Non-inclusion of Madurai airport in bilateral air services agreement (BASA) with countries having potential for international passenger and cargo traffic from here has been a major bottleneck in converting Madurai airport into an international terminal. This has been holding back operation of international flights from Madurai to popular destinations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Muscat and Sharjah.
Traders and travel agents are looking up to the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation for including the airport in the bilateral agreement to realise the immense potential for international air services from Madurai and southern districts.
“Sri Lankan Airlines is likely to announce its schedule to Madurai any time. Madurai is listed among the airports in the bilateral agreement with Sri Lanka. But operation of flights from other countries cannot be done without the bilateral agreement,” Senior President of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industries S. Rethinavelu said.
While laying the foundation for the new terminal building in 2008, the then Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, had promised that the first international flight would land on the day of its inauguration.
“The 7,500-foot-long runway that can handle Airbus 320 and Boeing 737-800 type of flights and the sprawling new terminal building (1.89 lakh sq. ft.) can handle international flights. It has provisions for customs and immigration,” leading hotelier G. Vasudevan said.
The Travel Club claimed that at least 500 passengers from the nine southern districts boarded international flights from other airports every day only because Madurai airport did not have international flight services.
“Around 30 per cent of the international passengers from Chennai, 40 per cent from Tiruchi and 25 per cent from Thiruvananthapuram airports are from these southern districts,” Mr. Vasudevan said.
A large labour force was working in the Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia, besides, 700 international tourists arrive in Madurai every day. Business houses of textiles, rubber, granite, garments and jasmine also have huge potential for international cargo traffic.
Madurai airport which had night landing facility would soon have an additional facility of common user terminal equipment (CUTE) that would help airliners to use any of the 16 check-in counters at the new terminal, Airport Director K. Sangaiah Pandian said.
Virudhunagar MP, B. Manicka Tagore, under whose constituency the airport falls, said two meetings had been organised by the Travel Club with representatives of several airliners to showcase the international air service potential of Madurai airport.
Earlier this month, along with Dindigul MP, N. S. V. Chitthan, Mr. Tagore had discussed with Vyalar Ravi (former Civil Aviation Minister). “Now, we have a new Minister (for the Civil Aviation) Ajith Singh.
“We will also impress upon him the need to introduce Air India flights to any one of the preferred destinations from Madurai to prove the city's international potential to the private airliners,” Mr. Tagore said.
“Air Asia has promised to introduce flight service to Kuala Lumpur from Madurai provided the chamber is ready to compensate any initial loss,” Mr. Rethinavelu said.