Budget carrier Indigo airlines on Saturday began its flight operations from Umroi airport in Meghalaya with a 70-seater aircraft landed at the airport.
The IndiGo flight with chief minister Conrad K Sangma, transport minister Sniawbhalang Dhar, Umroi MLA George B. Lyngdoh along with officers and passengers onboard from Calcutta, made a landing at the Umroi Airport at around 4.35 pm.
At the airport’s terminal, the chief minister cut a cake which marked the inauguration of the Indigo flight which will operate daily between Calcutta and Umroi.
The chief minister was also given a customary guard of honour by the state police.
Passengers, who boarded the first Indigo plane along with the chief minister from Calcutta to Umroi, were also felicitated with gifts on arriving at the airport.
The passengers were felicitated with an Assamese gamocha and not the traditional shawls of Meghalaya.
Umroi Airport, named a few years ago after former Meghalaya chief minister, late Brington Buhai Lyngdoh, is about 35km from Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya.
The Meghalaya chief minister termed the touchdown of the IndiGo flight a “positive development” that would boost not only connectivity, but economy and tourism as well.
“After this first IndiGo flight, we hope more will follow so that other metros are connected with Umroi airport,” he said. The chief minister also thanked IndiGo for operating its flights.
Air India is also operating its small aircraft between Calcutta and Umroi Airport.
Despite cheering the operation of IndiGo’s first flight, the high hope that Umroi airport would one day see landing of big aircrafts like Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 may not be materialized soon.
The Meghalaya government has yet to take a final call whether it should go ahead with upgrading the airport or not.
The state has to incur huge amount worth around Rs 8,000 crore just to remove various obstacles especially cutting some hillocks around the airport.
Asked if the state government will go ahead in extending the runway of Umroi airport and ready to spend Rs 8000 crore or whether the state government would prefer to build new airport with less expenditure, Sangma said, “Spending such a huge amount will cost the state a mind boggling. We don’t have that kind of fund, but we want to ensure this asset (airport) is maintained.”
The Meghalaya high court has been insisting that Umroi airport should be made fully functional and the airport should have direct flight linking with other cities in the country including New Delhi.
When asked about the Meghalaya high court order, Sangma said that court would be made known about this huge investment.
The chief minister’s reply gave a hint that the Meghalaya government has not ruled out its plan to look for building new airport instead of focusing on Umroi airport which requires huge amount to make.