It was a dream trip for Jonathan (25), a French student studying business management in Mumbai and it just got better.
As the first night flight from Kolkata landed at Bagdogra airport, Jonathon was greeted by frenetic beats of dhaks and flowers.
Truly it was a memorable time for brand North Bengal as the night flight was an 11-year demand by the tourist industry.
Bagdogra airport director KK Bhowmik and travel and tour operators gave fifty-six passengers including North Bengal development minister Goutam Deb, a warm welcome.
The beginning of night landing would go a long way to boost tourism industry and economic activities in the region, said Sunil Agarwal, joint director of West Bengal Tourism.
Visiting journalists, government officials and dhakis like Niren Rabidas and his brother were allowed to step on the runway, where the arriving passengers were offered sweets and garlands.
Jonathan and his three friends from France of course did not know that Tuesday was a big night for the people of North Bengal and Sikkim.
“I was treated like a film star and it was a great experience,” he said.
Dhakis Niren Rabidas and his elder brother were paid Rws 1,000 by the organisers.
“We never dreamt of reaching so near a plane.” Rabidas, who had never visited any airport, said, “Playing dhaks inside the airport is my biggest achievement as a dhaki.”
Sinha Roy, a councillor of ward number 11 of Bidhannagar Municipality, and Gangopadhya, a retired State Bank of India official were the lucky passengers on board the Spice Jet Flight returning to Kolkata.
Their Air India’s afternoon flight to Kolkata was cancelled earlier in the evening. Had their been no flight to Kolkata, they would have been forced into a night halt at Bagdogra.
Sinha Roy said, “It was my good luck that the night flight started today.”
Gangopadhya, who has early a morning flight to Port Blair from Kolkata on Wednesday, said, “Had there been no night flight, I would have lost a huge amount of money and time.”
A resident of Siliguri’s Subashpalli, he was travelling with his wife, son and daughter in law.
Minister Goutam Deb expected more flight operators would start their night services from Bagdogra.