KOCHI: As more and more migrant workers, especially from the north-east, move to Kerala seeking jobs and fortune, many smell a business opportunity. Budget airline operators are one such lot. During the summer break, they are planning to start direct flights from Kochi to Kolkata. For the migrants, who had to spend the best part of three days on a train or connecting flights to visit home, the direct flights are sure to be an attractive proposition.
Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) managing director V J Kurian confirmed that budget airlines such as GoAir and Indi- Go have approached it for starting direct flights to Kolkata and back during the summer schedule. Currently, IndiGo and SpiceJet offer connecting flights to Kolkata from Kochi, with passengers having to switch planes at Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad or Mumbai. Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development executive director Benoy Peter said the decision to start low-budget direct flights will be highly beneficial to migrant workers. Around 10 per cent of the estimated 30 lakh migrants who work in Kerala can afford a plane ticket to Kolkata.
Migrants who work in sectors such as marine fishing, plywood, furniture, textile and apparel, and laterite mining earn more than `1,000 as wage per day. Hence, it will not be tough for them to opt for a direct flight to Kolkata as they can save at least three days as a result. Agents at a dozen travel agencies in Perumbavoor, which alone has 1.5 lakh migrants working in the municipal corporation limits and surrounding panchayats, have been helping them book online tickets for both trains and flights. They can aggressively push the flight tickets, which will be in the `3,500-5,000 price range. Besides, a good number of skilled people who work in the IT sector and other allied ones can make use of it, said Peter, who works among the migrants and for their well-being.
IndiGo representatives at CIAL said though they know the decision to launch a direct flight service to Kolkata has been taken, they are not sure when it will be launched as the decision rests with the company headquarters. Express had earlier reported that budget airlines such as IndiGo were exploring ways to tap the potential of the migrant population in Kerala. There are around 30-40 lakh migrants from the north, mainly the north-east, and the average annual growth of migrant population in the state is 2.5-3 lakh per year. Naturally, budget airlines find that there is enough potential to do good business here.