Sunday, February 10, 2019

Riding on the wings: Kerala aviation industry is one of the fastest growing

With four international airports in the State, the aviation industry in Kerala has emerged as one of the fastest growing in recent times.

Despite many setbacks, including the ban on wide-bodied aircraft at the Calicut airport or the 15-day closure of the Kochi airport due to floods last year, more people are flying, perhaps than those travelling on AC coaches of trains. A major factor, has been the disposable income of the upwardly mobile middle class.

“Moreover, air tariff has come down considerably, be it in the domestic or international sector. Besides, financial and social equalities have opened up options for families like never before,” Rajesh John, an executive of Exodus Vacations, says.

The Kozhikode-based Hamshid Vattatel, a regular flyer in the domestic sector, has been on annual foreign trips with his family for the last three years. “Airfares are now are so cheap. Last year, the return fare from Kochi to Malaysia was just ₹3,200. Low cost flights, excellent tour package, fast visa processing, and security were unthought of a decade ago,” says the 40-year-old.

With its large emigrant population, Kerala also has the busiest airports in India. A report of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says about 41% of India’s direct international connectivity are to West Asia — much of it to super-connector hubs of the UAE and Qatar. The UAE leads the way, with almost 20%, followed by Saudi Arabia and the United States, each with just over 9% market share.

The Kochi airport, ranked seventh in the country, handled 1,01,72,839 passengers during 2017-18. The number of passengers handled by Thiruvananthapuram and Calicut was 43,93,469 and 31,39,432 respectively during the last financial year. “The international market is growing more slowly than the domestic sector for various reasons,” an AAI official points out.

An analysis by the Directorate of Civil Aviation from April to November 2018 reveals the total domestic passenger traffic at Kochi was 32,32,804, Thiruvananthapuram 13,30,562, and Calicut 4,39,112. The corresponding figures last year were Kochi 29,86,117, Thiruvananthapuram 12,20,285, and Calicut 3,38,893.

Variations are also seen when international and domestic passengers are taken together. Kochi handled 64,87,257 passengers during April- November 2018, Thiruvananthapuram 30,62,065, and Calicut 22,34,388.

Calicut airport director K. Srinivasa Rao says the domestic sector will open up following the recent decision of the State government to reduce the tax on aviation turbine fuel for domestic flights from 28.7% to 5%.

09/02/19 Biju Govind/The Hindu

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