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Steel city stays grounded

Jamshedpur’s air link to Calcutta is unlikely to be restored before February.

A combination of factors ranging from dense fog to lunch breaks of airport staff to unfavourable feedback from passengers have grounded DTDS Travel and Tour Planner Limited’s plans to resume flights between the twin cities from mid-January.

The Bangalore-based company, which operates in alliance with Bangalore-based Spirit Air in Jamshedpur, will now fall back on a survey scheduled on January 31 to decide when its two eight-seater Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft — out of action since December 28 — can be pressed into service again.

“It’s not possible to restart the morning flight, which leaves for Calcutta at 8.45am six days a week except Sunday, because of fog. Our attempts to change the timings and reschedule the flight between 1pm and 3pm could not materialise as Sonari airport authorities don’t allow landing within this period which is lunch time for ground staff,” said sales manager of DTDS, Calcutta, Shyamal Chakraborty.

Desperate to re-launch the air link, the company had even tried to find out how the public would respond if the flight were to depart between 3pm and 4pm.

“We got poor response to this timing, which makes operating a flight on this route in the present circumstances economically unviable. However, we might resume the service according to the old timings in February if the January 31 review is favourable,” Chakraborty added.

On an average, around five-six persons used to travel from Jamshedpur to Calcutta daily when the 8.45am flight was operational. DTDS used to operate another flight between Calcutta and Jamshedpur at 3pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But this flight has also been cancelled in view of low passenger count.

Chakraborty, however, said they were prepared to start the chartered flight if they had full occupancy on a given day.

“We are prepared to launch a chartered flight if all eight seats are booked by a corporate or industrial unit. For an hour’s journey, we charge Rs 80,000, which will come to Rs 1.60 lakh for to-and-fro flights. But we will offer concessions and charge only Rs 96,000 for block bookings,” the official added.

Jamshedpur debuted on the country’s air map in 2007 with Air Deccan linking the city to Calcutta, but the service ended soon.

Then, MDLR Kingfisher started operations in 2009, but that too lasted only for a few months.

On August 17, 2010, Deccan Charters hired a turboprop 19-seater aircraft charging Rs 5,000 per passenger. But the company withdrew the services in February 2011.

DTDS Travel started the flight between Jamshedpur and Calcutta in January 2012 after getting a non-scheduled operator’s licence from DGCA.

Those looking forward to a short trip to Calcutta on Republic Day are disappointed. “I was planning to travel to Chandigarh via Calcutta to meet my parents on January 25 and 26. But I have to shelve the plans now,” said Inderjeet Singh Shergill, a Kadma-based hardware engineer.