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SC stays Meghalaya HC ultimatum to IndiGo, SpiceJet for launch of flights from Shillong

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IndiGo and SpiceJet had moved top court after Meghalaya High Court put airlines on notice over flights connecting Umroi airport near Shillong to metros. 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday stayed a Meghalaya High Court order that had directed several commercial airlines to set a date for launching operations from Umroi airport, 30 km from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, to New Delhi and other metros.

The order came on petitions filed by budget carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet against the 7 December high court (HC) order, which had set a week’s deadline for a date to be decided. Other private airlines affected by the order included Jet Airways, Vistara and GoAir.

“The high court order shall remain stayed,” the SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, said.

The high court had directed aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation, the civil aviation ministry secretary and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman to convene a meeting and decide when flights would start operating from the airport. The chief justice of the high court had asked the concerned parties, along with the top officials of the airlines in question, to be present in court at the next hearing on Friday if they failed to arrive at a decision.

“[They shall have to] explain why decision for operating flights for Umroi airport has not been taken,” the HC had said.

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‘Airport short of facilities’

In its plea filed Wednesday, InterGlobe Aviation, IndiGo’s parent company, said the airport was not equipped to handle the aircraft that the airline primarily used.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing IndiGo, said the Umroi airport was not yet ready to handle passenger traffic, did not have adequate facilities and lacked certain landing capabilities.

“There is no statutory obligation or function which the airline is carrying out or expected to carry out,” said the IndiGo plea.

“The decisions as to operationalising airlines and starting routes for a particular sector or airport are purely based upon the operational capability of any airport, commercial feasibility, availability of aircrafts [sic], availability of routes and slots, and other factors,” the plea said. “Airlines have to decide such issues on the basis of the multiple factors which are inherently complex and require sufficient amount of time, study and process,” it added.

Operationalising the Umroi airport, which was built in the 1960s, is part of the government’s ambitious UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, which aims to put tier-II and tier-III cities on the aviation map with capped fares.

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