The new international airport at Shamshabad will not start functioning from Sunday as announced. The formal inauguration by the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, turned out to be an anti-climax as the civil aviation ministry announced soon after that the operationalisation of the new airport had been postponed.
According to the civil aviation joint secretary, Mr K.N. Srivastava, the delay was because of certain airlines seeking more time to shift equipment from (existing) Begumpet airport to the new airport. “Therefore, the ministry has decided to postpone operationalisation by a few days,” he said. “We will announce the new date soon,” Mr Srivastava said.
Sources said the real reason was the tug of war between low-cost airline operators and two private agencies that were entrusted with ground handling duties over fees.
Air India-Singapore Air Terminal Services and Menenzis were selected for ground handling duties and had decided to collect charges from low- cost airliners on the basis of flight capacity and number of passengers. However, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Go-Air, Indigo and Paramount had reportedly approached the civil aviation ministry opposing the move. Low-cost airliners have been taking care of ground handling work at Begumpet airport all these years and fear that the the new system would cause huge financial losses for them.
But GHIAL continued to affirm that the airlines had only sought some more time. “We are ready in all aspects to begin commercial operations from Sunday,” said a company spokesperson. This delay means that flights will continue to operate from the Begumpet airport for a few more days. The postponement led to utter chaos at Begumpet airport as some airlines had already shifted to Shamshabad. They had also asked staff to report at the new airport from Sunday. These airlines are now in hurry to make temporary arrangements at Begumpet.
Airport Authority of India officials said it was not difficult for Begumpet to handle flights. “The civil aviation ministry has directed that we continue operations at Begumpet until further instructions,” said Mr R.K. Singla, the airport director. AAI staff, who had protested the closure of the Begumpet airport, expressed the hope the Centre would continue operations of domestic flights from there.