Monday, January 28, 2019

Kerala eyes interlinked airports

Thiruvananthapuram: Domestic airline companies are actively considering the government’s request for better connectivity among the four airports in state using smaller aircraft. The idea was proposed at a recent meeting between chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and representatives of 12 domestic airlines, Union civil aviation ministry officials and senior government officials. It is reliably learnt that SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir – three major players in domestic sectorevinced interest to link all four airports.
Top sources said SpiceJet that already owns a fleet of small aircrafts, has evinced interest in the government proposal to launch services connecting Kannur, Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram airports. IndiGo and GoAir have already expressed plans to launch a Kannur-Thiruvananthapuram service and they have been asked to consider a stopover in Kochi or Kozhikode. Government has also suggested connecting nearby airports like Coimbatore, Mysuru and Madurai with intra-state destinations. “The main demand of airline companies is that tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) – charged at 29% – should be reduced substantially. At present, ATF is taxed at 1% for Kannur airport for the next 10 years. Airlines are seeking a fair reduction,” said a top source.
Airline companies said operating cost for smaller aircraft are much higher because of the lesser number of seats and hence taxes should be slashed to reduce fares and attract passengers. Government sources contended that if taxes were reduced, only the government stood to lose revenue and a balance in terms of ‘cost effectiveness’ should be struck before reducing the tax. It is learnt that the Union ministry of civil aviation favours launching more services connecting nearby destinations.
Another idea that was discussed was to connect more international destinations with one or more airports in state by domestic airline companies. Sources said the idea that is being seriously considered is that whether government would underwrite fares for an agreed percentage of seats in every flight to an international destination so that airlines can operate with a minimum guarantee.
28/01/19 KP Saikiran/Times of India