Stating that Kolkata is the gateway for trade in North Eastern states and many ASEAN countries, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday urged SpiceJet authorities to introduce direct flights to Europe from Kolkata.
Banerjee held a joint press conference with SpiceJet authorities in Nabanna, where SpiceJet Chairman and MD Ajay Singh announced international flights from Kolkata to Dhaka and Kolkata to Chittagong. He also announced that SpiceJet will start flights from Kolkata
to Silchar, Aizawl, Guwahati and Gorakhpur before Durga Puja on October 4 and from Kolkata to Vizak from November.
Banerjee said that the state will provide every support to SpiceJet to operate direct flights between Kolkata and Europe. “There is lot of scope as people from countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and states adjacent to Bengal including those in north east will avail the service. At present, people from these places need to go to Delhi or Mumbai to take a flight for Europe,” she said.
Urging them to review the situation of Andal and Bagdogra airports, Banerjee said that SpiceJet could also introduce flights from these airports. “The state government has ensured tax-free aviation turbine fuel (ATF) for flights to operate from Andal and Bagdogra. At the same time, it has been reduced to 15 per cent for additional flights operating from Kolkata,” she said, adding that nothing airlines will get a “good market” in the state with investments flowing in.
State Finance minister Amit Mitra said: “The 15 per cent tax on ATF for additional flights in Bengal is the lowest among all the four metropolitan cities. It is 20 per cent in Delhi and 25 per cent in Mumbai.”
Assuring that he will look into all suggested routes, Singh said that SpiceJet will operate two Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Chittagong-Kolkata flights daily. The airlines will also explore opportunities of operating flights from Kolkata to Yangon and in the Middle East, including Dubai and Sharjah. SpiceJet will also start operation of its second flight between Kolkata and Bangkok soon.
Singh, who was behind the turnaround of SpiceJet in the last six quarters, said: “We have successfully turned around in the past 14 months and now people are enjoying the services. Now we are poised to grow the company in a meaningful way and one of the first places that we have chosen to start growing from is Kolkata.”
“Under Didi’s dynamic leadership the state and in fact the entire region is doing extremely well. Bengal is moving forward very rapidly. Environment in Bengal is improving tremendously. We felt that with stable and dynamic political leadership that Didi provides, there is a great scope for airlines to grow in this market. So, SpiceJet will be increasing its network by 40 per cent,” he added.
Singh told the Chief Minister that Central Government notification of exemptions on landing charges is not in force in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and requested her to intervene so that it could be implemented at Kolkata Airport. Banerjee assured her support in this regard.