It can handle up to 700 passengers, including 200 international fliers

President Pranab Mukherjee, in his maiden visit to Chhattisgarh after assuming the highest office, inaugurated the new terminal building of Raipur airport on Wednesday.

He expressed the hope that the new terminal would support the ‘growth and prosperity’ of Chhattisgarh as well as the entire country. He expressed happiness that the airport was named after Swami Vivekananda, who spent the ‘largest number of years of his life’ here, besides Kolkata.

The integrated terminal building of Swami Vivekananda Airport built at a cost of Rs. 135 crore is spread over 18,500 sq.m. and can handle up to 700 passengers, including 200 international fliers, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) said in a release here.

The passenger flow has increased by an overwhelming 58 per cent over the past one and half years. Moreover, a substantial number of these passengers are international fliers who are using airports in other States, as international flights do not operate from here.

Several airlines have now shown interest in operating international flights from Raipur. In view of this, 14 immigration counters have been installed so that the international air traffic can also be handled from the new terminal. There are 15 check-in counters, substantially higher in number compared to the old airport located just behind the new one. There is a good increase in the number of parking bays, elevators, escalators and custom counters compared to the old airport. The length of the new airport will also be extended from 7,500 to 9,000 ft., according to AAI chairman V.K. Aggarwal.

One of the reasons for the rise in passenger flow is the increase in domestic air traffic, which got a boost because of a massive reduction in sales tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) from 25 to 4 per cent in Chhattisgarh in 2003. Soon after coming to power the Raman Singh government slashed the ST. So while refuelling in Raipur, the aircraft have to pay only 4 per cent on ATF, compared to a higher rate in other States. The decision to reduce ATF tax was later emulated by some other States and eventually the Civil Aviation Ministry agreed to construct the new terminal on a priority basis.

Civil Aviation Secretary K.N. Shrivastava thanked Raman Singh for reducing the ATF tax. The new terminal will be operational from November 11.