Cooch Behar will be back on air map | india | Hindustan Times
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Cooch Behar will be back on air map

india Updated: Jul 18, 2011 10:47 IST

North Bengal town Cooch Behar will be back on the air map after a gap of 16 years and several failed bids with the launch of a commercial flight between Cooch Behar and Kolkata Tuesday.

Ahead of the launch, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was keen on restarting the air service, said it has been decided to subsidise the operation.

"Definitely this will soon turn into a profit-making venture," she said.

The state government has projected the area to be a prosperous industrial growth centre and a tourist destination.

Private carrier Northeast Shuttles will operate an 18-seater Dornier aircraft on the route and the fare has been fixed at Rs 5,000.

The state government would provide subsidy by reserving eight seats per trip, regional executive director of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) Goutam Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee said that on the inaugural day, a Northeast Shuttles flight from Guwahati would land at Cooch Behar at 11 AM and take off an hour later for Kolkata with new passengers on board.

The airport was lying idle after the lone Vayudoot flight was withdrawn in 1995.

The crumbling infrastructure at the airport was refurbished at a cost of Rs 40 crore by the AAI.

An air service was planned to be launched between the two places on July 15, 2010 by private operator Deccan Charters, which was later deferred to August 16, 2010.

This launch was further postponed due to non-availability of clearance by the AAI and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, a wing of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The airline then promised to start a daily air service towards the end of July, 2010, but that was also put off.

Deccan Charters was scheduled to operate the service with a 24-seater aircraft and eight seats in each flight were planned to be subsidised by the state government.

Even as Deccan Charters launched its non-schedule charter air service on August 16 with three daily flights between the industrial city of Jamshedpur and Kolkata putting into service an 18-seater turbo-prop aircraft, the service was withdrawn after a few months, airport sources said.