It’s a matter of pride, after all. The first international flight from the Chandigarh airport — to Sharjah on September 15 — will have Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal with a 50-member delegation of politicians and bureaucrats among the passengers, at government expense.
From there, they will go to Dubai, 38 km away, by road, soliciting investment in Punjab.
The 186-seat flight of government carrier Air India Express will have two other delegations, one led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from Dera Bassi, NK Sharma, who, being a real estate baron himself, will lead a 30-member delegation of property developers. Another 30-member delegation of industrialists will be onboard with the same aim. They will return on Saturday, September 17, by the same AI Express flight that will operate on Mondays, Thursday and Saturdays. The rest of the seats are for general passengers.
Taking the delegations along, Sukhbir will hold a road show in Dubai to highlight Punjab as an investment destination. Sharma said the road show “will promote the state as a market for infrastructure projects, such as IT City, Medicity, and food-processing units, in close vicinity of the international airport”.
Though the introductory round-trip fare was Rs 9,500, these delegates are being charged more, at Rs 15,000 each, said an officer from Air India Express, the low-cost arm of governmentowned carrier Air India. All seats are in economy class. And, though low-cost carriers charge extra for anything served on board, the delegates have food boxes and beverages included in the fare.
For the Sukhbir-led delegation, the public expense on the flight alone will thus be Rs 7.5 lakh.
The government will pick up the entire visit’s tab for only the Sukhbir-led delegation, underlined the deputy CM’s media adviser, Jangveer Singh, adding, “All three delegations will meet the ruling family of Dubai and other trade associations. The motive of the visit is to give a fillip to direct trade between the UAE and Punjab.”