Kannur gets an international airport, fourth in Kerala
Kerala’s fourth international airport at Kannur (north Kerala) was inaugurated on Sunday jointly by Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by flagging off the maiden Air India Express flight to Abu Dhabi.
The Opposition Congress has boycotted the function to protest the exclusion of former CM Oommen Chandy from invitees’ list and the BJP also kept away protesting the government stand on hill temple Sabarimala. Minister of State Tourism also skipped the event saying he was slighted by the state government.
“It is a historic moment for north Kerala. No doubt the new airport will fuel growth in Malabar area,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Prabhu said Kannur has scripted another chapter in country’s aviation industry and it will pave way for the overall development of the state. He said the new green airport will be a role model for upcoming airports.
Former Civil Aviation Minister C M Ibrahim, a native of Thalassery who first mooted the idea for the airport in 1995, was also felicitated at the occasion. Around one lakh people were present to witness the gala ceremony and ace percussion artist Mattanoor Sankarankutty enthralled audience with his “chenda melam” and “pachavadyam.”
Interestingly the airport and his maiden flights have a unique father-son link also. When the airport saw its first landing in 2016 a Dornier Indian Air Force aircraft, it was piloted by Kannur native Ragunath Nambiar, now a senior IAF official with eastern air command. His son Aswin Nambiar was the first officer of the maiden domestic flight of GoAir. Interestingly Nambiar family boasts of three-generation pilots, his grandfather was also a pilot.
A semi-corporate airport, 67.14% shares in the Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) are owned by individuals (mostly NRIs) and corporate entities while the state government holds 32.86% stakes in return for land and other development undertaken in the area. It can facilitate big aircraft like Boeing 777 and has parking capacity for 20 big and small aircraft. It has 24 check-in counters, self-baggage drop counters and 32 immigration counters.
The new airport is expected to give a big push to tourism and other developmental activities in north Kerala and adjoining Kodagu region of southern Karnataka. Kerala, which has a sizeable expatriate population worldwide, already has three international airports, at Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Kochi, also built under PPP model, is one of the fastest growing airports of the country.
Kerala’s airports largely cater to its citizens shuttling between the oil-rich gulf nations and their home towns, with more than 11% of Kerala’s population -- as many as 25.2 lakh malayalis living abroad, the bulk of them in the middle-east. It is expected to cater to one million passengers annually.
The airport saw its share of controversy after Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s chartered flight landed there on October 27, much before the official inauguration. A section of BJP workers began a vigorous campaign claiming Shah had inaugurated the airport, leading to a spat with the Left Democratic Front government.