New Delhi: History was created after 40 years, when an Air India flight from Chennai landed at the Jaffna International Airport on Thursday. Though it takes only 30 minutes time to cover the distance by air from Chennai to Jaffna, it took more than 40 years for the Air India flight to cover that distance. Opening a new chapter in the 2,000-year-old relationship between the two countries, Air ATR flight — a subsidiary of Air India – landed at the newly upgraded Jaffna International Airport.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar welcomed the opening of the Jaffna International Airport in Sri Lanka and congratulated Air India for the inaugural flight to the island nation’s northern town. He called it a ‘historic moment’ which will bring the two countries even closer.
“Bringing #IndiaSriLanka even closer. Welcome the opening of #Jaffna International Airport today. Congratulate @airindiain on Alliance Air’s inaugural Chennai-Jaffna flight. A historic moment,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.
Carrying a delegation of 30 members, the flight landed at the airport after it was declared open. Various reports suggest that the flights from Chennai, Trichy and Kochi will fly to Jaffna in the initial stage.
Upgraded with the help of the aid from India, the former military airport has been developed at a cost of Rs 2.25 billion. Out of the whole cost, around Rs 300 million was provided from India, reported Colombo Page.
This morning, the airport was declared open by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning.
With both Air India and Ceylon Airways operating between the two countries, Jaffna was well-connected to India by air in 1960s and 70s. However, later it was discontinued in the late 70s when the Eelam war, which was demanding a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, forced the government of the country to close down the operations at the airport.
Following the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in 2009, the locals of Jaffna were demanding the opening of the airport for public transport.