CM: Meeting with Airlines

Dear Shri. R. N. Chaubey, Secretary for Civil Aviation, Government of India, Chief Executive Officers of the various airlines and other officials present here today; I have immense pleasure in welcoming you all to Kerala once again.

In April 2017 when we had last met, the Kannur Airport was still under construction. I am happy to inform you all that the airport has since been completed and commissioned, with effect from 9 December 2018.

We have achieved the goal of creating a major infrastructure facility in the northern part of Kerala. Kannur Airport will cater not only to North Malabar, but also to several neighbouring districts of Karnataka, especially Coorg, Mysore, etc. Apart from providing the required connectivity to passengers, tourists and businesses in the region, I am sure that Kannur Airport will usher in an era of all round development in its large catchment area.

The majority of air travel from North Kerala continues to be to the Gulf and the Middle East. This underlines the need for more number of flights from Kannur to all cities in the GCC countries – Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Doha, Bahrain, Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah and Kuwait. Also, there is good demand for travel to South East Asia, especially Singapore and Malaysia.

Apart from these international routes, demand for domestic travel is growing at a very healthy rate in India and also in Kerala. To our delight, we have noticed that the number of passengers from Kannur Airport in the first month of its operations, is almost the same for both domestic and international sectors. This calls for a fresh look at the projected traffic profile of Kerala. It is necessary to connect Kannur with all the major cities in the country, especially Delhi. We also need air connectivity within Kerala, especially from Kannur to Trivandrum.

Currently, Air India Express is operating to four overseas destinations and GoAir will be commencing international flights from Kannur in the near future. Air India, IndiGo and Spice Jet have also carried out required technical assessment as a prelude to commencement of operations from Kannur. I hope Air Vistara and Air Asia will also be commencing operations in the near future. I thank all the airlines that have shown interest in operating from Kannur International Airport.

However, I would like to bring another aspect to the concerned authorities. There have been complaints that Air India has been charging exhorbitant rates from the passengers. Rate of density in Kannur sector is high. Making this as a pretext Air India is charging unreasonable rates from the passengers who want to board at Kannur. This rate is higher than those charged at the neighbouring Airports.

The fact that there are passengers who are prepared to purchase tickets at a higher rate should not be made an excuse for a blanket hike covering all passengers. I request Air India to reduce the rate. Or else, other Airlines also will exploit passengers even from other neighbouring Airports. There is no justification for the stand taken by Air India in this regard.

The main constraint in the operations of flights from Kannur to the Gulf is the fact that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has not yet granted the permission to foreign carriers to operate from Kannur. Such flights are crucial for the Kannur Airport to meet the demand of the travelling public.

I believe that all the carriers in the Gulf countries and South East Asia have shown keen interest to operate to Kannur. Some of these airlines operate wide body aircrafts which are required to cater to the air cargo requirements from Kannur. If only Indian carriers are allowed to operate international flights, the full potential of the airport will not be realised, neither to fulfil the demand of travelling public and cargo, nor to meet the revenue requirements of the airport.

I request the Ministry of Civil Aviation to reconsider their stand in this matter. As a greenfield airport, Kannur Airport is required to pay for all services provided by the Central Government agencies. With very limited resources in the initial days, the airport will not be able to meet this liability without adequate revenue and without the Ministry changing its policy in this matter.

Based on the Civil Aviation Secretary’s request following the last meeting of Airline CEO’s on 15th May 2017, the State Government has issued notifications reducing sales tax on ATF to 1% for all domestic flights operating from KIAL. Further, the Government of India has approved the operation of wide bodied aircrafts from Calicut. I thank the Government of India for the same.

You are all are aware of the Government of India’s move to develop 6 airports in the country on a PPP mode. Accordingly, the State Government is actively participating in the bid process for the development of Trivandrum International Airport.

I would also like to inform you all that the feasibility report of the 5th international airport in the state – at Sabarimala – prepared by Louis Berger, is under the active consideration of the Government of Kerala.

Further, airstrips at Bekal in Kasargod, and in Wayanad and Idukki districts are being planned and the feasibility report for the same is under the state government’s consideration for approval. We will be approaching the concerned authorities for air connectivity to these airstrips with the nearest international airport with smaller aircrafts or heli-taxis under the UDAN scheme.

Detailed presentations would be made by the Principal Secretary (Aviation) and the Managing Director of the Kannur International Airport. I request all the Airlines to come forward to operate from the world class airports in the state, especially from Kannur.

Your suggestions are most welcome for making Kerala the foremost Aviation Hub of India. I look forward to fruitful discussions.