The Rs 2,470 crore Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, about 30 kms from the city, is a joint venture of GMR Group, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, Airports Authority of India and Andhra Pradesh Government.
Speaking after inaugurating the most mordern and first greenfield airport in the country, spread over 5,500 acres, Gandhi said there was no conflict between expansion of railway network and improving air connectivity.
"With the entry of private airlines, air fares have dropped and connectivity has improved significantly. The air connectivity has a vital role to play to stimulate development in backward areas", she said.
Describing the new airport as truly world class, Gandhi hoped that it would serve as a magnet to attract new investments in the region.
As TDP activists courted arrest while marching towards the airport to protest against it being named after Rajiv Gandhi, the UPA Chairperson sought to strike an emotional chord with the gathering when she referred to her husband's passion for flying and his vision for the country's aviation sector.
"Rajiv had undergone advanced pilot training in Hyderabad and he had a special love for the city. He would have been happy and proud to see what has been achieved here, she said without mentioning the political controversy surrounding the airports name.
Commending GMR Group for completing the airport in a record time of 36 months, Gandhi suggested that ways should be found to see that the families whose lands had been acquired for the project should gain on continuous basis from the commercial activity of the airport.
She also wanted that women self-help groups be given adequate space to sell their products in the airport.
Earlier, she unveiled a life-size portrait of Rajiv Gandhi in pilot uniform and recalled his association with the country's aviation sector.
Speaking on the occasion, the Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said India's aviation sector was the fastest growing in the world, registering 35 per cent annual compounding growth in the last four years.
Calling for re-defining aviation to take it to masses, he said physical distances can only be reduced by air connectivity.
Terming the Hyderabad airport as a prestigious landmark, Patel said it was an example of successful public private partnership initiative to build world class airport. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, Union Ministers S Jaipal Reddy and T Subbarami Reddy, AICC General Secretary Veerappa Moily and APCC Chief G S Rao were among those present on the occasion.
However, the airport inauguration was marred by protests by TDP which demanded that the domestic terminal of the new airport be named after former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister late N T Rama Rao.
Pointing out that the domestic terminal of the existing Begumpet airport was named after NTR, they demanded that a similar arrangement be continued at the new airport.
Over 50 TDP activists, including senior legislator T Devender Goud, courted arrest while staging a protest rally near the airport.
Earlier, the opposition members raised the issue in the Assembly and accused the Congress government of turning the airport inauguration into a party affair.
The TDP members also took objection to inviting Sonia Gandhi for the inauguration saying she does not hold any position in the government.