JAMMU: In a bid to ease pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi temple for those with time constraints, a direct helicopter service between Jammu airport and Panchhi helipad near the shrine began on Tuesday.
The service, offering 4 flights daily, complements the existing helicopter service between the shrine base camp in Katra and Sanjhi Chhat near the temple. However, unlike Sanjhi Chhat, Panchhi helipad is less affected by vagaries of weather.
“Besides providing a more comfortable mode of transportation, the new service will bolster emergency response capabilities,” Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board spokesperson said.
“The first sortie from Jammu airport at 11 am landed at Panchhi Helipad about 11.20 am,” shrine board CEO Anshul Garg said.
Shrine board has partnered with two helicopter operators for two packages: same day return package at ₹35,000 per pilgrim, and next day return package at ₹60,000 per pilgrim.
“Under same day return package, the pilgrims will also get transport facility from Panchhi helipad to the shrine and back to the helipad, priority darshans, a free meal at Bhawan, ropeway ticket to Bhairon Ji, and a box of Panchmeva Prasad. In the other package, the pilgrim will also get overnight accommodation and three meals at Bhawan,” said the spokesperson.
All safety protocols have been followed for state-of-the-art helicopters with capacity for 6-7 passengers, he said.
“Services can be booked via the same official website www.maavaishnodevi.org,” he added.
Shrine board also started offering free ‘Mundan Sanskar’ at Banganga on Monday.