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IA places aircraft demand for city

Indian Airlines (IA) has sent an SOS for more aircraft to operate from Calcutta.

With the authorities set to induct four more A-320 aircraft by July, IA officials are hopeful that Calcutta will get new aircraft.

“We urgently need at least one aircraft for operations from Calcutta. We have submitted our projections to the high command,” regional director (east) M.S. Balakrishnan said on Saturday.

The IA has been pitching for more aircraft for several years, but has so far failed to get its way. Since 1994, there has not been any fresh induction to its fleet.

At present, Indian Airlines in Calcutta has to make do with only eight aircraft, out of which four are the smaller ATR 42 aircraft, two are A-320 aircraft and two are Boeing 737s. Among the two Boeings, one has been rescheduled to fly for IA’s sister concern Alliance Air. “At present we have seven and are hopeful of getting at least one more soon,” IA general manager (commercial) Ashok Gulani said.

In the last two weeks, Indian Airlines has had to cancel some flights operating out of Calcutta, including a Calcutta-Dhaka flight, triggering speculations that it was suffering from acute shortage of aircraft.

Indian Airlines officials said that apart from “keeping their fingers crossed” their was nothing much for them to do. Gulani said IA in Calcutta was ensuring that even with a limited fleet, IA was covering a lot of zones from Calcutta, which was a remarkable feat in itself.

Airlines officials added that although an IA survey on the Calcutta-Hong Kong sector had found the route to be viable, it was yet to get the clearance from the Union government as it “does not have the additional aircraft for the region.”

The regional director added that for the time being, IA has decided to stress on its existing Calcutta flights to Bangkok, Yangon, Dhaka and Kathmandu.

Asked if the SARS virus had affected the morale of the fleet, Balakrishnan said there was no reason to get scared as IA flights were fumigated from time to time. At present, IA from Calcutta flies to only Bangkok among the SARS-affected cities. “We are monitoring the situation,” Balakrishnan added.

Balakrishnan is hopeful that the small aircraft operations in the form of ATR 42 in the eastern zone will pick up gradually, with flights introduced to Agartala and Guwahati recently. “We expect traffic from Guwahati to pick up on the ATRs also,” he added.

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