By: Sameep Singh Gumtala
July 17, 2020: Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport Amritsar became the second busiest international airport in India to handle international traffic during the month of May, 2020. UK and Canada continued to operate special repatriation flights for its stranded residents due to coronavirus induced lockdown.
Amritsar continued to be one of the busiest airports in the country during lockdown, that has once again proved its real potential for international traffic to UK, Canada and other countries. As per the recently released monthly traffic report from Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the month of May, Amritsar recorded second highest total of 11,681 international passengers, leaving behind all major airports in India. Delhi airport was on the top with 40,212 and Mumbai third with 10,280 passengers.
A complete suspension of flights in late March had left thousands of foreign nationals and residents stranded across the country. The Canadian and British Consulate in India started special flights in April to repatriate its citizens. Due to the huge number of their residents stranded in Punjab, these overseas flights continued to operate for the month of May and these were operated by World’s leading airline carriers, British and Qatar Airways.
The British government arranged a total of 28 from April till May 15, 2020 that flew around 8,271 Britons back home. The Canadian government also operated a total of 25 flights to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal repatriating almost 7,516 Canadians from Amritsar. According to unofficial estimates, the number of flights from Amritsar by UK and Canada is one of the biggest during the current crisis by these two countries from all over the World. In addition to this, airport also handled special repatriation flights to Malaysia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and USA.
Amritsar airport may have been neglected for a long time by the World airlines for introduction of new international routes, but this unprecedented repatriation effort from the airport has revealed its real potential for major destinations like London, Toronto and Vancouver. A direct flight by Air India from Amritsar to London Heathrow and other North American destinations including Vancouver in the near future will save both time and money and it will bring big economic boost for the region.
Sameep Singh Gumtala, is Global Convener of FlyAmritsar Initiative, a public campaign for better flight connectivity with the Holy city of Amritsar. He is a US resident, regularly writes about Punjab, its diaspora and connectivity of Amritsar, Punjab with the World.