The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Maharaja in adieu mode

Is the national carrier taking flight from Calcutta' The signs from the ground do point towards that. Air-India, which is operating its lone domestic flight on the Mumbai-Guwahati-Calcutta-Mumbai sector, will now restrict the Mumbai-Calcutta route to Sundays. The plane will arrive from Mumbai at 2.15 am and depart at 3.15 am.

With so many flights on the Calcutta-Mumbai route now, there will hardly be any takers for Air-India’s flight at such an unearthly hour, warn representatives of the tourism industry.

The Air-India brass knows that this solitary flight will not find passengers, allowing the airline to then withdraw operations from Calcutta completely, they add.

At present, the flight operates every Saturday, leaving Mumbai at 11.20 am, reaching Guwahati at 2.20 pm, leaving Guwahati at 3.20 pm, reaching Calcutta at 4.30 pm and leaving for Mumbai at 5.30 pm. The Sunday schedule comes into effect from October 26.

“The new schedule will definitely inconvenience passengers. Moreover, during winter nights, the problem of fog will delay some flights and maybe even force them to be diverted,” said a senior official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Air-India officials, however, termed the change in schedule “routine”. As an official explained: “The flight timings have been changed because from November, the winter schedule comes into effect. To adjust with the arrival of international flights at Mumbai, the domestic flight schedules have to be changed… and there is no proper night-landing facility in Guwahati.”

The Air-India employees’ union members, however, have staged an agitation at the airport, protesting the airline management’s “deliberate withdrawal of services from Calcutta” and demanding “restoration of all international flights”.

Air-India withdrew its flight to Tokyo on March 24, 2000, despite a full load of passengers and cargo, and repeated requests from the state government, and started its seventh flight on the Delhi-Tokyo route.

On April 4, 2002, it started a flight on the Mumbai-Calcutta-Guwahati-Bangkok-Guwahati-Calcutta-Mumbai route with much fanfare, only to withdraw it on April 16, 2003.

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