Following the months of poor patronage over Covid-related restrictions, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is finally showing the signs of a revival. The airport has obtained 3rd position for engaging the most number of International passengers across Indian airports. Close on the heels, Air India is going to operate direct service from Heathrow (UK) to Kochi from August 18
KOCHI: Bucking the trend of giving up before the impact of Covid, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is scripting a new chapter of growth. Amid the prevailing challenges of reduced patronage and international restrictions, the company is 3rd in engaging most of the international passengers over the past few months.
From January to May 2021, a total of 5,89,460 international passengers and 19 lakh domestic passengers have travelled through CIAL. The airport streamlined testing procedures and strictly followed the norms to welcome passengers during pandemic times.
"With the outbreak of the second wave, there weren't many departing international passengers. When the UAE issued an order on June 18 for all passengers to undergo a rapid RT-PCR test in airports, CIAL set up a testing counter within a week. We appointed an agency to conduct up to 2,000 tests at a time and provided verified results within 30 minutes," said S Suhas, Managing Director, CIAL.
With the support of the State Medical Service Corporation, the agency offered the best testing facilities for the passengers. "Though we were operating ferry services in departure flights, UAE government has approved to restart the departure services by August 5. With the Rapid RT-PCR facility in place, we managed to start two services with 200 passengers on August 5," he said.
Since then, CIAL is witnessing gradual growth in departure operations to UAE through airlines like Air Arabia, FlyDubai, Emirates, Indigo, Air India Express and Ethihad. Close on the heels of the development, the much-awaited Kochi-London flight will also commence its operations from August 18. "It's been a long demand from the NRKs to have direct connectivity with Europe. The Air India flight which earlier started its service in August 2020 and later discontinued due to Covid spread is going to restart its service. The weekly service already received a full booking for the first two flights and about 80% for September," said a CIAL official.
The flight operations have achieved an average of 50 flights per day from Aug 1 to 10. The average pax per day has reached 10,156 during the period. The growth over July is 22 per cent in flight operations and 43 per cent in overall pax numbers.
Free parking space for services to Europe
To attract more flight services to European countries, CIAL is offering free landing and parking facilities for the next one year for airlines who are ready to offer direct connectivity from Kochi to Europe. "We are hoping to commence new services without further delay," said Suhas.
Terminal 2 for business jets
Since terminal 2 has been unused for a long time, the agency has decided to offer the terminal exclusively for business jets. The construction works will be commenced in September. Apart from the business jet terminal with three lounges, a VVIP safe house and a 50-budget-rooms transit hotel will be developed in the 1 lakh sq ft terminal. "Apart from parking and landing fee, aero revenue remain standstill. We are exploring all other verticals to generate new revenue streams," added Suhas.
En route to recovery
The agency was handling around 30,000 passengers a day during the pre-Covid period. "The total air passenger volume of all four airports in Kerala was 1.75 crore. Of that, we were handling around 1 crore passengers. Almost 65 per cent of the total air passengers were being travelled through CIAL. In March 2020 it came down to 2,000 per day," said a CIAL official.
The trend slightly changed in November 2020 and CIAL regained up to 12,000 passengers daily. With the second wave of Covid, the situation became worse. "We witnessed a gradual decrease in passenger volume. At the beginning of 2021, it was down to 2,000 again. However, by last week, we have achieved 10,000 passengers. We are catching up due to the vaccination drives and new relaxations by several countries," said the official.