Sikkim will lose civil air connectivity indefinitely as the only carrier operating in the state, SpiceJet has decided to suspend operations at Pakyong airport citing functional requirements. The low-cost airline will operate its last flight on October 30, after which people wishing to visit the Himalayan state will have to travel at least five hours by road from the nearest airport.
Due to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) orders, SpiceJet is currently authorized to fly less than 50% of its flights. The airline has reported about a dozen mechanical problems since June, prompting aviation authorities to impose an eight-week flying restriction in July, which was later extended to October 29. SpiceJet has topped the list of airlines whose services were deemed worst post-COVID. -19.
Sikkim’s only airport at Pakyong near Gangtok is one of the highest airports in the country at an altitude of 4,500 feet.
The flights to Pakyong were operated under the Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik-Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN-RCS). Currently, SpiceJet has two scheduled flights to Pakyong, one each from Delhi and Kolkata.
The nearest airport in the region is Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal.
SpiceJet has a fleet of 30 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft for regional flights. They fly aircraft from the same fleet to Sikkim. A SpiceJet Dash 8 aircraft made an emergency landing in Hyderabad after taking off from Goa on October 12 as excessive smoke was reported from the cabin. The DGCA has directed SpiceJet to analyze the engines of the entire fleet within a week.
Built at a cost of Rs. 605 crore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the airport in September 2018 as the country’s 100th operational airport.
It is spread over an area of 201 acres on a hilltop nearly 2 km above Pakyong village and about 60 km from the India-China border.
Its construction began in 2009 but faced protests from local residents against land acquisition.