The bone of contention between the industry and trade bodies of Madurai district and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), with the latter rejecting a proposal to connect Madurai to Singapore by air, is seen as a boon to Tiruchy, located just 150 kms away from Madurai by road.
The Tiruchy International Airport boasts of a better international air connectivity to the Gulf and southeast Asian nations. Presently, the airport enjoys connectivity to Singapore, a gateway to Southeast Asia, provided by Tiger Airways and Air India Express, each offering 11 and seven flights respectively.
Stating that there is a bright future for the airport, S Dharmaraj, Director, Tiruchy International Airport says, “The international air connectivity from Tiruchy is satisfactory, and international cargo was also yielding a good revenue.”
An airport official, on condition of anonymity said, “Tiruchy airport enjoys better connectivity due to its infrastructure, its international status, cargo handling, customs clearance, runway facilities and its geographical position, since it is situated at the central part of the state. On the other hand, Madurai airport functions from 7am till 9pm and it lacks cargo handling facilities unlike Tiruchy.
With four-lane highways connecting Madurai and Tiruchy, an international passenger can reach Tiruchy airport in less than three hours. Hence, the airport must attract more air-carriers of Indian and foreign origin, and expand its destinations beyond the Gulf and South East Asia.
TV Murali Vice-Chairman, CII Tiruchy chapter, said “The CII along with other trade and industry bodies, has time and again made representations to the government seeking better connectivity of the city to other major destinations especially metro cities. After getting its international status, there is no turning back. The airport is set to become a major aviation hub in South Tamil Nadu, next only to Chennai Airport.” But even now, the lack of connectivity to other metro cities hampers the inflow of domestic travellers.
The Tiruchy airport cargo operations is a success story. The export-oriented terminal that commenced operations in 2011 has made profits in cargo handling. Tiger Airways enjoys a market share of 34 percent next only to Lankan airlines. However, trade bodies have demanded Air India Express to offer international cargo service using its passenger aircraft connecting Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.