Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, May 19:
The Biju Patnaik International Airport in the Odisha capital may soon live up to its ‘international’ billing. At least two international airline operators – Thai Airways and Fly Dubai – have evinced interest in commencing services from and to the state’s lone airport during a meeting held in the national capital today.
The airline operators’ green signal to commence international operations from and to Bhubaneswar has rekindled the aspirations of millions of Odias, who have been eagerly awaiting for commencement of international flights from the airport.
“Thai Airways has presented a very good proposal. We have urged them to do a feasibility study and start chartered operations first. If the proposals are accepted, the operators are likely to commence air services from this winter,” said Sharad Kumar, Bhubaneswar Airport Director.
The meeting convened by Chief Secretary GC Pati at Odisha Bhawan in New Delhi today was attended by eight major airline operators to explore the possibility of commencement of international operations from and to the temple city.
The major Airlines which attended the meeting were Thai Airways, Spice Jet, Fly Dubai, Jet Airways, Air Arabia and IndiGo.
Representatives of the International Air Transport Organization and Airports Authority of India (AAI) also attended the meeting.
The Chief Secretary told the participants that serious efforts have been made by Odisha government in pursuing the matter with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation since the last meeting held on Dec 26, 2013.
“The Bhubaneswar Airport Director has been asked to provide airport passenger traffic data to the airline operators. The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation is positively inclined to start international operations from Bhubaneswar and requires applications from the intending airlines within the agreed bilateral arrangement between India and their respective countries,” Pati said.
Pending bilateral arrangement, the airlines could explore the possibility of expanding the operations of their international hopping flights linking Bhubaneswar, the chief secretary said adding he had asked the airline operators for their suggestions in this regard.
Airport Director, Bhubaneswar, Sharad Kumar made a brief presentation about the airport, availability of infrastructure and arrangements in place, including customs and immigration, for handling international flights.
Thai Airways informed that at present they operate 56 flights per week from 6 major cities with Varanasi and Gaya added during the tourist season. Thai Airways agreed to consider including Bhubaneswar as their third city and informed that they could consider having their subsidiary, Thai Smile, operate 320 Airbus to Bhubaneswar depending upon commercial viability and the interest shown by tour operators who coordinate Buddhist Circuit flights.