It’s couldn’t have been a better Puja gift for flyers from Kolkata. Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate, is ready to launch operations in Kolkata from January 2017 and has submitted a proposal to the Centre.
For chief minister Mamata Banerjee, it’s a personal victory because she has been desperately trying to woo foreign airlines so that she could get investments to Bengal. Recently, the CM appealed to both Air India and SpiceJet to start direct flights to Europe from Kolkata. While Air India has turned down the offer, SpiceJet is yet to revert with a definitive response.
Though a few airlines such as Vistara, Indigo, Air India and SpiceJet have announced a number of flights out of Kolkata, but all of them are on domestic sectors. SpiceJet is keen on flights to Dhaka and Chittagong, but Mamata is eyeing the European routes.
In January 2013, the revamped Kolkata airport was thrown open to airlines. Since then, a significant amount of traffic has increased with new airlines such as Etihad Airways, Bhutan Airways (Tashi), Mihin Lanka and Vistara launching operations from the city. Qatar Airways, Silk Air and Dragon Air already had flights out of Dum Dum.
“We hope to start operating from 2017. All our papers are ready and we are just waiting for the bilaterals to happen. This can take place by the end of this year, or early next year,” said Sunil V A, regional vice-president of Oman Air. Oman Air is currently operating from 11 destinations in India.
“A lot of Bengalis stay in Oman. This flight will be a boon for them. Also, the out-bound traffic from Kolkata would get another carrier which can take them to Europe, African and other Arab nations,” he added.
In fact, Oman Air has plans to boost tourism in Bengal too. “A lot of Omanis come to India for tourism. They will be able to explore Bengal. We would speak to the state tourism department on this once we get the permission. The flying time between Kolkata and Oman is just four hours. So, city residents can explore Oman,” Sunil said.
The ministry of tourism of the Sultanate of Oman has set up a camp in Kolkata where they met 50 tour operators to showcase Oman for destination weddings and holidays. “Oman is largely unexplored. It has 3,600 km of coastline, mountains and valleys. While one can soak in nature, tourists can also take up adventure tourism and go camping,” said Lubaina Sheerazi from the tourism ministry of the Oman.