Direct international flight to boost Guwahati’s potential as gateway to ASEAN

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Nok Air launches Guwahati-Bangkok flight service

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Sept 22: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal Sunday flagged off Nok Air’s Guwahati-Bangkok flight at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here giving a boost to Assam government’s initiatives to transform Guwahati as the gateway to the ASEAN region. Nok Air which will be flying its sortie between Guwahati and Bangkok, has carefully drafted its sorties to enable passengers to reach the destination at Don Mueang near Bangkok in less than three hours offering a convenient connection to both business and leisure travellers twice in a week.

Sonowal viewed that introduction of the flight is not just an extension of airline route but more importantly a futuristic gesture, which will go a long way in reinforcing the cultural and economic ties between Assam and Thailand and strengthening the bilateral relations. Sonowal also observed that connectivity has always remained a major bottleneck in optimum realization of the growth prospects of the region. Keeping this in view, Government of India has taken up steps to connect six South East Asian destinations from Guwahati under UDAN scheme. On July 1st this year, first Guwahati-Dhaka flight by Spicejet under International Air Connectivity Scheme was flagged off. The flight marked roll-out of UDAN-International, pioneered by Assam Government with Viability Gap Funding of INR 100 crore. In the next few months, flights connecting to Kathmandu, Yangon, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur will also commence.

Last year DrukAir – Royal Bhutan Airlines introduced Paro-Guwahati-Singapore flight. The Government of India has also taken a historic decision to bring 19 destinations in the North East including five cities in Assam under the regional connectivity scheme UDAN-2.This initiative would significantly facilitate regional air connectivity by making air travel affordable for the masses. The Union Government aims to turn LGBI Airport into an International airport, connecting Southeast Asia. Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport has undergone numerous expansions and renovations since its establishment in 1958. It handled more than 3.7 million passengers in 2017, an increase of 36% from 2016.The LGBI Airport has witnessed annual traffic increase of over 23% in 2018-19 with a total footfall of 5.7 million passengers and 55,066 aircraft movements in the same period.

The existing terminal building at the airport has maximum handling capacity of 850 arrival/departure passengers an hour. The work on a New Terminal has already made significant progress. This will further boost the growth narrative of the entire region. The new terminal will be the first sustainable terminal of the North East having sewage treatment plant, solar power, rain water harvesting, solid waste disposal system and energy efficient lighting. Once completed, this would generate around 3000 direct employments and approximately 20,000 indirect employments.

Boosting state government’s efforts, Bangladesh and Bhutan governments have already set up their embassies in Guwahati. The 10 ASEAN nations are also expected to set up their embassies in Guwahati soon. The Act East Policy of the Government of India gives new hope for growth of the region. The new found confidence of the people of the State can be witnessed in all spheres of socio-cultural and economic life.

As an offshoot of the efforts of the State government, farmers of the Assam for the first time could successfully export their agricultural produce to London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other foreign countries. The first flight which took off from LGBI Airport at the mid night after Sonowal flagged it off, witnessed the traditional water saluting. Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, Chief Minister’s Media Adviser Hrishikesh Goswami, MLA Bimal Bora and a host of other dignitaries were present on the occasion.

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