The new Jaisalmer airport, after two and a half years of its completion lies deserted with no passengers in and out of this $17 million investment. Jaisalmer is a place that is famous for its forts and the yellow sand which attracts tourist to the places to visit. However, the convenience to travel by air to this beautiful mustard soil desert is not appearing very convenient for most visitors.
As reported, not a single passenger has passed through the Airport gates in the past two and a half years. The airport has the capacity to handle 300,000 passengers a year, with parking bays that can give place to aleast three 180-seater narrow-body jets. However, even when equipped with top technology the airport stays dysfunctional.
Until now, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has invested $50 million since 2009 for the construction of eight airports in India. Few of them have received flights so far. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bets that infrastructure in India will accentuate its economic growth.
Sanjeev kapoor, the chief operating officer at Spicejet Pvt Ltd, said “They (the government) need to realize it’s not a case of ‘build the airport and we will come’.” Similarly due to lack of passengers and insufficient demand, last year the private sector airlines ceased flying to the south Indian city of Mysore.
This ghost airport project was initiated by the last government, which planned 200 no frill airport because of the rise in travelling by air and were determined to connect the far-flung regions. “The AAI (Airports Authority of India) has invested in some airports without any economic logic,” said Kapil Kaul, Delhi-based chief executive at consultancy Centre for Aviation (CAPA).
However, the secluded airport with empty check-in desks and dusty baggage halls is a rising concern for Modi, to spend without any strategic analysis.
The Airport houses nests of pigeons on the roof and conveyor belts with dust around, painting a desolate picture. The cleaners there will not be on their duties; rather they will be found in the taxiway sitting and listening to songs on their phones. The Airport’s chief engineer says, “You should come here on your own. It’s scary.” SK Singh, the local AAI director says, that Jaisalmer is a heritage city famous for its huge sand colored 12th century fort, is a tourist attraction worldwide and the nearest airport is 290 km away.
Airlines too are doubtful, the Spicejet official, Kapoor said, “… demand always comes in the cooler months of winter, which makes it tough to attract enough passengers.” However, the officials of Goair and Indigo said that they have no plans to launch flights in this region. Analysts said the government would need to cut landing charges or provide funding to entice carriers. An aviation expert at KPMG, Amber Dubey adds,“If that too doesn’t work it’s better to lock-up the airport and redeploy staff”.
This is the reality in this developing nation, where investment is made blindly and the blooming infrastructure is not making any growth despite being top-notch.