Canadian MPs want direct flights to Amritsar

Toronto, 23 November

Given the demographic dominance of Sikhs and Punjabis in Canada, Conservative MPs have called on the country’s flag carrier to establish direct flights between their country and the state of Punjab.

In a letter addressed to Air Canada, MPs Tim Uppal, Jasraj Singh Halan, Bradley Wiss and Mark Strahl called for direct flights between Canada and Amritsar to boost tourism and empower families to stay connected.

“As Canadian parliamentarians representing vast and diverse communities, we write to highlight the significant economic and social value in establishing direct flights between Canada and the state of Punjab,” the MPs wrote last week.

According to estimates, five lakh passengers travel annually from India to Toronto alone, the majority of whom are Punjabis.

The MPs said that “direct flights between Canada and Amritsar will symbiotically promote tourism, trade and empower families to stay connected”.

There are currently no direct flights from Canada to Amritsar, India, requiring multiple stops for passengers making the journey “long and arduous”.

Canada recently announced an expanded air transport deal with India, allowing specified airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two countries.

But the agreement gives Canadian airlines access to Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai, except Amritsar, despite demands from passengers on both sides.

According to the 2021 census, there are approximately 950,000 Punjabis in Canada, which is approximately 2.6 per cent of the country’s population.

Many of these families have direct ties to family, friends and businesses in Punjab.

India is Canada’s fourth largest international airport market, and hundreds of thousands of Punjabis travel to the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The letter said that more than 14,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents this year joined an official parliamentary petition demanding the introduction of direct flights from Canada to Amritsar.

The MPs said that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need for direct flights from Amritsar to Canada.

At the time of the initial pandemic lockdown, when 30,000 Canadians were in India, border closures and flight cancellations forced the federal government to launch 37 repatriation flights – many directly from Sri Guru Ram Das Ji International Airport in Amritsar to Toronto to Pearson International Airport.

“The pandemic has shown us that direct flights from Amritsar to Canada are feasible for airlines and meet high passenger demand,” the letter said.

“Many of my constituents and Canadians have been asking our office for flights like this for years. It will help our seniors, those most in need and parents of young children have access to direct flights,” MP Halan, The letter, one of the signatories wrote on Twitter.

According to media reports, Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alagbra has raised the issue with his Indian counterparts.

In India, MP Vikramjit Singh Sahni has also written to Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, requesting him to start direct flights from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal to Amritsar and Mohali airports.



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