Chennai-Jaffna air link resumes after nearly four decades: All you need to know

Alliance Air will be operating flights between Chennai and Jaffna in the first phase. (Twitter/Air India)

Marking a significant moment in India-Sri Lanka relations, an Alliance Air flight completed its maiden international flight and landed at the Jaffna International Airport. The occasion also marked the maiden ATR-72 aircraft of Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, making its first overseas trip.

Alliance Air undertook the maiden voyage as Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga and High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu formally unveiled a plaque commemorating the inauguration of the Jaffna airport, situated about 400-km from capital Colombo in Sri Lanka's Tamil-dominated northern province.

The maiden flight ferried Ashwani Lohani, the Chairman and Managing Director of Alliance Air and its CEO, C S Subbaiah to Jaffna, where the flight was greeted with a water cannon salute after touchdown.

Following the inaugural flight, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar took to Twitter and congratulated Air India on its successful flight. “Bringing #IndiaSriLanka even closer (sic)", he tweeted.

With Jaffna International Airport set to commence operations, the island nation is looking at strengthening ties with India to develop the northern province of Sri Lanka, which is home to a majority of Tamilians and boost trade and tourism in the region.

Here is all that you need to know about the Chennai-Jaffna flight

What is the Chennai-Jaffna flight?

The Chennai-Jaffna flight is an international flight which connects Chennai, the coastal capital of Tamil Nadu with Jaffna, a major city in the island nation of Sri Lanka.

Which are the airports for the flight?

The flight will fly between the Chennai International Airport at Meenambakkam near Chennai and Jaffna International Airport. The former military airport at Jaffna is the third international airport in Sri Lanka after Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport and Hambanthota's Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and is situated at Palaly, which is 20 km away from Jaffna.

The second phase of the airport will include flights between Trichy and Jaffna, following which Kochi will be included. The two countries are looking at roping in cities such as Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, and Hyderabad subsequently.

When will operations commence?

Operations between the two cities will commence from November 1. Currently, the Jaffna International Airport can only handle small aircrafts, with wide-body aircrafts set to be included at a later stage.

Who will be operating the flight service?

The Chennai-Jaffna flights will be operated by Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Indian aviation giant Air India.

Trichy Air Traffic Control (ATC) will be monitoring Chennai-Jaffna and Trichy-Jaffna flights. The flights between Chennai-Jaffna will later be monitored under Chennai ATC.

What is the frequency of the flights?

Alliance Air will be operating 72-seater ATR aircrafts thrice a week and will increase the number based on footfall and air traffic.

How much will the airfare cost?

Tickets for a round trip should cost roughly around Rs. 4000 at present. With Sri Lanka imposing a Colombo departure tax of Rs. 3500 from Jaffna, Alliance Air is looking at resolving the issue soon.

How long does the journey take?

Air travel between Chennai and Jaffna roughly 35 minutes.

After how many years has the service been restored?

Commercial flights between Chennai and Jaffna had ceased when the civil war, led by an Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgency broke out in the island nation in 1983.

Close to 40 years later, the Jaffna International Airport was restored and reopened to the public for the first time on October 17.

How much was the cost of restoration?

The airport had been revamped for Rs. 1950 million (in Sri Lankan currency), of which the Indian government had contributed Rs. 300 million (Sri Lankan currency).