WITH JUST over a week left for the city’s first ever international flight to take off for Sharjah, preparations at the airport are in full swing, with the officials saying that the airport is ready for the first flight.
The Airports Authority of India (AII) has already set up immigration counters at the airport, and the officials say a trial run will be conducted by the immigration officials before September 15 — the day Air India Express will operate the first international flight from Chandigarh airport (IXC) to Sharjah International Airport (SHJ). A delegation from Punjab led by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal will also travel to Sharjah in the first flight.
As per the AII, a total number of 18 immigration counters — eight at departure and 10 at arrival — have been set up at the airport. One foreign money exchange counter has been set up in the arrival hall. Besides, two customs counters have been set up at the airport.
“We are ready for the first flight and we don’t expect any issues for the international operations,” Chief Executive Officer, International Airport, Sunil Dutt told Chandigarh Newsline.
For AII, Dutt said, there is not much difference between the international and domestic flights at the Chandigarh airport. “The difference between the two is customs and immigration. We are handling more than 20 flights a day. So we don’t see any issue,” he said.
Before the first flight, officials said, a trial will be conducted by the immigration and the customs officials at the airport. “The trial run will be conducted so that they don’t face any problems on September 15,” said Dutt.
However, those in the first flight won’t get many passenger facilities which are available at other major international airports. The airport authorities are yet to install ATMs inside the terminal and wi-fi while proper food lounges, retail and food and beverage space are still missing.
AII officials assert that they will float tenders in the next one week to provide additional facilities to the passengers at the airport. “Within next eight months, we will provide facilities like CIP [commercially important person] lounge and huge retail and F&B [food and beverage] facilities at the airport,” said Dutt, adding that other facilities which the AII is working on include a dedicated website for the airport, wi-fi and more ATMs.
The international flights operations from the city were recently announced by Air India. IndiGo will start the international operations from September 26 to Dubai. The airport authorities believe that after the two flights, more carriers would come forward to start international operations from the city airport which recorded a traffic of 15 lakh passengers during 2015-16.