The Union Cabinet gave its approval yesterday for handing over the international airport status to Vijayawada airport. The move is as per provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, stated Union Minister Arun Jaitley. The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 states that the Centre must “examine the feasibility of expanding the existing Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupati airports to international standards and take an expeditious decision thereon.”
Even before the Vijayawada airport at Gannavaram has an international terminal or direct international flight connectivity, it joins the club of international airports in the country. Upon request by the state government that the domestic airport be granted international status to boost connectivity, the Union Cabinet gave approval for the same. The move comes 111 days after the inaugural of the new world-class terminal at the airport on January 12.
“Airports Authority of India has undertaken upgrade of requisite infrastructure and facilities for international operations,” an official statement read. The move is expected to improve connectivity to the capital and thereby, provide a wider choice of services at competitive costs. It is also expected to boost domestic and international tourism and socio-economic development of the state.
The old terminal that once served as an army base during WW-II will soon host international passengers and flights. The new terminal will serve domestic passengers, so the old one will be readied with infrastructure required by the customs and immigration departments. X Ray baggage scanners, surveillance systems, and other works will be completed in the upcoming months. The integrated terminal will come up in four years and till then the old one will serve as the international terminal.
The state government sought the international status for the airport after land was arranged for the integrated terminal. The airport that currently connects to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Chennai, Delhi, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and Kadapa is capable of handling AB-320 type aircraft in all weather conditions. It has an apron suitable for parking four AB-320 aircrafts and two ATR-72-500 type aircrafts. The old terminal consisting of 3200 sq ft of space was recently refurbished to handle 250 passengers.
Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu stated that the move will soon generate employment for 1150 people. At present, the airport runs on a staff of 115 with the international terminal maybe requiring 20 more. There was a proposal that was approved stating that CISF would take over the airport. But the deployment of 230 personnel is pending since long. It is the state and city police that at present provide security services to the airport.
Despite the international status, the international flight connectivity of the airport remains unclear. The airport authorities reportedly state that the connectivity would depend on the airlines. IT Minister Nara Lokesh on the other hand states that international connectivity to Vizag and Vijayawada airports will be coming in in six months.