To go abroad, most people in the city now fly to Delhi and catch a connecting international flight from there instead of taking the Expressway to reach the Mumbai international airport. The fear of getting stuck in heavy traffic jams on the high-speed highway to the state capital has given rise to the phenomenon.
After observing the trend, airlines are introducing more flights to Delhi from the city airport in Lohegaon.
As the city has turned into an IT hub and is one of the important business centres in the country, foreign travel from here is on the rise. The city is today directly connected to only two international destinations, Dubai and Frankfurt.
For other destinations in the US, Europe and China, the Mumbai international airport was till recently considered the only option. But now for Puneites, Delhi is the hot spot for international flights.
“Pune to Mumbai by road takes too much time,” Pune Station Manager, Air India, Dhairyasheel Wandekar said. “After reaching Mumbai city in the peak hours, commuters get stuck for a minimum of two hours. Also, in the evening or late night, there is heavy traffic on the Expressway. It has become complicated to go abroad via Mumbai.”
He said going to Delhi by flight takes just two hours, less time than it takes to go to Mumbai airport by road.
“Now it is very convenient to go to Delhi by flight and then catch a connecting international flight,” he said. “Delhi airport is very nicely developed, with all facilities; Terminal 3, especially, is the main attraction for people as it is like a mall.”
Yatidra Deshpande, an entrepreneur, said the rising number of Expressway accidents was also a concern.
“Due to traffic problem, it is very difficult to predict the right time for departure from Pune to Mumbai for catching an international flight,” Deshpande said. “If the flight is in the morning from Mumbai, it is very risky to travel overnight on the Expressway considering the increasing incidents of accidents. So recently, I went to Japan via Delhi.”
There are 42 arrivals and departures from the Lohegaon airport, and almost a third of the flights are for Delhi.
“After the Indian Air Force relaxed the evening slot for the Pune airport, three new flights have been introduced by Indigo, Spice and Go Airways; all are for Delhi and receiving very good response,” Pune Airport Director P S R K Sudhakar said. “Pune-Delhi route has always been in major demand. From Pune airport, Delhi is in highest priority. Then come Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.”