Finally, Surtis will be able to take flights for international destinations from the city airport in the next couple of months. The central government has granted customs notification for the Surat airport. According to the notification issued on June 8, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has notified it as customs airport through its notification under Section 7 of the Customs Act, 1962.
Recently, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel had earmarked Rs 1 crore for setting up immigration facilities at Surat airport in his budget speech. It was on September 20, 2017, the state home department had asked the DGP to allot 68 immigration staff for the airport in the financial year 2018-19.
It was more than 18 months that the customs notified status for Surat airport was put on the back burner. The Airport Authority of India (AAI) had proposed the CBEC to approve customs at the airport in November 2016.
RTI activist Rajesh Modi, who was pursuing the issue for a long time, said, “We have been hearing from the elected representatives in the city for the last several months about the international airport operations. But, I have obtained copies of the official notification from the Central Board Of Indirect Taxes and Customs about the customs notification for the Surat airport.” Earlier, Air India Express had shown its willingness to operate direct flights between Surat and Dubai, provided the airport gets the requisite customs and immigration facilities.
Air India Express CEO, K Shyam Sundar, had visited the Surat airport to inspect the runway, terminal building and other infrastructure last year and met members of the social groups crusading for increased air-connectivity. Sundar had said that the company is keen to launch Surat-Dubai services, provided the infrastructure in the form of extended runway at 2,905 meters and the customs notified airport status are in place. Air India Express operates around 550 flights per week to 29 destinations including the Middle East and South-East Asia.
According to a rough estimate provided by tour and travel associations, around five lakh people from Surat and south Gujarat travelled to international destinations during 2017-18. The passenger traffic from the region is increasing by almost 20-25 per cent every year.