THE MUCH-AWAITED first international flight from Chandigarh finally took off from the city to Sharjah (UAE) on Thursday evening, carrying more than 180 passengers, including a delegation led by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Earlier, the same flight landed at the airport, bringing 129 passengers from Sharjah to the city.
The flight was given a water salute by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) as soon as it landed around 5 pm. The passengers were received by Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, chairman and managing director of Air India Ashwani Lohani and other senior officers.
On Thursday afternoon, as the passengers travelling in the first flight started arriving at the international departure gates, the excitement was quite visible. Those who lined up for the flight included families and business delegations.
“I cannot express my happiness,” said Modan Singh Gill, a businessman from Ludhiana who is now settled in Sharjah. “With this flight, now I can travel more frequently as the travelling time has reduced.”
A group of 12 friends too travelled in the first international flight. “It is a different experience,” said Ashok Kumar, a businessman who along with 11 friends went on holiday and will come back on September 19. “We had decided to travel in the first flight only.”
Some passengers went in hope to get sponsors for their start-ups. “People abroad are looking at start-ups in India. So I am travelling with the hope to meet some people in UAE,” said K S Bhatia, who heads a start-up and was in one of the business delegations travelling in the flight.
The flight from Sharjah brought 129 passengers to the city airport from UAE. At 5.35 pm, as the passengers came out at the arrival hall, they had nice words for the authorities for starting the much-needed flight. “This flight has saved my time. Earlier, I used to go to Delhi or Amritsar,” said Paramjeet Singh, a businessman and a city resident. “The flight experience was very good and I am happy.”
The flight, most passengers maintained, would save time of those belonging to Punjab. “At least I won’t face the traffic jams of Delhi. Now there is a direct flight to Chandigarh which is superb,” said a passenger.
A proud moment for the pilots
THE FIRST international flight was a historic moment for the City Beautiful. It was also a proud moment for both the pilots of the aircraft as they belonged to Chandigarh. After the arrival of the first flight, 32-year-old Guruchetan Verdi said that the first flight to the city was nice. “It is a proud moment for me because I am flying the flight to Sharjah,” Verdi, the co-pilot of the aircraft, told Chandigarh Newline. Commander of the aircraft Satinder Singh too belongs to the city.
The new terminal constructed at a cost of Rs 1,400 crore was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 11, 2015.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday inaugurated the executive lounge at the airport. A statement said it was a new venture of CITCO, allotted by the Airports Authority of India. “The minister appreciated the efforts put in by the CITCO staff in ensuring that the passengers are given best of the services,” it said.
3 days a week
The Air India Express flight will operate three days a week: Monday, Thursday and Saturday. The next international flight will be from Chandigarh (IXC) to Dubai (DXB). A daily flight, it will start on September 26.