The number of daily flights to north Bengal, which serves as the gateway to Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Dooars, is set to increase to 11 from seven over the next couple of months.
While IndiGo and SpiceJet operate two flights each and Jet Airways, Air India and Go Air have a daily connection, IndiGo is increasing its frequency to four a day. Jet is set to add one and Air Asia will start flights on the sector from February 19.
The flight timings are also crucial. Unlike now, when the first connection to Bagdogra from the city lands at 11.40am and the last flight out of there is at 4.30pm, one will be able to reach Bagdogra as early as 7.40am on a Jet Airways flight. The last flight out is at 4.50pm.
"Bagdogra is set to become one of the busiest airports in the region with 13 daily flights to Delhi, three to Guwahati and one each to Mumbai and Hyderabad," said Bagdogra airport director Rakesh Sahay.
The increase in flight frequency also poses a challenge as the terminal has a capacity of only 7 lakh. With 13 arrivals and 11 departures scheduled in two hours (12pm-2pm), the facility will face pressure.
To keep the show going, AAI is increasing the housekeeping staff from 14 to 28, apart from adding a new door-frame metal detector. But with the number of X-ray machines remaining constant, passengers could be in for a long wait.
Sahay hopes the flights will get spread out when Category II Instrument Landing System (ILS) is operational by mid-2017. The ILS will enable flights to operate from 7am," he said. Travel Agents' Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi expects the increase in flights to bring down return fares from Rs 8,000-10,000 to Rs 4,500-5,000 in summer. Transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said the key reasons for the surge in number of flights was the state's incentive to do away with VAT on aviation fuel.