Kolkata: Thirty-seven passengers arrived in Kolkata on Wednesday on board the first post-lockdown scheduled flight from Bangladesh operated under the air bubble agreement between the two countries. The return flight had 30 passengers on board. Bangladeshi private carrier US Bangla Air, which operated the flight between Dhaka and Kolkata on Wednesday, resumed services with a six-days-a-week schedule. On the other hand, with Kolkata still restricting arrival of flights from other metros to three times a week, the 140 daily flight count for the winter schedule hovers around the 95-mark on most days of the week.
Biman Bangladesh, which will start operations on Tuesday, will initially fly three times a week. Regent Air, the third Bangladeshi private carrier that operated to Kolkata before the lockdown, and the three Indian airlines — Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet — have also said they will resume operations but are yet to submit a schedule. Passengers travelling both ways have to get Covid tested bef-ore boarding.
The news of flight resumption spread cheer among hoteliers and owners of guest houses and shops in the New Market belt. Around 4,000 rooms have remained vacant since March-end and turnover of trade, including business at New Market, has dipped by 50%-60% due to the absence of Bangladeshi customers.
“It is good that flights have resumed. We want bus services between Kolkata and Dhaka to also restart,” said Calcutta Hotels, Guest Houses and Restaurants Owners’ Association functionary Monotosh Saha.
While Bangladeshis comprise nearly 80% of the foreigners who stay in the Marquis Street, Free School Street, Tottee Lane, Stuart Lane, Chowringhee Lane, Sudder Street and Lindsay Street area, businesses are also concerned about domestic travel. Business travel to Kolkata is still muted due to the restrictions on flights from other cities.
Though Travel Agents’ Federation of India and Travel Agents’ Association of India have written to the state multiple times seeking removal of the curbs, there has been no move to address the issue. While 140 flights can operate daily according to the winter schedule, the flight count continues to stay around the 95-mark on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
“The winter schedule will make sense if the embargo on flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Nagpur is lifted. We hope the government will make an announcement in the next few days,” said an airport official.