The state government, along with airlines and tour operators, is planning to invite leading international airlines operating out of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to explore possibilities of direct connectivity between Kolkata and Europe, it was decided at two recent meetings.
The meetings, attended by state government officials, representatives of some airlines and tour operators, discussed some concerns that need to be addressed to attract airlines.
“We will hold a symposium in six to eight weeks where the heads of all leading airlines flying to Europe from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore will discuss the potential of enhancement of passenger traffic and feasibility of direct connections from Kolkata to Europe,” a state government official said on Tuesday.
A task force, formed with representatives of the state government, airlines and tour operators, will meet regularly to discuss passenger grievances, operational issues of airlines and how to promote domestic and international connections from the airports in Bengal.
At the two meetings, the second of which was held on Friday, the airlines raised issues crucial for attracting airlines, such as upgrading infrastructure at the Kolkata airport, freeing roads leading to the airport of congestion and lowering tax on aviation turbine fuel, said sources who attended the meeting.
The participants also highlighted the need to increase the number of immigration counters staying open at a time, food and beverage options and the number of retail counters in the international section.
“If there are more facilities, more airlines will be attracted,” said an official.
An airport official said the terminal building is not being used to its optimum since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, the airport was handling around 21 million passengers in a year. Now the number is much less than that. Once the number grows, we will add more facilities,” he said.
Tour operators at the meetings said they would help the state government showcase Bengal.
“The symposium will be held to showcase the facilities at the Kolkata airport and also the potential of Bengal as a possible destination from Europe. We will also work on improving the market and try to generate more passengers to Europe around the year, which will attract airlines,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
“The state government is taking an initiative and we are supporting that,” said Manav Soni, chairman, east, Travel Agents Association of India.