SpiceJet's announcement of its new service connecting Darbhanga with metros such Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru has been cheered by up customers and residents of the city in north Bihar.
It's not just because the state is heading towards an election later this year, and the new service will help the ruling government score some brownie points, but the move, say industry executives, addresses a need of smaller cities and towns for better access to air travel.
This is the first time that air services are being launched in Darbhanga.
SpiceJet had won the rights to operate flights to Darbhanga during the auction under UDAN, the regional connectivity scheme. The airline will operate daily direct flights on the Delhi-Darbhanga, Bengaluru-Darbhanga and Mumbai-Darbhanga sectors starting November 8.
The airline will deploy its Boeing 737-800 on all these routes, and is offering all-inclusive introductory one-way promotional fare starting at Rs 3,799 on all routes.
Last mile connectivity "SpiceJet's last mile connection will help travel and trade as people don't want to split their travel between air/rail/bus," Nishant Pitti, CEO, EaseMyTrip.com, said.
He pointed out that Patna was the nearest airport to Darbangha, which is almost 100 km away from the Bihar capital. "Any customer needs to get a car or bus for the three-hour journey to reach Patna. The same customer is ready to pay extra to cut this travel time. This is also the safest, given the COVID-19 sensitivities," Pitti added.
Interestingly, the Delhi-Patna route was among the busiest, when domestic flights resumed on May 25, after lockdown restrictions were relaxed, partially, for the aviation sector. The government has also capped the fares, which range from Rs 2,000 to Rs 18,600, depending on the flying time. Fares on Delhi-Mumbai route range from Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000.
Right from the first day itself, on May 25, Delhi-Patna was the busiest route and remained among the most sought after in the following months too.
SpiceJet will be pleased with the timing of the new launch. “Our latest addition couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for Bihar when thousands travel back home for Diwali and Chhath Puja," said SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh, in a statement.
The new service also coincides with the state elections, which may be held around the same time. The ruling government, consisting of allies JD (U) and BJP, will sure use the new airport, and the flight services to highlight its report card.
Darbhanga airport The Darbhanga airport has been in the making for a while, and a demand to launch it even led to a campaign on Twitter.
The airport, which will help 22 districts in north Bihar to access air travel, is the third one in the state, after Patna and Gaya. Both these airports are situated south of the Ganges, leaving the northern part of the state without any aviation infrastructure.
Earlier this month, Union Ministry for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri had inspected the upcoming airport. He commented that most of the work at the airport has been completed and services will begin in November.