SRINAGAR: For the first time, there will be direct flights from Srinagar to Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, as the Air Asia Group’s offer to fly A330 wide-body aircraft on the Srinagar-Kuala Lumpur route has been accepted by the Airports Authority of India.
Srinagar Airport director Akash Deep Mathur said the wide-body aircraft can commence operations from Srinagar. This can have a direct impact on increasing tourist footfall.
Air Asia Group has always been on the forefront of flying tourists, investing and developing new virgin routes that have potential but are untapped. A document with Kashmir Reader reads, “As such we are pleased to express our interest to operate direct international flights with our A330 wide body aircraft which has 377 seats from Kuala Lumpur to Srinagar V.V. this route will serve as a new and the first direct connection between southeast Asia and Kuala Lumpur to Srinagar V.v, which we believe has great positional, as Srinagar has so much to offer in terms of tourism.”
“For us to successfully commence the operation of this route and for this route to be viable, we require 7x weekly traffic right( one way)/ 14x weekly traffic right (two way) and favorable slots. Hence, we are writing to seek traffic rights and favorable slots approval for this route. Subject to approval, we will furnish the commencement dates, our presence in flight timings etc. we intend to start with a frequency of three or four weekly flights ( one way) and to increase it to daily 7x weekly flight (one way)in six months to one year subject to the performance of the route,” document further reads.
As this is a virgin route, Air Asia X will need to invest in marketing and lower fares to stimulate demand to ensure the long-term sustainability of this route and to boost tourism. “We are keen to set up a joint marketing fund with the tourism board of Srinagar, which we believe will be win proposition for both parties for Air Asia to grow our network and connectivity and for Srinagar to attract inbound tourism and increase tourist arrival from the southeast Asia which remains untapped,” it further reads.
In addition, Air Asia X will require support from the finance ministry through the state government via a viability gap funding (VGF) grant for this route to ensure they can continue to operate until demand fully picks up and yields are sustainable, as with any new route.
As Mathur told Kashmir Reader, “Air Asia has shown interest to operate direct flights from Srinagar to Malaysia, we don’t have any issue if Air Asia wants to fly tourists from the Srinagar airport, our airport is ready for flying international flights.”
The only international flights which operate from Srinagar International Airport are the annual Hajj flights. Srinagar has a full-fledged international airport, and a large number of Kashmiris who are studying and working in Malaysia will also benefit from a direct flight.
On the other hand, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Ashiq, told Kashmir Reader, “It is up to various airlines to operate the international flights, there are thousands of Umrah pilgrims from Kashmir who will be benefited by direct international flights. There is huge scope for starting international flights, especially on Srinagar-Dubai and Srinagar-South East Asia sectors. It is very good that Air Asia is going to start international flights.”
In the past, international flights via Air India flights were at one point suddenly discontinued, but now Air Asia is willing to start them again from Srinagar. “Starting flights from Srinagar to South East Asia via Delhi will bring a good traffic of international tourists to the Valley,” Ashiq said.
“There are thousands of South East Asian tourists who visit Delhi and other cities and these tourists can be encouraged to visit Kashmir if there is air connectivity,” he said.