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India, and Sri Lanka resume direct flight service between Chennai and Jaffna

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India and Sri Lanka on Monday resumed direct flight services between Chennai and Jaffna, three years after the island nation discontinued the services due to the Covid pandemic, boosting travel from South India which has close cultural and religious ties with Northern Sri Lanka.

“Direct flights between Jaffna and Chennai resumed this morning with the first flight from Chennai landed at Palali International Airport; Alliance Air will operate 04 weekly flights between Palaly and Chennai,” Minister of Foreign Affairs M U M Ali Sabry tweeted.

The first flight on resumption of services landed this morning at the Jaffna International Airport, Upul Dharmadasa the Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Services told reporters.

With the operation of flights from Chennai to Jaffna International Airport, Sri Lanka’s third international airport has resumed functioning after 33 months.

The operation is expected to boost tourist arrivals from South India which has close cultural and religious ties with Northern Sri Lanka. The Jaffna International Airport was opened in October 2019 and catered to passengers largely from Chennai.

Jaffna airport officials said the Alliance Air service landed at Jaffna at 11:25 am local time. A traditional ceremony was conducted to welcome the flight which had 14 selected passengers, mostly officials, on board.

In a tweet, the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka shared a picture and said, “The return journey begins!! 9I 102 – return flight from #Jaffna to #Chennai being flagged off.” The Alliance Air flights would operate four times a week between the two cities.

On his arrival in Chennai, Jaffna resident Danakshan told PTI that the flight to Chennai made his Tamil Nadu visit easy and convenient. He was here to visit his relatives in the state. Previously, he had to go to Colombo to get a connecting flight to Chennai.

The airport in Palaly was named the Jaffna International Airport as Sri Lanka’s third international airport in October 2019 and had its first flight from Chennai.

The service experimented in October 2019 and launched in November that year, operated until March 2020, when the pandemic hit the region, forcing governments to shut down airports and borders.

The 2019 redevelopment of the airport was funded by both Sri Lanka and India.

The tourism sector is the main source of foreign exchange earnings for cash-strapped Sri Lanka.

However, the onset of the pandemic in 2020 severely crippled the tourism sector and was one of the major reasons for Sri Lanka’s economic travails.

The resumption of flights is expected to help the cash-strapped country’s tourism sector and provide a fillip to its beleaguered economy.

The Jaffna Airport, previously known as Palaly Airport, was used as a military base for the Sri Lankan airforce and was extensively used in bombing raids throughout the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

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