President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe came together yesterday to mark the historic opening of the Jaffna International Airport (JIA) for regional commercial operations.
The opening of the airport was marked by a special flight from Chennai landing at JIA with a delegation of Indian dignitaries. The first flight into JIA was an ATR72-600 short-haul flight operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India. This is Alliance Air’s first international flight.
Speaking at the occasion, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that while the need for an international airport for the North was a long-felt need, it was in April this year that concrete measures were taken to make this a reality.
He said there were many sceptics who questioned the need for an international airport for Jaffna but the Government was not deterred by them and was able to make the airport operational within six months.
Indian Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who spoke at the ceremony, noted that bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka had now truly touched the sky and the inaugural flight was yet another example of this advancement.
It was also a reflection of the shared commitment to further strengthen personal ties between Indians and Sri Lankans, a feature which lies at the heart of the bilateral relationship.
The High Commissioner recalled the words of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015, when he said: “The future I dream for India is also a future that I want for our neighbours”.
Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan, Education State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran and several TNA MPs including Mavai Senathirajah and M.A. Sumanthiran participated in the special ceremony.
Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani, Alliance Air CEO C.S. Subbiah and Consul General of India in Jaffna S. Balachandran were among those present at the inaugural event.
Regular commercial flights between Chennai and Jaffna are scheduled to start from early November 2019