An international airport without international flights — Calcutta is poised to silence that snigger this season.
With a string of international flights poised to take wing — although to destinations more near than far — things are finally looking up for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport this year.
Taxiing to take off first is domestic airline Air Sahara, which will, beginning mid-January, connect Calcutta with Dhaka once a week. The flight will also coordinate with Delhi and Mumbai to enable passengers from Dhaka and Calcutta to take international flights from the busier airports.
“We are set to start our Dhaka operations any day. In fact, the aircraft are all out there. We are only waiting for the final nod from the government,” Uttam Bose, chief executive officer, Air Sahara, said from Delhi.
“If things work out as planned, we will start more flights in this viable sector. We are committed to giving Calcutta airport a busier look,” Bose added.
Air Sahara has already increased eight flights to various domestic zones from Calcutta in the past six months. Officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said all clearances for Dhaka operations would be given by January 15.
Jet Airways, too, will start its Dhaka, and Agartala, services shortly. “We are ready with the aircraft and are waiting for the final nod from the government,” A.K. Shivanandan, general manager (public relations) of the private airline, said from Delhi.
AAI officials were “excited” at the prospect of Malaysia Airlines starting a flight to Calcutta shortly. “With Malaysia Airlines coming to Calcutta, we will add another chapter in the aviation history of the city,” said airport director Rajendra Pal.
A spokesperson on behalf of Syed Abdullah Aziz, regional manager (South Asia) of Malaysia Airlines, confirmed from Delhi that the airline has plans to start a combination flight (passenger and cargo) out of Calcutta, but the schedules and dates are yet to be finalised.
At present, 12 international destinations are connected from Calcutta. Prominent among them is London, where British Airways has been operating three flights a week from last month. A spokesperson for British Airways in Mumbai said they were “very happy”, with all flights “booked to capacity”.
Against this backdrop, the AAI in Calcutta is planning to improve the existing infrastructure and also build a new cargo division to woo more airlines. C.H. Yoo, regional manager of Korean Air, said from Mumbai that they were looking at cargo operations “once a month” to Calcutta.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed. Calcutta airport will get a much-needed boost shortly, with the introduction of more flights. We hope that by the end of next year, Calcutta airport will be as busy as any other international airport in the country,” said Pal.