BHUBANESWAR:Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram flagged off the much awaited international flight operations from Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) here on Friday.
The New Delhi bound flight of Air India (AI) took off from BPIA amidst heavy shower at 2.30 pm with 154 passengers on board out of which 36 flyers travelled to overseas destinations.
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The New Delhi-Bhubaneswar flight AI 873 which landed at 1.35 pm here was coded as AI 078 for the return journey as the international feeder aircraft from the city.
Addressing the gathering, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said Bhubaneswar would act as the international gateway for the State and many other cities in Eastern India.
Passengers flying from the city can now connect with 102 international destinations with launch of new services, said Pradhan adding that negotiations are on with private airlines including Indigo, Spicejet and AirAsia which are willing to be a part of the hub and spoke model and link foreign travellers from the city.
“We would be assessing passenger density on specific routes such as Gulf countries and South-East Asia for a period. If the number of passengers is found to be commercially feasible, direct operation will start,” Pradhan added.
Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patsani said international connectivity would boost tourism and promote Odia culture and heritage. “Over the last decade, many steps have been taken by the State Government to promote Buddhist circuit in Odisha. An international link would supplement the efforts,” the MP said.
Air India Chairman Rohit Nandan said the carrier has implemented the hub and spoke model in cities like Patna, Jaipur and Lucknow where it has worked effectively and profitably. “Checking in, customs clearance and immigration at home airport in a familiar language makes it convenient for many passengers,” Nandan said.
Earlier, AI authorities completed the immigration and customs check at Terminal 2 of BPIA after which passengers boarded the aircraft to Delhi. This would facilitate a seamless travel as passengers do not need to bother for any other formalities for getting air-borne for their journey Delhi onward.
Among others, Director (Commercial) Air India, Pankaj Srivastava, BPIA Director Sharad Kumar and senior officials of Airport Authorities of India and AI were present.