God’s own Airline may take-off soon
7 May, 2005
The Congress government in Kerala has announced plans to
start a low cost airline to the Gulf countries.
BY JOMY VARGHESE
The Gulf countries were always the most-sought after destination of Keralaities, though, after the dot-com boom, people are heading for other destinations including the US, Canada and even to a great extent Australia. The oil-economy of the Gulf still powers Kerala’s money-order economy to a great extent. And a long-standing grievance of the Malayalee community in Gulf countries has been the lack of a domestic low-cost airline.
Sensing the opportunity a year ahead of the Assembly polls scheduled next year, a battered Congress government in Kerala has announced plans to start a low cost air liner.
The plan, though announced by none other than Chief Minister Ommen Chandy, is in a nascent stage and it could take time to become a reality.
The plan envisages floating of a government-run airline and also construction of one more international airport on the lines of the successful Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL). The plan is to not only operate an airline but also to woo low cost air lines like Air Arabia and to encourage Air India’s new low-cost airline Air India Express to operate more flights. The Air line would be modeled on the lines of the Kochi International Airport at Nedumbasserry. The Nedumbasserry airport is a private-public venture.
The government plans to hold only a minority stake in the venture, with the major stake going to private shareholders of the venture. The company would operate only international flights. Domestics routes won’t be taken up. This would mean that a stipulation that no airline could operate international flights within three years of launching would have to be waived. With a Congress-led government at the Centre, Kerala may get such a waiver. Another international airport, which would come up in Kannur, would also facilitate Gulf travel for people in Malabar region. If it gets the nod the Kannur airport would be the fourth international airport in the State, the other three being Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Karippur Airport in Kozhikode.
It is reliably learnt that Kerala’s suggestion that the Centre allow Air Arabia to operate flights to and from Kerala has met with stiff opposition from Air India for obvious reasons. But a final word on this is yet to come from the Centre. With Air India top brass putting up stiff resistance, Civil Aviation Ministry is reluctant to take a decision in the matter, though political pressure is mounting.
But there is good news for Kerala’s low cost airline plan. Some businessmen based in the Gulf have vowed to back the airline, which would be probably christened Kerala Airlines. Keralites in UAE have widely welcomed the move.