The Centre today informed Kerala that its long pending demand to reduce airfares to Gulf countries during festivals like Onam would be looked into. An assurance in this regard was given by Civil Aviation secretary R Narayanan Chaubey to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a high-level meeting of senior officials of Civil Aviation Ministry and CEOs of airline companies operating to the three airports in the state– Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Karipur and also Kannur airport, which is coming up. Addressing the meeting, the Chief Minister referred to hardships caused to Keralites in the Gulf as airlines charge exorbitant air fares, especially during festivals like Onam.
The Aviation Ministry has responded ‘favourably’ to the state’s plea, Vijayan later told reporters. Responding to the state’s plea, Chaubey said ‘we would like to consider providing additional seats provided it is feasible for the airlines’.The airline companies have been asked if they could operate more services if more seats were allocated, he said, adding the objective was to keep fares low during festivals, especially Onam.”We have asked for inputs from airlines as to what steps need to be taken during festivals, especially Onam. The airline companies have given us some inputs,” he added.
Discussions were also held on operation of more services to the state’s airports and connecting of more cities,he said.Some airlines said they were interested and Indigo Airlines has evinced interest to start one more service from Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayan said, adding government had assured to examine it and take necessary action.Airline companies have also raised the issue of 29 per cent Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) tax in Kerala and have sought to reduce it by one per cent or less, he said.
To provide better facilties for Sabarimala pilgrims, the government has decided to develop an airport at the holy town, the Chief Minister said.There are several NRKs (Non Resident Keralites) hailing from the region, he said, adding that Sabarimala airport will provide a ‘big opportunity’ for the civil aviation sector.Chaubey said the Centre was committed to provide better air connectivity to Kerala,where a lot of people travel by air.
He said the country’s civil aviation sector has seen ‘huge growth’ in the last three years. Presently, 400 aircraft operate services in the country and airline companies have placed orders for another 400 aircraft, he said.Indigo Airlines will soon start start additional direct flights from New-Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram, Airlines President Aditya Ghosh said.Services on Kochi-Doha, Kozhikode-Doha and the Kochi-Bengaluru routes will also commence soon, he said.
State Chief Secretary, Nalini Netto, Transport Secretary K R Jyothilal, Tourism secretary Dr Venu, Shashi Tharoor, MP, representatives of airlines, Kannur Airport Chairman and Managing Director V M Thulasidas, Cochin International Airport Ltd Managing Director V J Kurien and Thiruvananthapuram director George Tharakkan, were among those present.