Odisha awaits nod for international flights

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Bhubaneswar: Even 17 months after getting the tag of an international airport, commercial operations are yet to begin at the Biju Patnaik International Airport here.

Despite several requests from the Odisha government, the union civil aviation ministry is yet to give its final nod to low cost international carriers to commence flights to and from the lone full-fledged airport in Odisha. The central government granted Bhubaneswar and Imphal airports international status on October 30, 2013, with a view to boosting economic development in both the states.

“We are repeatedly urging the ministry to commence international operations from Bhubaneswar. But the centre is paying no heed to our demands,” Tourism Minister Ashok Panda told IANS.

“Several flight operators have evinced interest. But we can’t do anything unless the centre gives the green signal,” Panda said.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief secretary of the state has written many times to the civil aviation ministry, the minister said.

“The failure to utilise the new terminal and the delay in (starting) international flights from Bhubaneswar have not only adversely affected the economics of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) but also undermined the legitimate expectations of the people of Odisha,” Patnaik said in a letter to the civil aviation minister.

In order to attract international flight operators, the state government slashed taxes on aviation turbine fuel (ATF), bringing it down to five percent and offered free parking.

“Several airlines are interested in Bhubaneswar airport. We are discussing with them. They are examining the feasibility for international operation,” airport director Sarad Kumar told IANS.

He said terminal T2 had been modified to facilitate international operations.

Space has been allotted for offices of the Bureau of Immigration, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Animal Quarantine and Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying among others.

Informed sources said low cost airlines like Singapore Airline’s Silk Air, Air Asia, Indigo and SriLankan Airlines had evinced interest to start operation from the airport.

An international non-scheduled chartered flight of Air China landed at the airport last week. The flight, directly coming from Beijing, left for its onward journey to Zanzibar in Africa the same day.

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