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Chandigarh

Posted at: Jul 20, 2019, 7:55 AM; last updated: Jul 20, 2019, 12:37 PM (IST)

In LS, Kirron pushes for city-ASEAN airlink

In LS, Kirron pushes for city-ASEAN airlink
Kirron Kher

Kaveesha Kohli

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19

The long-standing demand of tricity residents for international flights from the Chandigarh airport, which even led to a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, is back in focus after MP Kirron Kher said the city should be included in the list of Indian cities connected to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries under the open sky agreement.

“In recent years, the ASEAN region has been our focus in air connectivity as has been evident from the numerous policies of the government such as the open sky agreement. Under these polices, the Centre has allowed ASEAN countries to fly to 18 cities of India,” Kirron said in the Zero Hour of Lok Sabha on Thursday. She said it was “unfortunate” that Chandigarh was not among the cities covered under the agreement.

At present, there are only two international flights from the Chandigarh airport, which go to Sharjah and Dubai. Kher also alluded to the fact that the PIL and city residents “vehemently” pushed for the introduction of more international flights. “It is interesting to note that Chandigarh is the one airport which serves large parts of Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, HP, UP and Chandigarh itself,” she said. The agreement with ASEAN nations, which includes countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, allows flights between these countries and 18 Indian cities without any restrictions.

Chandigarh residents have faced hassles because there are no flights to several frequently visited foreign destinations from the city.

“I was returning from Singapore and landed in Amritsar. It took me 10 hours to reach my home in Mohali that day. The bus I boarded made a long halt and then it was delayed by a procession,” said Harman Bhatia who studied in Singapore for two years.

Mohali-based businessman Dipak Chopra thinks that businesses can gain immensely if more flights are introduced. “I trade mostly with China. If flights to Malaysia and Thailand become accessible, I can think about expanding my business,” he said. 

Bilateral agreements, such as those signed with ASEAN, usually lie within the purview of the Civil Aviation Ministry. These were often brought up in the HC which has been hearing the PIL on international flights from the Chandigarh airport.

While there was no direct response on including Chandigarh in the list of cities connected to ASEAN, affidavits submitted by the ministry in the court say the government’s policies discourage foreign carriers on non-metro airports and want to emphasise on generating “hub and spoke” models for domestic carriers. In the hub and spoke model, airline operators make metro airports such as Delhi their hubs. The airlines then develop regional routes, say from Chandigarh to Delhi, to bring more traffic to their hubs.

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