Chennai-Jaffna air connectivity resumes after more than three decades
Chennai’s air connectivity with Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka resumed on Thursday after more than three decades with an Alliance Air flight taking off from the city’s airport, officials said. The air connectivity was suspended in 1984 after the outbreak of civil war in the island nation.
According to the Indian High Commission in Colombo, a team of delegates including Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) CS Subbaiyah were on board the first flight which left for Jaffna from Chennai at 8.55 am.
The official passenger service between Chennai and Jaffna will start from November 1. The tariff for this one-way trip has been fixed as ₹3999, including taxes. The flying time between Chennai and Jaffna is one hour and thirty five minutes, Air India said in a statement. Alliance Air is a subsidiary of Air India.
Ahead of the resumption of the service, the renovated airport in Palaly, about 16 km away from the town was renamed as Jaffna International airport.
“Initially, the flight service will be operated thrice a week, and gradually it would be a daily facility,” an Air India official told the media.
When the first flight an ATR 72-600 landed the Jaffna International airport, it was received with a traditional water salute. After the flight’s arrival, Sri Lankan President Maithiripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Rani Wickramasinghe and external affairs officers of both the country formally inaugurated the Jaffna International airport.
Before the flight left Chennai, Ashwani Lohani said the resumption of service would help in reconnecting the links between the two countries.
“We are very proud that Alliance Air is the first flight to land at the Jaffna Airport and the first international carrier to fly out of Jaffna. Alliance Air and Air India are proud of re-establishing an old historical link, and since this is the regional airline’s first foray outside India, we are happy about going international,” Lohani said.
The Air India CMD further said that the national carrier is looking to operate services from Madurai and Trichy to Jaffna soon.
Alliance Air CEO C S Subbaiah said, “Along with the flight operation to Jaffna, we will launch another flight service from Chennai to Triconamallee in the eastern province of Sri Lanka within a month.”
Flights used to operate between Chennai, Trichy and Colombo through Jaffna till the early 1980s before the air link was snapped as Sri Lanka’s civil war began in 1984. Palaly airbase which was built during the Second World War was used as a military airbase by the Sri Lankan army during the civil war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
After the Sri Lankan Civil war ended in 2009, the island nation started the renovation work of Palaly airport. In 2012, domestic flight services started to and from between Colombo and Jaffna.