Agartala: The AAI has begun preliminary work to upgrade the Agartala airport to an international airport to boost the region`s connectivity with southeast Asia, officials here said Monday.
AAI`s Agartala airport officiating controller R.C. Das said the decision to upgrade the Agartala airport was taken as part of the India`s Look East policy.
"As part of the plan, the terminal building, air traffic control tower, runway and other necessary infrastructure would be expanded and further strengthened," Das said.
A state government official said the AAI has sought 200 acres of land "to build additional infrastructure".
The official said the chief ministers of Tripura and Meghalaya had been demanding introduction of direct flights between Agartala, Shillong and Dhaka to boost trade and economic activities between Bangladesh and northeast India.
"If the Agartala airport is made an international airport, the airway communication between India and southeast Asian countries would be easier and it would help in boosting trade and economy of the region," said the official.
Among the northeastern airports, only in Agartala and Guwahati airports have night landing facilities.
At present, on an average ten aircraft operate every day through the Agartala airport, connecting Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Imphal and Silchar in southern Assam.
With Guwahati airport being the main and only international airport in northeast India, there are 11 operational airports in the land-locked region, namely Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lilabari (all in Assam), Dimapur, Silchar, Agartala, Shillong, Lengpui (Aizawl) and Imphal - apart from Bagdogra in the Himalayan foothills in West Bengal.
There are nine more non-operational airports in the northeast.
The North Eastern Council (NEC), the regional planning committee for the eight northeastern states, will soon float fresh tenders for operating an airline for the region.
"The NEC had floated tenders twice to select the airline, but the two private airlines and the state-run Alliance Air, which have submitted bids, could not fulfill the criteria of the NEC and the DoNER (development of northeastern region) ministry," the official said.
He said the NEC had cancelled the bid and would float tenders, relaxing the criteria.