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Sikkim looses its only air service as SpiceJet pulls out for the winter season

Indian state Sikkim will loose its only air service as SpiceJet has announced that it is pulling out due to various reasons.

SpiceJet pulls out for the winter season

Sikkim, a landlocked state in North-Eastern India, will soon loose air connectivity as SpiceJet is temporarily suspending operations to the state’s only airport for the winter season. Pakyong Airport is located near Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital.

Presently, Pakyong is connected to Delhi and Kolkata through a daily flight. As reported by NDTV, the airline states that it will stop flying there from 30th October 2022 in a letter written by the carrier to the Director of Pakyong Airport.

SpiceJet has decided to suspend operations out of Pakyong from 30th October 2022 till further notice. This is due to operation requirements.

read the letter.

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The reasons

SpiceJet says that the bad weather condition and low visibility at Pakyong Airport has led to this decision. Pakyong is a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) airport and has a required minimum of 5,000 feet, which is difficult to achieve on most days of the year, let alone during the winter season.

However, this is not the sole reason for the suspension of operations at the airport. A person familiar with the matter told the Press Trust of India that SpiceJet was suffering losses on this route during monsoons due to frequent cancellations. It is to be noted that SpiceJet has not operated a single flight to/from Kolkata from the airport in the last week while the carrier has had to cancel two flights to/from Delhi in the past week. Now, it is not clear as to what has led to the cancellations.

As aforementioned, Pakyong Airport is the only one in the state of Sikkim. The suspension of operations at this airport means that travellers will now have to travel for atleast five hours to the nearest airport (which is Bagdogra in West Bengal) to catch a flight.

Pakyong Airport began operations in 2018 and is situated at an altitude of 4,500 feet in mountainous terrain, becoming one of the highest airports in India. The airport has a single runway which is 1,700 meters long with a parking stand capable to handle two ATR72 aircraft simultaneously.

The government of India, through its regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) has tried to boost connectivity in the North Eastern region by offering flight subsidies to airlines and developing the airport infrastructure in the region. The services by SpiceJet to Pakyong was a direct result of this initiative.

While it’s sad to see an airport loose its sole airline, the change is only a temporary one. It’s good that SpiceJet has cancelled the service officially rather than cancelling flights on some particular days and stranding passengers for no reason.

While Pakyong Airport will be deserted in the whole of winter schedule, SpiceJet will resume flights from Pakyong to Delhi and Kolkata at the start of the summer schedule next year, i.e. 26th March 2023.

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What do you think of SpiceJet suspending operations to Pakyong in the winter season? Let me know in the comments section below.

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