Watch: Indian expats in UAE celebrate direct flight launch between Dubai and Odisha’s Bhubaneswar

Dubai: The launch of an international flight from the eastern Indian state of Odisha to the UAE this week led to celebrations among the expat community from the state.

Around 1,100 Odia community members, including some from neighbouring GCC countries, attended a cultural event in Dubai to celebrate the maiden flight connecting Dubai and Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar that will cut travel time and expenses. The state government and the Indian Consulate in Dubai organised the celebration titled ‘Odisha Divas’ on Tuesday night.

Direct air connectivity between Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar and Dubai International Airport has been a long-pending demand of Odia expats in the UAE. The direct flight, which began operations this week, holds importance for the Non Resident Indians (NRI) by strengthening connections, creating economic opportunities, fostering cultural exchange, and promoting development between Odisha and the NRI community in the GCC.

Operated by IndiGo, the first-ever international flight from the state has put an end to the travel woes of tens of thousands of Odia expats living in the UAE. They had been facing difficulties while travelling home since they had to take connection flights via other Indian cities, spend several hours in layover and again travel by road before reaching home.

Odia expat community members, who were instrumental in the resumption of scheduled flights to Jharsuguda airport in Odisha in 2019, had also been lobbying for the first international flight from Bhubaneswar to Dubai.

In June 2022, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, during his maiden visit to the UAE, had promised to launch the direct Dubai-Bhubaneswar flight service. Operating three times a week, the new flight has a one-way fare of around Dh500, enhancing convenience for both business and leisure travellers.

Promise delivered

Addressing the Dubai celebration virtually, Patnaik said he was glad that his promise had been delivered within one year.

Stating that the initiative has been fully funded by the Odisha government, Patnaik said it is part of the state government’s efforts to connect Odisha to the international community. He also announced that direct flights from Bhubaneswar to Singapore and Bangkok will commence shortly. Inviting all to participate in the growth story of Odisha, he said: “Let us join hands to create a new and empowered Odisha.”

Patnaik during his virtual address to the gathering
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India in Dubai, said: “Today we’re celebrating India’s best kept secret [Odisha] being connected with Dubai, which is a shining example of how trade, tourism and investment can transform the lives of people. Today, we are connecting Bhubaneswar to Dubai, which will enable people of Odisha to be connected to the world through this amazing hub of Dubai — not just for tourism, but also for trade, employment opportunities in different parts of the world — and for seeking investments. We are also going to enable people living in the Middle East, our Emirati brothers and sisters and our brothers and sisters from over 200 nationalities, who consider UAE their second home, to have a seamless experience of visiting Bhubaneswar in India’s best kept secret.”

dr aman puri (left) and other speakers at Odisha Divas at the Indian consulate in Dubai on Tuesday

Ashok Chandra Panda (centre), Minister for Science and Technology, Government of Odisha; Anu Garg (right), development commissioner, and Consul General Dr Aman Puri (left) at Odisha Divas
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Delegations to Odisha

The Consul General also announced that business delegations from the UAE would be taken to Odisha in the next three months.

“We are going to take some of the biggest UAE investors to visit and see and explore the opportunity of investing in Odisha and some major projects will be announced,” he added.

A delegation comprising representatives from the Government of Odisha, civil society, members of the business and sports community, and self-help groups arrived on the maiden flight to Dubai. The delegation also took part in the Odisha Divas celebration.

V.K. Pandian, CM’s secretary for the 5T Department in Odisha, said: “When we left, I felt Odisha is taking off, not just the flight. And it is a flight of our prosperity.”

He announced that Odisha Divas would be held annually in 10 international hubs, including the UAE.

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Pandian at Odisha Divas in Dubai
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

State minister of science and technology, Ashok Chandra Panda, and development commissioner, Anu Garg, also spoke on the occasion highlighting the benefits of the flight service and investment opportunities in Odisha.

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Panda during his remarks to the audience
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Nirmala Sahoo, one of the members of the government self-help group, ‘Mission Shakti’ who were brought to Dubai on the maiden flight, said it was the first ever flight in their lives. “We are glad and proud to visit Dubai on this historic flight.”

End to travel woes

Meanwhile, Odia expats in the UAE were jubilant that the new flight has put an end to their travel woes.

Smruti Panda, a homemaker in Dubai, said her family had to plan a day’s travel to reach home earlier. “Travelling home was a harrowing time for Odia expats, especially those with families and small children. Taking different flights, waiting in transit and changing luggage from and to different terminals were extremely difficult.”

Her husband, Tapan Kumar Sahu, an accounts analyst, said that with the direct flight the family would not only cut travel time, but also would save at least Dh3,000 per trip home.

“We are also extremely happy that now we can carry more luggage home and invite family and friends to visit us. Earlier, we could carry only limited baggage as we had to catch domestic connection flights. Also, people used to hesitate to come over because of all these travel hassles,” added Sahu.

Amiya Mishra, president of Odisha Samaj Dubai, said: “Our people are truly happy and we are grateful to our government and the Chief Minister for this noble initiative. Odia expats including huge numbers of blue-collar workers here will hugely benefit from this flight. It will boost tourism, culture, business, education and different industries. People from neighbouring states will also be benefited.”

First passenger

Priyadarshee Panigrahi, who was part of the community group that spreaheaded the mission of reviving the Veer Surendra Sai Airport in Jharsuguda, was among the first passengers on the maiden flight from Dubai to Bhubaneswar on Monday.

“When I was the first passenger to get down from the Delhi-Jharsuguda inaugural flight, I had wanted to be the first person to get down from the Dubai-Bhubaneswar flight too,” said Panigrahi.

Priyadarshee Panigrahi (centre) thanking Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (right), by presenting him a memento after arriving in Bhubaneswar, on the first direct flight between Dubai and Bhubaneswar on May 15

Priyadarshee Panigrahi (centre) thanking Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (right), by presenting him a memento after arriving in Bhubaneswar, on the first direct flight between Dubai and Bhubaneswar on May 15. Also seen is Abha Panigrahi (left), another Odia resident of Dubai.
Image Credit: Supplied

On reaching Bhubaneswar on the maiden flight, Panigrahi visited the Chief Minister and presented him a memento. “I gifted him a Khanjar, the J-shaped traditional Emirati dagger. It was an honour to present him that and a personal thank you letter signed by some prominent Odia residents of the UAE, led by Captain Soumya Ranjan Patnaik,” said Panigrahi, senior general manager of a consumer goods company.

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