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International airlines wing into Kolkata

March 14, 2005 10:01 IST

International carriers are rushing to Job Charnock's City of Joy. Air-India is adding three new frequencies on the Kolkata-London sector this summer.

Singapore Airlines and Gulf Air are planning to fly more frequently to Kolkata. Singapore Airlines is in talks with the government to add a fourth flight to the Kolkata-Singapore route.

Others like Sri Lankan Airline, which currently does not connect the city, are drawing up plans to start operations in the region by the end of the year.

Indian Airlines too adding flights to the north east, primarily Kolkata, and plans to connect it more frequently to south east Asia and the Far East.

Says Ankur Bhatia, managing director of Amadeus, the travel reservations company, "Traditionally, air traffic operations in this sector have been low. Only a few foreign airlines now fly to Kolkata."

B K Ong, general manager (India), Singapore Airlines, explains why international airlines are putting the city on their route maps.

"Air traffic out of the Kolkata sector is growing at the rate of around 15 per cent per annum. The growth trend has accelerated because of the increased investment-oriented focus on the region."

V Thulasidas, chairman and managing director of Air-India, told Business Standard: "We have conducted a feasibility study to judge whether an increase in operation in the region is justified. We found the region is becoming more attractive than it ever used to be. The demand for seats in the region is largely due to the new infotech focus in the region given by the state government."

A-I further plans to link the Kolkata-London route with Dhakka (Bangladesh). This will mark the national carrier's foray into SAARC countries.

However, most foreign airlines still want to fly mostly to south India, because of the heavy flow of passengers to the Gulf, southeast Asia and to the West.

Rumi Dutta in Mumbai
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