The Telegraph
Saturday , May 10 , 2014
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Tata-SIA gives city a miss for now

New Delhi, May 9: Tata-SIA — the full-service airline that won investment approvals just 35 days after filing its application on September 19 last year — won’t be flying to Calcutta anytime soon.

Patna — and not Calcutta — is the airline’s first destination of choice in eastern India.

The airline, in which the Tatas hold a 51 per cent stake and Singapore Airlines (SIA) 49 per cent, aims to launch operations from September 1 and will fly to nine destinations from Delhi, where it will have its headquarters .

The airline laid out its operations time-table for the first year in its statement of intent for air operator’s permit to the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA).

“We have done the route dispersal in a phased manner on the basis of market attractions and route planning,” said Sanjay Singh, vice-president, Tata-SIA Airlines.

Calcutta will figure as a destination in the second year of Tata-SIA’s operations. It aims to fly seven flights a week directly to the city. It also plans to fly seven other flights to Guwahati in the second year via Calcutta — effectively offering two flights a day to the City of Joy.

Robin Pathak, aviation analyst and former Air India director, said: “Almost all domestic airlines have daily flights to Calcutta. For Tata-SIA, it makes sense to grab markets that are relatively under-explored.”

However, analysts say there ought not to be any ground for disappointment in Calcutta as the Tatas probably have bigger plans for the city.

“I believe Tata would use it as a hub for its Southeast Asia operations. Flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam would all be routed through Calcutta. The airport anyway has a high international traffic movement,” added Pathak.

Calcutta witnessed a 23.7 per cent increase in international traffic, according to the December 2013 figures of the Airports Authority of India.

Meanwhile, the DGCA has issued a public notice seeking objections, if any, to the grant of an air operator’s permit to Tata-SIA, the proposed full-service carrier.

It issued a similar notice under the Aircraft Rules of 1937 before the licence was granted to AirAsia India. The DGCA had rejected the objections and granted the licence to AirAsia India on Wednesday.

In the latest notice, DGCA said Tata-SIA Airlines Ltd had applied for the grant of the flying licence to provide scheduled air transport services in the country. The objections, if any, must be submitted within 20 days.