Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju assured Odisha government that he would speak to Air India to extend its Bhubaneswar-Port Blair flight up to Phuket in Thailand to start international operations.
International flights are yet to start from Bhubaneswar despite Biju Patnaik Airport being accorded an international tag nearly a year ago.
“The extension of Air India flight to Phuket would be made in the first phase while steps would be taken for its further extension to other South Asian countries,” Union Civil Aviation minister told state Tourism and Culture minister Ashok Panda and secretary of the concerned department Arabinda Padhee at the Biju Patnaik International Airport on his way to cyclone-ravaged Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.
Earlier, former chief secretary J K Mohapatra had sent a letter to the Union civil aviation ministry by tagging a request from Fly Dubai to run its flight from Bhubaneswar. Mohapatra, in the letter, had also requested not to treat Bhubaneswar international airport as a ‘hub and spoke’ (facilitating Bhubaneswar not for direct flight but using it as stop gap) model. “The ‘hub and spoke’ model will hit business travelers, professionals and tourists,” the letter said.
In January, Biju Patnaik Airport director Sharad Kumar had written to 20 airlines to gather at the regional office of Airport Authority of India in Kolkata to discuss international operations.
“Since the state government has already reduced the VAT on air turbine fuel (ATF) from 20 per cent to five per cent, we hope fliers will be interested to operate from here,” said the director.