KOCHI: The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) has been making big strides in total air passenger traffic over the past few years and clocked a record footfall of 64.5 lakh passengers, including domestic and international travellers, in the last financial year, up about 21 per cent from previous year’s traffic of 53.8 lakh. The rise in passenger traffic was also visible in the arrival of pilgrim tourists to the state via Kochi airport, which has grown over 60 per cent in the last few years. However, the effort to make the airport one of the major transit hubs of pilgrims in South India is yet to get desired results as two major projects conceived to take the devotees from the airport to two major pilgrim centres like Sabarimala and Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple ran into rough weather.
Earlier, a Delhi-based Company Chipsan Aviation Limited had formally announced in 2012 that it would introduce helicopter taxi services from Kochi to Sabarimala during the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku seasons. As per the project details, the choppers pressed into service by the company will airlift the passengers from Nedumbasserry airport to Perunad, about 40 km away from Sabarimala, which would cost a devotee Rs 12,000 for one-way trip and Rs 22,000 for round trip.
Similarly, the Union Ministry for Civil Aviation had conducted a feasibility study as part of conducting helicopter services between Kochi International Airport and Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple with a view to boost religious tourism in Kerala. The representatives of the state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd have even identified two locations to set up two modern helipads near Guruvaur, one adjacent the Devaswom-owned Sri Krishna College and another at the Dwaraka beach in Guruvayur.
However, both projects didn’t take off owing to various reasons. Speaking to Express, A C K Nair, airport director, CIAL, said the airport is always ready to provide required infrastructure and its facilities to conduct the services and it is up to the state government and respective Devaswom boards to explore the possibility and tap the conducive market.
Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the chief of Travancore Devaswom Board, who opened a help desk for the Sabarimala pilgrims at the domestic arrival hall of CIAL, which offers assistance to the pilgrims on their onward journey to the shrine from the airport, said he is interested to revive the project and would take up the matter with the authorities further. When asked what went wrong when it was announced in 2012, he said that he had no idea as he took office recently.
According to officials attached with the Guruvayur Devaswom Board, identifying a place suitable for setting up a modern helipad with all safety measures as per the guidelines issued by the DGCA stood as stumbling block in the initial stage. Besides, lack of interest from the side of authorities is the main reason which affected the project, they said.
The airport is always ready to provide required infrastructure and its facilities to conduct the services. The state govt should tap the market
I am interested in reviving the project and would take up the matter with the authorities further — Prayar Gopalakrishnan, Travancore Devaswom Board
CIAL has ended the last fiscal with a passenger traffic flow of 64.5 lakh, including domestic and international, up about 21 per cent from previous year’s traffic of 53.8 lakh
The airport has clocked a record a footfall of 25,09,781 passengers in the first quarter (April-July) of the this financial year.
The heletaxi service between Sabarimala and Cochin Airport was mooted during the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku seasons and formal announcement was made in 2012
The Union Ministry for Civil Aviation had conducted a feasibility study for conducting chopper services between CIAL and Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple to boost religious tourism