Chandigarh: The Chandigarh International Airport was closed for all air traffic on Saturday until May 31 to carry out runway expansion and repairs, officials said. "No civil and military flights will operate from Chandigarh from May 12 to May 31," a Chandigarh International Airport Ltd (Chial) spokesman said.
The 20-day closure would affect over 100,000 passengers, especially during the summer vacation season. This is the second phase of runway repair. It involves improvements and extension of runway ends from the existing 9,000 to 10,400 feet.
The first phase was carried out from February 12 to 26. The expansion would enable operation of wide-bodied aircraft that will help air carriers to connect Chandigarh with destinations in Europe, the US and Australia.
The airport is a frontier base for the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has a transport unit based here catering to the forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Ladakh region.
During the closure, the IAF has relocated all its aircraft to other bases in north India. The Chandigarh base was established in 1961 as a major air logistics node of Indian troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir.
It is home to fighter squadrons deployed for the air defence of the Punjab sector. With time, the base grew in size and operated heavy and medium lift air mobility aircraft like the AN-12, AN-32, IL-76, Mi-26 and C-17 Globe Master, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
The Chandigarh airport handles nearly 30 commercial flights daily, including those to Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok. The city is linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Jaipur and a few other cities in the domestic circuit.