Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 25:
A year and half after receiving international airport status, international flight operations are yet to commence at the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, the lone full-fledged airport in Odisha.
The state government has almost given up after repeated trials at many levels. While letters written by Odisha Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati to Union Civil Aviation Ministry did not even draw a response, Tourism Minister Ashok Panda’s plea to the Union Civil Aviation minister at a recent conference in Delhi did not fare any better.
“I had raised this issue at a conference conducted by Civil Aviation Ministry in Delhi recently. However, nothing happened. It is not in our hands. We are doing everything we can, but the Union government doesn’t pay heed,” complained Tourism Minister Ashok Panda.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had also discussed the issue with the Prime Minister Modi and had offered free parking, subsidized aviation fuel, type of flights that the state government is okay with etc. The Prime Minister had promised to recommend to the Civil Aviation Ministry the start of international flight operations from the city. But even that did not get things moving.
Neither the Civil Aviation Ministry nor the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has shown any interest to initiate international flight operations from Bhubaneswar.
The file pertaining to international flight operations is stuck under redtape at Civil Aviation Ministry. As per process, the Civil Aviation Ministry needs to clear the file and send it to DGCAalso hor clearance. It as to be cleared and sent to Airport Authority of India (AAI) to schedule flight day and time.
“The state government is still trying its best to commence international flight operations from the airport. We have also spoken to different companies about his. However, we are bound by terms of Civil Aviation Ministry and DGCA. We would really appreciate if international operations can begin before the Nabakalebar,” said Director of Biju Patnaik International Airport Sharad Kumar.
The state government continues to claim that there is no dearth of operators willing to start international operations from this airport. Airlines such as Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Srilankan Airlines, Quatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Fly Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air Costa, British Airways, Gulf Airways, Etihad Airlines, Air India, Spice Jet, Thai Airways, Go Air, Indigo, Silk Air, Air Asia, Air India Express etc have agreed in principle to fly from Bhubaneswar and have even submitted their flight schedules, it points out.
It may be mentioned that, the state government expects more than 1 Lakh foreign tourists during Nabakalebar of Sri Jagannath at Puri this year. Without direct international flights, the tourism industry in the state might get hit.