Odisha nudges air carriers to start direct flights to Bangkok, Abu Dhabi

Enthused by rising outbound passenger volumes and people's growing appetite to travel abroad, the Odisha government engaged top air operators to start direct flights connecting Bhubaneswar with Bangkok, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Colombo.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik chaired a high level meeting here on 'Enhancing Air Connectivity for Odisha'. The meeting witnessed international and domestic air carriers deliberating the contours of augmenting international air connectivity in the state. Twenty one companies including 10 international operators participated in the conference. 

Despite getting the international airport tag years back, the Biju Patnaik international airport has limited global connectivity. Only AirAsia has been running international flights to and from the airport.

Lately, both the Centre and the state government have warmed up to the prospects of international air connectivity from Bhubaneswar. 

Pradeep Singh Kharola, secretary, Ministry of Civil aviation said, “The cumulative growth rate of Bhubaneswar airport is 29 per cent over the past five years, higher than the nationwide average of 17 per cent. This is one of the highest growth rates anywhere in the country. I feel that most of the airlines will come forward and start their flights from Bhubaneswar. Alliance Air is going to start flights connecting Bhubaneswar with Varanasi  from January 31 this year. We are also keen to offer flight connectivity to interior parts of Odisha where commercial viability is the concern.”

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “In last few years, the aviation traffic in Odisha has seen immense growth. Though the domestic flight connectivity has seen a noticeable improvement, there is greater scope for international connectivity”.

“The emergence of globe trotting middle-class has also resulted in rising overseas travel. Hence, introduction of more international flights from Bhubaneswar to the destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, SriLanka, Hong Kong, and Bangkok will provide convenience and comfort to the people of the state”, he added.

As a fall-out of the meeting of chief executive officers of  top airline operators, 14 new flights are planned to and from Odisha. Most of the flights are scheduled to operate between January to the summer of 2020. The planned destinations are Kolkata-Jharsuguda, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi, Jharsuguda-Mumbai, Prayagraj-Bhubaneswar, Delhi-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Bhubaneswar-Kalaikunda, Bhubaneswar-Bangkok, Bangkok- Bhubaneswar, Singapore-Bhubaneswar and Bhubaneswar-Abu Dhabi.

Usha Padhee, joint secretary, Ministry of civil aviation said, “We have discussed with airline companies to start flights connecting Bhubaneswar with Bangkok, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. The airstrips at Rourkela, Utkela and Jeypore are also being geared up for flight operations under UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme. We have suggested to the Odisha government to come out with a dedicated policy for civil aviation wherein they can offer a  mix of  fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to the air carriers besides offering initial hand holding assistance”.

Speaking on the occasion, P K Meherda, secretary (commerce & transport), Odisha government said, “Bhubaneswar airport served 300,000 passengers each in November and December 2019. As of now, we are offering fixed  VGF (Viability Gap Funding) for international air operations.  We are ready to provide variable VGF. Odisha has already announced zero VAT (Value Added Tax) for international flights and one per cent for domestic operators”.

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