the UDAN-III scheme. The authorities must tap the demand of both the global and domestic passengers and offer world-class facilities. There should be no cause for a repeat of the 2013 fiasco when international flights were discontinued from Amritsar, landing the airport in heavy losses.
The airport has a tremendous potential for earning revenue as Amritsar is a tourist hub. Lakhs of devotees from across the world offer prayers at the Golden Temple. Last year’s passenger footfall of 2.6 lakh can be easily surpassed. In this year of Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Gurpurb celebrations, there is a demand for flights to London, Toronto and Vancouver. Plus, with the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, more connectivity would ease the pilgrimage of many more devotees. The Civil Aviation Ministry would do well to look into airlines such as the Turkish Airways, Oman Air, Fly Dubai that are willing to start flights from Amritsar.