NORTH LAKHIMPUR, May 24 – North Lakhimpur has been in an upbeat mood following the announcement by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to increase the number of Alliance Air flights to Leelabari from the present biweekly arrangement to seven days a week.
At present, the Leelabari airport in North Lakhimpur is connected to Kolkata and Guwahati by an Alliance Air flight on Sunday and Friday. Air connectivity to Leelabari was reduced following losses incurred by Alliance Air when it introduced a Boeing 737 aircraft in its flight from Kolkata via Guwahati in 2003. Later it was connected by ATR aircrafts run by private sector Air Deccan and Kingfisher Deccan. That too was later suspended leaving only Alliance Air to operate twice weekly flights to Leelabari from Guwahati.
High cost of air-fare in this route was the main reason of the reduction of flights to Leelabari in North Lakhimpur. But the infrequent air service to Leelabri has affected the entire north bank area of this region of Assam and many parts of Arunachal Pradesh including its capital Itanagar from commuting and fast travelling to the service of mail and courier, supply of emergency medicine and life saving equipment and pathological specimens, distribution of national newspapers and many more. Earlier newspapers from anywhere in India reached North Lakhimpur and its adjoining areas including Itanagar on the same day. However, these now reach only a day later due to lack of air connectivity.
However, the initiative by DoNER minister Bijoy Krishna Handique to operate regular flights to Leelabari has been welcomed by all concerned citizens and traders here in North Lakhimpur. MoCA's proposal of increasing the flights on Kolkata-Guwahati-Leelabari-Guwahati-Kolkata route to five flights a week will definitely benefit this region including neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. The introduction of an additional weekly flight between Guwahati-Leelabari-Tezpur-Guwahati by Alliance Air is also been welcomed by all in North Lakhimpur.
However, connectivity between Leelabari and Dibrugarh and Jorhat, which was on till 1987 by Indian Airlines in between the proposed routes would boost further mobility and service to region, the public feel here. It may be recalled that the Leelabari airport was reconstruct with a state of the art terminal with hectic campaigning and lobbying by Lakhimpur MP, Dr Ranee Narah in 1999-2003 and with relentless appeals and demands by Uday Sankar Hazarika, the ex-president of Lakhimpur Chambers of Congress and noted social worker culminated in its inauguration by then Union Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain in 2003. Regular flights to Leelabari now will not only benefit public from Gohpur to Jonai but also those in Itanagar as the airport is hardly one hour's drive away from the Arunachal Pradesh capital, a distance which is found in most of the airports in all other cities across the country.