Guwahati: Guwahati's Lokpriya Gopinath International Airport has claimed a piece of history for itself on Monday as it became the launching pad for India's first-ever International UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) flight. The historic flight between Guwahati (Assam) and Dhaka (Bangladesh) was flagged off by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at the Guwahati Airport.
The scheme is being implemented by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which is responsible for operating airports in India.
The daily direct flight connecting the two cities is being operated by SpiceJet. The Bombardier Q400 aircraft will depart Guwahati at 11.55 hoours, while it will leave Dhaka at 1410 hours (local time) every day.
Inaugurating the flight services, Sonowal said that after reaching this milestone, the government is now looking to connect all the capitals of ASEAN, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, with Guwahati. "Under the able guidance of Prime Minster Narendra Modi ji, we are transforming Assam on development in all spheres where he has emphasised on Act East Policy," Sonowal added.
Addessing the media, Sonowal said that the direct flight connectivity between Guwahati and Dhaka will not only connect air routes rather it will pave the way for cultural, social, economic, educational bonding between the two countries. "We are transforming this region through transportation and aviation is one big sector which has the potential to grow and benefit society. The state government will fund about Rs 100 cr to airlines as viability gap funding for operating flights under International Air Connectivity Scheme (IACS)," he informed.
"Under Act East policy, we are trying to connect entire South East Asian countries in all possible ways. After Dhaka, Guwahati will be connected to Bangkok and five more international destinations. It will open trade routes and will be mutually beneficial," Chandra Mohan Patowary, minister of commerce and industry and transport with Assam government said.
He also added that the Airports Authority of India should build a new airport at Silchar as the state government has enough land to turn it into the second international airport in Assam.
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"We lanched UDAN scheme two years back and today it has become international. Assam will act as a model for other states to connect international routes under IACS. The state acts as gateway to the North East and now it will be opened for neighbours also," Pradeep Singh Kharola, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, said.
Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry, said, "It's a dream come true as RCS has become international. Assam is strategically located on historic trade route of the region and through air connectivity we can add more to its potential. AAI is a pioneer in implementing RCS programme in the country and we have paved the way for airlines to operate, connect and popularise RCS."
Speaking on the occasion, Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh in India, Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur, said the new flight will be a landmark in connecting the two nations and direct flight services to Guwahati has made the tourism and medical industry in Bangladesh optimistic about their growth.
Speakers also emphasised on introducing more routes in cargo development in the region to connect the tough terrains of the North East. Airports in the North East connect different destinations but air cargo has immense potential as organic products have high demands in overseas market. Earlier products from the region were exported to London, Hong Kong, Doha, Dubai, Singapore etc.