Posted on August 27, 2011

Calcutta is logging impressive flying miles in the once sluggish international sector, prompting new entrant Qatar Airways to consider introducing larger aircraft and increasing its daily flights to twice a day.

Qatar Airways, which started operations in Calcutta last month with a daily flight to Doha, is eyeing 80 per cent occupancy by September and hopes to build on it over the next year.

“We are happy with the growth. In six to seven months, we intend introducing bigger aircraft for our Calcutta operations,” a Qatar Airways official told Metro. “If the growth continues, we will introduce double daily flights from the city within a year,” he said.

Such a positive forecast for Calcutta by an international airline marks a change from the bleak scenario in 2009 when British Airways and Gulf Air had pulled out of the city, citing losses triggered by consistently low yield.

Signs of a turnaround came earlier this year with a clutch of international airlines, including the Singapore Airlines subsidiary SilkAir announcing plans to take off from the city. Emirates currently operates twice-a-day flights to Dubai for five days a week, but Qatar Airways will be the first to run double daily flights on a new route since Mamata Banerjee took over as chief minister.

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SilkAir started its four-days-a-week service to and from Singapore on August 1 and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has approached the chief minister to help it resume services in the city after 41 years.

The reasons for the popularity of the Qatar Airways service are easy connections to Europe and the US from Doha and less transit time in the Qatar capital. “Around 80 per cent of those taking the Calcutta flight are headed for the UK or the US,” an official said.

The flight from Doha arrives in the city at 3.10am. The return flight takes off at 4.10am and reaches Doha at 7am local time. Passengers have to wait a maximum of one-and-a-half hours there to catch connecting flights to Washington, London and other parts of Europe.

Qatar Airways now operates an Airbus 320 with 12 business-class and 144 economy-class seats. Once the bigger Airbus 330 aircraft replaces it, seat capacity will increase to 25 in business class and 230 in economy.


by Sanjay Mandal

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