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Kolkata lags in foreign travel, lone flight addition hides reality laid bare by data

International connectivity still limited to south-east Asia, Gulf countries and Bangladesh, no airline keen on operating flights to Europe

Sanjay Mandal | Published 15.10.22, 06:48 AM
The Kolkata airport.

The Kolkata airport.

Sourced by The Telegraph

Another flight to southeast Asia is scheduled to be added to the Kolkata airport’s list of international flights, but that is it. The city’s international connectivity is still limited to destinations closer home such as south-east Asia, Gulf countries and Bangladesh, and airport officials said no airline was keen on operating flights to Europe at least for this winter.

SpiceJet will operate a second daily flight from Kolkata to Bangkok from the second week of November, said airport officials.


“However, till now, no airline has filed for slots in the winter schedule to operate to Europe or the US. We don’t think there will be any this year, too,” said a senior official of the Kolkata airport on Friday.

For many years, fliers from the city going to Europe or the US and those coming to Kolkata from those destinations have to make stopovers at places such as Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi or Singapore because of the absence of direct flights to the city.

The only significant growth in passenger footfall the airport has seen since the end of the third wave of the Covid pandemic is in the domestic sector, said officials.

On October 3, during Durga Puja, the airport had handled 49,424 domestic passengers and only 6,292 international passengers, according to airport officials. On October 12, the airport handled 53,015 domestic passengers but the number of international passengers came down to 5,360, said the officials.

Kolkata handles around 175 domestic flights daily on an average, while the number is 23 in the international sector. “Since January, the daily domestic passenger footfall has grown from around 15,000 to more than 50,000.

However, the international sector had less than 1,000 passengers then and now it’s around 5,000,” said an official.

The state government has been trying to lure airlines to operate direct flights to Europe. A task force made up of airlines and representatives of travel agents’ associations was formed for the purpose. However, there has been no result till date.

“We have submitted a proposal, including a budget, to the state government about organising a meeting of all prominent airlines across the globe. We want to showcase the city’s airport and other destinations in Kolkata and explain to them the potential market,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India, and a member of the task force.

“We are awaiting a response from the state government,” he said. Punjabi said there was a demand for travel to Europe. The round trip fare between Kolkata and London in the economy class for the next one week, if booked on Friday, was close to Rs 2 lakh, he said.

A member of the airlines operators committee at the Kolkata airport said the terminal building should have more retail and food outlets in the international area to lure airlines.

“Now, we have barely a few stalls,” he said.

However, airport officials said there was no demand for such facilities now. “We have the infrastructure for 15,000 passengers daily in the international wing but the footfall is barely 5,000 now,” said an official.

The official said most airlines operating to the Gulf have 75 per cent of the passengers from Kolkata fly onward to Europe or the US. “They are mostly students, and those visiting family and friends, and tourists. There are very few corporates,” said an official of the airport.

Last updated on 15.10.22, 06:52 AM

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