Budget airline SpiceJet has decided to suspend operations to Sikkim's Pakyong Airport, citing operational requirements. It's the only airline to fly to Pakyong and this means there will be no flights to the airport for the time being. Pakyong Airport, which serves state capital Gangtok and the rest of Sikkim, is one of the highest airports in India.
In a letter to the Director of Pakyong Airport, the airline said, "SpiceJet has decided to suspend operations out of Pakyong from 30th October 2022 till further notice. This is due to operation requirements."
SpiceJet operated flights to Pakyong with its turboprop aircraft. Flights to Pakyong were operated under the Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik-Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN-RCS) policy. SpiceJet has around 30 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft in its fleet, which are used for regional flights.
After a SpiceJet Q400 aircraft coming from Goa made an emergency landing in Hyderabad on October 12 as extensive smoke was detected in the cabin, Civil Aviation Regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) had directed SpiceJet to carry out analysis of engine oil samples from its Q400 fleet, and other inspections.
DGCA ordered the budget carrier to inspect all operational Q400 aircraft engines within one week. In a statement issued today, it said it shall take all appropriate action to avert any untoward incident.
The plane had landed safely, and passengers disembarked through the emergency exit. One passenger sustained minor injuries while disembarking from the aircraft, a DGCA official had said.
On July 27, DGCA had directed SpiceJet to operate a maximum of 50 per cent of its flights, which were approved in the summer schedule for a period of eight weeks owing to a series of incidents involving its flights. Last month, the restrictions were extended till October 29.
Pakyong Airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018. The greenfield airport was expected to improve the connectivity to the land-locked state nestled in the Himalayas and give a boost to its tourism. Built at a cost of Rs 605 crore, the airport is spread over 201 acres and is located on top of a hill about two km above Pakyong village at 4,500 feet above sea level.
Located about 60 km from the India-China border, Pakyong airport became the 100th operational airport in India. But the airport has faced issues with no flights for nearly 20 months. Operations resumed in January 2021 after being suspended from June 2019 onwards because of unpredictable weather, poor visibility, and lack of proper landing facilities. In January 2021, the DGCA approved a new landing procedure for Pakyong that increase reliability, allowing SpiceJet to resume services to Pakyong from Delhi and Kolkata.