SpiceJet flight to Sikkim

Low-cost airline SpiceJet has been granted permission to fly to Pakyong in Sikkim from Calcutta under the civil aviation ministry's regional connectivity scheme. Flights can start once the airport is cleared for operations.

By Sanjay Mandal in Calcutta
  • Published 23.01.18
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Calcutta: Low-cost airline SpiceJet has been granted permission to fly to Pakyong in Sikkim from Calcutta under the civil aviation ministry's regional connectivity scheme. Flights can start once the airport is cleared for operations.

"We have been selected to operate on the Calcutta-Pakyong-Guwahati and Delhi-Pakyong routes," a SpiceJet official said on Monday.

The airline is planning to operate Bombardier Q400 series aircraft to and from Pakyong. These are turboprop planes with 78 passenger seats each.

Around a week ago, a flight safety team from the airline had conducted an assessment of infrastructure at Pakyong airport along with safety parameters and the navigational aids available there.

The team will submit a report to the directorate general of civil aviation, which is conducting its own safety inspections. Sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said they expected the clearance to come soon.

Metro had reported a few months ago that Pakyong airport, near Gangtok, was just one inspection away from taking flight. The airport is located 4,600ft above sea level.

Connectivity to Pakyong was won by SpiceJet under the second phase of UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), a scheme that aims to revive airports equipped to handle commercial flights but still not operational. The first phase of the scheme had covered 33 airports. The Union government is providing 80 per cent subsidy and the state governments 20 per cent to encourage aviation companies to bid for routes.

The state governments are also providing police cover and ambulance and fire services at these airports for free, besides electricity and water supply at subsidised rates. Landing and parking charges are waived along with value-added tax on aviation turbine fuel.

The cap on fares for select short routes is Rs 2,500 for an hour-long flight, which is applicable to 50 per cent of the seats. This means nine out of 18 passengers booked on a flight from Calcutta would benefit from the subsidy.

"Apart from SpiceJet, Druk Air from Bhutan had shown interest and conducted a survey too," said Pakyong airport director R. Manjunatha.

Tourists headed for Sikkim currently have to fly to Bagdogra in Siliguri and travel more than four hours by road from there to reach Gangtok, 123km away. The distance between Gangtok and Pakyong is 30km.

Air connectivity will also spare tourists and Sikkim the uncertainty that comes with political unrest in Darjeeling. Airline sources said about 35 per cent of people flying to Bagdogra travel onward to Sikkim.