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Calicut airport turns 30

Emerges as seventh top international airport in the country

April 12, 2018 08:18 am | Updated 08:18 am IST - Kozhikode

The control room of Calicut International Airport.

The control room of Calicut International Airport.

The Vishu day on April 13, 1988, was a red-letter day for north Kerala. That day, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) commissioned the operations of the Calicut International Airport after several years of public agitation. Rising from its humble beginnings, with just four flights a week, 30 years ago, the airport now operates 60 international movements (arrivals and departures) and eight domestic flights daily.

In the beginning only domestic flights operated from the airport. The first direct international flight, to Sharjah, commenced in February 1992. However, the airport achieved its international status only in February 2006. And a few years later, the airport was made an embarkation point for Haj pilgrimage along with the largest flow of migrants to the Gulf nations.

“The three-decade journey has been memorable for an airport that now handles more than 32 lakh passengers a year,” J.T. Radhakrishna, Airport Director, told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

He said that the airport had emerged as the seventh top international airport in the country, having a real impact on the economic development of Malabar. The number of international passengers rose from 22 lakh to 26 lakh during the period while the number of domestic passengers increased from 4.3 lakh to 5.1 lakh.

“Possibly, with the expected operation of wide-bodied aircraft, the passenger volume will touch 60 lakh in the next five years,” he said.

The passenger volume increased by 18% and cargo movement by a whopping 35% during the previous fiscal. The airport expects to increase the international and domestic cargo movement by 35% in the new financial year.

However, the airport at present is at the crossroads with the ongoing ban on the operation of wide-bodied aircraft and bleak prospect of expansions of the table-top runway. But that has not deterred the airport authorities from its development plans.

“The airport is being given a facelift with the ongoing construction activities including a new terminal hall, canopies and shelter roofing at a cost of ₹120 crore. As many as 18 food courts and a dozen retail shops will be set up in and outside the terminals. These works, especially the expansion of the Runway End Safety Area, will be completed in June,” Mr. Radhakrishna said.


As part of modernisation programme, he said that a state-of-the-art Air Navigation Surveillance Equipment costing ₹15 crore would be installed at the Air Traffic Control shortly. “We have requested the State government to acquire 15 acres of land for establishing a multi-level parking facility for cars,” he said.

The operation of wide-bodied aircraft from the Calicut airport hinges on decision of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) with the AAI giving a favourable reports on the willingness of Saudia, Emirates, and Air India to operate big flights assigned under Code E.

However, the DGCA wanted these airline companies to do a compatibility study and safety assessment in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements. “So far, only the Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) has submitted a detailed report on the compatibility of operating and safety assessment of wide-bodied aircraft,” the Airport Director, said.

The airport had been the embarkation point for Haj pilgrims from Kerala and Lakshadweep till 2014 when the Ministry of Civil Aviation shifted the embarkation point to Kochi, following which the airport was partially closed from June 1, 2015 to March 1, 2017 to strengthen and re-carpet the runway. “We need just a month’s time to shift back to Calicut, to resume Haj facilities. Unfortunately, the Centre is still reluctant to take a positive decision even after an observation by the Supreme Court,” said Thodiyoor Muhammed Kunju Moulavi, chairman, Haj Committee.

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