Kolkata, Oct 7: Air India Express (AIE), a subsidiary of Air India, launched its inaugural Kolkata-Singapore flight with 28 passengers this morning.
The flight, which would be operating thrice a week with the next-generation Boeing 737-800 aircrafts, was flagged off at 0715 hours by National Aviation Company of India Ltd Chairman and Managing Director V Thulasidas.
The flight was the first in a series of direct flights, that AIE would soon begin from Kolkata to Dhaka, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier, addressing a press conference to mark the occasion yesterday, Mr Thulasidas said AIE would also enter the domestic sector by early next year.
He claimed that the average price of AIE tickets would be about 25 per cent less than that of the present domestic carrier.
''Initially when we were contemplating on launching AIE, we had some apprehensions about incurring losses. However, our fears have been proved baseless as within two and a half years, we have recorded average 85 per cent passenger load.'' He also claimed that AIE would have a passenger-friendly policy, facilitating hassle-free cancellation and refund of tickets as compared to other low-cost airlines.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, ''I am optimistic that flights to East and Southeast Asia will improve bilateral relations between India and the Far East.
He lauded Aviation Minister Prafulla Patel for bringing about a revolution in the aviation scenario.
He added that flights would also be extended to Vietnam and China with a view to boosting the Prime Minister's ''Look East'' policy.
West Bengal Sports and Tourism Minister Subhash Chakraborty said more flights to Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur would boost the tourism sector as well as regional economy besides helping cultural integration.
AIE would soon emphasise on greater connectivity between the metropolis and tourist spots like Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala, AIE Chief Operations Officer P P Singh said.