Cathay ready to reconnect - Airline writes to Mamata on possible return after 41 years

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By SANJAY MANDAL
  • Published 12.07.11
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Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has written to Mamata Banerjee with a request to help it explore the possibility of a comeback to Bengal after 41 years, saying the “time is right” for a fresh take-off.

The chief minister’s office confirmed receiving the letter on Monday from Tom Wright, Cathay Pacific Airways’s general manager for India, Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.

“We will be grateful if you can arrange a meeting to explore the possibilities of Cathay Pacific or Hong Kong Dragon Airlines (its sister airline) starting scheduled passenger air services from Hong Kong to Calcutta,” says the letter.

Wright was unavailable for comment.

Travel industry representatives said Cathay Pacific’s possible re-entry was the biggest development for civil aviation in the east since the low of British Airways’s exit in March 2009.

Cathay Pacific presently operates flights between Hong Kong and New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. The airline also has flights to Europe, the US and Australia, among other countries.

Cathay had first forayed into Calcutta in 1953, but withdrew from the city in 1970. Sources said the airline had decided to explore the Calcutta market afresh based on a market survey over the last few months and “positive feedback” about its business prospects in the region.

Calcutta’s presence on the international aviation map has grown since a Trinamul-led government took charge in May. Qatar Airways is scheduled to start flights to Doha on July 27 and SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, will start operating from the city from August 1.

China’s Hainan Airlines was scheduled to launch services in July, but has postponed it to September.

If Cathay Pacific is set to bridge the Hong Kong-Calcutta gulf, the Jordan Tourism Board is planning to approach that country’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian Airlines, to return to the city.

Royal Jordanian withdrew from the city in 2006 after operating for 18 years.

“There is lot of Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) tourism from eastern India. But the biggest impediment is the lack of a direct flight to Amman. We will request Royal Jordanian to look at Calcutta,” said Nayef H. Al-Fayez, the managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board.