NEW DELHI: Kochi will be back on the air map, albeit with limited connectivity, from Monday. Air India ATRs will fly to the Kochi naval airbase from Bangalore and Coimbatore. AI’s subsidiary Alliance Air will operate ATR-72 with a seating capacity of 70 to the naval airbase. Other airlines with ATRs — Jet Airways and IndiGo — have also been allowed to fly these turboprops to the naval airbase.
Cochin International Airport was closed after severe flooding on I-Day and is expected to reopen on August 26 afternoon if the situation improves by then. Once the civilian airport gets operations, all commercial flights will again operate from there.
Aviation secretary R N Choubey said: “In view of disruption of flights from Cochin airport due to floods, a joint team sent by aviation ministry has approved starting of scheduled commercial flights using ATRs between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Airbase, starting from August 20 morning to be operated by Alliance Air. More destination such as Coimbatore and Madurai in the pipeline. Other airlines also likely to join.”
Alliance Air will operate two Bangalore-Kochi-Bangalore flights in the morning and a Bangalore-Coimbatore-Kochi-Coimbatore-Bangalore flight in the afternoon. Alliance Air CEO C S Subbiah said check-in baggage will be allowed on the flights to and from the airbase.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) will station its personnel and material required for passenger frisking, hand baggage, and check-in baggage checks to the naval air base from Cochin International and another nearby airport. “All the normal protocol will be followed there. Our personnel, who have also faced personal hardships and loss of belonging (due to severe flooding at Cochin International), have already started working for making the airbase operational for civil flights from Monday,” said a senior CISF official.
The ministry has asked airlines to cap maximum fare at about Rs 10,000 and Rs 8,000 on longer and shorter routes to and from Kerala airports till Kochi is closed. The DGCA is constantly monitoring airfares on 32 direct routes operating to and from Trivandrum, Calicut, Coimbatore, and Mangalore.
The decision to allow ATR flights to Kochi naval airbase was taken after Alliance Air conducted proving flights on Bangalore-Kochi airbase-Bangalore on Saturday. “To fly out stranded people (in and out of Kochi), AI’s subsidiary Alliance Air operated a non-commercial ‘proving flight’ on an ATR (turboprop) to Kochi’s naval base with a team of DGCA, AAI and Flight Safety officials. Flight 9I 105 landed at Kochi at 12.40 pm from Bangalore and the return flight 9I 106 took off from Kochi at 1.45 pm. This whole exercise (was) aimed at confirming the feasibility of having Alliance Air operate more flights to Cochin’s defence airbase with turboprops to evacuate passengers,” AI said in a statement.
Alliance Air schedule for Kochi naval airbase using 70-seater ATR-72:
Bangalore-Kochi 9I-505. Departure 6 am. Arrival 7.20 am
Kochi-Bangalore 9I-506. Dep: 8.10 am. Arri: 9.30 am
Bangalore-Kochi 9I-515. Departure 10 am. Arrival 11.20 am
Kochi-Bangalore 9I-516. Dep: 12.10 pm. Arri: 1.30 pm
Coimbatore-Kochi 9I-511. Dep: 3.40 pm. Arri: 4.25 pm
Kochi-Coimbatore 9I-512. Dep: 5.15 pm. Arri: 6 pm
(This flight will be Bangalore-Coimbatore-Kochi-Coimbatore-Bangalore)