Sikkim became the latest addition to the country's aviation map Thursday as SpiceJet operated the first direct commercial flight to the Pakyong airport from Kolkata, the airline said in a statement.
The airline will operate direct flights on the Kolkata-Pakyong-Kolkata route daily under the Centre's regional connectivity scheme UDAN, the statement said. SpiceJet's Bombardier Q400 aircraft carrying 74 people from Kolkota landed at the Pakyong Greenfield Airport Thursday, a statement issued by the Sikkim government said.
"A new avenue for transport has been opened up for the common man. This means travel and commuting for the people in Sikkim will not only be less time consuming but convenient as well," Sikim Transport Minister D T Lepcha said after the flight landed at Pakyong.
Sikkim Chief Secretary A K Srivastava said, "I believe, tourism will accelerate the economic development leading to broadening of outlook and supplying surplus scope for reselling and rebranding tourism." "Today is a proud moment for SpiceJet and a historic one for Indian aviation as we have put Sikkim on India's aviation map," said Ajay Singh, the chairman and managing director, SpiceJet.
The first direct flight to Pakyong was flagged off from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. SpiceJet will launch a second flight connecting Guwahati with Pakyong from October 16, the statement said. A traditional lamp lighting ceremony was organized to mark the inauguration of the operations and the first passenger was welcomed by SpiceJet officials. The flight was greeted with a grand water cannon salute upon its arrival at the Pakyong airport, the airline said.
The first airport at Pakyong in Sikkim was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24. It is located around 33 km from Gangtok, the state capital.
SpiceJet is the first and only airline to connect this majestic state with the rest of the country and beyond, and will be connecting Pakyong with Guwahati from October 16, Singh said.
"Our new flights will provide a major boost to tourism and we are proud to contribute to the growth story of this vibrant state," he said. It is a great push for tourism and has definitely enhanced connectivity to Sikkim, said Atul Dixit, the director of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. "The direct flight will help in saving almost an entire day. Earlier, people had to fly to Bagdogra (West Bengal) and then drive to Gangtok," Dixit said.
The Pakyong airport, the country's 100th operational airport, is an engineering marvel situated at a height of more than 4,500 feet. On March 10 this year, the airline had successfully operated a test flight to Pakyong making it the first civil fixed aircraft to land at the airport.