No British Airways flight to Kolkata from Monday

Monday, 30 March 2009, 02:31 Hrs
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Kolkata: British Airways suspended its direct service to London from here Sunday, with the last flight taking off at around 5 a.m., even as national carrier Air India resumed operations on the route the same day.

British Airways, which operated three direct fights a week from the city to Heathrow Airport in London, decided to suspend operations as it found the route unprofitable.

Air India's service on the Kolkata-London sector had been suspended last October.

The last British Airways flight - a Boeing 777 with a seat capacity of 272 passengers - touched down here in the wee hours Sunday. The return flight left the city for London after about four hours.

"The flight was not full. There were a lot of vacant seats," said Martina, who flew in from London.

"It will be very difficult for us now to come to Kolkata," said S.K. Samanta, a London resident who flew into the city along with his wife and their two-year-old child.

"Taking hopping flights with a baby is always difficult on such a long route. We will now have to take connecting flights from Mumbai or Delhi both ways," said Samanta.

British Airways started flying to the city in 1932, but its operations on the route have been been intermittent: it stopped its direct service from Kolkata in 1985, but reintroduced it in 1993.

Anil Punjabi, chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India's eastern region, said the British Airways decision was "unfortunate", and added: "It will inconvenience passengers who want to fly directly to London. Students and senior citizens will be the hit the hardest".

Punjabi felt there could be a five to seven percent drop in passengers both ways in the shorter term. "All segments of the market may try to avoid the city now. But may be other companies will try to fill in now".

Referring to Air India resuming its Kolkata-London flight via New Delhi daily from Sunday, Punjabi said it wasn't the "right replacement" as the flight was "not direct".

British Airways now operates flights to and from five Indian cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad to London.
Source: IANS
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