Saturday, February 4

Andal second wind with near-full flight

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Air India resumed flights on the Andal-Delhi sector after almost two years on Sunday with more than 100 seats occupied both ways and similar bookings for the next 15 days.

Unlike in 2015, when the first few flights had barely 20 passengers each, a 122-seater Airbus A319 took off from Delhi on Sunday with 116 seats taken. The return flight from Andal had 115 passengers.

Sources in Air India said between 90 and 100 seats on each flight over the next 15 days had already been booked.

The airline is offering a one-way base fare of Rs 1,440 between Andal and Delhi. The average fare is around Rs 2,000.

Low pricing and direct connectivity – in its previous avatar, the Andal-Delhi flight used to go via Calcutta – have apparently made the difference.

Air India had launched the Andal-Calcutta flight with 46-seater ATR aircraft in May 2015, but it never took off in terms of occupancy. The strategy of extending the flight to Delhi with the larger Airbus A319 did not work either. The flight was withdrawn in July 2016.

The new Air India flight takes off from Delhi at 5.50 am and arrives at Andal at 7.50am. The scheduled departure of the return flight is at 8.25am. It lands in Delhi at 10.35am.

Delhi airport had allotted a 4.30am slot for the flight, which Air India argued would not be convenient for passengers.

“Passengers would need to check in at 2.45am to catch a flight at that hour. We have requested DIAL (Delhi International Airport Ltd) to change the time slot,” an Air India official had told Metro less than two weeks ago.

The non-stop service will spare passengers from Durgapur a time-consuming road or train journey to Calcutta to catch a flight to Delhi. “Direct connectivity to the capital, and from there to innumerable domestic and international destinations, has been a long-standing requirement of people living in the Asansol-Durgapur belt that has many industries like mining, iron and steel, petrochemicals and telecommunications,” a spokesperson for Air India said.

Union minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo was on the first flight from Delhi. He said: “I had been trying hard to get a flight between Andal and Delhi, and it has finally taken off. I won’t comment further on this as there is a model code of conduct in place because of panchayat elections in the state. The formal flag-off was also cancelled because of this.”

Source: The Telegraph

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