June 23: Jet Airways has announced plans to connect three metros directly to Europe but Calcutta has missed the flight once again.
Expatriates from Bengal in the Netherlands had on Thursday requested chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is visiting the country, to push for direct air connectivity between Europe and their home state.
But several officials of the aviation industry told Metro today that little had changed in terms of Bengal's economic potential for airlines to consider starting direct flights between Calcutta and Europe.
Down south, Chennai's ascendancy has prompted Jet Airways to launch a direct flight to Paris from there and one to Amsterdam from Bangalore. The inaugural flights on these routes are scheduled for October 29.
The twin flights are in addition to Jet Airways' direct service to Amsterdam from Delhi and Mumbai. The airline also has a direct flight between Mumbai and Paris.
A Jet Airways official said the airline was looking at another daily flight between Mumbai and London from the same month. Calcutta is not even on the radar.
"As of now, there are no plans to start direct flights to Europe from Calcutta. We have flights to Europe from other cities and Calcutta is connected to these cities by a network of our domestic flights," the official said.
Air India, which had been planning to reintroduce a direct flight from Calcutta to London, has postponed the plan now. "This is not a possibility at this point," said a spokesperson for the airline.
Sources in the aviation sector said Calcutta's viability hadn't improved in terms of passenger load, making airlines wary of flying to Europe direct from the city.
"In the last few meetings with various airlines, it has emerged that they are happy with what the new terminal offers by way of infrastructure. But they want us to guarantee a steady flow of corporate travellers, which we cannot," said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of the Travel Agents' Federation of India.
Calcutta has recorded an increase in the number of passengers flying to Europe, but they are mostly tourists, students and people visiting friends and relatives. Corporate travel is what an airline needs to be viable on a route.
At The Hague on Thursday, an expatriate's plea to Mamata had quickly become a chorus: "Didi, please kichhu korun... Europe-er sathe kono direct flight nei Kolkata-r (Didi, please do something. There is no direct flight between Calcutta and Europe),"
Mamata replied: "I understand your problems.... Why don't you give a representation to Jet?"