Siliguri, Sept. 4: Private airline SpiceJet will operate night flights from Bagdogra to Calcutta daily from October 1 as a trial for night landing, airport officials said today.
The flights would operate till October 26 after which the company would decide on continuing the service.
Officials said SpiceJet responded to a letter by the Airports Authority of India that urged several airlines to operate evening flights to and from Bagdogra.
The letter from Moin Wasil, DGM (airport services), SpiceJet, from Chennai, said the Calcutta flight would reach Bagdogra at 9.40am and it would return at 10.10am. The Delhi flight will arrive at Bagdogra at 8.25am and take off for Delhi via Guwahati at 8.55am.
In the evening, a flight from Calcutta will reach Bagdogra at 7pm and depart for Calcutta 7.30pm. Another flight from Delhi via Calcutta will land at Bagdogra at 5.55pm and take off for Delhi via Calcutta at 6.25pm. The flight will reach Delhi at 10.30pm.
SpiceJet already has three flights daily to and from Bagdogra. With the addition of the four, it will operate seven flights in October.
“Yesterday, we received a letter from SpiceJet in which it mentioned that it intends to run morning and evening flights between Calcutta and Bagdogra and Delhi and Bagdogra on a trial basis. They would launch the flights between Calcutta and Bagdogra on October 1 while flights between Delhi and Bagdogra would start operating from October 7,” K.K. Bhowmik, the airport director of Bagdogra, said today.
Bhowmik added that the letter was sent to all airlines after the Indian Air Force, which maintains the ATC and runway in Bagdogra, gave permission for night landing. Earlier, flights were allowed till 6pm only.
“Passengers from Bagdogra can take both morning and evening flights to Calcutta and Delhi. Once the flights are introduced, one can reach Delhi even at 10.30pm. Those who plan to go to Calcutta for a day can take the morning flight, reach Calcutta at 9.40am and take the return flight to Bagdogra at 6pm. People travelling to Calcutta in the evening will have two options as the Delhi flight will also go via Calcutta,” Bhowmik said.
The official met chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the Bagdogra airport when she was on her way to Calcutta this afternoon and informed her about the development.
“The chief minister appreciated the step and said she was eagerly waiting to see evening flights operate from Bagdogra. This option would boost the economy and communication of north Bengal, she told us,” Bhowmik said.
Residents of north Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar have been demanding evening flights between Bagdogra and the metros of the country for a long time.
Now the last flight leaves Bagdogra around 3.30pm.
The first flight takes off from Bagdogra for Delhi at 10.10am. A Calcutta-bound plane departs at 12.10pm.
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today said: “It was a longstanding demand of the people of north Bengal. We expect that more companies, which run flights from Bagdogra during the day, will come with similar proposals.”
Tour operators feel more flights would mean more tourists coming into the region.
“Introduction of morning and evening flights means the inflow of passengers, and also tourists, would increase in the region. The tourism industry would surely benefit from this new service, which would be introduced just before the Durga Puja holidays,” Raj Basu, a veteran in the tourism industry, said. “We are keeping our fingers crossed and we hope that the situation in the hills normalises so that we can have a booming tourist season.”