Regular international flights still a distant dream
Attracting tourists from all over the globe might be one of the top priorities for the state government, but the lack of international flights to the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport, paints a different picture.
Run by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), the LGBI Airport that acts as the only international airport for the entire Northeast region has traffic of only four international flights of DrukAir per week - two flights to Bangkok in Thailand on Wednesdays and Saturdays and two more departing to Paro in Bhutan on Thursdays and Sundays.
A source in the AAI said the lack of international flights is due to the lack of infrastructure in the airport that is built over a sprawling 1275 acres of land in Borjhar, about 26 kms from Guwahati.
“The runway in the LGBI airport is too short for wide-bodied aircrafts. These are big aircrafts that can make longer journeys unlike the domestic flights. Also, the airport terminal is not well suited to receiving the kind of crowd that the international flights might bring with it,” the source said.
While most of the wide-bodied, long range flying aircrafts such as Airbus 380 or Boeing 777 require runways of at least 5,000 to 6,000 metres in length, the LGBI Airport runway is only 3,103 metres, the official said.
The current airport terminal is 2,03,050 sq ft and it can serve optimally 500 domestic passengers and 125 international passengers. However, the airport takes a load of about 5,000 passengers and handles about 64 domestic flights daily.
The AAI have recently floated a tender for the setting up of a 90,000 square metre terminal near the SOS Village Road under the Aero City project. This was decided during a meeting of the Union minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayanta Sinha and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in August last.
“We have floated the tendering process already and the construction will be started by December. Within two years, we can expect a state-of-the-art terminal. In the meantime, we are trying to reel in more international flight providers. DrukAir will be expanding with more Singapore flights soon,” Brijesh Tailong, Director of the airport said.
Frequent fliers complain of mismanagement and lack of facilities
Lack of facilities ranging from inadequate trolleys to over congestion of terminals has been plaguing the LGBI airport, complained many frequent fliers.
Earlier in January, the opposition leader in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, had written to the civil aviation department complaining that the airport is in need of upgradation.
When G Plus contacted him, Saikia said, “When it (LGBI airport) was set up, it was built to meet the international standards. But the standards have changed over time and Assam along with Northeast has grown leaps and bounds. While the current structure has a capacity for 2,000 passengers, the footfall has increased to 5,000 passengers daily. Not only congestion, but security too has become a major issue.”
Several passengers complained of not finding adequate trolleys to freight their luggage. An official of a private airline said, “There are 250 trolleys available with the airport authorities whereas the actual standard number is 500 trolleys minimum. It becomes cumbersome to cater to passengers if two flights land around the same time.”
It is not just the passengers but the security personnel from 14th Assam Police Battalion who remain stationed at the LGBI airport, also spoke of lack of facilities.
“There are no sheds for us. About 20-30 jawans are deputed here round the clock. We don’t have a place to rest in; not even access to drinking water. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) provides us with help in terms of water and resting areas, but a permanent solution is the need of the hour,” Pranjal Kalita, a security personnel said.
- The current airport terminal is 203,050 sq ft and can optimally serve 500 domestic passengers and 125 international passengers.
- The AAI has recently floated a tender for the setting up of a 90,000 square metre terminal near the SOS Road under the Aero City project
- There are 250 trolleys available with the airport authorities whereas the actual standard number is 500 trolleys minimum.
- Security personnel from 14th Assam Police Battalion, who remain stationed at the LGBI airport, spoke of lack of sheds and drinking water for them.