VERY soon, tourists and locals visiting this scenic, beautiful, Himalayan state will land at Sikkim’s first and very own airport, the Pakyong Airport. A greenfield airport located very close to the capital city of Gangtok (32 kms away), this airport is spread over 400 hectares at the Pakyong village, making it one of the five highest airports in India. More feathers on its cap include being the first greenfield airport to be constructed in the Northeastern Region of India, the 100th operational airport in India, and the only airport in the state of Sikkim. The Pakyong Airport project is one of the tallest reinforced soil structures in the world. Previously, the nearest airports used to access Sikkim were Bagdogra, located 124 km (77 mi) away in the neighboring state of West Bengal, and Paro Airport in Bhutan.
On March 05 2018, an Indian Air Force Dornier 228 landed for the first time at the new airport. The first landing by a commercial airliner at the airport was by a Spicejet Bombardier aircraft on March 10, 2018. On May 05, 2018, the airport received its commercial operating license, and Spicejet obtained permission to operate flights between Pakyong and Kolkata under the civil aviation ministry’s regional connectivity scheme. The terminal can handle more than 50 arriving and a similar number of departing passengers at a time.
The Airport is operated by Airports Authority of India (AAI) and is all set to boost tourism is this mountainous state as earlier would boost the tourism as most tourists would have to depend on the Bagdogra Airport to take flights and would have to depart a day in advance from Sikkim to either Darjeeling or Kalimpong or stay somewhere near Silguri, which means that tourist would have to spend 2 additional days just to get out of Sikkim. The direct flights will definitely change the way tourist would plan their itinerary for Sikkim and also give tourist an additional day or two to spend in Sikkim. The Airport is set to commence operation very soon, and will add operations from Delhi and Guwahati as well.
As part of the UDAN scheme, as many as 25 airports have been added to India’s aviation network, MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha has recently said.
The airports that are set to start operations in the coming months are; Pantnagar, Jamshedpur, Durgapur, Kullu and Cooch Behar. Besides these, airports of 13 cities are getting an upgrade. These are; Raigarh, Jeypore, Rourkela, Kanpur, Ambikapur, Jagdalpur, Neyveli, Solapur, Jharsuguda, Bilaspur, Mithapur, Utkela and Burnpur.
If all goes as per schedule, you’ll be able to fly to Sikkim starting June. Early in May, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu announced that Pakyong airport, about 30 km away from the state capital of Gangtok, had received the license to start commercial operation.
SpiceJet has been granted permission to fly to Pakyong airport from Kolkata. On March 10, the carrier had already completed a test flight with a 78-seater Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, landing successfully at the runway that sits 4,500ft above sea level in a tough terrain.
Pakyong airport in Sikkim will be the 100th operational airport when it opens doors to passengers. Sikkim is also
the only state in the country without a functional airport; the direct connectivity is likely to boost tourism and economic growth.
At present, travellers have to fly to Bagdogra airport in West Bengal to reach Gangtok, which is a four and a half-hour drive away.