Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the Assembly on Monday that the state would approach the Centre once again to get sanction for establishing Air Kerala Express to alleviate the sufferings of the travelling class, especially Keralite workers in the Gulf sector, with quality facilities and economic fare.
Reiterating the government’s stance that the attitude of Air India authorities towards the travellers from the state, especially emigrant workers in the Gulf region, could not be approved of in any manner, Chandy said that even when expatriates contribute to the coffers of the national airline immensely, they are not getting meaningful treatment.
Bringing the issue of ‘’step-motherly treatment and exploitation’’ of Keralite travellers by Air India, V D Satheesan (Cong) made a plea to explore whether the state could take over the Air India Express operations.
Recurring strikes in Air India and regular cancellation of flight have given a free turf for other airlines to hike tariff in the Gulf sector at will, he said.
Even when 15 out of the 17 flights under Air India Express are operating from the state, unconfirmed reports point to the moves to shift the headquarters of Air India wing from Kochi, he said. Accepting the points raised by the member, Oommen Chandy said that the headquarters of Air India Express was shifted to Kochi on July 27 last year after persistent demands. However, Air India turned its back on various pleas of the state, he charged.
The State Government’s proposal to start the Air Kerala Express and take care of the growing needs of an expatriate population in the state in the absence of adequate services from Air India has been put on the back burner by the Centre.
The reason cited was the common parameters applied for according sanction to a new airline, which stipulates that 20 flights should be operated in the state and minimum five years of operational experience is needed.
‘’The state has urged the Centre not to consider the request in terms of the general pattern. The state is trying hard to address the dire needs of expatriate workers. It is for the first time in the country that a state has mooted an idea of floating an airline,’’ the Chief Minister pointed out.