While several airlines in the country are struggling to stay airborne due to a passenger shortage, the ambitious Latur Airport is facing a much bigger shortage. The airport, situated in Latur, no longer hosts even a single commercial flight. Passengers, if any, are very occasional, as the airport has only one or two private aircraft belonging to politicians.
According to an official at the airport, the last commercial flight stopped its services a year and half ago. The airport, located nearly 10 kilometres from Latur city, was earlier connected by a flight from Mumbai, via Nanded. However, Nanded now boasts of several flights from Delhi and other metros including Mumbai, leaving Latur far behind. A senior official said, “Except for Nanded, in this region hardly any airport at district level has any traffic. Earlier the airport was under the Public Works Department (PWD), but now Latur Airport Private Limited handles the airport.”
Vithhal Bombade, a local driver claims that since Vilasrao Deshmukh shifted to Delhi, the demand for private vehicles at the airport has almost diminished. “Earlier, at least going to the airport was frequent. However, in the last few years the number of visits to the airport has come down to zero,” said Bombade.
Meanwhile, a senior official from Latur Airport Private Limited, on condition of anonymity said, “The economy needs to be revived, as the airport will get a boost with more industrial growth. There would soon be a change in situation across the board for smaller airports.”
Not only the airport, but hoteliers also fear that their business will be drastically affected, if the situation persists. “When Vilasrao was in Maharashtra, the occupancy rate was never below 95 per cent. However, after his departure from state politics, the occupancy rate came down to 70 per cent. He’s the messiah for people here and also for small-time businessmen,” said Satish Shinde the manager of Hotel Radhika.
According to hoteliers, when Deshmukh was in Mumbai as the CM, people would come to Latur and stay for a week to make an appointment to meet him. However, with every passing day, and especially with Deshmukh moving to Delhi, the number of visitors has decreased.