‘One-way ticket fare was just Rs.6,999’

Thirty-eight-year-old B. Raja, a fisherman hailing from Ramanathapuram district, was the first to emerge out of the Madurai airport after alighting from the maiden flight from Dubai to Madurai on Saturday. And his arrival was an indication of the kind of traffic expected in the sector as most of the passengers turned out to be Indian labourers employed abroad.

Mr.Raja said he had been working as a fisherman in Dubai for the last 10 years and had visited his native on many occasions earlier by arriving at the Chennai and Tiruchi airports.

“This is the first time that I have landed at the Madurai airport, and I feel very nice about it. Apart from being convenient, the travel cost me very less, because the one-way ticket fare was just Rs.6,999,” he said. A huge crowd from the southern districts had assembled outside the arrival gate of the airport terminal here on Saturday to receive their relatives flying down from Dubai. A majority of the visitors chose to squat on the pavements outside the terminal rather than entering the terminal building after purchasing tickets costing Rs.45 each.

Shocked by the price of the entry ticket, one of the visitors, S. Saravankumar, said: “I would prefer to have a sumptuous lunch for Rs.45 rather than spending it on purchasing a ticket.” He stood all through with eyes glued to the digital information board and felt elated when it displayed that the Dubai flight arrived five minutes before the scheduled time of 9.45 a.m. However, many of the visitors, including Mr.Saravankumar, were not aware that it was the maiden flight from Dubai.

K. Kumar, a farmer from Vilathikulam in Tuticorin district, said he had brought his entire family in a hired vehicle to receive his younger brother K. Seeniraj working as a welder in Dubai.

“My brother has been working in Dubai for the last nine years. This is the first time, he had asked me to pick him up at Madurai airport, but I did not know that he is travelling by the first flight from Dubai,” he said. Similar was the reaction of S. Subburam of Bagarupatti near Ettayapuram in Tuticorin district. He too had come to the airport to receive his brother, S. Ayyappa Raju, working as a clerk in Dubai.

“I usually pick him up at Thiruvananthapuram airport for which I have to travel for about six hours. But to reach Madurai, I had to travel for only two and a half hours. We can reach our village by a government bus,” he said.

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