Domestic airlines, with the exception of AirAsia India, are cold to the Assam government proposal to start international services from Guwahati.
The state government has asked the civil aviation ministry to introduce a policy on the lines of its regional connectivity scheme to connect Assam with South East Asian countries and has offered Rs 1 billion in incentive to airlines to support this efforts. So far however, the plan has received lukewarm response from airlines.
In 2017, total international traffic to/from Guwahati was little over 90,000. This is equivalent to around 250 daily passengers. Dubai, Bangkok, Paro, Muscat and Doha are the top destinations from Guwahati.
National carrier Air India which also has the largest share of India's international traffic said it is not evaluating overseas routes from Guwahati due to resource constraints.
An IndiGo spokesperson said at the moment there is no plan for international service from Guwahati while a senior executive from Jet Airways too offered similar comment.
“We (Jet Airways) do not have any immediate plans but there could be opportunities in connecting Guwahati with Kathmandu or Dhaka,” the executive stated. Vistara said it is premature to comment on its overseas routes. GoAir and SpiceJet did not respond to email queries.
A few airlines including AirAsia India, Flydubai and Novoair of Bangladesh have expressed interest in launching foreign services from Guwahati. In February AirAsia India chief executive officer Amar Abrol met state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in February to discuss growth opportunities in the region.
But these airlines would not be able to launch services unless there is a change in norms and revision in air service agreements between India-Dubai and India-Bangladesh. The International Chamber for Service Industry has requested the central government to remove the 20 aircraft rule for carriers which want to connect North East region to South East Asia and allow for limited open skies to promote international connectivity from Guwahati. Currently AirAsia India has 17 planes and it needs minimum 20 aircraft to start overseas services.
Ravi Capoor, additional chief secretary (industries & commerce), Assam government argues that the current traffic data does not reflect the true demand.
The international traffic figure is depressed because local residents do not have any option of non stop flights from Guwahati, he argued.
“Flying time from Guwahati to South East Asia and Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal is less than two hours But in absence of direct flights people from Assam have to travel via Kolkata. It makes sense for Guwahati to be developed as a hub. We have proposed an Udan like scheme for international flights and are discussing the proposal with various airlines,” he said.
“ The Udan scheme for international operations is under consideration and we are working out modalities,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official.