Though the Biju Patnaik International Airport at Bhubaneshwar in Odisha was accorded the international status in 2013, the airport finally started international operations in 2017, with its direct flights to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
As the Bhubaneshwar airport is focusing on increasing its international operations in 2018, the maiden direct Air India flight from Bhubaneswar to Bangkok was flagged off by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik from the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) on December 10, 2017, with which the airport added another international route to its cap.
It was in October 2013 when the Biju Patnaik Airport was granted its current international status. However, despite the tag, it took almost four years in the making, with the arrival of the first direct international Air Asia flight in April 2017, from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur , with which the state commenced its international operations.
With Odisha’s huge tourism potential, direct flights to these cities open doors to foreign visitors and will allow people to directly travel to south-east Asian countries without going through Kolkata or Delhi. “This is a proud moment for the state and the flight service will be a perfect gateway to places such as China, Japan and other south-east Asian destinations. Besides, tourists coming to Odisha will no longer have to come via Kolkata. This will save their valuable time and the state government is hopeful of attracting tourists from Asian countries,” says Ashok Panda, Odisha Tourism and Culture Minister.
With a fine response and traffic on these international routes, the authorities increased the frequency for the Kuala Lumpur flight to daily from four times a week. Similarly, the Bangkok flight now operates three times a week instead of two. “We are willing to facilitate an increased frequency on the Bangkok route but this depends on assessment of business potential by airlines and as such beyond the airport operators’ purview,” says Suresh Chandra Hota, Airport Director, Airports Authority of India (AAI).
As Bhubaneshwar airport focuses on improving connectivity to south-east Asian countries, the beginning of these direct international flights is expected to attract other international players in future. “Air Asia had also planned operations to and from Bangkok but it has not yet commenced. If any airline plans for other international flights, we are more than willing to facilitate. This is just the start; the state government is now hoping that other airlines will follow,” adds Hota.
The authorities have made the airport available round the clock for facilitation of more international and domestic operations. So far, as more international flights to southeast Asian countries are concerned, passenger potential is being assessed by airlines depending on business opportunities. Odisha shares a historic relationship with Malaysia since the ancient times, and with the start of international operations, more Indians can visit the place and experience the glorious legacy left behind the Kalinga’s Sadhavas. The direct connectivity is an opportunity to re-establish and revisit the ancient bonds. “The start of international operations will open new horizons in Odisha’s ties with Malaysia and the whole of southeast Asia. It places the state in an exceptional advantageous position as gateway to the east and far east,” adds Patnaik.
Besides, it will pave way to attract more international visitors to Odisha’s Buddhist tourism centres. In contemporary terms, flights will have a huge impact on tourism, trade, investment and employment in the state. Odisha will become a new gateway to the east and vice-versa for the inbound, thus opening new opportunities of growth and economic development for youth of the state.
However, the infrastructure at Bhubaneswar airport is not yet efficient to cater to the increased international traffic and the authorities are working to make it fit for the growing numbers. “The airport can cater to one flight at a time due to capacity constraint of terminal two. However, a consultant has been engaged for facelift, modification and to increase the capacity of the terminal so that simultaneously at least two flights can be accommodated. The consultant has submitted some drawings that have been discussed and amendments proposed,” Hota tells AIBM.
Nevertheless, in order to make waiting at the airport comfortable, the BPIA is counting on its Mayfair Lounge and the Dakota food court.
At the landside, Mayfair Lounge is located on the ground floor between the arrival and departure halls so that it is accessible to both departing and arriving passengers.
Furthermore, the Dakota food court and lounge, which is open even for non-flyers, is themed on the former Odisha Chief Minister – the late Biju Patnaik’s private airline Kalinga.