At 5.15pm on Thursday, Chandigarh International Airport actually became international as a flight from Sharjah landed with 128 passengers onboard a 186-seater plane. At 6.35pm, an Air India Express plane carrying 182 passengers to Sharjah departed too, this being the first flight from this airport to a foreign destination.
Union civil aviation minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on the occasion that government-owned carrier Air India will start a flight to Singapore by March. Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani added Bangkok to the list. These will be thrice a week. Immediately next up, from September 26, IndiGo airlines will start a daily flight between Chandigarh and Dubai.
In the presence of Punjab chief minister and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, who led a 40-member trade delegation in the flight to Sharjah, Raju said, “Sky is the limit now for Punjab and all Punjabis putting across the world. In India, civil aviation is the fastest-growing industry at 20% a year.”
He called the airport “a magnificent gift of the NDA government (at the Centre) to Punjabis settled in different parts of the world as it will enable them to stay well-connected with their roots”.
Meanwhile, as the airport land falls in Punjab’s Mohali (SAS Nagar), the Badals and also many welcome hoardings called it ‘Mohali international airport’, to which Haryana took umbrage as it is a partner in the project. The airport is eventually expected to be named after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Raju also said, “The people of the region should not be having any problem if it is called Chandigarh International Airport.”
About likely flights to the West, Raju said, “It’s a continuous process. Several airlines, particularly the Indian players, are showing interest.”
CM Badal chose to remain quiet during the media interaction. Later he, in a press note, and Sukhbir termed “a red letter day”. “A major promise made to the people of the Punjab has been fulfilled by the state government,” said Sukhbir, adding that it will boost industry.
Among those present were Punjab minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Dera Bassi MLA NK Sharma, who accompanied Sukhbir on the flight to Sharjah, from where they would go by road to Dubai nearby for a trade meet. Principal secretary, civil aviation, Viswajeet Khanna and Mohali mayor Kulwant Singh were also at the airport on the occasion.