West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s pet project to begin flight services from Cooch Behar airport has run into rough weather as the chosen airlines carrier is still undecided about when to start flight operations from the airport fearing dearth of passengers.
All the required facilities, including check-in and checkout counters, space for ticket counter, security checking, runways and apron, are ready for the last eight months, but no airlines company has shown encouraging signs for introducing flight operation.
Deccan Charter, a Bangalore-based low cost Airline of Air Deccan, was scheduled to operate small aircraft from August, 2017 under the regional connectivity scheme UDAN. The airline had planned to use ~ 20-seater Beech aircraft from Kolkata airport to Cooch Behar, Andal, Burnpur, and Jamshedpur.
“We still did not get any confirmation when the Deccan Charter would begin flight services from Cooch Behar aircraft,” a senior state transport department official said.
TrueJet, another Hyderabad-based airline, has agreed to conduct a feasibility study for operating small aircraft from Cooch Behar airport to Guwahati airport. Senior officials of TrueJet will visit Cooch Behar airport in October and carry out feasibility study, a senior state government official said.
The state transport department had also disbursed around Rs 140 crore to the Airport Authority of India for modernisation and expansion of runways of Cooch Behar airport. The Deccan Charter received necessary clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Union ministry of Civil Aviation for operating small aircraft from Kolkata to Cooch Behar, Bagdogra, Burnpur, Jamshedpur and Andal airport under the UDAN scheme.
It wants to introduce flight services from Kolkata to Cooch Behar, Burnpur, Andal and Bagdogra simultaneously and only then the flight operation would be viable, a senior official of the Deccan Charter said.
But, Burnpur airport is still not ready for flight services, though the airline has plans to start flight services on the regional routes from this winter.
At present, Deccan Charter has four small aircraft, but the airline has a dearth of pilots and cabin crew members, a senior Air Deccan official said.
In order to run Cooch Behar services the Airport Authority of India has to spend about Rs 40 lakh a year as electrical maintenance charges, Rs 30 lakh for civil aviation maintenance, while there are several other costs involved, a senior transport department official said.
The state government is also providing police, ambulance and fire services at the airport free and power and water supply at subsidised rates.