Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bhutan : Bagdogra - Possible new Druk Air destination

11 August, 2008 - Civil aviation authorities are looking into the possibility of adding Bagdogra as a new destination to Druk Air’s existing flight routes in India.

A bilateral meeting between the two governments held in Delhi last month indicates that Bagdogra had already been granted as “an additional point of call” for the designated airline of Bhutan by the civil aviation ministry in India.

“With this agreement, Druk Air could operate services to Bagdora and beyond, particularly to Bangkok and Kathmandu via Bagdora,” said the director general of civil aviation department, Phala Dorji.

“If Druk Air is interested to use this route, we have to inform the Indian authority about the plan to operate from Bagdogra and give them three months’ notice,” he said. The time would allow the Indian government to make preparations on their side.

He said that the Druk Air would have to consider other obligations and also see .whether they could cope with the new route given the existing number of aircrafts.

“They’ll also have to do certain marketing in terms of traffic and study the feasibility of operating beyond Bagdogra,” he said.

In order to fly from Bagdogra to Bangkok and Kathmandu, a proper agreement needs to be drawn up with the respective authorities in Thailand and Nepal.

“We can still fly passengers from Bagdora to Bangkok but need to get clearance from the authority in Thailand to fly passengers from Bangkok to Bagdogra. Same is true in case of Nepal,” said Phala Dorji.

However, the civil aviation officials are optimistic that their counterparts in Thailand and Nepal would respond positively.

Meanwhile, a memorandum of understanding signed during the meeting also ensured the use of any airport in India for relief operations in case of any disaster at the Paro airport.

Assistant planning officer, Sithar Dorji, said that factors like Bhutan’s location in a seismically active zone and Paro airport being located near the river, with high chances of flash floods, posed threats to the airport.

“We have only one airport so, if there are any sort of natural calamities or disasters and if the airport becomes unusable, they’ll allow us to use any airport in India,” he said. It was also agreed that, in the event of any accidents with aircraft of Druk Air or foreign ones operating in Bhutanese air space or territory, India would provide assistance in search and rescue operations.

“For search and rescue operations, we need to have equipment in place and this entails huge expenses. We don’t have such facilities and they’ve agreed to help us,” said Phala Dorji.

He said that, although there was no such understanding signed before, it was always assumed that the Indian government would chip in during such eventualities. “They have been always been very supportive,” he said.

By Kesang Dema

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