Air India withdraws operation from Bengal's Andal airport

Kolkata, June 15 Air India on Wednesday said it will withdraw its operations on the Kolkata-Durgapur-Delhi route from June 17 due to operational reasons.

The national air carrier was the sole airlines operating a flight from the newly built Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in Durgapur (Andal) of West Bengal's Burdwan since December. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee flew on its first trial flight from Durgapur to Delhi on December 7.

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"Air India will withdraw its operations on the Kolkata-Durgapur-Delhi and return sector from June 17 due to operational reasons," said an airline spokesman.

With Air India stopping its flight, there will be no scheduled flights to and from the airport from Friday.

The spokesman said the passengers who booked tickets may either cancel and get the full refund or opt to fly Delhi from Kolkata with the same ticket.

The official declined to give the details of the operational reasons for which it suspended its operation. But it was learnt that the airlines withdrew its operations due to economic non-viability.

Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL), which developed the greenfield airport, said the cost of operations or the viability gap funding would have been almost half in case of a private airline compared to that of Air India.

BAPL said while traditionally, VGF is paid by state governments to the airlines, it was the only private airport operator in the country to offer VGF to an airline to operate scheduled flights.

"To bring in the first carrier through the viability gap funding model was not because of a dearth of demand but because of non-availability of any historical data, which is a primary requirement for any private airline operator to reach a conclusion, in terms of assessing the market potential.

"Had it been any other private airline operator, the cost of operations/VGF would be almost half of what Air India has been charging. In that event, the operations would not only be self sustainable but highly profitable," said airport developer's Managing Director Partha Ghosh.

"The high cost of operations by Air India, makes even a lucrative market like the Durgapur-Asansol region, unsustainable," he added.

BAPL said it was in advanced level of talks with some of the major private airline operators to operate flights from Durgapur to all other major metros, starting with New Delhi and Mumbai.


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