Survey of markets, routes for Air Kerala begins

Assessing traffic prospects of ‘feeder’ airports

January 19, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST - KOCHI:

Air Kerala, the airline start-up conceived by the State government and Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL), seems to be heading for take-off finally with the authorities launching a survey on the possible routes and markets.

“A study is on to assess the traffic prospects of as many as 12 low-profile airports in our neighbourhood, including Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Belagavi, and Mangaluru, which could serve as its possible feeder airports,” a senior CIAL official said.

The move comes about a month after the airport company’s director board decided to revive the project and begin operations with a 15-seater aircraft.

Alongside traffic, the study also focusses on the different modes of transport ensuring connectivity to these airports and the estimates of cost incurred by the passengers in utilising them.

Officials said the airline planned to begin operations to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode airports and offer connections to other airports in the next stage. “The objective is to offer connectivity to international passengers from these destinations to Kochi at a price cheaper or equivalent to the train fare for AC first class or that of luxury buses. Bringing passengers from feeder airports will also help make CIAL a hub of international operations, especially to West Asia,” the official said.

Aircraft lease

The airport company has begun negotiations for leasing an aircraft and is counting on launching services within seven months.

Meanwhile, sources said the State government had given an informal promise on booking a certain percentage of seats for its officials on flights on some select routes. It was also contemplating providing an exemption on sales tax on aviation fuel, in addition to extending direct financial assistance to the airline. “Airlines are often at the mercy of fuel price volatility and availing ATF (Aviation Turban Fuel) at a subsidised price will be crucial for the airline in the initial stages. Given the current rate of tax, which stands around 28 percent, it will be difficult for the airline to sustain operations for a longer period,” the officials said.

The project, conceived as an international carrier catering to the Malayali Diaspora in the Gulf countries, has been hanging fire for nearly a decade owing to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s stipulations that it must have a minimum fleet of five aircraft and domestic operation for five years before starting operations abroad.

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