Airport will be operational for three hours more thrice a week, say Ministers

The decks have been cleared for operation of the Silk Air flight to Singapore with the Defence Ministry giving its nod for extension of watch hours at the Visakhapatnam airport.

Union Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju and Union Minister of State for HRD D. Purandeswari, who represents the Visakhapatnam constituency in the Lok Sabha, announced in Delhi on Monday that the airport would be operational for an additional three hours, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. thrice a week. Defence Minister A.K. Antony conveyed this to Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy.

The news comes as a great relief to air travellers, businessmen, the IT industry, investors and exporters.The issue has been pending for over two months even as Singapore Airlines announced its decision to operate Visakhapatnam-Singapore flight thrice a week from October 1.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the airport has to operate at least for half an hour after the last flight takes off, that is till around 11.30 p.m. This is because the flight may have to return to the airport, if it develops a technical problem.

Visakhapatnam Air Travellers Association executive board members Ch. Ramakotiah, P. Vishnu Kumar Raju, O. Naresh Kumar and K. Kumar Raja were optimistic that more airlines would begin operations due to extension of watch hours. They said officials of Silk Air and the Changi Airport would visit the city on September 11, 12 and 13 and conduct roadshows in Vizag and Kakinada.

The Prime Minister has in principle agreed to lift the ban on recruitment as a special case for the airport’s ATC to enable 24 X 7 operations, Air Travellers Association (India) president D. Varada Reddy said quoting Rajya Sabha Member T. Subbarami Reddy.

“We asked the Singapore Airlines officials to finalise the date of operation in a couple of days. They are expected to begin operations by the end of October,” Airport Director K. Srinivasa Rao said.

The Silk Air flight to Singapore thrice a week will be the second international flight from the city as Air India is already operating a flight to Dubai via. Hyderabad. The Singapore flight will be the first non-stop flight to a foreign destination.

Mr. Pallam Raju and Ms. Purandeswari said there would be a possibility of more international flights to Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, and Dubai in the days to come.

Mr. Subbarami Reddy told The Hindu that soon Air India would operate a direct flight to Singapore from Vizag. On August 9, he had arranged a meeting of top naval personnel with the Defence Secretary on allowing increased air control operations.

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