In a bid to provide national and international connectivity to the northeast, national carrier Air India (AI) plans to expand its operations over the next three years, taking the number of weekly flights from the present 65 to about 1,000.

This expansion will be implemented with the assistance of the Union government, and the national carrier will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this connection,

AI’s Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav told The Hindu on the sidelines of the 25th annual convention of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) which concluded here on Saturday, “Improvement in connectivity to the northeast was a part of AI’s programme to provide better connectivity to Tier-II cities.”

It will entail connecting Guwahati to Bangkok, intra-connectivity in the northeast, connecting northeast with the rest of the centres in India with the introduction of daily return flight and plans to shift aircraft to Guwahati and Agartala stations.

“There is a lot of movement between Guwahati and Bangkok,” he added. The programme was being worked taking into account the needs of the customer and requirement of aircraft. “This will not be a low fare model and is not being implemented for subsidy.”

Though the content of this programme depends on the funding received by the Central government, Mr. Jadhav said that it was being viewed from a commercial point of view. Stating that a 20-seater aircraft would be viable for operations in the northeast, he said AI now had 40-seater aircraft in its fleet. “Purchasing new 20-seater aircraft depends on the funding we get from the government. We are hopeful of getting 70 per cent load factor on these routes, which are now being worked out. In all, we expect to carry about 2,000 passengers daily,” he added.