The first-ever flight under the International UDAN programme, between Guwahati and Dhaka, was flagged off from the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here on Monday by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal
Termed the day "historic", Sonowal also said that after this, the government is now looking to connect all the capitals of ASEAN, as well as Nepal and Bhutan with Guwahati.
"Under the guidance of Prime Minster Narendra Modi, we are transforming Assam in all spheres where he has emphasised on 'Act East' Policy," he said adding that direct flight connectivity between Guwahati-Dhaka will not only connect them by air, but also pave way for cultural, social, economic, educational bonding between India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's Assistant High Commissioner in Guwahati, Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur, said this new flight would be a decisive step in the history of connectivity between India's northeast and his country.
"Before Partition in 1947, Bangladesh and Assam were part of the same region. Every day, 4,000 (Bangladeshi) patients come to India for treatment, but they go to Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi. Now, the traders, students and patients can come to Guwahati and other northeastern states easily," he said.
The Guwahati-Dhaka daily direct flight is being operated by private carrier SpiceJet.
The Bombardier Q400 aircraft will depart Guwahati at 11.55 p.m. while it will leave Dhaka at 2 p.m. every day, an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official said.
"We are transforming this region through transportation and aviation is one big sector which has immense potential to grow and benefit the society. The state government will fund the airline about Rs 100 crore as viability gap for operating flights under International Air Connectivity Scheme (IACS)," he added.
State Commerce and Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that under the Act East policy, the government is trying to connect all Southeast Asian countries in all possible ways, and after Dhaka, Guwahati will be connected to Bangkok and five more international destinations.
He also said that the AAI should built a new airport at Silchar as the state's second international airport.
SpiceJet's Chief Marketing Officer Debojo Maharshi said: "With the introduction of the flight between Guwahati and Dhaka, international air travel would be much more affordable and convenient for Indians from the northeastern region.
He also said that with the launch of the new flight between Guwahati and Dhaka, SpiceJet will operate two flights under IACS - the Guwahati-Bangkok service is expected to begin soon - besides operating a total of 43 flights connecting 24 cities under UDAN. "This is the highest number of flights being operated by any Indian airline under UDAN or the regional connectivity scheme."
Meanwhile, Tripura's Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has also been demanding flights between Agartala and Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh.
"Flights between the northeastern states and important cities of Bangladesh will promote trade and tourism," Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranjit Singha Roy told IANS in Agartala.