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Flight boon for districts

Dum Dum: Air Deccan will run flights to at least five places from Calcutta by the end of this month under the regional connectivity scheme after missing two deadlines, an airline official said on Thursday.

The airline, promoted by G.S. Gopinath, will have two aircraft based at the Calcutta airport. One will fly to Jamshedpur (Jharkhand), Andal (Burdwan) and Cooch Behar, and the other to Shillong and Agartala.

"Air Deccan is introducing the flights under the regional connectivity scheme called Udan," the official said.

The two aircraft to be deployed in Calcutta are among the four 18-seater Beachcraft B-1900D the airline has recently acquired.

One is already operating out of Mumbai.

"We'll later expand to Bagdogra (Darjeeling), Rourkela (Odisha), Burnpur (Burdwan) and also several northeast destinations such as Dimapur, Aizawl and Imphal," the official said.

A Calcutta airport official said six bays had been created for night parking of small aircraft operating under Udan.

Air Deccan, which has bagged 34 routes in the first round of bidding for the Udan scheme, had announced that it would start operations out of Calcutta from August.

"It missed the deadline. A second deadline - December - was missed, too. The revised deadline is January 23," said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official.

"The airline has missed two deadlines. We have asked them to ensure they meet the third. There were some issues over procuring aircraft," AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said.

Air Deccan officials, however, blamed the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) for the delay. "We only received the DGCA clearance for Calcutta in December," an airline official said.

AAI officials said the regional airports in Rourkela (Odisha) and Burnpur (Burdwan), run by SAIL, were ready. But the airline claimed it was in the dark over the matter. "So we have kept these destinations for the second phase," the airline official said.

Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India, said the routes to Jamshedpur and the northeast sectors were likely to be viable.

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