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Cry for foreign flights from Bagdogra

Siliguri residents demand introduction of international flights from Bagdogra after Centre’s plan to launch services to six Asian countries from Guwahati

By Avijit Sinha in Siliguri
  • Published 15.10.18, 2:04 AM
  • Updated 15.10.18, 2:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The terminal of Bagdogra airport. Picture by Passang Yolmo

People of Siliguri have demanded introduction of flights to foreign countries, especially Nepal and Bangladesh, from Bagdogra airport following the Centre’s plan to launch services to six Asian countries from Guwahati.

Under the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) scheme, the Centre floated tenders for airline companies to run flights from Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Yangon (Myanmar), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kathmandu (Nepal).

“There was a demand from Assam to introduce more international flights from Guwahati to connect the neighbouring Asian countries. The Airports Authority of India has already published notices, seeking proposals from airlines interested in operating flights to these destinations from Guwahati,” said a source.

The development has prompted Siliguri residents to raise the demand for international flights from Bagdogra that has been witnessing an unprecedented rise in passengers traffic over the past three-four fiscals. In the immediate past financial year, the number of passengers has crossed the two million mark.

“There has been a longstanding demand to start flights to Dhaka and Kathmandu from Bagdogra. The central government is focussing on improvement of connectivity between states and the neighbouring nations. We believe Bagdogra deserves such flight services,” said Raj Basu, a veteran in travel trade in north and northeast India.

In Bagdogra, the only foreign airline that operates now is Druk Air. The Bhutan carrier leaves Paro twice a week and returns from Bangkok on two other days — both ways via Bagdogra.

“The sole international flight to operate out of Guwahati is run by Druk Air. It operates a flight between Paro and Singapore via Guwahati. If Guwahati can be considered for new flights to six destinations abroad, Bagdogra can have at least new services to the adjoining countries of Nepal and Bangladesh,” said Sujit Dutta, a banker.

If one has to reach north Bengal from Nepal, h/she has to travel by road or take a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur (located in Nepal and around 40km from Siliguri). Those from Bangladesh have to take road or reach Calcutta by flight and then take another flight to Bagdogra.

Right from education to healthcare, hundreds of people from both Nepal and Bangladesh visit north Bengal every day. Introduction of flights would surely boost the inflow of passengers to Bagdogra, feel the residents.

Along with the demand for new international flights, the Siliguri residents have also reiterated the old demand for the expansion of Bagdogra airport. The AAI has drawn up a project much earlier but the work for the expansion is yet to take off. This is because the Bengal government said the Centre would have to provide funds to pay compensation for acquisition of land acquired for the expansion.

“Although a section of people going to Sikkim from Calcutta and vice-versa would now take a flight to Pakyong, pressure continues to remain on Bagdogra, given the steep rise in the number passengers. During afternoon hours, Bagdogra airport is congested and the expansion is the need of the hour. It is high time that the state and the Centre sort out the issue. The Centre must also look into the demand for flights to Bangladesh and Nepal,” said Jayanta Majumdar, who runs a cab service.