No foreign flights at Tirupati, Vijaywada airports after international tag

Over three years have passed since the airport in Tirupati was accorded ‘international’ status but it has not logged even one international flight so far.

In May 2016, the Andhra Pradesh government announced that international flights would take off from Tirupati International Airport “within a month or two.”

However, no airliner is said to be inclined to operate international flights from this famous temple town.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had announced last month direct flight services to Singapore from the state capital Amaravati (Vijayawada airport) would be launched by July 7 but that deadline has now been missed.

In fact, the AP Airports Development Corporation Limited planned to launch at least a charter service to Singapore from Vijayawada from July 1 but no airliner came forward despite the state government offering Viability Gap Funding for the first six months.

The state government, sources in APADCL said, was ready to spend Rs 300 million to run the chartered service for six months and recover the money through sale of tickets.

“No airline operator has so far evinced interest in operating international flights from Tirupati. In the case of Vijayawada, though, negotiations are currently underway to begin international services but it may take some more time for things to materialise,” a senior official of the Airports Authority of India said.

The senior official said there has so far been no bilateral traffic agreement for operating flights between Vijayawada and Singapore.

“Nobody has even applied for a slot (at the airport) and neither was there any discussion on the bilateral traffic agreement,” he pointed out.

In the absence of such an agreement, no scheduled international operations could be started from Vijayawada.

Andhra Pradesh has three “international” airports Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupati but only Visakhapatnam is functional with about 100 services to foreign locations every month.

During the FY 2018, Visakhapatnam handled 2.5 million air passengers (domestic and international), with about 20 per cent travelling to overseas destinations like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo and Dubai.

Tirupati airport got international status in 2015 and Vijayawada in 2017 but overseas flight services haven’t yet taken off from both locations.

Since the Vijayawada airport is linked to the state capital Amaravati, there has been a lot of anticipation about international flights but “technical glitches” seem to be delaying things, according to the AAI official.

“Fly Dubai is now in discussions for a bilateral traffic agreement to operate flights from Vijayawada to Dubai. Emirates has bilateral traffic rights but the airport is not fit to handle their flights,” the AAI official added.

Expansion of the Vijayawada airport has been delayed for over a decade and works were taking shape only now.

A temporary terminal building was inaugurated last year but the main terminal would be ready only by 2019, he said.

As of now, the runway of Vijayawada airport is just 7,500 ft and expansion works are expected to be completed only in November so that wide-bodied aircraft like Boeing 777 and 747 could be handled.

Air India is also said to be keen on operating a Vijayawada-Dubai service but is awaiting necessary security clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs, according to the AAI official.