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Puja travel rush prompts airlines to open counters at Kolkata airport early

Several passengers had missed flights in the past two days because of traffic snarls on VIP Road

Sanjay Mandal | Published 29.09.22, 06:18 AM
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport

iStock photograph

Several airlines are opening their check-in counters earlier than usual at the Kolkata airport because of a sharp rise in the number of passengers and also because many fliers are reaching the airport late because of traffic snarls, prompting airlines to urge fliers to reach early.

The airport has seen a surge in the number of passengers over the last two days because of Puja travels, said officials.

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The fares for inbound and outbound flights have shot up compared with last week as many people are making last-minute bookings, said tour operators.

Airport sources said several passengers had missed flights in the evening in the past two days because of traffic snarls, particularly on VIP Road, near Lake Town.

“We are advising passengers to come early to the airport so they don’t miss flights,” said an official of a private airline.

According to airport officials, many airlines, domestic and international, are opening their check-in counters early in response to the rush and also for passengers who are arriving early.

“Many domestic airlines had been opening their check-in counters two hours before departure. Now they are again opening the counters three hours prior to the departure of a flight,” said an airport official.

An official of an international airline said they were opening the check-in counters four hours, instead of three, before departure.

“ A few passengers missed their flights in the evening in the last two days. So, we are advising passengers to come early,” said the official.

“Also, there are long queues at immigration and security check-in counters.”

Airport sources said the airlines were coordinating with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to avoid congestion at the security check-in counters.

“We are informing the CISF in advance if a particular flight is overbooked or nearly full. The CISF then can plan deployment,” said an official of one airline.

The daily passenger count has gone up in the past couple of days.

“We were having between 38,000 and 40,000 passengers every day. But since the last two days, we are having around 45,000 passengers every day,” said C. Pattabhi, director of the Kolkata airport. “We are expecting the passenger count to cross 50,000 by this weekend, which would be like what we had in May,” said Pattabhi.

He said the number of incoming passengers was more than the outbound number.

Now, 25,000 passengers are arriving at the Kolkata airport, while around 20,000 are taking flights out of the city, said Pattabhi.

Tour operators said the demand for tickets is continuing to grow as the Puja draws closer.

A one-way fare from Kolkata to Delhi for October 1, Sashthi, was more than Rs 17,000 on Wednesday afternoon. The one-way fare for Mumbai was Rs 11,000 and that of Bangalore Rs 13,000, said tour operators.

A one-way flight to Bagdogra for October 1 will cost more than Rs 14,000 if it was booked on Wednesday. Tour operators said one-way fares to all these destinations usually vary between Rs 6,000 and Rs 8,000.

In the international sectors, too, the fares are soaring. A return trip on the Kolkata-Bangkok route is more than Rs 40,000, compared with the usual range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000.

The fares are also very high for flights coming to Kolkata. A tour operator said on Wednesday that a one-way fare from Mumbai to Kolkata for Saptami was Rs 22,000.

“The fares will go up even more. Now, we cannot even book seats for a particular date like Saptami and has to tweak the days. We are seeing such a demand for the first time after 2019,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.

“We are expecting between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers, including NRIs, to arrive in Kolkata (on the Puja days). One reason could be the Unesco tag for Durga Puja,” said Punjabi.

According to him, the number of inbound passengers during the festive season should be at least double compared with 2019.

 

Last updated on 29.09.22, 07:37 AM
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