Thursday, September 03, 2020

Direct Kolkata-London flight set to resume from September 16

Kolkata: The first direct flight connection in over a decade between London and Kolkata is likely to resume from September 16, coinciding with the gradual unlocking of several other sectors even as the world, the country and the state continue to fight the pandemic.
If all goes well, the planned twice-a week direct Air India flights between the two cities will be the first since British Airways moved out of the sector in March 2009 after AI’s withdrawal in September 2008.
“AI is set to operate direct flights between the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata and Heathrow Airport in London on a regular basis between September 16 and October 24. These are part of the Vande Bharat mission flights, primarily to repatriate Indian citizens but will also carry those with long-term British or Indian visas with urgent travel needs,” an AI spokesperson told TOI.
The Bengal government, which has not allowed Vande Bharat flights till now, has indicated that it may give its nod. “CM Mamata Banerjee herself has been lobbying for a Kolkata-London direct link,” a senior official said, explaining the likelihood of a go-ahead from the Bengal government. Flyers from London would have to undergo an RT-PCR test prior to boarding and furnish Covid-negative certificates on arrival, officials added.
Twelve pairs of flights have been scheduled to start with but officials say they will continue to operate and become part of the bubble agreement between the UK and India. The introduction of a London-Kolkata flight has been in the works since February, when senior AI officials met travel industry representatives. The AI team then spoke about the possibility of flights being re-introduced around September-October.
“We are very excited about the flights and what they mean for business and tourism in Bengal in future. It will, right now, be a huge relief for Indians stranded in the UK and Bengalis residing there who come home during Durga Puja every year,” Travel Agents Association of India chairman (east) Manav Soni said.
03/09/20 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India
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