In September 2021, IndiGo launched flights to Gwalior from New Delhi. This meant that the airline got lucrative night parking rights at congested Delhi airport. Since the twin-turboprop aircraft takes longer than a jet to vacate the runway and is slower on approach, it takes up precious slots at airports. This means that a single ATR movement could hamper the overall capacity at the airport due to its higher runway occupancy time as well as slower approach and landing speed. For this reason, congested airports have always shied away from handing over more slots to turbo-prop aircraft.
The last couple of seasons have seen IndiGo – the market leader in domestic skies, chase down competition which has seen it compete with SpiceJet – the number two player in the market for most of the months. But tomorrow, SpiceJet will start operations to Pantnagar, where IndiGo launched operations in Summer schedule. From being one of the most neglected airports to being in news for all the right reasons, Pantnagar is coming of age.
Pantnagar – known for the country’s first agriculture university, now named the G.B. Pant Agriculture University, is sparsely populated. With population of just 35,000 as per 2001 census. But Pantnagar is a gateway to Nainital, Kashipur, Rudrapur and Haldwani – all centres of importance.
Pantnagar primarily serves the town of Pantnagar. In addition to it, it serves Nainital – the famous hill station. Nainital is also the judicial capital of Uttarakhand with the High Court of Uttarakhand located in Nainital. Jim Corbett National Park – a world famous tiger reserve now has Pantnagar as its nearest airport.
The other regions which are served by Pantnagar Airport are Kashipur, with a population of over a lakh and a town which has one of the newly set up Indian Institute of Management (IIM). The Haldwani – Pantnagar belt is home to major industries and large business houses in the country have production sites in the region, ranging from FMCG products to automobiles.
Air operations at Pantnagar Airport
The airport could accommodate aircraft only up to Do-228 until the runway expansion in 2008. Air Deccan and later Kingfisher Airlines operated the ATR 42 aircraft to Pantnagar in a seasonal nature. The airport lost connectivity after the demise of Kingfisher Airlines.
The airport was included in Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) and the airport started operations again. However, the connectivity was erratic. Air Heritage which had operations to Pithorgarh. The airline is not operating any more. Alliance Air continued to operate a daily flight between Dehradun and Pantnagar. Alliance Air started flights between Dehradun and Pantnagar in January 2019. The route was part of UDAN 1.0. Air Heritage, Pantnagar Pithorgarh, The route went to Pawan hans in October 2021 under UDAN 4.1. Air Heritage started Pithorgath – Hindon in October 2019.
On March 27, 2022, IndiGo launched flights to Pantnagar with extended to Dehradun, connecting Pantnagar to Delhi and Dehradun. With SpiceJet, the airline gets another connection to Delhi.
Delhi – Pantnagar
SG2956 DEL1215 – 1315PGH x4
6E7324 DEL1245 – 1350PGH Daily
Pantnagar – Delhi
SG2957 PGH1345 – 1445DEL x4
6E7325 PGH1625 – 1735DEL Daily
Pantnagar – Dehradun
6E7326 PGH1410 – 1505DED Daily
9I9646 PGH1525 – 1615DED Daily
Dehradun – Pantnagar
9I9645 DED1410 – 1500PGH Daily
6E7327 DED1530 – 1605PGH Daily
Pantnagar has been looking to expand the runway even more to ensure that A320/B737 aircraft can land at Pantnagar with ambitions to have international operations. The land belonging to G.B. Pant University has been earmarked for the same.
From no flights to two flights a day, Pantnagar has seen a sudden jump in seats available between the national capital and the gateway to hills in Kumaon region. While SpiceJet and IndiGo fight it out on many routes, I think this is one of the routes where there is ample demand for both to sustain and grow. This will open up tourism in the region and provide connectivity to the business folks.