Commercial passenger flight services at Sikkims lone airport at Pakyong near Gangtok resumed on Saturday after a gap of about 19 months.
A SpiceJet aircraft with 57 passengers from Delhi landed at the Pakyong airport, as Sikkim Health Minister M.K. Sharma welcomed the travellers. The flight returned with 21 passengers.
Terming it a historic day, Sharma said that airline services would be a lifeline for the Sikkimese people and boost tourism and trade in the mountainous state.
Additional Chief Secretary of Sikkim (tourism and civil aviation), K. Jayakumar, said that resumption of flight operations was possible after several technical interventions.
In a social media post, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang said that resumption of airline services at the Pakyong airport would bring in a new era of travel in Sikkim and would help mitigate the issues being faced by the state in the transport sector.
The Pakyong airport is important for its strategic location in the bordering state.
Daily flight services to Delhi are scheduled from January 28, while the airport would also connect with Kolkata in the near future.
The tabletop airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018, and commercial flight operations started in October 2018. It remained non-operational since June 2019 due to technical reasons and uncertain weather conditions.
The airport, constructed by the Airport Authority of India at an estimated cost of Rs 605 crore, is located at a height of 4,646 feet and is one of the five highest airports in the country.
There are 14 existing airports in the northeast region — Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Lilalabari (Assam), Tezu and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland), Lengpui (Mizoram) and Pakyong (Sikkim).
The AAI has started work to redevelop the Rupsi airport in Kokrajhar district in western Assam bordering West Bengal. It would be the seventh airport in Assam.
The AAI is also developing the Hollongi airport in Arunachal Pradesh, boosting air connectivity in the mountainous areas.