Air India Andal exit unfortunate: Mamata

Air India's decision to withdraw flight operations from Andal, which chief minister Mamata Banerjee has termed "unfortunate", has turned the greenfield airport into a ghost airport.

By Our Bureau
  • Published 16.06.16
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Air India's decision to withdraw flight operations from Andal, which chief minister Mamata Banerjee has termed "unfortunate", has turned the greenfield airport into a ghost airport.

"I am not aware of any such decision taken by Air India. They did not inform me. It is very unfortunate," Mamata said at Nabanna on Wednesday evening.

The chief minister also criticised the Centre for not doing enough to bring European flights to Calcutta. "I had been asking for European flights from Calcutta. But not a single one was given. Air India wants to wind up its operations. They have almost sold all routes to private airlines."

Air India's inaugural flight from Calcutta to Andal at the Burdwan airport on may 18, 2015

Air India on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of its Calcutta-Andal-Delhi flight from June 18 because of "operational reasons", which airline sources interpreted as lack of enough passengers.

This was the last flight operating from the airport in Burdwan district. Two non-scheduled airlines, Spirit Air and Pinnacle Air, had earlier withdrawn their services from Andal.

The essential staff at the airport, however, will remain deployed.

"The Air Traffic Control (ATC) will continue to operate. There are three ATC personnel and they will be deployed according to their roster," an official of the Airports Authority of India said.

With the airport being functional, sources said, chartered flights can land at Andal.

Air India had launched its Calcutta-Andal-Calcutta service with a 44-seater ATR aircraft in May 2015.

In December, the airline introduced a bigger aircraft - Airbus 319 - on the route and extended it till Delhi. Mamata had taken the inaugural flight to Delhi.

But the passenger load has never been high enough to make the service viable. Air India sources said the average daily passenger count was varying between 80 and 90.

For a flight on the Calcutta-Andal-Delhi route to be viable, an official pointed out, the average daily passenger count should be at least 100.

Aviation sources blame the poor passenger load on the lack of big industries around Andal, in places like Asansol and Durgapur.

"There are 40-odd passengers from Calcutta, of whom three get down at Andal. Around another 50 would board the aircraft at the Burdwan airport for the onward journey to Delhi," an Air India official had told Metro on Tuesday.

In an attempt to make the service viable, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL), the promoters of the airport, had promised to pay Air India for the vacant seats on every flight, an arrangement called viability gap funding.

But Air India has alleged that BAPL owed them more than Rs 4 crore in viability gap funding.