Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shri Anurag Thakur, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation General V.K.Singh today flagged off the first Indigo Airline Delhi-Dharamshala-Delhi flight.
Speaking on the occasion Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shri Anurag Thakur expressed his gratitude towards the Ministry of Civil Aviation for facilitating Indigo connectivity to Himachal Pradesh and said that Indigo could not have become a truly national airline without flying to the hill state. Shri Thakur made a case for a larger airport and said that currently passengers coming to Himachal from all over India have to go to Delhi and then board connecting flights to the State. A larger airport will provide direct seamless connectivity to passengers.
Shri Thakur credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the rapid expansion of airport infrastructure in the country and said the number has gone from 74 to over 140 in a short span of time. He further said that it is due to the UDAN scheme that the people in Hawai Chappal can travel in Hawai Jahaz.
Speaking about the magnitude of service provided by the airport, Shri Thakur said that Dharamshala airport connects five districts with ease of connectivity and directly benefits half of the population of the state. This single Indigo flight goes a long way in connecting half of the state and a few places in Punjab to the rest of the country.
Union Minister of State General V. K. SIngh in his remarks stated that the Dharamshala airport had seen its first flight in 1990, subsequently saw its operations expanding and now has a runway of 1376 mts. The Minister said the runway can be further lengthened if space permits.The airport witnesses a lot of traffic due to the presence of Dalai Lama, he stated, and provides air connectivity to all of north-western HImachal Pradesh The Indigo flight will bring in more tourists to Himachal and this will benefit the people of the state.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia, addressing the gathering, said that what was not achieved in the past 65 years in the field of civil aviation has been achieved in the last 9 years with the creation of 148 airports, waterdrome and heliports. He further added that the Ministry is working towards a target of taking this number to beyond 200 within the next three to four years. This effort will give equal importance to large metro airports as well as remote airports providing last mile connectivity.
Shri Scindia lauded Shri Anurag Thakur’s efforts towards creation of sports infrastructure in the State and said that it is because of his strenuous efforts, Dharamshala is today a hub of not just regional or national cricket but of international cricket. He drew parallels between the magnificent stadium in Dharamshala to the best in the world. Cricket, he further added, has brought the State a surge in economic activity, and the credit for this too goes to Shri Anurag Thakur.
The Minister acknowledged the request of expansion of Dharamshala airport by Shri Anurag Thakur and said that his Ministry is already working on a 2-phase plan for the same. The first phase involves lengthening of the current runway to 1900 mts to enable turboprop aircrafts landing with load penalty to ply without such penalties. The 2nd phase would involve further lengthening of the runway to 3110 mts to realize the vision of landing Boeing 737 and Airbus a320 at the airport.
Speaking about the other achievements in the State for his Ministry, Shri Scindia said that runway restoration at the Shimla airport has been completed and site clearance has been provided for a Greenfield airport at Mandi. The Minister reiterated that his Ministry is committed towards the development of civil aviation infrastructure in the State.
“Civil aviation sector has seen a complete democratization, and those who could only watch aircrafts fly are today flying in it”, remarked the Minister and further stated that the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in the form UDAN Scheme has seen 1 crore 15 lakh such people added to number India’s air passengers.
The State of Himachal has been provided 44 routes under UDAN, of which 22 are already operational. Highlighting the Ministry’s achievements in the State, the Minister said that the connectivity has increased from 40 aircrafts per week in 2013-14 to 110 aircrafts, an increase of 175% over 9 years. In Dharamshala specifically, he said, the number of air traffic movements have gone up by 110% in the past 9 years from 28 per week in 2013-14 to 50 movements today.
Shri Kishan Kapoor, Member of Parliament from Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, said that the aircraft is a major contribution to air connectivity for the people of the State. The State had seen a tremendous decline in tourist activity during COVID19 pandemic and is now witnessing a revival. Shri Kapoor requested the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider further expanding the number of aircrafts flying to Dharamshala.
Indigo airline will operate daily flights to Dharamshala from Delhi. This new flight sector takes the number of daily flights of Indigo to 1795 and makes it the seventh largest airline in the world in terms of departures.