Dear Editor, They say, you are only seven individuals away from every person on earth. I penned an article last week on the absence of a direct flight to the Punjab from Birmingham.
Some 24 hours after the article was dispatched, it found itself on the screen of Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grand mother and great grand father were Indian Prime Ministers. My original article was forwarded to him from a mutual friend.
John Morris, head of corporate affairs at Birmingham Airport, stressed the need to lobby the Indian Government on this matter. Well, why not start with the future Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy?
BHX’s John Morris explained the issue is something ‘we really do want to see happen. Part of the problem is that the Indian Government issues permits under bi-lateral agreements. This has left Jet Airways without the necessary permission to land at Birmingham International Airport.’
There are significant benefits to Birmingham and the region in cementing a non stop direct route with an established airline such as Jet Airways or Virgin. Americans of Punjabi origin travelling to India via Birmingham will inject welcome funds into the region when stopping off to visit family. Birmingham is an increasingly attractive destination and as part of the Big City Plan, wishes to promote itself as one of the world’s key cities.
Ian Watson, business projects manager from Advantage West Midlands suggested the direct option was a ‘good idea from a range of different perspectives.’
This is an opportunity Birmingham City Council, The Chamber of Commerce, Advantage West Midlands, Marketing Birmingham and other partner agencies should not dismiss without some discussion. There are no losers in this issue.
Dr Lakhbir Hayre, a veteran Wall Street analyst and one of President Barack Obama’s economic advisors flies into Birmingham Airport several times a year. We enjoyed Christmas dinner together in New York and he shared with me the importance of establishing a non-stop service and added: “Punjabis in England should petition the Punjab State Government. It is only by emphasising the need for central government to address the issue will change occur.”
Let’s not ignore the environmental question of long- haul flights. I’m not advocating a greater number of flights across the planet but rather more direct routes releasing less carbon into the atmosphere and preventing inefficient road journeys to distant airports like Heathrow.
Andeep Thaper, president of the Birmingham and West Midlands Society of Chartered Accountants informed me a letter will soon be on its way to the Indian High Commissioner from the West Midlands Business Council.
I caught up with Andeep at the annual dinner of the Birmingham and West Midlands Society of Chartered Accountants where he addressed a VIP audience, and explained that despite the valuable contribution being made by the Punjabi community, there still remained a notable absence of a direct non-stop flight from Birmingham to Amritsar.
I took the opportunity to speak to Birmingham City Council leader, Mike Whitby, also in attendance and he absolutely supported the need for such a service. Mr Whitby is the face of Birmingham and has the contacts, resources and will to help bring about a solution.
I have yet to hear from Rahul Gandhi, unfortunately.
I share the patience of those transit passengers sitting right now in the distant terminals of Ashgabat, Vienna and New Delhi. Passengers hoping to wish their family and friends a very Happy Vaisakhi in the fertile plains of Punjab having wished their English friends a very Happy and Peaceful Easter.