Oct. 30: The Union cabinet today accorded international status to Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar.
The development is expected to impart a major fillip to tourism apart from accelerating the growth of other industries in the state. The tag comes more than seven months after the new terminal was inaugurated at the airport on March 5 at a cost of Rs 145 crore.
The news was expected with the authorities putting up the “international” signboard at terminal 2 and opening immigration and customs counters in anticipation of the tag. The quarantine bay, mandatory for all international airports, is also ready.
Imphal airport also got the coveted status today.
“This is Centre’s Diwali gift to the state. The aviation sector will receive a boost with international fights taking off from here. Already, 10 international flight operators have evinced interest in running their services, especially to Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” said airport director Sharad Kumar.
Tour operators hailed the decision of the Union cabinet saying the tourism sector would receive a tremendous boost. “Now, chartered flights can land directly in Bhubaneswar and that would be a boon for group tourism,” said Srikant Mishra, an eminent tour operator.
Hotel-owner Debashish Patnaik said it was a big day for the state’s hospitality and tourism sector. “While we are set to gain the most, other industries such as software will also reap the benefits,” said Patnaik, one of the founding members of Invest Bhuban-eswar, a joint sector initiative to promote investments.
Odisha, known for its religious, especially Buddhist monuments and primitive tribes, has always been a magnet for foreign tourists.
Official sources said 60,722 foreign tourists visited the state in 2011 with the number growing to 64,719 in 2012. The flow of foreign tourists is set to increase with Bhubaneswar airport turning into an international destination.
An official statement said: “The airport is suitable for operation of Code D, aircraft which refers to twin-aisle aircraft. The airport is also equipped with facilities for night operations and has adequate runway, apron to park six aircraft and navigational aids. Airports Authority of India has completed renovation of the existing domestic terminal building into an international terminal building with an area of 6,264sqm, suitable for handling international flights. Six check-in-counters, custom counters and immigration counters are being provided and the requisite facilities of customs, immigration, health services and animal and plant quarantine at the airport have also been completed.”
Both the Bhubaneswar and Imphal airports can start international operations only after the cabinet decision is notified in official gazette. At present, there are 17 international airports in the country.
“Things are looking up. First, the state government relaxed restrictions on foreigners’ visit to areas inhabited by primitive and vulnerable tribal groups and now, we have the international tag for our airport,” said Timir Baran Patnaik, president of Odisha Tour Operators Association.
Coinciding with the international status of the city airport, the state government has also mooted a proposal to give the benefit of lowered value added tax (VAT) on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to all flight operators.
Earlier, it was considering the lowering of VAT from the existing 20 per cent to 5 per cent only for international operators and flights within the state. However, now even domestic operators are being considered.
Highly placed sources told The Telegraph that the government had already received a proposal to decrease VAT on the aviation turbine fuel in all categories in the wake of withdrawal of its service from Bhubaneswar by Jet Airways. The lack of interest among operators to run services connecting small cities such as Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Gopalpur, Jeypore and Baripada within the state despite demand is another reason.
Special secretary of the general administration department Niten Chandra admitted that a proposal in this regard had already been mooted. Director civil aviation and joint secretary in the department Premananda Khuntia said: “Such a proposal is under consideration. But after it is approved by the department, it has to get the nod of the cabinet.”
The slash of VAT in the ATF may also make foreign airlines interested in creating a hub with a fleet of aircraft near the city airport. States such as Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have already announced drastic VAT reduction in ATF for airlines intending to make hubs in their respective states.
The state government, on the other hand, is preparing the State Perspective Civil Aviation Plan, which will be notified within a month or two. On the other hand, the state government is also interested to reduce the landing charges for smaller aircraft to attrack more operators.
Biju Patnaik Airport deals with 38 scheduled flight operations (landing and takeoff) and 15 to 20 non-scheduled flights each day
The airport has a runway of 2,743-metre length
and 45-metre width and
is sufficient for landing of big aircraft such as
Airport is going to have
a parallel taxiway to lessen the occupancy time by
the landing aircraft on the runway
Immigration, customs and quarantine counters required for international airport already in place
Ten operators have evinced interest to start flights from Bhubaneswar to Southeast Asia and Middle East
International tag will boost religious and
Major boost to industries such as IT, exporters of shrimp and other perishable commodities including horticulture and