The international flights from the Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) airport in Agartala would soon start operations connecting Bangkok via Guwahati airport and Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials said on Saturday.
According to the AAI officials, the MBB airport, located 20 km north of the Tripura capital city, in terms of handling of aircraft and passengers is the second busiest airport in northeastern India after Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport in Guwahati.
The LGBI and Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal (Manipur) were earlier declared international airports and the Civil Aviation Ministry before starting the Bangkok and Bangladesh bound flights would soon declare the MBB airport as third international airport in the northeastern region, they said.
Water cannon salute was accorded on Saturday after the first flight with 143 passengers on board from Kolkata landed at the new integrated terminal building of MBB Airport, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 4.
The commissioning of the new terminal building on Saturday was attended by Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik, who was among the first passengers to embark from the airport on Saturday.
A brief cultural function and a famous Hojagiri tribal folk dance was staged by the tribal women artistes on the occasion.
Built at a cost of Rs 5,00 crore and with a built-up area of 30,000 sq. metres, the new integrated terminal building has been designed to handle 1,500 passengers including 200 international passengers during peak hours and it is equipped with all modern amenities, the AAI officials said.
The officials said that the new terminal building is considered to be one of the best in the northeastern region and with all modern facilities, the new integrated terminal building would enable over 5,000 passengers footfall per day.
The Agartala airport, which was first built in 1942 after the land was donated by the then Tripura king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, was used as a technical base for the Royal Air Force during World War II.
Agartala airport, earlier known as Singerbill Airport, was renamed after Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in July 2018. It is being used in a big way by Bangladesh nationals, for whom Agartala sometimes is the first stop to a destination in India or overseas as the airport is much closer to their areas than their own country’s airports.
Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy said that as the MBB airport was already developed with all international facilities and standards, the state government has been urging the central government to initiate operation of flights from this airport to the neighbouring countries.
According to historian and writer Pannalal Roy, the land for the Agartala, Kailashahar and various other (now abandoned) airports in Tripura had been donated by the then Tripura kings.
“During the Second World War, King Bir Bikram supported and helped the Allied powers, especially Great Britain. He deployed a contingent of the Tripura Army to assist Great Britain. During that time Agartala, Kailashahar and other airports were built to facilitate the Allied powers,” Roy, who authored many books on Tripura’s royal history, told IANS.
He said that in 1943 Japanese fighter planes twice bombarded Agartala airport.