Come May, and travellers will not be able to fly to or out of Chandigarh as the city's airport is set to be shut down for 20 days. The Chandigarh International Airport will be closed between May 12 and 31 for expansion and repair work and no civil or military flight will operate in the duration.
The closure was informed to the Punjab and Haryana high court Tuesday, March 13, and assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal said that the decision was made so that the work can be completed on time. This will also help the authorities to complete the installation of landing system by 2018-end.
"If the closure window is postponed till October, the upgrade work can't be finished by the year end," Hindustan Times quoted Mittal as saying. He also explained that carrying out the work in May would be easier and faster compared to June, July or August, which are monsoon months.
Agreeing with Mittal, the high court bench of justices also said that the work must be carried out soon so that flyers' safety isn't compromised. They also spoke about the recent Nepal air crash, in which 49 people were killed, and said safety was a priority.
However, several airlines have voiced their displeasure on the decision and said that the summer season was a peak period for them, and shutting down the airport for 20 days would affect their business. They have also requested the authorities to carry out the repair work after the summer months.
"The number of daily schedule flights is proposed to go up to 32 from the coming summer schedule which will kick off from the last Sunday of March. With the airport remaining closed for 20 days and 32 flights (domestic plus international), almost 1 lakh passengers will be affected," the Times of India quoted an unnamed airline official as saying.
But the Airports Authority of India has confirmed that the airport will remain shut and that carriers had been informed of the same beforehand. "Yes, the airport will remain closed. This is known to airlines in advance so that they can prepare for the same," an official added.
Travelers' plans are set to take a hit due to the closure, but they can opt for other airports close by.
Sahnewal Airport in Ludhiana -- about 110 kilometers from Chandigarh
Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun -- about 220 kilometers from Chandigarh
Gaggal Airport in Kangra -- about 235 kilometers from Chandigarh
Shimla Airport -- about 115 kilometers from Chandigarh
The Chandigarh International Airport caters to about 5,000 passengers a day. The airport had also been shut down in February for about 12 days.