Siliguri, Sept. 15: Private airline SpiceJet has expressed interest in operating a Calcutta-Kathmandu flight via Bagdogra and sought the approval of the Director General of Civil Aviation to start the service.
Five airlines operate through Bagdogra now and the only international service via the airport is between Paro and Bangkok.
“SpiceJet has decided to operate a flight between Bagdogra and Kathmandu, probably on all days a week. The flight will take off from Calcutta and reach Kathmandu via Bagdogra. On the return journey, the flights would take the same route,” aid K.K. Bhowmik, the airport director of Bagdogra.
“The only international flight that goes via Badogra is Drukair’s plane between Paro and Bangkok. This is a major development in terms of international air connectivity and tourism,” he added.
Recently, SpiceJet has decided to operate four daily flights from Calcutta and Delhi via Bagdogra on a trial basis.
“The flight (to Kathmandu via Bagdogra) from Calcutta is likely to arrive at Bagdogra in the morning. We expect the date and schedule to be announced soon,” the airport director said.
Recently, the state government has waived the sales tax on turbine fuel for flights operating from Bagdogra. In August, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that flights operating through Bagdogra and some other places in Bengal would not have to pay the 30 per cent sales tax on the Aviation Turbine Fuel.
Tour operators in north Bengal said the new international flight would attract more tourists to the region.
“It was a longstanding demand to connect Bagdogra with neighbouring international capitals like Kathmandu, Dhaka and Thimphu. The proposed flight to Kathmandu would help us cater for international tourists who intend to visit the southeast Asian circuit. The Buddhist circuit, which covers north Bengal, Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand, is gaining popularity. We can now provide better travel solutions to international tourists,” said Raj Basu, a senior in the travel industry of eastern India.
He added that people had to travel to Bhadrapur in Nepal, 60km from here, by road to take a flight to Kathmandu.
“Now we can offer them direct flights to Kathmandu. Also, tourists who enter India from Nepal can take the Bagdogra-bound flight. Earlier, they had to travel by road or take a flight to Calcutta and then reach Siliguri by a flight, train or the road,” Basu said.
According to the Bagdogra airport director, private airline Indigo is mulling over the possibility of operating flights through Bagdogra.
“We think once SpiceJet introduces its international flight, more airlines would come to Bagdogra and the existing ones would increase the number of flights,” he said.