Barely months after launching a direct flight service to Dammam from Mangalore, a low-cost private Indian carrier is all set to link the coastal city with another key Saudi Arabian destination, Riyadh, from next month end.
According to sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI), SpiceJet has shown interest to start flight services to Riyadh and Dammam when its winter schedules come into effect from October-end.
The sources said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation recently permitted Indian carriers to operate their flights to the Middle East from eight airports in smaller cities, including Mangalore. However, they said that the Spicejet is yet to seek slots from Mangalore to those destinations.
A source in the Spicejet, however, said that besides Riyadh and Dammam the airlines is interested in servicing Muscat segment also. The company is not keen on launching a Dubai service as the popular UAE city is already connected to Mangalore with Air India Express and Jet Airways operating on this route. At present, Mangalore has flight connectivity to seven Middle East destinations namely Dubai, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Bahrain, Doha and Dammam. The present service to Dammam is four days a week — Wednesday, Saturday, Thursday, and Sunday — and originates from Kozhikode.
Director of Mangalore International Airport J. T. Radhakrishna said there is a demand from passengers to introduce direct flights to popular national and international destinations like Jeddah, Kolkata, Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram. So far no airlines has come forward to service these sectors.
He said the airport handled a total of 1.13 lakh passengers in the first five months of the current financial year and among them 41,253 were international passengers.
Mr. Radhakrishna said that that the number of passengers handled by the airport in the last five years went up from 7.13 lakh in 2007-08 to 10.32 lakh in 2012-13.