Considering the good business done by the helicopter service in a state where there is no airplane connectivity, the flying hours for the helicopter in the state has been increased from 600 hr to 1200 hour by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
It has been learnt that apart from the daily flights as scheduled form Gangtok to Bagdogra and back, some more additional flights are being operated like charter flights to any destination along with a host of other service flights mountaineering flights, sightseeing and medical flights are also entertained.
Tejpal Pradhan Manager Operation heli- service, said that the helicopter service has been operational in the state since the year 1999 and since then the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) has been handling the said services. While speaking about the increase in fare he said that in the beginning the fare charged per person was Rs.1200/- and slowly it was increased and now it has reached to Rs.22, 00/- per passenger. The increase has been made because of the increase in the price of fuel, fixed monthly charges and other charges.
As per the last year’s data the helicopter actually operated 323 days out of 365days, and the number of flight connecting Gangtok to Bagdogra- Gangtok was about 427. Apart from the regular scheduled flights sightseeing flights in Gangtok has been recorded to about 241, likewise mountain flight 20, chartered flight 22 and medical flight 16. The total number of passenger carried form Gangtok to Bagdogra last year was about 1731 in total and back to Gangtok about 1530 and the total hours utilized for flying was around 648.15hours.
Mr. Pradhan added that the number of passengers and hour of flying has increasing this year especially in the month of October and November, reaching to about 7 hours a day too. He also added that the 90% of the passengers boarding in helicopter service are domestic tourist and 10% international. Furthermore when asked about the local passengers Mr. Pradhan said that about 15% of the total 90% are local. When asked about the increase in the heliports in various destinations across the state Mr. Pradhan said that it is good and this will increase the connectivity.
Similarly while speaking to the Secretary, Tourism Department Mr. SBS Bhaduria, he said that the helicopter service is doing well and the state is performing the best in this service compared to other states in the Nation. He went on to add that five more heliports are in the row of construction at Chemchey, Geetang Khola at Okharay, Mangan, Rangpo and Lingi. It has also been learnt that only two booking counters are available one in Gangtok and the other in Bagdogra but Gangtok booking counter functions as the major one.
Courtesy: Sikkim Mail