Amritsar, 8 June 2016 (Bharat Sandesh Bureau):– This independence day, there is a huge gift waiting for travelers from Gujarat to London and New Jersey, USA by Air India but the Modi government has nothing in offing for the huge Punjabi community in UK, USA and Canada. The National Carrier Air India is going to start a direct non-stop flight from Ahmedabad to London and the same flight will fly onward to New Jersey in USA. Currently Air India is operating a daily flight on Ahmedabad – Mumbai – London route which involves a layover and change of aircraft in Mumbai. Due to this, passengers have to get off the aircraft and then board another plane. This new direct flight to London will fly onward to Newark airport in New Jersey, USA and take the same route on its return.
Amritsar Vikas Manch has demanded that Air India should restore direct Amritsar-Birmingham and Amritsar-London-Toronto flight. There is large Punjabi & Indian population in UK, Canada and USA and Air India had in the past diverted direct flights from Amritsar to Birmingham, London, and Toronto via Delhi citing the reasons that Delhi and Mumbai are the two hubs for all of Air India’s international flights. Similarly, instead of starting a direct Amritsar – Toronto flight, Air India had started Amritsar – Delhi – Toronto flight due to the same reasons but cancelled this flight citing heavy losses whereas Jet Airways with a one-stop at Amsterdam and Air Canada (non-stop) are successfully operating these flights to Toronto. In comparison, Air India flights on other routes have incurred higher losses.
Dr. Charanjit Singh Gumtala, patron AVM said, “We welcome Air India’s decision to start direct non-stop international flights now from an airport other than Delhi & Mumbai. Last year in his communication to Prime Minster Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajanpathi Raju, in reply to Mr. Gumtala request for the restoration of direct Amritsar – Birmingham flight, the airline and civil aviation ministry had said, that since Delhi was main hub, so these flights would be flying via Delhi. Now with announcement of direct Ahmedabad – London – New Jersey flight from August 15, it looks like there is no hard and fast rule. So direct flights starting from Amritsar to Birmingham, London and Toronto can be resumed from Amritsar. Dr. Gumtala claimed that due to re-routing of these flights Punjabis traveling from Amritsar have to wait as long as 10-12 hours at Delhi Airport to fly to Birmingham, London and Toronto or other destinations. This also resulted in stoppage of air cargo business from the airport. In the outset passengers also prefer to take flights on other airlines resulting in loss to the national carrier.
Sameep Singh, Manch North America representative said, “It has been reported in the media that the inspiration for this direct flight has come from the worthy Prime Minister and this flight is a gift from Mr. Modi to the Gujarati community in the UK and USA. There should be no discrimination and hon’ble Prime Minister should consider giving similar gift to Punjabis as he is the PM of India and not just for Gujarat. During his foreign visits, large population of Punjabis in the UK and USA had demanded direct flights from Amritsar especially direct Birmingham, London and San Francisco flight. There is already a flight from Ahmedabad to Newark via Mumbai and now a second flight to both these destinations from Ahmedabad.”
AVM president, Kulwant Sigh Ankhi stated that “the Union Government was trying to make the Indira Gandhi Airport, a profitable venture at the cost of the Amritsar airport. The international airport in Punjab had a tremendous potential to generate revenue as the holy city was the gateway to the country and an important destination on the world tourist map. Withdrawing direct international flights from this Airport by national carrier Air India indicated discrimination with the state. Hundreds of people fly daily to UK, USA and Canada from Punjab.” He said now the Akali Dal’s coalition party is in power at the Center and Badal Govt must prevail upon the Modi government to restore all these flights.
The Manch leadership appealed to the honorable leaders from all parties representing Punjab including Shwet Malik, Navjot Sidhu, Capt. Amrinder Singh to come forward in making Amritsar a aero hub like Delhi and start direct Air India flights to Birmingham, London, New York, Milan, Toronto etc. Above all it is pertinent to mention that the current international flights bring in more than 4 lakh passengers in a year to Amritsar and it needs further boost to generate revenue for the country & allow direct and indirect business benefits for the region.