Shimla, Feb 4: The national carrier Air India's subsidiary Alliance Air on Wednesday conducted a test-flight to restart regular service between New Delhi and Himachal Pradesh's capital, an airport official said.
The trial run of a 42-seat plane was successful and the scheduled flights are likely to start by this month, airport in-charge Parvindra Tiwari told IANS.
Shimla's airport at Jubbarhatti, located 2,196 metres above sea-level, has been shut for the scheduled flights since Sep 6, 2012, affecting tourists and business travellers to the state.
But on an average 12 to 15 unscheduled flights are coming every month to Shimla, Tiwari added.
State tourism and civil aviation officials said that Kingfisher was the only airline that operated regular flights between Delhi and the state. However, it discontinued operations in the state before the airline was grounded in October 2012.
Hospitality industry representatives are expecting good tourist arrivals with restoration of the air link.
"Shimla airport closure for too long has hit the tourism industry badly. Now we are hoping to soon get the flights back on the track. It's great news," D.P. Bhatia of Clarke's Hotel here told IANS.
Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Board vice chairman Vijai Singh Mankotia has raised the issue with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) a number of times to explore the possibility of expanding the airstrips at the Jubbarhatti, Bhuntar near Kullu, and Gaggal near Dharamsala, to facilitate landing of bigger aircraft.
At the all-India conference of tourism ministers in New Delhi Dec 30, Mankotia demanded setting up of an international airport in the state to give a boost to Himachal's tourism industry.
A team of the AAI oficials that inspected the Jubbarhatti airstrip Feb 2 has decided to conduct the test-flight.
Tiwari said a Rs.500-crore proposal for the expansion of runway and developing infrastructure at Jubbarhatti has been awaiting clearance.The state high court has already issued notices to the state and central governments on poor air connectivity in the state. It asked them to file reply by Jan 5.
Government officials said that landing aircrafts at the Shimla airport was a challenge, as it was one of the three table-top airports in the country.
It is called table-top because of the deep gorges surrounding the runway.
Likewise, the airstrip in Kullu runs parallel to the Beas river.
Every year, Himachal Pradesh receives more tourists than the state's population of about 6.8 million.