Airports in State face shutdown

No international flights into country for a week from March 22

A virtual shutdown awaits the four international airports of the State with the Union government decision on Thursday not to allow international flights into the country for a week from March 22 as part of the precautionary and preventive measures being adopted to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Domestic carriers are also withdrawing their flight operations to Thiruvananthapurm, Cochin, Kozhikode and Kannur international airports due to the poor patronage arising out of the travel restrictions. Low-cost carrier GoAir had cancelled 14 flights to the Cochin international airport on Wednesday and Thursday citing poor load and Indigo, the largest domestic carrier of the country, cancelled some of its flights to Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Emirates flight from Dubai, Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi and Air India flight from Sharjah that arrived in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday had a total of 700 passengers. Emirates that operates from Dubai daily using Boeing 777-300 ER, that can carry 350 passengers and 14 crew, had only 167 passengers.

Airport sources said the Emirates flight arriving here from Dubai on Friday had only 145 passengers and the return flight 75 flyers, mostly transit passengers to the U.S and Africa. Air India Express flight IX 539 from here to Dubai on Thursday had not even one passenger on board . The airline cancelled its IX 537 flight from here to Abu Dhabi and the return flight IX 538 of Friday.

In Cochin airport, the international flight operations has been limited to Singapore, Bangkok, Bahrain and Oman. The 50% of the flights from Cochin airport are international. The number of flyers had dropped from the daily 30,000 to 10,000 this week, CIAL sources told The Hindu.

The situation in Kozhikode and Kannur international airports was not different with the travel and Visa restrictions and the ban imposed by the UAE on resident visas from Thursday. Sources said the airlines, including the domestic and foreign carriers, were not even getting revenue for meeting the operational cost of the flights that they are operating.

Already, international terminals that was busy are deserted. The ban on long-haul international flights from Sunday will virtually close down the four airports as domestic carriers are also moving in this direction in view of the poor load factor, the sources said.

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