AT 2.20 pm on February 14, Kashmir will become part of the “global village”. For that’s when the first commercial flight — Air India Express — a subsidiary of Air India, will take off from Srinagar to Dubai.
Excitement is running high in the Valley. “It will be a dream come true for us,” said Shakeel Kalandhar, president of the Federation of Chamber of Industries, Kashmir. “Next Saturday, we will become part of the global village in real sense.”
Air India officials said the aircraft would have a capacity of 180 passengers and 20 seats had already been booked. “We are confident of having a fully booked flight on the day,” said a senior Air India official, refusing to be identified for official reasons.
The fare will be Rs 7,035 per passenger, including taxes. Initially, the flight will operate once a week. Later, depending on the traffic, the frequency might be increased, the official said.
Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of the Kashmir Fruit Growers’ Association, said: “It is an opening that would go a long way in improving the situation in the Valley, as people would have a look at the world outside and how peace helps destinations like Dubai to prosper and improve the image of our Kashmir as well.”
Bhat, who was part of the ‘Muzaffarabad chalo’ call in August, now says this is a “much better confidence-building measure than the road to Muzaffarabad. In fact, it is far better”.