Srinagar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah flagged off the inaugural Srinagar-Sharjah flight from the Sheikh Ul-Alam international airport here on Saturday, reviving the direct air link between the valley and the UAE after 11 years.
The flight, operated by Go First, took off for Sharjah at 6.30 pm IST and is scheduled to land in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) around 9 pm IST.
Shah flagged off the flight virtually from the Raj bhawan here.
The first international flight from the Srinagar airport to Dubai was started on February 14, 2009 by Air India Express, but the once-a-week service was discontinued due to a low demand.
Go First, formerly known as GoAir, is the first airline to start direct international connection and direct international cargo operations from Srinagar.
It will operate four flights a week between Srinagar and Sharjah.
“The introduction of the direct flight to Sharjah will boost trade and tourism between Srinagar and the UAE,” the airline said in a statement.
It is offering a special ticket price of Rs 5,000 on the flight to Sharjah.
“The UAE and Srinagar are popular as holiday destinations and Go First flights will meet the demand for convenient travel options. The new services will also support the growing trade and investment links with both Srinagar and Sharjah,” the airline said.
“Having been in operation here for over 15 years, we at Go First share a special relationship with the region and are committed to its growth. We are delighted to be the first airline to connect Jammu and Kashmir with the UAE and it bears testimony to our commitment to the region.
“We believe that this connectivity will be pivotal in bilateral exchange of trade and tourism between the two regions,” Go First’s chief executive officer Kaushik Khona said.
The direct flights from Sharjah will offer seamless connections to Srinagar and beyond to Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu, Leh and Mumbai and vice versa.
Go First is the only airline appointed for the cargo movement of the horticultural, perishable and agricultural produce of the Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Products, a state-owned company, the airline said.
Meanwhile, Genestrings Diagnostic has established a rapid PCR Covid testing centre at the Srinagar airport as all passengers travelling to the UAE are required to carry a negative Covid test report obtained less than four hours before the departure of the flight.
“After the success of India’s first COVID-19 testing laboratory at New Delhi International Airport in September 2020, Genestrings is elated to add another feather to its cap by setting up Jammu and Kashmir’s first RAPID PCR testing lab at the Srinagar airport,” Gauri Agarwal, founder and director of Genestrings Diagnostic, said.
She said the state-of-the-art laboratory at the Srinagar airport was set up in just five days.
“Passengers are required to report six hours prior to departure and the reports will be handed over to them in 30 to 60 minutes from the time of sample collection,” she added.