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Wait for helicopter bookings at Kedar extends to 3-4 days

Rudraprayag: Passengers have been facing long delays in procuring tickets for chopper rides despite the state government roping in nine helicopter firms for this year's Kedarnath yatra. Two helicopters fly from Guptkashi while seven from Guptkashi and seven from Phatta and Sersi. However, offline counters at all such places have reported a huge rush.
"Offline centres have 30% tickets available but when there is a backlog created mostly due to erratic weather conditions (in which choppers cannot fly), we need to clear that first before fresh tickets can be issued. The demand for tickets is high and our choppers are making frequent trips every day," said Vijay Gupta, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN, an agency in charge of chopper services) personnel at the Dehradun centre.
As per the booking website, till June 20, 17,516 tickets have been booked for 63,818 passengers. However, people have expressed their displeasure with the operation.
"When bookings started from May 1, the site went down for hours and when it came back, late at night, it showed us that zero tickets were available, We had to procure four tickets from the offline centre in Phatta after a wait of two days. The rest of my family decided to go up on foot or on horses. This delay completely derailed our plans for the other Dhams," said Arwind Shankar, a Maharashtra resident. People have been queuing up outside these centres from as early as 5 am.
"For weeks now, we have been working up until midnight to issue tickets and clear the backlog. People with prior bookings who get left out because of the weather conditions have to be sent first. We are in constant communication with chopper operators despite working with limited staff. But people don't understand that. They become restless. The crowd just keeps on getting bigger. We are having a hard time managing them. On average, there is a 2-3 day waiting period," said personnel at Phata centre. Notably, when the weather remains clear, chopper services start at 5 am and remain operational till sundown. The choppers have made nearly 8,900 trips and ferried almost a lakh people ever since the yatra started on May 6, as per official data. Meanwhile, officials said that the bookings are full till June 20.

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