A direct air service between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Colombo in Sri Lanka was launched on Friday, less than two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about connecting the two places of Buddhist pilgrimage.
An 180-seater Air India aircraft ferried 101 passengers in the inaugural flight that was flagged off at 12.35 pm from the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport at Babatpur here in the Lok Sabha constituency of the prime minister.
For its return journey, 179 passengers have already made advance booking, said Air India spokesperson Dhanjay Kumar in Varanasi.
The Airbus 320 aircraft was flagged off by Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani.
The all-economy class flight will make two trips a week – on Fridays and Sundays, the spokesperson said.
The prime minister, during his visit to Sri Lanka in May, had announced the decision to launch direct flight between Varanasi and Colombo to connect the Buddhist pilgrimage sites between the two countries.
Addressing the UN International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo in May, Modi had said that Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varansi in August “to honour and deepen the links of Buddhist heritage.”
The direct flight service will be beneficial for the Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka to visit Sarnath and Kushinagar along with Gaya.
Sarnath, one of the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites where Lord Buddha had given his first sermon, also falls under Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
On the occasion, Lohani presented a free ticket to a CISF official who made Rangoli at the Air India corner.