HYDERABAD: Pending approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Hyderabad-Mashhad (Iran) flight service that was set for a 2012 launch is yet to take off. The private airline carrier chosen to operate flights is ready with flight plans but the Indian civil aviation authority has not yet given security clearance despite approving security plans submitted by the airline.
In 2010, India and Iran entered into a bilateral agreement to improve air services between the two countries. Hyderabad-Mashhad air service was among those planned then. Iran’s private carrier Aseman Airlines was selected to operate flights on biweekly basis.
As of now, Iran’s Mahan Air operates four flights from Delhi andnational carrier Iran Air operates two flights from Mumbai. Tour operators said that those who choose to fly from Hyderabad have a six-hour halt at Dubai or Sharjah before taking the connecting flight. Direct flights would not just eliminate waiting time and cut cost but would also simplify travel plans as Indian visitors can get a visa on arrival at Iran’s international airports, which includes the Mashhad airport.
Direct flights to Mashhad benefit tourists, Indian businessmen,domicile Iranians and a large number of Iranian students in the city. Hyderabad’s Shia Muslims for whom the Iranian city is a pilgrimage centre, would also benefit immensely from direct flights. Every year 10,000 people from Hyderabad visit Iran of which 7,000 go for pilgrimage. Around 30,000 visas are issued toIndians by the Iranian mission (in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad) every year.
In 2011, Aseman airlines submitted a security plan as required by the DGCA but the civil aviation authority only approved the plan in September last, nearly a year after submission. Sources said that the airline was promised final approval by the civil aviation authority in three months. Anticipating a quick response, the airlines entered into an agreement with GMR for using the Hyderabad airport. Air India also agreed to lend one of its hangars at the airport for parking an Airbus A 320 which was procured for operations. Sources also said that an agent for sale of tickets has been appointed in the city and flight plans have been drawn up for operating the flights on Thursdays and Sundays.
“Direct flights will benefit a large number of people and improve trade. Hyderabad exports rice, pharma products, IT and biotechnological expertise to Iran. Indian businessmen need direct flights from Hyderabad as it would make their travel faster and comfortable. Such steps also improve the bilateral relationship between the countries,” said Consul General Hassan Noorain. He added that Aseman was ready with its plans and could start operations within 20 days of receiving DGCA’s nod.
Agents see an increase in tourist footfall if direct flights are operated to Hyderabad from Iran. Of the 40,000 Iranians who visit India every year, less than 3,000 visit Hyderabad. Indian agents offering package tours receive tourists either at Mumbai or Delhi. They said that Hyderabad is not even included in tour packages. But they added that the strong historic and cultural connection that Hyderabad shares with Iran could make the city a potential tourist hotspot for Iranian tourists if they were to land here.
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