It was a memorable flight. Travelling from Bhopal to Bastar,
I found myself to be the only passenger after the plane took off from Raipur. There was another gentleman aboard, but he turned out to be an officer of Vayudoot, the public sector airlines.
On the return journey, the small plane circled Bilaspur airport, with cows grazing near the tarmac, and then flew to its next stop without landing, after it was informed that there were no passengers.
Another time, the unpressurised Dornier’s doors opened in mid-air.
Vayudoot was fun.
Vayudoot never had the ghost of a chance of making a profit.
It was started to bring air connectivity to remote towns. The governments keep pursuing that goal, tirelessly, one failed experiment following another, burning a hole in tax-payers’ pocket.
After liberalisation became the buzzword and skies were opened to private operators, the Madhya Pradesh Government started patronising a string of private companies with dubious aviation pedigrees but good political connections.
It has entered into all kind of sweetheart deals and agreements to subsidise their operation. The most favourite deal is the guarantee to buy a minimum number of seats on a flight. In effect, it means that the state exchequer pays for a certain number of seats in case the airline fails to get enough passengers.
The Government is, once again, trying to revive the aviation industry in the State. Recently it called a meeting of major airlines to discuss the issue of poor air connectivity at Bhopal. While Ahmedabad has 145 flights, Lucknow 75, Jaipur 65 and Patna 50, we have only nine flights.
Even neighbouring Indore is served by 48 flights. Often people prefer to drive 200 km to Indore to board a plane because of better connectivity and cheaper fare. Continue reading “A Plan for Better Air Connectivity for MP”