By James Mathew
Flights to Kannur International Airport will be outside the ambit of the bilateral rights on maximum number of airline seats currently agreed upon between India and countries in the Gulf region
Gulf airlines are likely to get special permission from the Indian civil aviation authorities to operate two daily flights to Kannur International Airport, the new international airport in the southern state of Kerala that starts operations from Sunday next.
The flights, if allowed, will be outside the ambit of the bilateral rights on maximum number of airline seats currently agreed upon between India and countries in the Gulf region.
A similar special permission is expected to be granted for some of the Indian carriers proposing to operate to various airports in the Middle East.
The additional rights to airlines for flying to Kannur is expected to be sanctioned, based on a special request made by the Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) authorities to India’s civil aviation ministry.
“We have written to the civil aviation ministry and DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) for special permission for allowing two daily flights each by airlines from Gulf countries which plan to operate their flights to KIAL in the initial phase,” V Thulasidas, managing director of KIAL, told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview.
“We have also sought permission for a matching number of flights by domestic airlines which want to fly to various Gulf destinations from KIAL.”
KIAL asked for a special dispensation on allowing flights to and from the Middle East region as “KIAL was not part of the present bilateral rights by India on airline seats sharing pact with the region when it was negotiated and finalised”.
Thulasidas said KIAL has proposed that the additional flights to Middle East destinations should be included in the bilateral rights between India and the countries in the Middle East as and when the new seat sharing agreements are finalised.
A similar special dispensation on additional flights to and from the Gulf countries was also extended to the Cochin International Airport in the initial period of its operation, Thulasidas added.
Local carriers Air India Express and Go Air will operate flights to the Gulf in the initial phase of KIAL’s operations.
Air India Express will operate its first flight to Abu Dhabi on December 9, and will offer services to Sharjah and Riyadh. The carrier will schedule its services to Muscat depending on availability of additional aircraft.
Go Air will start operations in mid-January.
Thulasidas said he and his team have held discussions with almost all airlines in the Middle East countries about operating flights to KIAL and most have shown keen interest in it.
“We understand that some of these airlines including Emirates … have already applied to DGCA for permission for their flights to KIAL. Some other airlines from the region also must have applied to DGCA for permission but we have no specific information on that,” he said.
KIAL expects total passenger traffic of 1.8 million in the first year of its operation, with significant cargo also expected, particularly from the Gulf region.
“Because of KIAL’s proximity to some of the regions in Karnataka such as Coorg and Mysore, besides the adjacent regions in Kerala, KIAL is expected to attract both expat Indians working in various Gulf countries from these regions, as also international tourists,” Thulasidas said.
There are several other tourist destinations near to Kannur, including Wayanad, Nileshawar and Bekal Lake, besides Coorg and Mysore.
KIAL, the second greenfield airport in Kerala developed on the public-private partnership (PPP) model, after Cochin International Airport, will also offer concessional landing and parking charges to all airlines, including the international carriers in a bid to attract them to operate to the airport.
‘‘We propose to work out the extent of concessional rates for landing, parking and other ground handling charges with each airline separately, depending on their level of operations to our airport,” Thulasidas said.
As for User Development Charges applicable at Indian airports, KIAL proposes to charge a concessional rate of Rs 500 ($7.17) for international flights and Rs 150 ($2.15) for domestic flights.
Thulasidas also said the Kerala government has already agreed on a special concessional tax rate of 1 percent for aviation fuel at KIAL, instead of the 29 percent tax applicable on the aviation fuel at other airports in the state. The concessional tax rate on ATF will be applicable for the first 10 years of operations at KIAL.
With Kannur and adjacent regions being a major producer of textiles and handlooms, spices, coffee, Thulasidas said KIAL expects to get a large chunk of the air cargo business from the beginning of its operations itself, mainly that of high value handloom, coffee, spices, marine products and perishables such as vegetables.