November plan for flight take-off - Tripura airline eyes cooch behar

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Behar
  • Published 22.09.09
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Cooch Behar, Sept. 22: The first flight from here to Calcutta may leave in the first week of November if Northeast Shuttles Private Limited, which is going to run the service, gets permission on time, the company said.

The Tripura-based airline operates several flights in the Northeast.

The fare would be Rs 4,000 per passenger. The flight will operate six days a week and will take off from Calcutta at 7am to reach Cooch Behar an hour later. From here, the Dornier 228 will take off at 8.30am and will be in Calcutta by 9.30. If the response is good, the airline might operate two flights a day too.

“We are ready to run our Dornier 228 aircraft between Calcutta and Cooch Behar from the very first day of November (if we get permission),” said Soumava Roy, the senior manager of Northeast Shuttles, here today. “We have already discussed the matter with the state government. The proposal has been accepted and to facilitate the daily running of the flight, it has been decided that the state government will take care of 50 per cent of the bookings. This means of the 18 seats on the aircraft, the government will keep nine seats for itself.”

Members of the Cooch Behar royal family used to fly planes from the airport during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan in the late 19th century. The airstrip was operational until 1992, when Vayudoot flew small aircraft between Calcutta and Cooch Behar. Infrastructure problems and lack of passengers brought the service to a halt. Since then the people of the district had been clamouring for resumption of the service.

The movement prompted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to take up the issue with Union civil aviation ministry and the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The Centre allotted Rs 20 crore for the airport revamp.

About two years ago, the runway was upgraded and additions made to infrastructure.

In 2007, Deccan Airlines had promised to start operations on the Cooch Behar-Calcutta route, but it never happened. Officials of the Northeast Shuttles, however, said they were willing to start at the earliest. “We have already held talks with the AAI who have assured us all help from their end. We have also visited the airport. The runway is fit for our aircraft as it is 1,100 metres long while we need only 650 metres to land our aircraft,” Roy said.

“A lounge where around 30 people can sit is also ready at the airport. We will soon finalise the date with state government and the AAI.”

The regional executive director, eastern India, AAI, P.K. Singhal told The Telegraph in Calcutta that he knew about Northeast Shuttles. “They met us a month ago and said they wanted to operate a small aircraft. They have visited Cooch Behar airport and are satisfied with its infrastructure. Cooch Behar airport is ready for operations,” he added.

Northeast Shuttles, sources said, has its registered office in Agartala and corporate office in Calcutta. The company runs regular and chartered flights (both passenger and cargo) to the Northeast and owns aircraft like the Cessna Grand Caravan 20B apart from Dornier 228. The company has services in towns like Aizawl, Imphal, Shillong, Silchar and Agartala.

Smaraki Mahapatra, the district magistrate of Cooch Behar, said the airport was ready. “We know that the company (Northeast Shuttles) had expressed interest to run flights between Calcutta and Cooch Behar. It seems there was some progress. We welcome the initiative,” she said.