Kerala floods: Kochi naval airstrip offered for civilian ops

Kerala floods: Kochi naval airstrip offered for civilian ops

The Naval airstrip at Kochi, which was used for commercial operations till 2000, has been offered to the Kerala state government for use by civilian airlines on account of the Cochin International Airport remaining closed till August 26 due to unprecedented rains in the region.

This was discussed at the Friday meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), which met for the second time in two days here to review the rescue and relief operations in Kerala. Air India is expected to conduct a test flight on Saturday at the airstrip to ensure technical feasibility. The airline will operate the flight on the ATR aircraft through its arm Alliance Air.

The home ministry said that the NCMC will meet again Saturday to review the situation. The Naval base INS Garuda was in use for civilian flights till 2000. In the early 1990s a proposal to expand operations at airports was made but it was rejected by the Navy due to security concerns. Following this a greenfield airport was constructed, which is in use now.

Thursday, Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) announced suspension of operations till August 26, leading to flight cancellations. This prompted airlines to start special flights to nearby airports including Thiruvananthapuram.

Several airlines have rescheduled flights to the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Notwithstanding the addition of capacity on alternative routes, the cancellations to Kochi has caused a surge in fares for flights to nearby airports. To mitigate this, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) advised airlines to cap the fares at Rs 10,000.

“Owing to the floods in Kerala and the subsequent shut down of Kochi airport, we have witnessed an approximate spike of 48 per cent in flight fares for Kerala. Maximum spike has been witnessed in flights from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune to Thiruvananthapuram,” said Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of online travel portal ixigo.

In an official statement Friday, the civil aviation ministry said that the DGCA was constantly monitoring the airfares on 32 direct routes operating to or from various airports in Kerala. “DGCA has also convened a meeting with higher management of domestic airlines today in this regard,” the statement said.

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