A Correspondent

NEDUMBASSERY: Air-India completed its seventh year of operations from the Cochin International Airport last week. The airline's association with the country's first greenfield airport dates back to1999.

Air-India is credited with the first landing of a Jumbo aircraft on Kerala soil on June 21, 1999. The Jumbo arrived here from Mumbai and left for Dubai via Abu Dhabi. It also conducted two joyrides christened `Reaching for the sky' and `Dream come true' for differently abled children, earning it an entry in the Limca Book of World Records for taking the maximum number of such children on an airborne journey, said Aby George, AI's public relations officer.

Air-India's stepping in as the sole ground-handling agent for a ten-year-period, ending 2009, had helped the airport in its infancy to benefit from the airline's brand image. Air-India now handles 295 flights in a week, including domestic and international flights.

Air-India had invested Rs.5 crores in equity, Rs.11 crores as interest-free deposit and Rs.25 crores to put in place the infrastructure for ground handling. This was besides making available the technical know-how and the engineering expertise of Air-India's manpower. The airline also provided jobs to more than 100 persons belonging to families which had lost their land in the acquisition process for the airport, said Mr. George.

The airline also increased the number of services operated from the Cochin International Airport. It began with seven services a week to Dubai, Dammam and Mumbai. The number has now increased to 21 services a week.