All facilities have opened up in the city but Kolkata airport has far fewer passengers and flights than what it used to before the Covid pandemic, which has made the authorities defer an expansion plan for the terminal even further.
According to the authorities, Kolkata airport is handling around 350 flights everyday on an average as against more than 500 before the pandemic.
The passenger count would also be much less compared to earlier times by the end of this financial year, airport officials said.
In the financial year 2019-20, the airport had handled 22 million passengers in one year. In 2020-21, the number had dropped to around 7.5 million, said an official.
In the current financial year, till now, around eight million passengers have used the airport but officials apprehend that the number would be nowhere near the pre-pandemic times by March 31.
“The restrictions of domestic flights from cities like Mumbai and Chennai have been lifted by the state government since the first week of October. However, the number of domestic flights and passengers is still less compared to pre-pandemic times,” said C. Pattabhi, the director of Kolkata airport, said on Tuesday.
He said the numbers were even lower for international flights and passengers.
For the domestic sector, on an average, 50,000 passengers are using the airport daily as against 65,000 earlier.
In the international sector, the number is barely 1,000 as compared to 10,000 daily in the normal times.
“The fear of Covid is still there and travelling in groups is less,” said an official of an airline.
Also, he said, because of the less demand, several airlines had returned aircraft to companies from which they had taken them on rent.
“These aircraft are still not brought back into the fleets and so, the number of flights is less,” he explained.
The lack of demand because of Covid has pushed expansion plans back further.
The airport authorities had planned the phase II expansion of building a new terminal. Also, an interim expansion plan of adding space to the existing terminal was made with a project cost of Rs 141 crore. This would allow the terminal to handle two million more passengers annually.
“This project has been deferred by another year because of Covid. We are expecting the work to start by April next year. The bigger expansion project of the second phase is unlikely to start before 2024,” said an official.
Tour operators also said there is apprehension among many for leisure travel.
“The demand for Christmas holidays has still not picked up like before. The queries are coming for domestic sectors but very few are booking at this stage,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.