TIRUPATI: The Tirupati International Airport has been ready for the last 10 months, but international flights are yet to commence. The Airports Authority of India sources said that the government of India had completed all the required protocols, such as establishing immigration and customs offices, and the Foreign Registration Regional Office (FRRO), and appointing a deputy superintendent of police, but it is learnt that the airlines are uncertain about whether passenger demand will be sufficient.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new international terminal building at the airport on October 22, 2015, when it was stated that international flights would begin in three months' time, an assurance that was not kept. Now, in another two months' time, it will be a year since the airport was built -- and not a single international flight operation has taken place.
Union minister for civil aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju has made it clear during his visits to Tirupati that international flights would be begun soon. The new terminal is being used for domestic flights currently, the old airport having been disbanded. An officer, who did not want to be identified, said, "We have to first convince the airlines about international flights being viable. Our own Air India is ready to start international operations from here to Dubai, the Middle East and USA, with flights being via Hyderabad. Passengers can clear immigration here, disembark at Hyderabad and get on to another flight to their destination. We hope international flights will commence from October end from Tirupati airport."
According to sources at the airport, domestic air traffic had increased significantly in the last one year. "During April, May and June this year, there were about 1.10 lakh passenger arrivals and departures at Tirupati airport, this number being 49,000 last year at the same time. This means passenger traffic has more than doubled.” The number of flights have been increasing by the year. In 2015, there were only seven flights landing per day. Three years ago, it was only four. But currently, 10 flights are being operated per day," they said.