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City far from international flights
July, 14th 2011

City Beautiful is not going to have international flights taking off from its airport too soon. As the status of ''customs airport'' has not been accorded to the city's facility, it cannot operate flights to other countries.

Officials of Airports Authority of India said the process of getting the status may take another four to five months. They stated that only after declaration of the status would the local facility get immigration and customs facilities for limited international operations by national carriers. As of now, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Calicut, Cochin, Goa, Varanasi, Patna, Agra, Jaipur, Amritsar and Tiruchirapalli have customs airports.

Talking to TOI, director of the Chandigarh airport, Capt H S Toor, said they were talking with Union government for getting customs airport status and pressing to secure an early notification in that regard.

''Efforts are on to start international flights well before the end of the year,'' Toor added.

Residents of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali have been waiting for the international flight for past two years. It was in July 2009 that the proposed international flight for Dubai was cancelled at the last moment because of lack of infrastructure and logistical issues.

Thereafter, in August 2010, local airport authorities offered to start international flights for three possible destinations ' Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand ' on completion of the construction of its new terminal. The new building opened for operation in March this year following the ICC World Cup semifinal match between India and Pakistan and it was announced that international flights would start from June 2011. But not much else happened to allow such flights. Various business organizations like Confederation of Indian Industry have, on various occasions, also raised the issue of connecting city with international destinations.

However, sources said it might take a lot of time for the notification declaring the local facility a customs airport, without which international flights would remain just a dream for passengers from Tricity. Another major issue has been prohibition of night landing for civilian aircraft at the airport. Indian Air Force, which controls the facility, does not approve of it.

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