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IA romances the eastern skies
- National carrier plans to turn Calcutta, Guwahati into ATR pivots
TICKET TO PLENTY
Proposed capacity for ATR-42s in northeast
Sector
Existing seat per week
Planned seat
Calcutta-Dimapur
240

336

Calcutta-Aizawl
180
336
Calcutta-Silchar
600
600

Guwahati-Agartala

360
360
Guwahati-Lilabari
240
336
Guwahati-Silchar
240
336
Guwahati-Imphal

145

385
Silchar-Imphal
120
336
Calcutta-Shillong

0

144
Guwahati-Dimapur

0

336
Guwahati-Aizawl
0
336
Silchar-Agartala
0
336

New Delhi, Jan. 12: Indian Airlines plans to set up twin hubs for its ATR operations in Guwahati and Calcutta.

“With two more ATR-42s joining our fleet next month, we will be setting up twin hubs at Calcutta and Guwahati. The apparatus at Guwahati will mainly handle traffic within the east, linking larger bodied aircraft flights out of Guwahati to other metro cities in India,” said Alliance Air managing director Manet Paes.

The decision to turn Guwahati into an aircraft operations’ hub by basing ATRs at the airport there is a departure from earlier plans. “Traditionally, because we were flying Boeings, we were Calcutta-centric but now, with the smaller 50-seater planes, we will offer daily connections to north-east towns from Guwahati and Calcutta, except for a few routes,” Paes said.

The airline plans to open up a host of new routes in the north-east and open a station at Shillong, which had shut down some 15 years back once its ATR fleet becomes four strong next month. Paes said the airline planned to nearly double the number of seats offered on north-eastern flights to 4,197 a week from a current 2,125 seats, by increasing the number of frequencies drastically and by starting several new flights – like Guwahati — Aizwal, Silchar-Agartala and Calcutta-Shillong.”

All sectors in the north-east will now get daily connections, instead of the current twice a week or thrice a week flights; there will be nine flights a week between Calcutta and Silchar. “All this will take us some time, aave to be trained in the new aircraft,” he added.

Currently, Alliance will be flying its fleet of French built ATRs with foreign commanders hired for a year. In this time, Indian commanders flying Boeings and Airbuses will be coached to handle the smaller ATbout three months. Pilots and engineers also hRs.

The decision to purchase ATRs has been a long winded and controversial one, especially as two former managing directors of Indian Airlines’ have opposed the buy pointing out operation of smaller planes could actually lead to more losses as these were costlier to run.

IA planners who estimate the operations will lead to losses to the tune of Rs 38 crore a year, have agreed to the buy because the central government has agreed to underwrite up to Rs 35 crore in losses through a subsidy to be paid through the North East council.

The loss figures may, however, be paired as “the flights we have started till now show between 50-90 per cent occupancy, with most figures in the 60 plus category.”

This obviously means Alliance will have to get back to the North Eastern Council if it were to decide to re-start other old routes out of the region like flight links to Bangladesh cities.

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