Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated the Kushinagar airport in Uttar Pradesh. The first flight to the airport departed from Sir Lanka’s capital Colombo.

On Tuesday, Modi had said that the flight will carry “respected monks” from Sri Lanka. He had added that the airport will benefit citizens of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by generating job opportunities.

Khusinagar is a major pilgrimage site for the followers of Buddhism across the world. Gautam Buddha is said to have attained “Mahaparinirvana” or everlasting peace following his death in Kushinagar.

The civil aviation ministry said that the airport will shorten the circuit of Buddhist pilgrimage sites, according to The Indian Express. “Journey of Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Rajgir, Sankisa, and Vaishali of Buddhist circuit will be covered in lesser time,” the ministry said.

The airport has been built at Rs 260 crore and has a runway of 3,200 metres, The Times of India reported. It will have direct flights to Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

The new terminal can handle up to 300 passengers during peak hours, Mint reported. The tourism flow is expected to rise by 20%.

Modi, while inaugurating the airport, said that the Air India-Tata deal was a “major” development for the aviation sector, ANI reported.

“This step will give new energy to the aviation sector of India,” he said. “One such major reform is related to opening of defence airspace for civil use.”

On October 8, Tata Sons had won the bid to Air India for Rs 18,000 crore. The conglomerate regained control of Air India nearly 70 years after its nationalisation.

The prime minister on Wednesday said 900 air routes were approved last year, of which 350 were already operational. He also said that 50 new airports have started functioning since last year.

He also said that new air projects will be undertaken at Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, Aligarh, Azamgarh, Chitrakoot, Moradabad and Shravasti.