Saturday, April 07, 2018

Flight faces departure before take-off

Calcutta: Air India's plan to operate a Delhi-Andal flight is in danger of being grounded because India's busiest airport has said it can only spare a 4.45am departure slot.

The tentative launch date for the proposed flight is April 15. But both Air India and the state government fear that seats will remain unsold if the flight takes off so early in the morning.

"Passengers would need to check in at 2.45am to catch this flight. We have requested DIAL (Delhi International Airport Ltd) to change the time slot," an Air India official said.

Operating flights to and from Andal has been a challenge since the greenfield airport near Durgapur opened in 2015. Several airlines have launched flights, only to withdraw them like Air India did from the Calcutta-Andal-Delhi route in 2016.
Getting enough passengers for a flight from Andal to be viable is the main hurdle.

The concept of viability gap funding to make up for seats going empty hasn't worked for airlines. Neither has the state government's offer to waive the surcharge on air turbine fuel purchased at Andal airport.

In a letter to Air India recently, the state government said the proposed 4.45am departure from Delhi would make resumption of flights on this sector "ineffectual". Since this is a "fledgling route", the departure time should not be earlier than 6am, the letter states.

"Few will be interested in taking a flight to Durgapur from Delhi so early in the morning. If the passenger count is low from the start, the route will quickly become unviable. We don't want that to happen," said a senior official in the transport department.
07/04/18 Kinsuk Basu/Telegraph