New Delhi | The Centre today said the Cochin Naval Base will be thrown open for commercial flight operations from the morning of August 20, bringing a huge relief to people awaiting resumption of air service from Kochi.
The main Kochi international airport, the seventh busiest in the country, has been rendered non-functional from August 14 due to flooding and torrential rains, and would remain closed till August 26. As a result, both domestic and international flights to Kochi are being diverted to other destinations such as Trivandrum and Calicut.
“In view of disruption of flights from Cochin airport due to floods, a joint team sent by @MoCA_GoI has approved starting of scheduled commercial flights using ATRs by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Air base,” Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted this evening.
In another tweet, he said, “flight operations between Bangalore and Cochin Naval airbase will be starting from 20th August morning.”
He said more destinations such as Madurai were also in the pipeline and that other airlines were likely to join in.
Earlier in the day, Alliance Air operated a non-commercial “proving flight” on an ATR (turboprop) aircraft to Kochi’s naval base with a team of officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other flight safety officials to examine the feasibility of having operations from the base.
“Flight 9I 105 landed at Kochi at 1240 hrs from Bengaluru and the return flight 9I 106 took off from Kochi at 1345 hrs,” an Air India statement said.
The naval base would be used to operate the 70-seater ATR aircraft.
A list of flight timings of the ATRs that would be operating from the base to Bengaluru and Coimbatore has also been released by the ministry.
“The flight operations between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Airbase will be starting from 20th August morning. More destinations such as Coimbatore, Madurai are also in the pipeline. Other airlines are likely to join this effort too. All possible steps are being taken,” Prabhu said in another tweet.
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association has, in the meanwhile, written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing their willingness to fly the planes without payment, on voluntary basis, to the cause of these operations.
“We consider this a unique privilege that we can use to assist in such operations,” the association said in a letter to the PM today.
The association had yesterday in a letter to Air India’s director of finance threatened to stop operations if their flying allowance dues were not paid immediately.
On the other hand, private carriers such as IndiGo and GoAir today said they would be operating additional flights to and from Kozhikode, Coimbatore and Trivandrum from tomorrow till August 25 to different parts of the country.
“IndiGo will ensure to provide cancellation and rescheduling waiver to passengers booked to travel from August 16, 2018, to August 26, 2018,” the airline said in a statement.
GoAir said it will operate special flights to and from Trivandrum airport to Mumbai from August 20 and that all passengers booked to and from Kochi will be accommodated on these flights. It said that impacted passengers to and from Kochi are “not being charged additional fees or cancellation charges keeping in mind the current situation”.
The civil aviation minister, during the day, also appealed to the airline to cap the maximum fare at around Rs 10,000 on longer routes and Rs 8,000 on shorter routes to/from Kerala to nearby airports.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways in a statement said that it will be operating additional domestic flights to Thiruvananthapuram from Mumbai, Bangalore, Dubai and Dammam from August 19.
“For guests with confirmed tickets to and out of Cochin for travel till 26th August, 2018, the Jet Airways has waived off date/ flight change from the original travel date or choosing an alternate destination which is close to Cochin airport, refund, no-show penalties and fare difference if any, due to the closure of the Cochin airport,” it added.