Monday, 30th October 2017

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New Singapore option with Sikkim flight debut

Airlines aim for mid-September start with eye on puja holiday travel

By Sanjay Mandal
  • Published 28.07.18

Marina Bay in Singapore; (above) Changu Lake in east Sikkim 

Dum Dum: Low-cost airline IndiGo will start a daily flight from Calcutta to Singapore in mid-September, coinciding with SpiceJet flying to Sikkim just ahead of the Puja season.

The average return fare for the Singapore flight could be around Rs 16,000, almost half the market baseline of Rs 30,000.

"IndiGo will operate an Airbus A320. The flight will take off at 6.55pm and land in Singapore at 1.45am local time. On the return journey, take-off will be at 1.40pm and arrival at 3.25pm," an official of the airline said.

The only airline that currently directly flies to Singapore daily from the city is Singapore Airlines.

Travel operators see the Singapore sector doing well, especially with IndiGo eyeing a start just weeks before Puja.

"With Hong Kong posing visa problems, tourists from Calcutta looking to travel during Puja need similar alternatives. The proposed IndiGo flight with a much lower fare than the competition provides them an option other than Thailand and Malaysia," said Anil Punjabi, the chairman (east) of the Travel Agents' Federation of India.

Metro had reported in June about Hong Kong routinely rejecting visa registration applications from Calcutta.

Punjabi said student traffic from Calcutta to Singapore had also been growing. "A cheaper flight will provide them the opportunity to travel home more often."

For those looking closer home for holiday options, SpiceJet is finally ready to inaugurate its daily flight to Pakyong airport in Sikkim.

"There were some technical issues that have since been resolved," said an official of the airline. "The flight will start in the morning from Calcutta and take about an hour to reach Pakyong. It will go onward to Guwahati, although the timings have yet to be finalised."

SpiceJet has been granted permission to fly to Pakyong from Calcutta and Guwahati under the civil aviation ministry's regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), which aims to revive airports equipped to handle commercial flights but are still not operational.

The cap on fares for the routes is Rs 2,500, applicable to 50 per cent of the seats. SpiceJet will operate Bombardier Q400 aircraft with 78 seats on this sector.

Pakyong airport is 4,600ft above the sea level and around 30km from Gangtok. The terminal building is spread across 3,200sq m.

Tourists headed for Gangtok by air now have to fly to Bagdogra and travel 123km in more than four hours by road to reach their destination.

Air connectivity will also spare tourists and Sikkim any uncertainty over travel resulting from political unrest in the Darjeeling hills.