Even as the ruling as well Opposition benches raised apprehensions with regards to decline in number of flights at the Dabolim International Airport, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Monday reassured the House that the airport will continue to be operational as a commercial airport and there is no move to shut it down.
While admitting that some flights have shifted their operation to Manohar International airport, Mopa, Sawant told the State Legislative Assembly that there is no decline in the passenger footfall at Dabolim and actually the airport at Mopa, which will operate as cargo airport in future, has been envisioned to cater to the excess passenger traffic experienced at Dabolim.
“The two airports are necessary for the State like Goa. Being a tourist destination, both Airports are working to their potential and will continue to operate successfully,” Sawant said, adding that the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has made additional investment to the tune of over Rs 500 crore on the infrastructure at the Dabolim airport to facilitate commercial operations.
The Chief Minister also appealed to the Opposition not to use Dabolim airport for “election stunt”.
The House witnessed a heated debate over the future of Dabolim airport, after MLAs from ruling and Opposition claimed that there is decline in number of flights at Dabolim airport with the commissioning of Mopa airport. Independent MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco also alleged that officials of GMR were pressuring the Indian Navy to take full control of the Dabolim airport.
The Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao alleged that the Dabolim airport would be turned into a "ghost airport" to help the Mopa airport. He pointed out that the number of domestic flights at Dabolim airport had dropped from 5,095 in January 2023 to 3,510 in December 2023.
He further claimed there was a 31 per cent decline in international flights from 372 in January 2023 to 259 in December 2023.
To which the Chief Minister said “only few flights have shifted their operations to Mopa. Mopa airport has got flight connectivity to all the new destinations, which Goa was never connected with. The footfall at Dabolim has remained the same. Now with work of Porvorim flyover commencing, people will prefer to go via Dabolim airport for next two years, due to traffic congestion in North”.
Sawant asserted that it is impossible for a private company to put such pressures on the Navy or the Centre for taking over an airport as he added that the Central Cabinet has approved a decision to the effect that Dabolim will be continued to be used for commercial operations.
Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai brought to the notice of the House that Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) has hiked user development fee of Dabolim airport from current Rs 301 to Rs 1791 for 2025-26, whereas for Mopa it is hiked from Rs 604 to only Rs 840. He also said that AAI has hiked the parking fees for flights by 40 per cent at Dabolim with an annual 10 per cent rise.