Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 16:
The Biju Patnaik International Airport. the only proper airport in Odisha, will have to wait for its first international flight.
The airport was accorded international airport status by the Centre on October 30, 2013. A second, state-of-the art terminal, was built as part of the efforts to upgrade the infrastructure of the airport to meet the criteria for international flights, .
Though chartered flights from England, Dubai and Seychelles have landed at the airport, not a single scheduled international flight has landed at tha airport till date.
Despite the willingness of some of overseas operators to start flights from the state capital, they have not been given permission by the Airport Authority of India (AAI).
Even domestic airline companies, which have international operations, are not keen to touch base in Bhubaneswar citing few overseas passengers from Odisha and minimal scope for cargo transport.
Lack of political will is also part of the reason for the inordinate delay, sources said.
“While foreign carriers have exhausted their bilateral seat allotment quota, the Centre has not given them new bilateral entitlements. On the other hand, as the Indian carriers are yet to consume their bilateral quota, the Centre will give them the preference to finish their quota after which it will provide them new bilateral, said Sharad Kumar, Director of Biju Patnaik International Airport.
He said the delay is also due to the fact that the Indian carriers do not have adequate aircrafts with them at present to start their flight services from Bhubaneswar.
Talking to the media, Benjamin Simon, chairman of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Odisha Chapter, said the state Tourism has sustained huge losses due to the delay in the launch of scheduled international flights from Bhubaneswar.
He said several overseas flights have evinced keenness to start air services from Bhubaneswar.
“We had a meeting with the CEO of Fly-by-Dubai Airlines recently in which he agreed to start flights within 48 hours. He also told us that his company is not worried about the seat arrangements as it is ready to risk its venture. The company only seeks the willingness of the state and the Central government for resumption of the flight,” Simon added.
At present, 38 flights are in operation to and from the Biju Patnaik Airport.