The first flight of Air Kerala, the airline start-up conceived by the State government, is all set to take to the Kochi skies by the end of this year.
Official sources said Cochin International Airport Limited, which co-owns the airline company, is in the final stages of leasing an aircraft and will soon approach the Director General of Civil Aviation for its certification. “We are looking at leasing an aircraft that can fly non-stop for five hours so as to achieve the proposed minimum required domestic flying credits at the earliest. The approval process is expected to be completed by November and the first flight will take off shortly thereafter,” said a senior official with CIAL.
The step is in contrast to its earlier plan to commence operations with a 15-seater aircraft.
“It helps if we could get a relatively bigger aircraft as the commercial viability of our domestic operations is not going to be a matter of great concern. In fact, our priority is to offer international connectivity to the Gulf countries at a lower cost,’’ the official said.
New Delhi and Mumbai are among the destinations the airline has on its radar, in addition to 12 low-profile airports in Kochi’s neighbourhood.
Recently, the airline conducted a study on its possible routes and markets with a focus on the different modes of transport ensuring connectivity to these airports and the estimates of the cost incurred by the passengers in utilising them.
The Air Kerala project, conceived as an international carrier catering to the Malayali diaspora in Gulf countries, had been hanging fire owing to the requirement of five-year domestic operations and a fleet of 20 aircraft. The project, however, was revived recently on receiving hints about the NDA government preparing to relax the norm and it further received a shot in the arm with the government gearing up to revise its route dispersal guidelines.