Business has been really dull for the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport also known as Andal airport, India’s first greenfield private airport in this seven-phase election season.
During the 2016 assembly polls, however, Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport had registered business of Rs 1 crore and almost every day, choppers of VVIPS and chartered flights used to land at the airport.
Till the end of the six-phase polls in the state, only Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah have landed at the Andal airport. Mr Amit Shah landed thrice at Andal. PM Narendra Modi came once before the polls started and twice for campaigning in south Bengal and landed at Andal airport. He had come to address election meetings at Asansol, Purulia and Bankura. But the Prime Minister came in an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft from New Delhi and used helicopters of the IAF.
Andal airport is not entitled to get any fees for the PM’s flights and choppers landing and parking. The IAF which has a base at Panagarh also utilises the Andal Airport for defence purposes and no fees are charged.
Sources at Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport told The Statesman that the airport authorities received Rs 20,500 on each day for three days as parking fees for Amit Shah’s choppers. It also got Rs 40,000 each for three days as the landing fees for his double-engine fixed-wing small chartered flights of AR Airways. This means that the total business of Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls has been about Rs 1,80,000, according to sources.
In the 2016 assembly polls, there was an alliance between the Left Front and the Congress and leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Amit Shah landed at Andal for campaigning in Burdwan, Birbhum, Bankura, Murshidabad and even Malda, according to airport sources.
The main advantage of the Andal airport is that it is the only airport in the country where GST has been waived off for aviation fuel supplied by Bharat Petroleum.
On an average, an aircraft taking off from Andal airport carries 11,000 litres of aviation fuel, sources said. At present, the nation’s national carrier Air India operates flight services four days a week on Kolkata-Andal– New Delhi route and three days a week on Andal-Hyderabad route.
From 25 June, low-cost airline Spicejet will operate daily flight services from Andal to Mumbai and a month thereafter, launch flights on the Andal-to-Chennai route. Both these services will be under the UDAN scheme of the Central government.