Passenger flights to and from Bidar from the Air Force base here has been a long-pending demand. The Defence Ministry has approved a request from the State government to use the base for civil aviation, and officials of the Airports Authority of India have visited it to inspect the facilities. The question now is: will there be enough passengers if civil aviation becomes a reality?
“Each flight will be full, no doubt,” says B.G. Shetkar, president of the Bidar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He believes private operators who choose to fly in and out of Bidar will not suffer loss.
Referring to a study they conducted, Mr. Shetkar said the findings indicated that over 1,000 people travel between Bidar and Bangalore every day. At least 20 per cent of them could afford to pay airfare. Even on lean days, there would be at least 100 people who could travel by air, he said. According to him, over 200 people take the train from Bidar to Bangalore. Around 400 people travel by buses operated by four private companies, while another 100 use North Eastern Karnataka Transport Corporation buses. Over 300 people travel to Bangalore via Hyderabad or Gulbarga by plane, train or bus.
Besides, there would be those travelling to Mumbai or New Delhi on business, he said.
Other than business travellers, there were politicians, doctors, IT professionals and government employees from Bidar who have settled in Bangalore. Many of them could afford air travel, Mr. Shetkar added.
Lessons from Hubli
However, not everybody is buying this argument. There was no indication that there would be the necessary footfalls to ensure regular air connectivity, a senior government officer said.
Giving the example of what happened in Hubli after civil aviation was started there, he said operations along the Bangalore–Hubli route had to be cancelled or rescheduled several times, owing to lack of demand. As of now, there was nothing to say that the Bangalore–Bidar sector would be any different, he said.
But, a “hop and jump” system of operating flights could be explored for Bidar. Planes bound for Hyderabad could stop at Bidar, or flights to Hyderabad could be routed through here, he added.