Jammu & Kashmir is set to get onto the international aviation map with the civil aviation ministry okaying the launch of the first commercial flight between Srinagar and Sharjah in the UAE in about a month.
“This is a historic step both for J&K and its people. Foreign travellers will soon be able to arrive directly in Srinagar,” civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said at a joint press conference with J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha. The media interaction followed a detailed review of all aviation matters related to the J&K, by Sinha and Scindia.
Sources said Sharjah was chosen as the first destination in view of the heavy volume of business between traders from J&K, particularly those dealing in horticulture produce, and retail outlets in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The immigration infrastructure is already in place in J&K, said an officer.
“More than 77 stores in Sharjah — mostly owned by Lulu hypermarket chain — source their supplies of dry fruits etc largely from J&K. Similarly, over 60 such stores in Abu Dhabi get supplies from J&K. So there is a high demand of business-related travel between Srinagar and Sharjah, which is also a convenient transit point to reach Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” a source said.
Earlier too, Srinagar handled international flights but they were only for Hajj pilgrims. Meanwhile, among the other outcomes of Saturday’s review meeting by Sinha and Scindia was the former’s assurance to hand over 122 acre land in Jammu by October 10, 2022, for the Airports Authority of India to start work on a new 25,000 sq metre terminal at a cost of Rs 600 crore.
Srinagar airport too is being expanded from 22,000 sq metre to 63,000 sq metre with an investment of Rs 1500 crore, said Scindia. The cargo terminal at Srinagar airport will open for business by October 1, he added. A paid premium lounge has also been approved for Srinagar airport and the bidding process may begin by September 30.