Kolkata yearns int’l flights

Kolkata is yet to see a direct international flight to Europe. It’s high time the government and aviation stakeholders devise a plan to bring the City of Joy on the international aviation map.

Surbhi Sharma

Kolkata, the northeastern city of India known for its history, cuisine and Durga Puja celebrations, continues to long for better air connectivity. The ‘City of Joy’, recognised by UNESCO for its heritage wealth, is yet to see a direct international flight to Europe from its state-of-the-art Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.

Highlighting the issue, Manoj Saraf, Managing Director, Gainwell Travel & Leisure, said, “Unfortunately due to political reasons, business in the capital city of West Bengal has suffered over three decades. Many companies have moved their head offices and operations from Kolkata to other cities. It’s a little late for the present government to do damage control.”

Bilolaksha Das, Chairman, Citi Travels, said, “The absence (of direct flight to Europe) can be attributed to several factors, including diminishing industrial growth, political reasons, and a shift in flight slots to other cities with higher growth rates. European carriers have lost interest in Kolkata, leading to a lack of connectivity despite its strategic geographical location, which could serve as a vital hub for routes between Eastern India, SAARC countries, ASEAN countries, Australasia, and Europe. Additionally, major bilateral landing rights have been consumed by other metro cities, exacerbating the situation.”

Kolkata versus metro cities
Shedding light on why Kolkata has fewer international flights in comparison to other Indian metro cities, Anita Gupta, Director, Yatri Travels, said, “To my knowledge, factors such as economic viability concerns, infrastructure limitations, competitive landscape, regulatory restrictions, airline strategies and governing policies are the reasons behind fewer international flights form Kolkata. We must understand and adapt to these constraints while exploring opportunities for business growth and sustenance.”

Manoj Saraf said, “Trade associations like TAAI (Travel Agents Association of India) and TAFI (Travel Agents Federation of India), along with the state government, are trying to get direct flights into Europe and the UK. There is some hope that Air India may start Kolkata-London nonstop flights sometime later this year.” Gupta said, “We can address the market demand through partnering with airlines for better routes, organising charter flights for flexibility, promoting alternative routes via major hubs, offering comprehensive travel packages, investing in technology for easy booking, conducting market research for tailored services, providing customer education and support by meeting traveller needs efficiently and effectively.”

Das said, “Indian airlines have not devised any comprehensive plans yet to address the issue. However, initiatives such as establishing Kolkata as a connectivity hub for Southeast Asia and maintaining connections with European cities could potentially resolve this issue. The willingness and determination of stakeholders, including airlines and government authorities, are crucial in developing effective solutions.”

Direct Kolkata-Australia flights
Talking about the plans to revive or start direct flights from Kolkata to Australia, Das said, “Despite the interest from travel agents and the potential demand from passengers, there have been no announcements regarding the initiation or revival of direct flights from Kolkata to Australia. However, airlines like IndiGo, as the sole carrier, continue to expand their operations, which may lead to future developments in this regard.”

Gupta said, “In the industry, we are considering the feasibility of starting or reinstating direct flights from Kolkata to Australia. We shall conduct market research, explore airline partnerships, engage stakeholders, gather customer feedback, ensure regulatory compliance, and promote the potential economic and tourism benefits.”

High airfares add to woes
With the airlines providing direct or indirect flights from Kolkata to other Indian cities charging higher airfares, Das said, “Currently, airfares are at their peak due to unequal competition among Indian airlines. The uneven market landscape has led to inflated airfares, impacting travellers’ expenses.

Check Also

Indian skies looking up

After setbacks over the past decade, Indian aviation landscape is witnessing a revival with the …