Efforts to Boost Greater International Connectivity to Punjab
Presents Amritsar to the Aviation World at CONNECT-2019 event in Dubai
By: Sameep Singh Gumtala & Yogesh Kamra
In an attempt to boost greater International connectivity for Punjab & neighboring states from Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee (SGRDJ) International Airport Amritsar, FlyAmritsar Initiative participated in CONNECT Middle East, Africa & India 2019 (MEIA 2019) Route development forum at Dubai Conventional & Exhibition Center. The inaugural event took place in Dubai between 30 April and 1 May. Over 40 airlines, airports were registered for the event, with some 250 plus delegates taking part in the first outing of the conference. The two-day event at Dubai was organized along with one of the World’s biggest Arabian Travel Market 2019 event which brings together airline specialists, aviation authorities, tourism boards, airports and tour operators, as well as other travel-related industry professionals.
FlyAmritsar Initiative Convener (Global) Sameep Singh Gumtala, from United States along with Convener (India) Yogesh Kamra attended the event in Dubai to present Amritsar Airport to the Aviation World. They met with top executives, commercial and network planning team of attending airlines, airports on a one to one basis for encouraging & engaging them for starting flights to Amritsar. The aim of the meetings was to enable connections (direct/transit) options from Amritsar to Birmingham, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Milan, Frankfurt, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dammam etc. Meeting were held with officials from leading global carriers like Air India, Air India Express, Emirates, Etihad, Fly Dubai, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Saudia Gulf Air, Salam Air, Flynas, Flyadeal, Egypt Air, Air Astana etc.
Many of the Middle East carriers shared that non-inclusion of Amritsar in bilateral air agreements between the two countries is the main hindrance for them and they are willing to operate direct flights to Amritsar immediately after getting the flying rights for starting flights to Amritsar. They reiterated that if Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Government of India (GOI) opens up Bilateral Air Service agreement (ASA) discussions to include Amritsar as “Point-of-call” in it, then these airlines are willing to immediately commence daily flights to Amritsar.
Airlines shared their views on Amritsar and how bilateral air agreements are a major hindrance for the start of flights. Start of the flights by many of these gulf carriers to Amritsar will provide direct connectivity to thousands of Punjabi workers living in middle eastern countries and also provide one-stop International connectivity to Europe, USA & Canada, said Gumtala.
A meeting was also held with Mark Souter, Head of Aviation Business Development at London Stanstead Airport for flights connecting London with Amritsar. We shared past and current years data for number of passengers travelling from Amritsar airport to London & Birmingham everyday and other destinations in Europe like Milan, Frankfurt etc. We reiterated the urgency of establishing this direct flight connection between Amritsar and London as Air India has suspended its direct Birmingham flight citing Pakistan air space closure as the reason and Turkmenistan airlines has its safety license suspended for Europe operations. Possibilities of UK low cost carriers and Indian low-cost airline carriers to be taking this opportunity of most in demand route between London-Amritsar were also discussed with him.
Special Status to Amritsar for 550 Years Gurpurab Celebrations
Millions of devotees from abroad are expected to start coming to Amritsar in 2019 for 550 years of Guru Nanak Dev Gurpurab celebrations. We appeal to the Govt. of India to grant special permission to all these airlines willing to operate to Amritsar due to its special status. Punjab government and its Tourism Ministry should also take a proactive approach to request the GOI, MoCA to grant special permission to all these airlines willing to operate to Amritsar. Many of these airlines are already operating or have been allowed to operate their commercial operations to other Tier-II International airports like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Goa, Trivandrum, Kochi etc.
Along with networking and catching up with each other after a busy first day, delegates enjoyed the spectacular view of the dancing Dubai fountains, magnificent Burj Khalifa or marvel around at the architectural wonder in downtown Dubai.