KOCHI: Denial of permission by the Navy and insufficient bookings have not bode well for the helicopter service which was launched for cruise tourists from Cochin Port in November last year.After two months of staying non-operational, the service, which was launched as a tourist attraction and aimed at taking visitors to various tourist hotspots, has been temporarily suspended.
However, the officials concerned said online booking for the service will be kept open for now.
The denial of permission by the Navy to regularly land the chopper at and fly from the Cochin Port area proved a major hindrance in operating the service.
An area of five nautical miles (9.2km) surrounding a military establishment is earmarked as no-fly zone. Since Cochin Port Trust (CPT) is situated in the no-fly zone, the Navy’s permission is required to fly any aircraft there.
“The Navy only permits temporary landing in the sensitive area. It objected to regularly operating helicopter in the area. The permission for local flying has not been granted yet,” said an official with CPT.
When contacted, officials of Chipsan Aviation, the firm tasked with conducting the service, claimed they had held a trial landing at Cochin Port area in November. They said the helicopter was operated on the inaugural day with the Navy’s permission and eight trips were organised.
However, when the company sought the Navy’s permission to operate helicopter in the area, it was denied. Following this, the company decided to temporarily suspend the helicopter service.
Not enough bookings
Insufficient number of bookings for regular operations from Cochin Port is another major issue. CPT had planned to operate the helicopter service to Munnar and Jatayu Earth’s Centre in Kollam.“The cruise tour packages, including local destinations to visit, are fixed around six months ahead. In the current season, most tourists are unaware of the service here. So, the helicopter operator gets limited bookings which is not financially viable. Operational costs of the helicopter are high and without enough booking, the service incurs heavy loss,” said a CPT official.
An official with the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Ernakulam, said online booking for helicopter service will be kept open.“We expect the bookings from next cruise season. Tour operators will include helicopter service in the package for the booking they take for next season. In case any mass booking is received this season, we will ask the operator to conduct the service,” said S Vijaya Kumar, DTPC secretary.