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Dream project drawn up for free landing and parking at Kochi airport, says outgoing chief

"During the Covid period, our revenue dipped by Rs 80 crore. Still, we made a cash profit of Rs 16 crore though our operations were severely affected,” said VJ Kurian

Published: 09th June 2021 08:25 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2021 08:33 PM   |  A+A-

Kochi International Airport (File photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

KOCHI: The Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) has drawn up a master plan to transform the Kochi airport into a zero landing and parking fee airport by 2030, said V J Kurian, who stepped down as CIAL MD on Wednesday.

“The plan is to convert the 100-acre land near Nedumbassery railway station into an airport city with outlets of international food chains, electric vehicle charging system and malls. We were almost at its launching stage when the lockdown changed everything. If the new MD takes up the project, Kochi will be the first airport in the world to provide free landing and parking. At present, landing
charge constitutes about 25 per cent of our income,” Kurian told reporters.

Kurian said Covid has taught them that airports should not be dependent on passenger revenue alone.

“We should be able to survive even if there is a decline in passenger arrivals. The airport city project is one step in this direction. It will make the airport competitive as other airports would be charging Rs 70,000 for a small aircraft. Our aim is to attract more flights and ensure high turnover offering low cost,” he said.

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He said Kochi will be the only airport to have rail, highway, and water connectivity. The inland waterways project will provide connectivity to Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kannur airports. CIAL will provide 1 acre of land and the railway station building for the high-speed rail project. Terminal 2 of Kochi airport will provide passengers a facility where they can rest for four hours for just Rs 500, he said

Kurian said Kochi airport decided to waive the user fee to ensure the lowest fare to passengers. The airport did not cut employees' salaries despite the slump in revenue due to lockdown.

“If we receive 60 flights a day, we will achieve break-even and each additional flight will bring profit. In 2019-20, Kochi received 142 flights a day. During the Covid period, our revenue dipped by Rs 80 crore. Still, we made a cash profit of Rs 16 crore though our operations were severely affected,” he said.

Kurian, who served as CIAL MD for two decades, said transforming Kochi airport into a fully solar-powered unit was his biggest achievement. Citing the example of New Zealand, which has six airports, he said Kerala can think of more airports based on economic development. The 610-km-long
Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod inland waterways project had been affected by the lockdown and can be completed within one-and-a-half years. A new canal has to be made only in the 24-km Mahe-Valapattanam sector and the 10-km-long Neeleeswaram-Bakel sector.

Remembering the initial days of CIAL, Kurian said he started working with an investment of Rs 20,000 given by Jose Maliekkal, a businessman. The company started working in a room in the GCDA building taken at a rent of Rs 100. The Cochin Chamber of Commerce provided a computer, printer, and furniture and traders gifted a fax machine. There were 2,200 cases regarding land acquisition. “From there, we grew into one of the most successful airports in PPP mode in the country,” he said.

'No public issue of Kochi airport shares'

Ruling out offering public issue of CIAL shares, V J Kurian said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asserted that the company will not go for stock market listing.

“For listing in the stock market, we have to amend the bylaws of the company. The government, which holds 32 percent shares, has the right to appoint the MD and three directors with CM as the chairman. If we go for public issue, there is a chance of big companies or individuals buying majority shares by offering exorbitant rates to shareholders. This will lead to the airport falling into private
hands like Thiruvananthapuram airport,” he said.

At present, the state government holds one-third of CIAL shares and the firm has given 252 percent dividends to investors over the years. “I have requested shareholders not to sell their holdings as they get good returns. A public issue will change the structure of the director board and the new investors may remove government nominees from it,” said Kurian.



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