The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airport signals take-off time


New terminal and cargo buildings at an estimated cost of Rs 94 crore

Category-II lighting, stalled due to inclement weather, to be ready by year-end

New aircraft to join the IA fleet in eastern zone after a long gap

Plush arrangements in the airport for passengers

After a lengthy hold-up, Calcutta airport is finally taxiing for a fresh take-off.

If the green signal for construction of a new terminal and cargo building at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is being seen as a turnaround totem, Indian Airlines (IA) is now awaiting new aircraft from Delhi to help it keep its flight commitments.

Faced with stiff competition from private players, the national carrier has for some time been chalking out plans to go international in a big way from Calcutta — with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dhaka as focal points — but has been handicapped by an acute shortage of aircraft.

Not just international, the demand to grow is also coming from domestic sectors that the national carrier is struggling to serve from the city due to a craft crunch.

“We are extremely hopeful of getting at least two new aircraft to meet our immediate plans in the international and domestic scenario. In about 10 days, we should know how many aircraft the city airport gets,” said a buoyant M.S. Balakrishnan, regional director, IA.

The national carrier, meanwhile, has conducted feasibility studies on destinations like Hong Kong and is toying with plans to start flights to Phuket, in Thailand, besides raising the number of flights to Kathmandu.

At the moment, two aircraft, one an Airbus 320 and the other a Boeing, are available for night stops at Calcutta, but once reinforcements arrive, IA officials are hopeful of using the flights to good effect.

In the domestic sector, IA is gearing up to push more flights to Port Blair and Gaya, which have been identified as “big markets”.

According to existing plans, IA wishes to introduce three more flights in the Calcutta-Bangkok sector, in addition to the existing three flights, to meet the heavy traffic, explained a senior airline official.

The national carrier is also keen to compete with Bangladesh Biman, which operates at least 16 flights a week between Dhaka and Calcutta, against three by IA.

On the ground, after a long delay, first due to fog and then due to the rains, the Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) plan of installing CAT II (category-II landing facility to enable pilots to land even with 350-metre visibility) is also underway.

“By the end of the year, we will finish our work of installing CAT II. All obstacles have been brushed aside,” asserted Rajendra Pal, director, Calcutta airport.

This apart, passengers travelling to and from Calcutta will soon be greeted with a new terminal and plush seating arrangements with all modern facilities.

“We will put the city airport at a par with the best airports in the country,” promised Pal.

With private airlines like Air Sahara and Jet Airways also applying for rights to push more flights on to the Calcutta tarmac, things are really taking wing, felt AAI officials.

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