Pakyong Airport is a greenfield RCS airport at Pakyong town near Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim, India.
Spread over 201 acres (81 ha), the airport is located at Pakyong town about 31km (22 mi) south of Gangtok.At 4646 ft, Pakyong Airport is one of the five highest airports in India. It is also the first greenfield airport constructed in the Northeastern Region of India and the only airport in the state of Sikkim.
Inaugurated on 24 September 2018 by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, commercial flight operations started 4 October 2018. Upon its opening, major media across the globe praised its engineering and described it as one of the most scenic airports in the world. Despite this, commercial flight operations have been hampered by low visibility due to poor weather conditions, being originally planned and designed as a Visual flight rule (VFR) Airport. Due to these visibility issues along with agitation from the local villagers, strip area issues and inaction by local administration, the airport's only commercial passenger airline SpiceJet stopped flight operations to the airport effective 1 June 2019. A resumption of flight operations has not yet been finalized by SpiceJet.
Prior to the construction of Pakyong Airport, Sikkim had been the sole state in India possessing no functional airport. Previously, the nearest airports used to access Sikkim were Bagdogra, located 124 km (77 mi) (and a five hour drive) away in the neighboring state of West Bengal, and Paro Airport in Bhutan.
The project to develop Pakyong Airport was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in October 2008. The Punj Lloyd Group was awarded the ₹2,640 million (equivalent to ₹2.8 billion or US$39 million in 2018) contract to construct a runway, taxiway, apron drainage system, and electrical work for the greenfield airport in January 2009. The foundation stone for the greenfield airport was laid by the then Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, in February 2009.
The project was initially slated to be completed by 2012, but protests by local villagers, demanding proper rehabilitation and compensation, had resulted in suspension of work in January 2014. The AAI intervened and held discussions with agitating villagers and paid part compensation allowing work to resume in October 2014. However, in January 2015, work came to a halt once again as villagers took to protests. In July 2015, AAI and the State Government signed an MoU with AAI, promising to shift the affected households by 15 August so that AAI could resume work from October 2015. These protest-related delays and landslides upslope of the runway resulted in suspension of work twice, escalating costs from ₹3,090 million (equivalent to ₹3.2 billion or US$45 million in 2018) to ₹6,050 million (equivalent to ₹6.3 billion or US$89 million in 2018). Maximally ecological slope-stabilization techniques were used to remedy the landslide situation.
On 5 March 2018, an IAF Dornier 228 landed on the completed airstrip, becoming the first aircraft to land at Pakyong.SpiceJet had been awarded the Pakyong to Kolkata and Guwahati sectors under the second round of bidding for the Government's UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme in January 2018 and it conducted a trial landing of its Q400 aircraft at Pakyong on 10 March 2018. The airport received its commercial operating license from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 5 May 2018.