Kochi: The airlines operating flights to the European countries from India are ready to make Kerala a launchpad anytime. They are ready to operate direct flights from Kochi to European cities. But a lobby, mainly comprising airlines which operate flights in the Gulf sector, are throwing spanners in their plans.
The Gulf-based airlines want to retain huge profit from their connection services to Europe from Kerala at any cost. It is not the ticket revenue that alone matters for them. The money spent by transit travellers on other heads constitutes a major chunk of revenue for airlines operating in the Gulf sector.
Daily flyers from Kochi to European destinations
On an average 1,300 to 1,400 people fly to European countries from Kochi daily. Right now, all of them depend either on Chennai or Bangalore airports or they take a connection flight from the Gulf.
The Air India services to London from Kochi, slated for August 18 and 25, are housefull. About 18 business class and 238 economy class seats are packed to capacity. There is great demand for direct flights in September too. The same kind of rush is also visible for flights operating from Europe to Kerala.
According to estimates, even a dozen direct flights to Europe from Kochi weekly can run in full capacity, once launched.
British Airways is currently running direct flights from Bangalore in south India. Then the question remains is why is it not possible from Kochi ? The foreign budget airlines have already evinced interest in operating flights from Kochi to London and Frankfurt hubs.
CIAL offers sops for direct flights
The Cochin International Airports Limited (CIAL) is willing to give concessions to airlines offering direct flights to Europe. Such flights will be exempted from giving parking and landing fees for one year. At present, only Air India operates services from Kochi to London, that too on a weekly basis.
Earlier too, attempts were made to operate direct flights from Kochi. The Lufthansa Airlines's move to operate the Cochin - Frankfurt flight 10 years ago had misfired.
Tourism to get a big boost
Kerala tourism will be the biggest beneficiary once the direct flights to London and other places in Europe take off.
Most tourists to Kerala come from the UK, from among the European countries. The tourist inflow from the UK will be doubled with the launch of direct flights.
There are also demands from tourists of non-European cities like Sydney, Bangkok, New York and Toronto for launching direct flights to Kerala.
CIAL CMD S Suhas told Manorama that discussions were on with various airlines to explore the chances of opening direct flights from Kochi to European cities.