Air Odisha passengers grumble about fares

By Surya Narayan Pradhan

Bhubaneswar: Launching of intra-state air services in Odisha is a dream-come-true for those who were looking for a way to travel from one corner of the State to another, finish their work and come back the same day. While most air travellers have welcomed the launch of Air Odisha’s flight services from Bhubaneswar, the State Capital, to four major cities in the state, some grumble about the exorbitant fares charged by the airline.

Air Odisha, which is charging between Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000 depending on the destination, is quite expensive for many flyers, who want to fly with their spouse or near or dear ones.

“The airline should consider keeping the air fares affordable so that more people could opt to fly. Air Odisha should think of bringing down its starting price by at least Rs 1, 000,” said SC Varghese, a resident of Rourkela.

Besides, many flyers, especially those want to fly outside Odisha, find Air Odisha flight timings inconvenient. “Persons coming from Rourkela to Bhubaneswar on an Air Odisha flight cannot take a New Delhi flight from the Biju Patnaik International airport on time on all seven days of a week. Therefore, Air Odisha needs to operate its services keeping such flyers in mind,” says a frequent flyer.

As Air Odisha is currently operating only with a nine-seater plane, there is no scope to provide refreshments to passengers. The space constraint in the small aircraft also means passengers are not allowed to carry more than one hand bag while taking the flight.

“If someone is flying alone to reach a destination to finish some urgent work and come back the same day, Air Odisha services are better. However, if anyone is planning a family trip or carrying some extra luggage during the journey, booking a cab would be a better option. For the fares charged by Air Odisha per passenger, someone can easily make a round trip and that too with the whole family,” stated M Randhari of Jeypore.

Lalatendu Mohanty, Procurement Officer of the Centre for Modernising Government Initiative (CMGI), which is looking after civil aviation sector in the State, said, “The response to launch of Air Odisha services has been overwhelming. The response of passengers on the Bhubaneswar-Jeypore route has exceeded all our expectations. The nine-seater plane is going full.”

Air Odisha founder Captain Santosh Pani said, “On an average, four to five seats are booked on all the three routes.”

Pani is hopeful about the prosperity of the inter-state air services and expects more business in the coming days.

The airline is getting subsidy from the State government on the nautical miles it flies in a month. Sources said Air Odisha is getting Rs 222 per nautical miles in one month with a cap on total subsidy of Rs 8 crore annually.

Though Air Odisha is paying VAT on the aviation turbine fuel (ATF) imposed by the State government, it can claim a refund, added sources. Besides, the airline is paying nothing to avail services like parking facility, hangar, ambulance at the airports of the State.

Last month, Air Odisha had started operations from the Bhubaneswar airport to the State’s four cities – Jharsuguda, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Jeypore. However, air services to Jharsuguda airstrip was stopped three days after it started as runway development work is going on and is likely to continue for at least one year.