Bihar has made a strong pitch to increase air connectivity both within and outside the state to boost its tourism and industries and has reached out to various air operators, tour integrators and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI). Officials are aware of the development, he said.
The state government has directed the Center to explore options for introducing low-cost international flights from Gaya to Southeast Asian countries such as Bangkok, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, excluding the Gulf.
Officials said it could be developed on the model of the Ude Desh Ka Am Jadikkar – Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN-RCS), a regional airport development program to upgrade underserved air routes in which the Government of India would compensate in the form of a feasibility gap fund. For airlines to incur losses due to low fares.
Officials cited above said that the state government has proposed to activate small airports at Bhagalpur, Saharsa, Birpur (Supaul district), Kishanganj and Valmikinagar (West Champaran district), which are known for their tiger reserves.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) assured the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in a meeting with senior officials last month to develop heliports in various districts to strengthen inter-district air connectivity through fixed wing aircraft and helicopter service.
Additionally, while trying to increase passenger air traffic at the already operational Gaya and Darbhanga airports, the state has proposed to develop aerodromes at defense airports Purnia and Bihta (in Patna), officials privy to the meeting said.
“We held a meeting with small aircraft and helicopter operators in Delhi last month, which we propose to enable in Bihar to increase air connectivity between some commercial airlines, already operational airports and small, non-operational airports,” he said. A senior officer of the state civil aviation department
“Various air operators like IndiGo and SpiceJet and helicopter operators like Pawan Hans and many private companies who lease their choppers during elections have shown interest in our proposal and assured us to explore operational options in Bihar,” he said.
“We have invited tour coordinators like EaseMy Trip to showcase the tourist potential in our state and take their views to promote tourism,” he said.
The state is keen to develop air connectivity on the Buddhist circuit, especially on the Gaya-Rajgir-Vaishali-Patna route, to tap international tourists.
Foreign tourist visits in Bihar increased from 1.01 million in 2016 to 1.09 million in 2019. The state contributes 3.77% share in foreign tourist arrivals to India. Its domestic tourist figures in 2019 were 5.63 million. The state is targeting 10 million tourists annually by the end of this year.
Officials said Bihar ranks fourth in vegetable production and has the eight largest fruits in India.
The state has about 26 airstrips, of which five – Patna, Gaya, Bihta, Purnia and Darbhanga – are operational. Commercial flights operate from Patna, Gaya and Darbhanga airports, while Bihta and Purnia are defense airfields.
MoCA, in collaboration with the Government of Bihar and FICCI, organized a conference in Delhi to promote the civil aviation sector in Bihar.
The conference brought together experts from the Indian aviation sector to strengthen the state’s opportunities in airports infrastructure, heli services, agri-business and tourism, enhance regional connectivity, attract investment and identify new business.
The state has benefited immensely through regular commercial operation of flight services from Darbhanga Airport from 2020 onwards. Darbhanga Airport has direct flight connections with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore while Patna is now connected to Amritsar, Varanasi and Prayagraj under the UDAN-2.0 project. .
About a third of the world’s trade by value is delivered by air and almost half of international tourism is facilitated by air links.