Why Meghalaya regrets Shillong-Delhi flight agreement with flybig
Flybig aircraft

Shillong: Meghalaya Transport Minister Dasakhiatbha Lamare on Tuesday stated that the agreement signed with flybig airline for Shillong-Delhi flight was done in a hurry and was a lesson to be learned after the airline failed to provide its services.

The transport minister’s statement was in response to a question by MLA Mohendro Rapsang about the status of Shillong-Delhi flights, during the Budget Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.

AITC state president Charles Pyngrope came in with a supplementary question mentioning that they can now draw a conclusion that flybig as an operator has no aircraft of its own.

“Is it prudent to sign an agreement with an operator who has no aircraft or shouldn’t we look at options where we sign an agreement with an operator who has at least one or two aircraft of its own?” asked Pyngrope.

The transport minister agreed with the member and said the agreement was signed in a hurry. “It (flybig) has promised us that it will avail an aircraft, which is the Bombardier Q400. Since this was the first experience, it was a lesson for us. Let us see till the end of this month if the airline can provide us the services we need or else we will take another step,” the minister said.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma also quickly jumped in to clarify more on the agreement. Sangma said the selection process was done through a tendering process and two parties had applied. Both were asked to give the technical specifications of the airlines or the aircraft that they’ll be using and how they’ll be getting it.

The chief minister added that the second party quoted a very high price compared to flybig because they were using a jet whose cost was much higher than a Q400.

“Secondly, this agreement was signed and the tender process done before COVID-19 happened and the entire process of getting a wet-lease for an aircraft had started during that time,” said Sangma.

The chief minister informed the House that flybig has signed an agreement for the wet lease and they are supposed to get an aircraft very soon.

Earlier, flybig had signed an agreement with Spicejet to use a Q400 but then that agreement fell through and Spicejet stopped giving their aircraft. The government had issued a show-cause notice last December. The airline has asked for time till the end of this month to resume their services.

The Shillong-Delhi flight currently is not operating and the state has incurred a total cost of Rs 2.5 crore (approx.) for 16 flight operations performed by flybig.

Sangma said they needed to create that connectivity, to ensure that this connectivity was something that would be economically viable. “While we had the viability gap funding, we did not know what kind of response would be there. We had to ensure that the price of the ticket would be something that would be within a certain limit, so the capping of the price of the ticket was also done to not go beyond ₹5,000. This encouraged a lot of people to start going in and when the process begins, when a new flight starts, it’s not something that we can expect that everybody will start using. We do require time or the company requires time to build it up,” said Sangma.

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