Mangaluru: Even though Mangaluru International Airport (MIA) director V V Rao has rubbished the possibilities of losing passengers to Kerala’s fourth international airport, which is expected to be commissioned within a few months, his counterpart at Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) has spelt out a greater competition.
If everything goes as expected commercial operations at Kannur Airport would commence by mid-2018. Already 95% of the work on the air-side and 90% of the work of the integrated terminal building of the Airport are over. Apron, flyover, service roads, fire rescue station, IMD’s met park, STP, service block and auxiliary buildings have been completed a few months ago.
Unlike Mangaluru Airport, Kannur Airport is built on a public private partnership (PPP) model, in which the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has an equity stake of 10 percent, the state 35 percent, public sector units 25 percent and investors 30 percent. The new airport would have a handling capacity of 4.67 million passengers and 60,758 tonnes of cargo per annum by 2026, in addition to being able to handle 39,638 aircraft movements yearly with peak aircraft movement at 18 per hour.
According to Rao, international and domestic passengers from Kasaragod and Kodagu region would never prefer Kannur Airport over Mangaluru Airport. He opines that only passengers from Kannur area, who were boarding flights from Calicut airport, may use Kannur Airport, but not those from Mangaluru region.
On the other hand, Managing Director of KIAL P Bala Kiran is expecting passengers not just from Kasaragodu and Kodagu regions but also from Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Mysuru and coastal districts of Karnataka too as the new Airport is expected to handle more Gulf flights.
The KIAL authorities are also planning to hold talks with Karnataka government towards development of Kodagu and Kannur Road via Virajpet. The Centre’s consent towards the survey of Mysuru-Thalassery Rail line via Madikeri as announced in the recent budget will be a stimulus in the promotion of tourism and goods services.
“Kannur Airport looks for business from passengers who have been depending on either Kozhikode or Mangaluru Airports. Moreover, we have enough land for setting up allied business centres to boost the business for airlines. We will also give aprons for night stay for aircraft,” the chief project engineer of KIAL, told coastaldigest.com.
Even five years after obtaining international tag, Mangaluru Airport has failed to attract foreign airlines, whereas many Gulf-based airlines have expressed desire to operate services to the Kannur even before the commissioning of the Airport. Apart from Air India, Air India Express, GoAir, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways, Air Asia India, Ethihad Airways, Jet Airways, Silk Air, Gulf Air, Oman Air, Spice Jet, Emirates, Fly Dubai, and Indigo are the airlines that have come forward.
After 2010 Mangaluru air crash, the AAI had proposed to expand MIA’s new runway. The existing runway meets the requirements of Airbus 320/321 and Boeing-737 aircraft. Expansion is must to felicitate the landing of wide-bodied aircraft like Boeing-777 and Boeing-747. However, recently the AAI took a U-turn and indefinitely postponed its proposed runway expansion plans. AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra recently wrote to Karnataka Chief Secretary Subhash Chandra Khuntia saying the expansion project is not feasible.
Quoting AAI, Rao said that the runway expansion project cost turns out to be too high, financially not viable and there is no guarantee that wide-bodied aircraft will land at the Airport even if huge amount is invested in extending the runway. Even if the runway is extended from the existing 2,450 metres to at least 3,050 metres (minimum requirement for wide-bodied aircraft to land), the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) may not give permission for it as it is a table top runway, he says.
On the other hand, Kannur Airport has a grater runway. The construction of a 3050 m runway began in Q4 2013 and completed on 29 April 2016. In September 2016, the KIAL board decided to increase the runway length to 4000m (13,123 ft) in Phase I itself along with a full parallel taxiway to enhance safety as reported earlier. When completed, Kannur will be the fourth airport in India to have a runway length of 4000 m after Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
Kodagu farmers upbeat
In the absence of the airport, the coffee planters and farmers in Kodagu involved in pepper cultivation, orange and anthurium farming were yearning for a better market.
Even if the farmers wanted to export their produce to other countries where such crops are much in demand, they were dependent on Bengaluru or Mumbai Airports. Although there was much demand for orange and anthurium in Gulf countries, the lack of facilities had become a hurdle.
Now, they see a ray of hope in the upcoming Kannur Airport, which may not only create further demand for native products, but also boost tourism, feel the representatives of Kodagu District Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KDCCI). Recently a team of KDCCI also held talks with their counterparts from North Malabar Chamber of Commerce and Industry from Kerala towards promoting tourism opportunities.
Will Kannur Airport snatch passengers from Mangaluru Airport?