State nixes airline’s Andal plan to bypass restrictions
TimesOfIndia, 06 July 2020
Kolkata/Durgapur: Hours after the civil aviation ministry announced the cancellation of flights to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and three other cities with high prevalence of Covid cases, SpiceJet applied to the ministry for flights from the three metros to Kaji Nazrul Islam Airport (KNIA) in Andal near Durgapur to bypass the curbs.
Flight schedules were drawn up starting Tuesday, a day after the ban would kick in. The air traffic control was asked to be ready for operations. But the plan was nixed by the state government on Sunday evening with both the airline and airport operator being told that flights would not be allowed.
According to sources, SpiceJet officials set the alternate plan in motion immediately after the decision to suspend all flights to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Nagpur between July 6 and July 19. Officials of Bengal Aerotropolis Pvt Ltd (BAPL), the private airport operator at Andal, said SpiceJet officials called on Saturday evening and disclosed the plans to start daily flights connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai from July 7.
“We have been ready to operate since domestic flight operations resumed on May 25. But SpiceJet that flew daily from here to Mumbai and Chennai prior to the lockdown postponed the restart. On Saturday, we learned that it would resume operations from Tuesday. I called up the airport staff to report to duty on Monday. As per protocol, we also informed the district administration. However, the West Burdwan DM called up on Sunday evening and said the state government had denied permission to the flights,” said KNIA director Apurva Sharma.
Sources said the DM immediately alerted the state chief secretary. In the evening, the DM was asked to inform the KNIA director that the ban on flights from Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu was applicable to all airports in Bengal and not just Kolkata. The SpiceJet spokesperson did not respond to messages over the flight plans.