India’s largest state by population, Uttar Pradesh, will officially receive its third international airport. The opening of Kushinagar Airport will boost connectivity and tourism traffic when it begins operations. Let’s find out more about this upcoming international airport.
Kushinagar Airport will cater to the thousands of travelers who visit famous Buddhist sites in the surrounding cities. The town of Kushinagar is known as the final resting place of Buddha and attracts visitors from across Asian countries. Considering the broad opportunity for religious tourism in the city, the government has moved to make Kushinagar an international airport.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed yesterday that Kushinagar has received permission from regulators to become UP’s third international airport. The airport features a 3.2-kilometer-long runway and is currently certified for the Boeing 737-900 or equivalent, such as the Airbus A320 family.
According to Mint, the new airport has apron space for up to four narrowbody aircraft at any time. The timeline for the first flight is yet to be revealed, but the airport has nearly completed construction.
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It’s currently unclear which airlines and destinations will see direct international flights to Kushinagar Airport at this time. Neighboring airports Lucknow and Varanasi both see international flights to destinations in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Middle East.
The government previously estimated that 200-300 pilgrims from countries like Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, and Mynamar, arrive in Kushinagar every day, according to DNA. While long-haul routes are unlikely at this time, connections to cities in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Mynamar are possibilities.
However, for now, the opportunities for airlines remain in the domestic market. Once traffic picks up, low-cost airlines will be looking to extend their regional connectivity and add more flights to this popular tourist destination. Carriers like IndiGo and SpiceJet are the most likely to launch routes to the city.
Kushinagar is one of the many new airports coming into operation in India. The government has signaled its intent to start over 1,000 new air routes in the next few years, focused on regional destinations like Kushinagar. Airlines have responded in kind, adding new regional bases and routes during the pandemic.
India has had a relatively strong aviation recovery in the last year, seeing domestic flights reach nearly 80% of pre-pandemic capacity. While international flights remain extremely low, airlines are seeing high amounts of leisure travel thanks to declining cases.
However, rising cases in parts of the country in recent days do increase the risk of hampering the industry’s recovery. For now, carriers are hoping to see a successful vaccine rollout and traffic rebound by the summer season.
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