Flight operations from the Rs. 300 crore world class terminal of Thiruvananthapuram international airport will commence only after the official inauguration of the terminal that has come up on the Chakka side.
The decision was announced by the Former Union Minister and Chairman of the Thiruvananthapuram Airport Development Society (TRIADS), Sashi Tharoor, MP, and Minister for Ports and Youth Affairs, V. Surendran Pillai after the meeting of the TRIADS here on Saturday. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had announced that they will commence international flight operations from the new terminal on December 12 in view of the delay over the commissioning of the terminal constructed by them.
This is the sixth time since May this year that the official inauguration and commencement of flight operations is getting delayed for one reason or other. Mr. Tharoor and Mr. Pillai told a press conference that the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh will come down to the State capital dedicate the terminal and the date is to be fixed according to his convenience. “It may materialise in December last or January. There will be no flight operation from the new terminal till it is formally commissioned’, they added.
When contacted, a top AAI official said they were of the view that the flight operations should commence as the terminal is ready for functioning. “What is the need in delaying the flight operations for the VVIP. The AAI is of the view that the gadgets and the terminal cannot be kept idle anymore”, he added.
Asked on the move of the AAI to commence domestic flights operations from the new terminal and on calling tenders for making it an integrated terminal building, Mr. Tharoor said they had objected to the domestic operations for the new terminal as they wanted to retain the facilities at Shanghumughom.
Air India is insisting on domestic flight operations as they are doing it in New Delhi’s new terminal, the former Minister said the Union Civil Aviation Minister and the Chairman of the AAI had assured him that domestic flight operations will not be shifted from Shanghumughom.
Mr. Tharoor said many issues like shifting of cargo to the new terminal side and the collection of Rs. 755 as user development fee from all international passengers flying out from here needs to be addressed. All are opposing the UDF and it will result in the migration of passengers to Nedumbassery airport. The matter is pending with the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal which is scheduled to hold a sitting in Thiruvananthapuram on January 12.
Replying to queries, the local MP said he had asked the Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Praful Patel to intervene in the issue of user development fee and that he had promised a drastic reduction from the proposed Rs. 755. “A decision is expected in this regard next week and it will be a significant discount”. Mr. Pillai said the State had also opposed the fee as the land for airport development worth crores was given free of cost to the AAI. “Moreover, we had taken care of the rehabilitation of those displaced’, he added.
The likely traffic congestion in the NH 47 bypass and in the ramp that connects the bridge across the Parvathy Puthanar to the new terminal also came up for discussion. The ramp, constructed by the State, is not wide enough and it is likely to create traffic problems once the airport is commissioned. An alternate path is needed for taking care of the passengers coming to the airport, Mr. Tharoor said. Already, the AAI has created a new road from near the Chakka bridge to the concourse of the new terminal.