Bhubaneswar, May 19: A meeting was convened by Chief Secretary, Odisha, Shri G.C. Pati with the major airline operators at Odisha Bhawan, New Delhi today to explore the possibility of commencement of international operations from and to Bhubaneswar. The meeting was attended by Chief Resident Commissioner, Dr. Sunil K. Bhargava, Special Resident Commissioner, Shri Vipin Saxena, Principal Secretary, General Administration Department, Shri G.V.V. Sarma, Resident Commissioner, Shri Sanjeeb Kumar Mishra. Major Airlines which attended the meeting include Thai Airways, Spice Jet, Fly Dubai, Jet Air ways, Air Arabia and IndiGo. In addition, the meeting was attended by International Air Transport Organization and Airports Authority of India.
The Chief Secretary briefed the participants that serious efforts have been made by Government of Odisha in pursuing the matter with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation since the last meeting held on 26.11.2013. Highlighting that Odisha offers significant opportunities, he urged upon the airlines to start international operations from/to Bhubaneswar. He further stated that the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation is positively inclined to start international operations from Bhubaneswar and requires applications from the intending airlines within the agreed bilateral arrangement between India and their respective countries. He stated that pending further bilateral arrangement; the airlines could explore the possibility of expanding the operations of their international hopping flights linking Bhubaneswar and asked the airline operators for their suggestions in this regard.
Airport Director, Bhubaneswar, Shri Sharad Kumar made a brief presentation about the airport, availability of infrastructure and arrangements in place for handling international flights including customs and immigration. Principal Secretary, General Administration Department also gave a brief account of the vast opportunities existing in Odisha and the action taken by the State Government since the last meeting of November, 2013.
Chief Resident Commissioner stated that Government of Odisha has fulfilled its commitment made in the meeting of November, 2013 by reducing the VAT on ATF substantially and in vigorously pursuing the matter at the level of Chief Secretary and Hon’ble Chief Minister with the Civil Aviation Ministry. He informed that the international airlines who are keen to operate from/to Bhubaneswar have not formally applied within the existing capacity approved bilaterally between their respective country and India. A road block has been hit as the airlines are demanding additional capacity over and above what has been mutually agreed upon at a national level. He added that many existing international airlines are operating their flights to additional cities forming part of the Buddhist Circuit including to Varanasi and Gaya and that Bhubaneswar could be easily linked to their existing circuit as the State offers tremendous Buddhist attraction.
Major international airlines interested for their operations from Bhubaneswar including Fly Dubai, Air Arabia and Thai Airways observed that a way out could be to approach the Ministry of Civil Aviation to allow Temporary Operating Permits (TOP) for short periods to enable them to carry out their operations and assess the commercial viability for sustaining the operations. Similarly, domestic airlines including IndiGo and Jet Airways requested for additional information on commercial viability from the Airports Authority of India for enabling them to consider extending their existing international flights to Bhubaneswar.
Thai Airways informed that at present they operate 56 flights per week from 6 major cities of India and that they add two more cities of Varanasi and Gaya during tourist season. Thai Airways agreed to consider including Bhubaneswar as their third city and also informed that they could consider their subsidiary, Thai Smile, to operate 320 Airbus to Bhubaneswar depending upon commercial viability and the interest shown by tour operators who coordinate Buddhist Circuit flights.
Concluding the meeting, Chief Secretary desired that IATA should pursue the matter with the registered tour operators and send a delegation to Bhubaneswar for making an assessment of the Buddhist Circuit potential in Odisha. He said that the same could be shared with international airlines who are presently operating on Buddhist Circuit. Chief Secretary also assured that the State Government will again pursue the matter with the Ministry of Civil Aviation for issue of Temporary Operating Permits to international airline operators keen to operate from/to Bhubaneswar. He also asked Jet Airways to submit a specific proposal to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for extending their existing international flights to Bhubaneswar. He asked the AAI to explore possibilities of operating the Bhubaneswar International Airport 24×7 to enable international airlines to operate and park their flights at Bhubaneswar Airport.