KARIPUR: After a hiatus of over three years, a wide-bodied aircraft from Saudi Arabia landed
at Calicut International Airport on Wednesday. The aircraft of Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) from Jeddah carrying 282 passengers on board reached the airport at 11.10 am and was received with a water salute.
It was in May 2015, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) announced the suspension of operations of wide-bodied aircraft in Calicut Airport as per the instruction of the Director General of Civil
Aviation. The services were suspended for six months for re-carpeting work citing safety guidelines. But later, the operations of the wide-bodied aircraft were delayed citing various technical issues.
The apathy on the part of authorities had drawn flak and attracted angst of the people of Kozhikode and Malappuram, who had relied on the airport for their movement to West Asian countries. Also, Calicut was one of the busiest airports in the country and there were even allegations that the authorities with vested interests were deliberately trying to destroy the airport.
Speaking to reporters, Saudia Assistant Vice-president International (Sales) Nawaf N Al Jakthami said they were happy to resume operations to the Calicut International Airport after three years.
“Saudia will operate seven flights in a week – four from Jeddah and three from Riyadh – to Calicut airport,” he said adding all the flights will have a total seating capacity of 298, including 26 business class seats. It is a privilege to resume our operations as India is one of our major markets, he said.
“We are eager to expand our services to India. We have plans and strategies. But any expansion of services is a bilateral issue. The services can only be expanded if both the countries agree,” he added. Nawaf clarified that the delay was not deliberate – either from Saudi Arabia’s side or from the Indian side.
“There were many things which were to be taken care of. So the delay was purely technical,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said the suspension of operations of wide-bodied aircraft to Calicut International Airport has not affected the business of the airline group.
“We are permitted to conduct 15 services to Kerala. When the operations to Calicut airport was suspended, we had increased the number of services from Kochi. We were operating seven flights from Kochi and Calicut respectively. When the suspension was announced, we operated 15 flights from Kochi. Now when
the things have changed here we are back,” he added.
Meanwhile, the airport authorities and people gave the passengers a warm reception. MPs P K Kunhalikutty and M K Raghavan were present on the occasion.