JAFFNA: The Sri Lankan civil war may have crippled Jaffna’s economy but locals are pinning their hopes on the Indian government, which is helping rebuild the northern province’s infrastructure and helping resume the sole international flight service from Chennai to Jaffna after two years on Monday.
Without this direct flight service, run by Alliance Air, visitors to Jaffna, had to travel 400 km from Colombo after arriving from Chennai. This takes almost eight hours, says Nisanthan, a visitor to Jaffna, who got Canadian citizenship after moving to India as a refugee in the late 1990s.
“An agent told us about the direct flight and we opted for it as it would take us only one hour,” says Nisanthan. The flight service, which resumed in 2019 after 41 years had to be shut in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic in 2020. Now with Sri Lanka’s economy struggling, the people and politicians in the northern province are keen to ensure that more infrastructure projects are taken up and the economy revived.
Between 2019 and 2020, 4,441 passengers flew from Jaffna to Chennai on 145 flights, says Major general (retd) G A Chandrashree, Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka).
‘Direct flight from Chennai to Jaffna will boost tourism’
Chandrashree says that efforts are on to develop Jaffna as a cargo hub by expanding the cargo operations. David Roy of Jaffna Town, a farmer highlights the need for Sri Lankan government to expedite projects in the northern province. The plan to develop Kankesanthurai port and the need to expand the airport will boost the trade of Jaffna, battered by 25 years of war.
Rakesh Natrajan, India’s consul general in Jaffna, says the direct flight from Chennai to Jaffna will enhance trade and tourism. It will benefit small and medium segments and strengthen close fraternal ties.