The recent news of charter arrivals from Ukraine and Poland has increased the enthusiasm of Tourism stakeholders in the state but at the same time the extended hours of closure of Goa Airport by the Indian Navy have increased the tension amongst the tourism stakeholders and International Charters which is supposed to start the flights from the beginning of October this year.
The success of tourism season this year will be entirely dependent upon the international charter arrivals, more the foreign tourists, more the foreign currency starts rolling in the state. But according to the reports, The Navy’s decision to extend the closure of the lone runway at the Goa International Airport by an hour for maintenance work once a week is likely to affect the schedules of several international airlines during the upcoming tourist season.
The issue of concern here is the extended hours of closure of runway in the month of November onwards which is supposed to be the peak season for the charter tourists arriving in the state for the celebration of year-end.
The reports say that the Navy has informed the travel operators that from 2nd November onwards Runway 8/26 will be closed for all operations between 7.30 am and 12 pm every Saturday for the purpose of maintenance.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Naval Base Dabolim have claimed that they are still in preliminary discussions with AAI with regard to the timings, tourism industry sources said the new closure schedule is likely to extend from November to May, which is the entire span of Goa’s tourist season.
The sources in the charter business have revealed that most of the international flights are allowed slots to land only during the early hours of the morning and during the weekends, while afternoon slots are reserved for domestic flights.
Goa’s lone airport situated at Dabolim Naval Base comes under the command of the Indian Navy Base INS Hansa. The runway is closed to civilian flights for around four hours each weekday (8.30am to 12.30 pm) when the Navy’s aviation wing reserves use of runway.
“Actually, the Navy personnel wanted to shut down the runway for an hour longer on both Saturday and Sunday. We requested them to reconsider, and agreed to restrict the closure to the Saturdays, but for a longer period of time. The shutdown will affect some airlines and charter operators,” said Savio Messias, Travel and Tourism Association (TTAG) president, who was informed of the move in a meeting held last week.
Martin Joseph, managing director at Freedom Holiday, said they were worried about the extended closure. “Since 1994, we have had a charter arriving from the UK thrice a week, including one on Saturday at 11.30 am. We have now requested a slot at 12.30pm,” he said.
Another travel company handling charters said that they should have been informed of this change in schedule much earlier.
Airport director Gagan Malik said that AAI was in the process of finalizing the winter schedule in consultation with the Navy, but declined to comment on the Navy’s decision or the resulting effect on flight schedules.
It looks like the people of Goa may have to carry on with the exiting situation till the time the new AirPort at Mopa comes into the reality in the next few years as that will be free from the interference of Navy and will operate as the full-time airport for the domestic and international travels.