Foreign flight plan for Calcutta
Several airlines have scheduled international flights to Calcutta following the state government’s approval to operate non-chartered flights from other countries, provided only those who test negative for Covid-19 are allowed to board the aircraft.
In July, the Bengal government had asked the civil aviation ministry to stop evacuation flights from international destinations after hundreds of passengers had refused to go to a paid quarantine centre after landing in Calcutta and gone home instead.
Any flight from an international destination needs a no-objection certificate from the state government.
“The state government is giving approvals to airlines applying to operate incoming international flights with the condition that passengers have to test negative for Covid-19 within 96 hours before departure. Once all passengers are booked and their test results available, the airline has to upload the data on the state government portal,” said an official of a private airline.
“Several airlines are applying for slots…. Our infrastructure in the international section is ready,” said airport director Kaushik Bhattacharya.
Airport and airlines officials said the state government was giving approvals for evacuation as well as air transport bubble flights. SpiceJet and Emirates have opened bookings for flights between Calcutta and Dubai under the air-transport-bubble arrangements, said airport officials.
Air transport bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries to restart commercial passenger flights because regular international flights are suspended as a precaution against Covid-19.
A civil aviation ministry official said to book a seat on an evacuation flight under the Vande Bharat scheme, mostly operated by Air India, passengers need approval from the central government. “But in air-transport-bubble flights, anybody can book a seat,” said the official.
“We have opened bookings for flights under air-transport-bubble between Calcutta and Dubai on September 17, 19, 24 and 26. We are expecting good bookings,” said Debjit Ghosh, regional sales head (east), SpiceJet.
Airport sources said Emirates airline, too, had applied for slots for three flights in September.
Metro had in August reported that airlines and travel agents’ associations had appealed to the state government to allow resumption of international flights.
Initially, the state government was allowing chartered flights to operate.
“Tickets on chartered flights are expensive and many cannot afford. A seat on a chartered flight from Dubai to Calcutta would cost around Rs 70,000. But on a flight on the same route under air transport bubble, the one-way fare is around Rs 25,000 and on some days, even less,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.