At a time when foreign airlines are eyeing Agra as a possible destination for international charter trips, Indian Airlines has taken the unprecedented step of shortening the Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi air sector by skipping Agra altogether.
According to sources at the local Indian Airlines office, the Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi flight had been revived as a trial for this tourist season, when the flow of foreign tourists to Khajuraho and Varanasi was at its peak but they could not give specific reasons for skipping Agra other than citing low traffic volumes.
However, local tourism industry sources said about two years ago due to the shortage of aircraft and a supposedly low volume of traffic, it had been the only regular aircraft service to Agra, ferrying as many as 200 tourists to and from the town to the destinations like Khajuraho, Varanasi and Delhi, generating a profitable business for the company.
UP Handicrafts Development Centre Chairman and Agra Foreign Tourist Traders and Exporters Association Convener Prahlad Agarwal said there was a much bigger reason behind the complete isolation of Agra from the regular air-traffic that involved the "lobbyists" in Delhi who tried hard to divert the Agra-bound traffic elsewhere in order to capture Agra tourism business.
He charged the Indian Airlines of deliberately trying to cut-off Agra from its route-map by modifying this most popular tourist sector.
According to Agarwal, the number of tourists going to Khajuraho from Agra everyday was in hundreds and in the absence of a regular air-service to Khajuraho, these tourists took Shatabadi to Jhansi and then had to take a taxi to Khajuraho, something which could have been avoided if the Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi sector was revived.
Agarwal claimed that the airline was offering special rebate of almost 50 percent on the air fare to the tourists booking a direct flight from Delhi to Khajuraho which was a damaging move for the tourism industry of Agra.
He said the tourists who wished to go to Khajuraho after Agra, could come from Delhi in a hired taxi-cab, tour Agra for a day and then return to Delhi and catch the Khajuraho bound flight from Delhi the next day, eliminating the need for a night stay in Agra to catch the Jhansi bound Shatabadi Express as the tourists would stay in Delhi, a blow that could hit the local hospitality industry hard.