Bhubaneswar: The Biju Patnaik International Airport recently achieved a milestone with passenger movement crossing the 40 lakh mark. As demand for air travel keeps on growing in the state, Airport Director Suresh Chandra Hota is optimistic about the airport setting new records in passenger handling in the coming years. In an interview to Odisha Bytes, he also talked about the ongoing expansion work, new services and his plans to sustain the growth momentum.
Bhubaneswar Airport is handling four million passengers now. What is your projection for the coming three years?
We have seen an exponential growth in passenger traffic in the last five years. The passenger traffic registered in 2017-18 was 45.51 lakh, which is three times of what the traffic was five years back. My projection is that in another three years time, we will touch a passenger movement of 80 lakh if this growth trajectory is maintained. This is a significant number.
What has led to this significant rise in passenger movement?
There are multiple factors contributing to the growing passenger volume.
#Bhubaneswar has seemingly transformed into an educational hub, drawing students and people from far and wide.
#The growing influence of the city with increased trade and commerce activity.
#Last but most significant — the gradual migration from rail travel to air travel. Today, a flight ticket costs as much as an AC train ticket if it is bought in advance. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to travel by air.
Bhubaneswar Airport is connected to the metros and major cities. Will new destinations be added?
There is a lot of demand for flights to places like Pune and Ahmedabad. These two routes have got a lot of potential. In fact, I have been speaking to a private carrier for the Pune route and have submitted a flight schedule as well. Let’s see.
Why is there a delay?
Availability of slots is a major issue. I have suggested to the carrier is that if a flight is operating from Pune to Hyderabad, let it be extended to Bhubaneswar.
The grounding of Jet Airways has also delayed the possibility of new services from here. Airlines are pressing their flights on the lucrative routes left over by Jet Airways. I hope that as the Jet crisis dissipates, there will be more flights on air and that will bring good news for Bhubaneswar.
How are international flights doing?
Currently, we are handling flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Both these sectors are doing well. The occupancy rate is over 70 per cent.
There is a lot of potential for the Middle East sector as well, especially operating flights between Bhubaneswar and Dubai, given the sizeable Odia population there. Airlines are already studying this sector.
How do you propose to woo more airlines and travellers since you have a projection of 80 lakh passenger traffic?
Completion of the expansion work will unlock the true potential of the airport. Our objective is to have at least eight flights parked at night at the airport. This will not only open up new routes but give more choice to passengers. Early morning departure to different cities, winding up their work and returning by the evening flight will become a reality for the city residents.
Secondly, with the night parking of aircraft, we will be able to create new jobs, not to mention the other benefits that will come with it. Each flight requires at least 20 persons for maintenance and other work. This will translate into 160 jobs. With jobs, the hospitality and the transport sector will also stand to benefit.
How is the expansion work shaping up?
We hope to finish the work by year-end. Two more aerobridges are also coming up. Besides, we have new food courts, spa and a bar as well, that are doing exceedingly well.