Bhubaneswar, July 10: The much-awaited international operations from the Biju Patnaik International Airport commenced on Friday, with union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan flagging off Air India flight AI-078 with 163 passengers on board, 36 of whom were headed for the Gulf, the US, Britain, Japan and other destinations after a transit halt at New Delhi.
"It's a proud movement for Odisha. Now, customs, immigration and the rest will be done at Bhubaneswar to alleviate the hardships passengers previously faced. It will connect Odisha better with the world at large," Pradhan said.
Oram said the people of Odisha would immensely benefit from the service.
Air India flights AI-877 and AI-874 will operate as AI-077 and AI-078 respectively. The first will arrive at Bhubaneswar at 9.05 a.m. while the international flight, AI-078, will take off at 2 p.m. daily.
"The flights will be operating on the hub and spoke model. The passengers can fly to their onward destinations from Delhi. All customs and immigration formalities will be done at Bhubaneswar," said airport director Sarad Kumar.
"Maharajah welcomes the world through a new gateway from the city of temples #Bhubaneswar with #AI078," Air India tweeted.
Even though Bhubaneswar airport was accorded international status in October 2013, commercial operation have begun only now. The airport has a runway length of 9,000 feet, as also facilities for customs, immigration, health services and animal and plant quarantine.
The Odisha government has also slashed the value added tax (VAT) on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to zero from five percent to attract international carriers.
Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patasni also present during the flagging-off ceremony.