Operation of direct flights to international destinations from Visakhapatnam airport is likely to take some more time with Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari putting the onus on airline operators.

At a meeting organised by the Visakha Air Travellers' Association (VATA) in connection with its 16th anniversary celebrations here on Saturday, the Minister said she had already taken up the issue of operating direct flights and keeping the Air Traffic Control (ATC) open round the clock with the Civil Aviation and Defence Ministries and the departments concerned.

“I call upon international operators to give me the consent letter and leave the rest to me,” she said throwing an open challenge to the operators, who were all the time demanding opening up of the ATC round the clock before they decide on the slots.

Ms. Purandeswari said she was equally committed to the development of Visakhapatnam, but sought support and cooperation from the other side.

Referring to lack of wheelchairs at the airport, the Minister said it was the responsibility of the airline operators to provide wheelchairs when “persons with special needs” travel on their aircraft. Such passengers, however, need to inform the airline operator of their requirement at the time of booking the ticket. When airline operators fail to provide the wheelchairs, even after being informed in advance, they would be taken to task, she said.

Referring to reports in the media that she was neglecting the development of her constituency, Ms. Purandeswari became emotional and spoke at length about the issues taken up by her at various levels and hoped they would fructify soon. VATA president Ch. Ramakotaiah underlined the importance of international connectivity for the development of the city. He said 8 lakh people were travelling from Visakhapatnam airport every year. GVMC Commissioner B. Ramanjaneyulu, former MLA s Manam Anjaneyulu and K. Haribabu, CEO of Symbiosis Technologies O. Naresh Kumar, and proprietor of Vijay Nirman Co. S. Vijay Kumar were among those who spoke.

MLAs Dronamraju Srinivas, Tynala Vijay Kumar, and Ch. Venkataramaiah were present.

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