Image used for representational purpose
GUWAHATI: Flight services connecting western Assam with the rest of the country resumed after a long gap of nearly four decades.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI), in its endeavour to link under-served and unserved airports through Regional Connectivity Scheme routes, has started its regular flight services at Rupsi Airport in Dhubri district, close to the Bangladesh border. The first commercial flight of Flybig airline landed at 12.07 pm in Rupsi airport. Altogether 24 passengers arrived from Guwahati on the inaugural flight in Rupsi. Later, the flight departed for Kolkata around 12.40 pm.
The AAI has re-developed the World War-II airstrip of Assam at an estimated cost of Rs 69 crore. The foundation stone for the re-development project was laid by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in February 2019. The British-era Rupsi airport, originally constructed during World War II to supply arms, manpower and ammunition to the Allied forces.
AAI officials said the operationalization of the airport will help boost the local agrarian economy of west Assam and Bodoland Territorial Council-administered districts by providing connectivity to air travellers in adjacent districts from Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kokarajhar, Goalpara as well as districts in neighbouring Meghalaya, West Bengal and parts of Bhutan.
As a gesture of welcome, water cannon salute was accorded to incoming flights by the Rupsi airport officials. “All safety checks and mandatory security arrangements were done prior to the arrival. Considering the Covid-19 guidelines, proper marking and distancing measures were also ensured for all passengers. Earlier on May 5, a trial flight was tested and operational requirements were checked successfully,” the AAI official added.
Hailing it a historic achievement under the RCS-UDAN programme, Jyotirmoy Barua, airport in-charge at Rupsi, said, “It will ensure affordable flying for all, especially the lower income group population here. UDAN flights provide cheap airfares for short destinations, connecting the unconnected.”
Flybig airline was awarded routes under the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme of the government of India to operate flight service at Rupsi by the Union ministry of civil aviation, through a bidding process. It will operate flights on the Guwahati- Rupsi-Kolkata route and back, initially on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, as informed by the airline. Captain Srinivas Rao, CEO of Flybig said, “We are extremely happy that Flybig is taking its vision one step ahead by commencing the operations in the northeast and providing regional connectivity to remote areas such as Rupsi, Pasighat and Tezu. We are determined to provide essential and safe travel to everyone at this crucial time.”
Spread across 337 acres, the newly developed airport has a terminal building measuring 3,500 sqm. Equipped with 10 check-in counters, the terminal is designed to manage about 200 passengers during peak hours and the newly built runway is suitable for landing ATR-72 aircraft.