Monday, January 31, 2022

Curbs on Mumbai, Delhi flights to Kolkata lifted

Kolkata: Airlines officials on Monday greeted the state government’s decision to remove restrictions on flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Kolkata but said that normal operations would resume only from Wednesday or Thursday onwards as changes in schedules required to reinstate the flights would take some time.

However, there is a damper with fresh restrictions being issued on air travel between Bengaluru and Kolkata. Flights from the country’s IT capital will be allowed only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are around 18 daily flights operating between Bengaluru and Kolkata.

Air India also indicated that the earliest it can resume the flight between Kolkata and London is on February 13 as those booked to fly next Sunday have already been rerouted through Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

“This is a huge relief for passengers as they will now be able to travel directly between London and Kolkata. The flight on February 13 has 75% occupancy. This will go up further now that the direct route has been restored,” said an AI official. Sources said they would take a call on bringing in the flight even earlier on February 6 if they could manage a decent load within the next couple of days.

Officials of AI, along with IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara, AirAsia India and Go First rushed back to the drawing board after the state announced the relaxations in a bid to check out how many of the 40-odd flights that they operated from these two cities to Kolkata can be reinstated and how fast. “Between mid-December and January-end, flight count has halved while passenger figure is down by 60%. But we expect a steady rise in travel demand from February and that should translate to more flights. In any case, Delhi and Mumbai being the high density routes should see most of the flights back in operation. But they are unlikely to happen on Tuesday,” said an airline official.

As Covid cases had increased in the run-up to the third wave, the state government had restricted flight arrivals from Delhi and Mumbai to only three days-a-week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday. According to Kolkata airport director C Pattabhi, on these days, Kolkata airport has been getting around 200-210 flights with passenger count around 24,000. On the remaining four, the flight count is down to around 190 and passenger figures around 18,000. In contrast, the airport was catering to 390 flights till mid-December with around 50,000 passengers travelling daily.

31/01/22 Subhro Niyogi & Tamaghna Banerjee

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