The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for declaration of Kushinagar Airport in Uttar Pradesh as an International Airport.
Kushinagar Airport is located in the vicinity of several Buddhist Cultural Sites like Sravasti, Kapilvastu, Lumbini (Kushinagar itself is a Buddhist cultural site) and declaration as an “International Airport” will offer improved connectivity, wider choice of competitive costs to the air-travellers. It will result in boosting of domestic/international tourism and economic development of the regions.
Kushinagar is located in the north-eastern part of Uttar Pradesh about 50 km east of Gorakhpur and is one of the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
Kushinagar airport is around 55 km from Gorakhpur airport. The under construction airport could also serve the city of Gorakhpur. While Gorakhpur has commerical air service currently, the airport is a civil enclave at an airbase of Indian Air Force and thus does not have much scope for expansion.
Kushinagar is considered to be the place where Gautam Buddha attained Parinirvana after his death. The Kushinagar airport is being built as a joint venture between Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the state government.
Indian airports are classified as domestic airports, customs airport and international airports.
International airport not equal to International flights
There are 20 airports classified as international in India. Of these Srinagar, Port Blair, Imphal, Vijaywada and Tirupati have been classified international but hardly see any traffic. Likewise Patna, Bagdogra, Aurangabad, are the customs airports which have nil or negligible traffic.
To attract foreign carriers, it is extremely important that the airport is also included in the Air Services Agreement (ASA) as a designated point, without which only Indian carriers are eligible to start international services.
Case in point is that of Kannur – which has not been included as a designated point and that has meant that no foreign carrier has been able to start service. While Indian carriers did start foreign flights from Kannur, not all airports are that lucky!
India has a unique ASA with most ASEAN countries where seats and frequency is capped to metro cities but 18 cities across the country have unlimited rights. These 18 include the cities like Aurangabad and Gaya – known for Buddhist heritage. While some cities like Trichy which form part of the 18 points have made the most of this ASA, most have not been able to attract traffic.
IndiGo started flights on the buddist circuit with connections across the region. The airline links Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Yangoon and Gaya to each other. Will Kushinagar be the next link when the airport opens?