A private operator would start a non-scheduled air operation from the city to Patna and Varanasi via Gaya from mid-May, bringing down the travel time drastically.
Branded Air Auto, Skyfisher Airways Ltd would operate a 12-seater Cessna Grand Caravan 208B on the two routes. The flight time to Varanasi and Bhagalpur from the city would be around an hour. Patna would be the base of the Air Auto service.
A person travelling by road from the city to Bhagalpur, around 270km east from Patna, has to spend at least seven hours. Under conservative estimate, the road travel time from the city to Varanasi, around 200km west of Patna, is around five hours.
Rishikesh Mishra, the managing director (MD) of Skyfisher Airways Ltd, said: “The air fare on both the routes would be within the reach of middle-class people. It would be between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500 on the either route. We have deliberately opted for the Cessna Grand Caravan 208B aircraft because it is safe and would be economically viable for short distance operations.”
An airline official said the same plane would operate on the Patna-Bhagalpur and Patna-Varanasi routes via Gaya. “According to the present plan, the plane would go to Bhagalpur from Patna via Gaya in the morning and return to Patna on the same route by noon. In the afternoon, it would be off to Varanasi via Gaya and return to Patna in the evening,” he said. (See map)
Mishra recently sent a letter to Mukut Dhari Agarwal, the chairman of Eastern Bihar Industry Association, a body of entrepreneurs in Bhagalpur, informing him about the plan to connect Bhagalpur with Patna by air. Hailing the move, Agarwal said the state government should be serious about promoting air services in small towns of the state.
Mishra said the Air Auto service would gradually spread wings to Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand.