Narendra Modi is set to announce that direct flights from Ahmedabad to London have been given the green light, according to sources close to the prime minister’s office in Delhi.
Eastern Eye understands that the prime minister will make the announcement during his long-awaited visit to Britain next month.
India’s national carrier Air India will reinstate the new direct service from December of this year.
The new service follow years of campaigning by community groups and prominent British Asian community leaders.
Praful Patel, an India advisor to the National Congress of Gujarati Organisations (NCGO), has spearheaded the campaign over the last few years. He has argued that direct flights from London to the Gujarat city could shave several hours off travelling times.
Passengers currently have to fly into Mumbai or Dubai from London and then take a connecting plane to Ahmedabad, which can take as long as 20 hours in total with the stop-over.
Patel said: “I am sure everyone will welcome this news, in particular the large Gujarati community in Britain.
“We got the Gujarat government to pass a cabinet resolution supporting the project. I recently met Anandiben Patel, chief minister of Gujarat, and urged her to speak to the prime minister personally.
“I learnt that the flight has been approved and will start from December.”
Tara Naidu, the regional manager of Air India in the UK, could not confirm the news.
She said: “There are other issues that need to be finalised, and we haven’t got confirmation.”
Patel who worked on the campaign with Sharad Parikh, the president of the NCGO – the umbrella organisation which represents around 700,000 Gujaratis in the UK – led a delegation to meet the former civil aviation minister Ajit Singh last year and described the process as an “uphill battle.”
During his trip to America earlier this week, Modi announced that new direct flights between New Delhi and San Francisco would operate three times a week from December.
Patel added: “As India advisor to the NCGO, we have been working hard to get this issue on the agenda even before Modi came to power. I found out there was lot of opposition, both in the civil aviation ministry and Air India.”
Air India stopped the route eight years ago, and several international airlines raised the fares of their indirect flights from Ahmedabad following the axing of the popular journey.
Earlier last year, discussions took place between Gujarat’s civil aviation minister Saurabh Patel, and the chairman of the Airports Authority of India S Raheja in Gandhinagar, which pro-ved unfruitful for NCGO.
The group has estimated 145,00 passengers travel between the UK and Gujarat each year.