The Centre’s refusal to permit operation of flight services between Madurai and Singapore has come as a rude shock to the industry bodies, travel agents and airline operators here. All those who wanted Madurai airport to fly high are now dejected over their desires having been grounded.
Rubbing salt to the wound, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry had rejected the proposal despite Singapore’s inclination to operate flight services to Madurai, and the readiness expressed by two private airlines to commence operations in the sector.
The ministry had signed a new memorandum of understanding with Singapore on April 2 and decided to enhance passenger traffic between the two nations by 10 per cent in the existing routes. But Singapore’s demand to include two additional point of calls — Madurai and Pune — has been rejected.
The rejection has come despite the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNCCI) office-bearers having met Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh last month with a specific plea to include Madurai airport in the bilateral agreement during his visit to Singapore between April 2 and 4.
TNCCI senior president S. Rethinavelu said that he had no words to express his disappointment over Madurai airport having been sidelined in the new MoU signed between India and Singapore on bilateral air services agreement.
“I am unable to comprehend the reason behind officials not wanting to connect Madurai airport to Singapore when they had agreed to increase air traffic in the existing routes to 29,400 weekly passenger seats from India to Singapore and 28,700 weekly passenger seats in the return direction,” he said.
Stating that TNCCI had done its best to impress upon the Civil Aviation Ministry to connect Madurai with Singapore, he said that it was time all the 39 Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu demanded an explanation from the Ministry for having neglected Madurai airport. “We have been pinning great hopes on Madurai getting connected to Singapore because it would have given a spurt to export and import activities besides increasing medical and pleasure tourism. It would have boosted the economy of this region. But now all our hopes have been dashed.”
“That Singapore specifically demanded connections with Madurai and Pune airports attests to the fact that there is great potential for air traffic in these routes. When such is the case, why should the Centre reject it to the disadvantage of economic progress in these regions,” he wondered.