Taking the cake as far as aviation infrastructure in India is concerned, the small state of Kerala would get its fourth international airport once the Kannur International Airport (KIAL) gets operational later this year. Significantly, with a proposed runway of 4000 m, KIAL would be bigger than the Mangaluru airport in Karnataka and the Kozhikode airport in Kerala between which it lies sandwiched. Flight trial operations are going to commence in a few weeks and commercial operations could be launched as early as June, if things go as per plan, KIAL Managing Director P Bala Kiran tells FE. All works at the airport, which has come up on a sprawling 2,092 acres at Mattanur, are expected to be complete by February, 2018, he adds. Kerala’s second greenfield airport to come up in public-private partnership (PPP) mode after the Cochin International Airport, KIAL has multiple stakeholders: the Kerala government (35%), public sector undertakings (25%), Airports Authority of India (10%), and cooperatives, banks and individual shareholders (30%). The development of the airport has been planned in phases on a modular basis, to suit future requirements and minimise initial investment. Phase I was originally estimated to cost Rs 1,892 crore, of which Rs 1,000 crore was the equity capital and Rs 892 crore the debt component. To fund runway extension, the company’s authorised capital was recently increased from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 1,500 crore.
“We have finished work on a 3050-m runway and are extending its length to 4000 m. This will make it the fourth longest runway in India, capable of handling bigger aircraft. The airport terminal is also one of the biggest, with an annual capacity of 8 million passengers,” Bala Kiran points out. The airport is expected to witness annual traffic of more than 1 million international passengers and over 300,000 domestic passengers. To start with, the airport would operate 20 flights daily to 11 regional and seven international destinations, Bala Kiran says, adding that several airlines had evinced interest in operating from Kannur.
The airport would also benefit from the Centre’s UDAN scheme to encourage regional connectivity, with Viability Gap Funding (VGF) bridging the gap between the cost of operations and revenues. The state is expected to compensate for the revenue loss with VGF of about 20% and the rest would be borne by the Centre. Kerala, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and the AAI recently signed a tripartite agreement to commence domestic flight services from Kannur under UDAN. The domestic destinations would be connected by private carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, which won the bids for flying to Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, Hubballi, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Solapur and Hindan (Ghaziabad).
KIAL is expected to boost north Kerala’s economy by aiding sub-sectors like handlooms, textiles and floriculture and pushing tourism. Among the tourist destinations expected to gain from it are Coorg and Mysore in Karnataka, as also Kerala’s hilly districts like Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargod. On the environment front, KIAL would be installing a solar system to meet its power needs. While a 7-MW plant is to be installed initially, the capacity would be enhanced to 10 MW in the coming years.