Restrictions in Kashmir ahead of the introduction of the resolution to scrap Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a bill to bifurcate the state has not deterred travellers from visiting the Valley.
According to the data provided by Air India, flights to Jammu and Kashmir are posting decent load factor or the total percentage of seats filled. Air India’s flight to Jammu, Kashmir and Leh have had 60-70% occupancy in the last two days while the return flights have been 80% full.
The average occupancy in June was almost 80% with the maximum going up to 93%, during the peak season due to summer vacation.
“We are operating all our scheduled flights and are registering decent occupancy. Since the fares are also capped, passengers prefer the national carrier. We will continue to operate the flights as per the procedure,” Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said.
An official of Airports Authority of India (AAI) said flights to the Valley have had a decent number of passengers and they were advised about the situation in the region. Staff working at these airports are facing difficulties in reaching the airport due to the increased security, but AAI said they are managing the situation.
Minister for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri had asked airlines on Saturday to rein in surging airfares, a day after the Jammu and Kashmir government issued an advisory restricting the annual Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage, and asking pilgrims and tourists to leave the Valley citing security concerns.
Air India said on August 5, the day announcement was made, the aircraft with a capacity of 150 seats had 92 passengers for Jammu and Srinagar while the return flight had 104 passengers. The direct flight to Srinagar had 119 passengers on Monday and 94 on Tuesday. The 70-seater ATR plane, which operates between Delhi and Jammu, also carried 42 passengers on Monday and 45 on Tuesday.
“Operations at the airport are completely normal and though there was an initial rush of passengers leaving the Valley, the number of passengers coming here has not gone down,” an official of AAI, which manages three airports in the region, said.
Of the 6,216 passengers who flew out of the Srinagar International Airport on Saturday, 387 passengers were accommodated in four Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft and flown to various destinations like Jammu, Pathankot and Hindon.
Sensitive airports across the country are on high alert with Independence Day coming up and security agencies have advised the passengers to reach airports early as the queue for security check is expected to be longer.