Agartala, Jan 15: With 143 passengers from Kolkata, the first flight landed on Saturday at the New Integrated Terminal Building (NITB) of Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport in Agartala.

After 11 days of inauguration, Pratima Bhoumik, union minister of state for Social Justice and Empowerment welcomed the first flight passengers arriving at the NITB of MBB Airport with chocolates and sweets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya M Scindia in presence of Tripura’s Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb inaugurated the NITB of MBB Airport on January 4 last.

The Agartala airport, which was first built in 1942 after the land was donated by the then Tripura king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. It was used as a technical base for the Royal Air Force during World War II. This airport would likely be declared an international airport soon to boost air connectivity with the neighbouring countries.

As per the Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials, Agartala airport, located 20 km north of the Tripura capital city, in terms of handling of aircraft and passengers is the second busiest airport in northeastern India after Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport in Guwahati.

The LGBI and Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal (Manipur) were earlier declared international airports. The Civil Aviation Ministry would soon declare Agartala airport as an international airport, officials of AAI and the Tripura Transport Department said.

Agartala airport, was known as Singerbill Airport, was renamed after Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in July 2018. It is being used in a big way by Bangladesh nationals, for whom Agartala sometimes is the first step to a destination in India or overseas as the airport is much closer to their areas than their own country’s airports.

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The state government had on a number of occasions proposed to the Central government to operate flights from Agartala to Dhaka, Chittagong, and other cities of Bangladesh as it would be a very economically viable route.

Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister informed that as the Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) airport was already developed with all international facilities and standards, the state government has been urging the central government to initiate the operation of flights from this airport to the neighbouring countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new integrated terminal building of MBB Airport, built at a cost of Rs 500 crore, on January 4.

Kailashahar airport, also along the international border and near to resource-rich Sylhet district of Bangladesh, has remained closed since June 1992.

International flights were operated from Guwahati`s LGBI airport to Bangkok, Singapore, Paro (Bhutan), and Dhaka (Bangladesh). In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, all the international flights were suspended.