Delay in issuing air cargo notification disappoints travel industry

Even as air operators are exploring the potential for operating more services from the city, the travel industry here has been disappointed over the delay in notifying the Tiruchi airport as an air cargo complex.

Air operators of the region have long been demanding that the airport be declared as an international customs port to enable direct export and import of general cargo. Though the Central Board of Excise and Customs has approved the proposal, airport sources say that the notification is yet to be issued.

The air cargo complex was expected to have started functioning from December 1 last year. However, the Customs authorities are reported to have asked for additional staff to man the air cargo complex. Sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) here maintain that they are ready to provide the infrastructure for the cargo complex at the old terminal building.

It is felt that the complex can begin functioning with minimum staff to start with until the additional posts are sanctioned.

“The airport offers excellent potential for cargo exports and imports. It can emerge as the gateway for exports from the central region of the State.

Apart from the potential for export of handlooms from Karur, and other products from the region, there is also much potential for direct import of unaccompanied baggage which now has to come via Chennai,” according to an officer.

Once the air cargo complex is established, the airport can grow into a full-fledged import/export hub catering to the central and southern districts. It is estimated that in about two years, the air cargo complex can handle about 6,000 to 7,000 tonnes a year, says an airline official.

More services likely

If the air cargo complex becomes functional, it can spur air operators to introduce more flights to and from the city. Currently, the airport handles 77 flights and there is potential for introducing flights to more destinations from here, he says. Low cost carrier Air India Express is already exploring the potential for introducing more flights. The airline is planning services to Colombo from Tiruchi, given the steady increase in passenger traffic on the sector.

According to industry sources, more than 80,000 passengers had travelled on the sector, currently served by Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka, between January and October 2010. During 2009, about 68,800 passengers had travelled on the sector.

The airline is also considering the feasibility of introducing flights to Muscat and Kuwait from Tiruchi.

Tiger Airways is said to be planning to increase the frequency of its flights on the Singapore-Tiruchi-Singapore sector to six flights a week from the existing four. The additional flights are expected to be operated from June. A few other airlines, including a leading private air operator, are also reportedly exploring the market potential for starting operations from Tiruchi.

However, travel industry sources feel the need for a strong lobby to press for the introduction of more services and expeditious notification of the air cargo complex. Besides, the AAI should also ensure that adequate Air Traffic Control staff are available to provide the time slots sought by the airlines round-the-clock without any restrictions, they say.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 2:34:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/Delay-in-issuing-air-cargo-notification-disappoints-travel-industry/article15524799.ece

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