ON A day when first international flight took off from Chandigarh to Sharjah, Air India on Thursday announced plans to start flights from Chandigarh to Singapore and Bangkok from next year.
“This airport has tremendous tourism potential. We are planning to start flights to Singapore and Bangkok in next summer schedule,” chairman and managing director of Air India Ashwani Lohani told Chandigarh Newsline. He added that both the flights would operate thrice a week.
On flights to Canada, Lohani said that Chandigarh has a lot of demand for Toronto. “For other destinations, we can plan connecting flights,” he said.
Earlier, during a press conference, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju announced that during next summer schedule, Air India was planning to start a flight to Singapore from the city. “Air India is thinking of connecting this city with Singapore, probably in March or April. So that is good news for me… the Air India team has done a good work,” he said.
Asked if there is a time frame for introducing more flights from the city, Raju said, “You can’t put a time frame on things. These intentions are good. We have to get them, promote them and together do it and see that it happens.”
On the possible flights to the west, Raju said that it was a “continuous process” and many “Indian players [airlines] are showing interest”.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said that the starting of international airport was one of their main election promises. “We always wanted to connect Punjab with the rest of the world. This is a historic day. This initiative would go a long way in propelling IT and tourism sector in the state. It will serve Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Punjab and major parts of Haryana,” he said.
He said that he would meet more airlines so that more flights could be started from the city. “Today there is Air India, then it is IndiGo. Next summer it is Singapore. I am meeting Fly Dubai tomorrow… if all the airlines get connected here, I think it will become one of the most successful airports of the country,” he said.
Sukhbir said that there were approximately 40 people in his delegation. “This [international flight] is the biggest gift to NRIs by our government. I must congratulate all the citizens of Punjab. It is a great day for them,” he added.
Later, K Shyam Sundar, CEO, Air India Express, claimed that next few flights to Sharjah were full. “The response is very good,” he told Chandigarh Newsline.