The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Mike Whitby, and leading figures from within the Indian community, will today throw their backing behind a petition, to lobby for direct non-stop flights between Birmingham and the Punjab.
Cllr Whitby was approached by leading figures in the Indian community to ensure that the petition receives significant attention from the highest levels of the Indian Government. The plan is for Cllr Whitby to lead a delegation from Birmingham to India early next year and to hand the petition to India’s Civil Aviation Minister.
The petition calls for a direct flight between Birmingham International Airport and Punjab’s leading airport of Amritsar to be restored due to overwhelming demand among the Midlands Indian community, estimated at nearly 500,000 in the airports catchment area.
Direct flights between the two cities were historically in place, operated by Air India, and proved very popular. However they were cancelled in October 2008, not because of a lack of demand, but because the airline took a decision to prioritise filling empty slots at Heathrow.
Archaic ‘Bilateral Agreements’ between the Indian and UK Governments restrict who can operate flights between the two countries, and without agreement of the Indian Government, the Air India monopoly between the Punjab and Birmingham cannot be broken – even if Air India chooses not to operate it.
Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With those of Indian origin in the West Midlands running to hundreds of thousands, and many more in the Airport’s wider catchment area, there is little doubt that there is a huge demand for flights to be re-instated from Birmingham to the Punjab.
The potential economical, social and cultural benefits to be reaped if these flights were in place would be significant and would be a real demonstration of the natural links that exist between Birmingham, the Midlands and north India.
This connection is also key to our status as a truly Global City as it will further develop and exploit our ever-growing ties with the emerging markets of the Punjab, India and the wider sub-continent. The impact of which will bring long-term benefits to every citizen, business and community within the city, regardless of ethnicity. What we need now is for the Indian community, and indeed everyone, to get behind this petition and sign it to ensure we send a powerful message to those that can re-start direct flights”.
Jas Sansi, the founder of the petition and long-term campaigner for the re-instatement of direct non-stop flights said; “There is a real need for direct non stop flights from Birmingham to Amritsar. But despite the debates and arguments these words never translated into action. Working alongside Birmingham City Council, the Leader and the India desk officer Swathi Achath I wanted to take the issue further. A direct non stop flight from Birmingham to Amritsar; there is a demand, there is a need, there is a desire and there is a way.
Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, said; “We know that the demand is there for direct flights to Amritsar, to Delhi and – with a runway extension – other key Cities in India. There is such a large population of Indian extraction in the Midlands that it really is a ‘no-brainer’ to have direct services from the UK’s Second City.
The people of the region deserve better than a gruelling journey to Heathrow, and Birmingham Airport will welcome any operator which is able to reinstate this vital link”
Also launching the petition today was Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Daljit Singh Sahota, and President of the Indian Overseas Congress.
Birmingham is encouraging the Indian community and the other stakeholders living in the wider regions to show their support for the petition by signing the e-petition at: www.epetition.birmingham.public-i.tv
Note to Editors
More than 60,000 Indians live in Birmingham alone, with approximately 500,000 living across the Midlands in the wider catchment area of Birmingham International Airport.
In the last year of operation it is estimated that around 88,000 passengers travelled from Birmingham to Amritsar direct. Ever since the transit flight was stopped effective of 27th October 2008, those people have travelled indirectly between Birmingham and Amritsar.
Prior to October 2008 Air India operated a transit route from Toronto to Birmingham, to Amritsar, to Delhi. However since this was cancelled, Midlands based passengers wishing to travel to Amritsar have only had the choice of two indirect flights which change in Turkmenistan or Tehran, or having to face the inconvenience of facing a commute to and from London airports at either end of their journey.