Bhubaneswar: The long awaited international air service from the capital city of Odisha was launched today with the first overseas flight taking off from the Biju Patnaik International Airport.
National carrier Air India began its daily operations connecting Bhubaneswar via Delhi to Dubai and rest of the world.
Air India’s flight AI-078, flagged off by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, flew from Terminal II with 163 passengers with 35 passengers flying to New York, London, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Muscat, Dubai, Singapore and Tokyo.
Speaking on the occasion Rohit Nandan, CMD, Air India said “It’s a great day as we are set to get connected with international countries. We are following the hub and spoke model, according to which immigration will happen here and passengers will have the option to complete immigration formalities in Odia. We feel happy to have 35 passengers for international destinations out of 163 passengers in today?s inaugural flight.”
Describing the start of international flight operations from here as a historic development, Oram said it would give substantial boost to tourism industry as well as trade and commerce in the state.
Pradhan said immigration, customs and other clearances would be given to passengers travelling abroad and they would simply have to board another flight to Dubai after landing in Delhi. From Dubai they can travel elsewhere.
Talks were also on with airlines like Indigo, Spicejet and Air Asia for starting international flight operations from Bhubaneswar, Pradhan said.
“Air links with as many as 101 foreign destinations from Bhubaneswar will be established very soon,” he said adding gradually direct flights to foreign countries could also be introduced with growth in number of passengers.
Pradhan thanked the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India and Airports Authority of India for realising the dream of the people of Odisha.
Flight AI-078, a 182-seater A-321 with 12 executive class and 170 economy class, would leave Bhubaneswar at 2 PM and reach Delhi at 4.25 PM. The incoming flight AI-077, a 168-seater A-320 from Delhi would reach Bhubaneswar at 9 AM after taking off at 7 Am from Delhi.
It may be noted that in a bid to attract international fliers to the state, the Odisha government has already reduced VAT on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to zero from five per cent.
On the other hand, chief minister Naveen Patnaik gave the inaugural function a miss reportedly in protest of Centre’s failure to start flights directly to international destinations from the city airport. Though the Ministry of civil aviation had agreed to start international flights from the city airport here, later it changed the flight schedule due to ‘unavoidable reasons.’