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Mamata Urges Centre to Make Kolkata-London Direct Flights Permanent Ahead of Vande Bharat Phase Deadline

File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The twice-a-week service is scheduled to continue till October 24. The government launched the VBM on May 7 to bring home Indians who were stranded in various countries due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that there is a huge demand for flights to European countries from this part of India and urged the Centre to continue with Kolkata-London direct flight services, that had started last month after over a decade. The first direct flight from London to Kolkata under the 'Vande Bharat Mission' (VBM) landed here on September 17.

The twice-a-week service is scheduled to continue till October 24. The government launched the VBM on May 7 to bring home Indians who were stranded in various countries due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

Banerjee said that her government is ready to offer more facilities to stakeholders so that direct flight services between the two cities can continue permanently. "The flight services from Kolkata to London which were not operational for a long time have been resumed. I think the flights are operating twice a week and at times move via Delhi or Mumbai," she told reporters.

The chief minister said that people of Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and the eight Northeastern states use Kolkata airport. "There is a huge demand from (these) people who want to go to Europe. That is the reason we want this flight service to continue and it should be made permanent. I request the Civil Aviation Ministry to keep it here permanently," Banerjee said.

The government had earlier written to the ministry in this regard, she said and asked Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to communicate with it afresh. Banerjee mentioned a problem the passengers willing to take direct flights from London face, due to which seats are not getting filled up.

Such passengers need to undergo COVID-19 test before boarding a flight and it sometimes takes a lot of time, she said and offered a solution. "After they reach here, we will conduct rapid tests. Those test negative will be allowed to enter the city and those found positive will be sent to safe houses or hospitals as per the protocol. If this is done, I think more people will be able to avail the service," the chief minister said. The state government has been trying to get Kolkata- London direct flights for the last 10-12 years, she said.

British Airways operated its last non-stop flight between Kolkata and London in 2009. Air India had moved out of the sector a year before that.


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