Gulf Air exit before BA - Direct link with Bahrain to snap on March 24

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By SANJAY MANDAL
  • Published 10.03.09
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Gulf Air is set to fly out of Calcutta on March 24, five days before British Airways takes flight.

“Our airline is planning to withdraw from the city because of business reasons. An official communication is expected in a day or two,” a senior Gulf Air official told Metro over phone from Mumbai.

Gulf Air operates two flights every week — on Sundays and Tuesdays — between Calcutta and Bahrain. It used to be three flights a week earlier but one of them was scrapped.

“It is an unfortunate development that will send negative signals to airlines that are eyeing Calcutta as a prospective destination,” said Anil Punjabi, the chairman (east) of the Travel Agents Federation of India. “The civil aviation ministry must intervene and persuade Gulf Air not to snap ties with Calcutta,” he said.

The airline started its Calcutta operations in 2003 and has since been doing reasonable business.

A source said the airline’s average passenger load was 70 per cent. “Business travellers account for the bulk of the Calcutta-Bahrain flight’s passenger load. It is also convenient for passengers headed for London because the same plane heads for Heathrow with a brief stopover in Bahrain,” he added.

Gulf Air had last year announced plans to increase the frequency of its service. Officials had even hinted at a daily Calcutta-Bahrain connection.

“There seems to have been a rethink on the flight’s commercial viability,” a source said.

On March 29, British Airways will be operating its last direct flight between Calcutta and London. But Air India will reintroduce its Calcutta-London flight via Delhi on the same day.

With Gulf Air flying out, the city’s only direct connection with West Asia will be through Emirates, which flies daily to Dubai.

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar Airways were to link the city directly to Abu Dhabi and Doha this year but have postponed the launch.

German carrier Lufthansa has already scaled down its Calcutta service from four days to thrice a week.