October 28, 2021

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TIRUCHIRAPALLI: An Airport with More Foreign Operations than Domestic

TIRUCHIRAPALLI International Airport has continuously been witnessing an upswing in passenger and freight movements. The unique thing about it is that it has seen more overseas flights than domestic over the years. 

Trichy airport is one of the fastest growing international airports in India. It is the third largest airport in Tamilnadu in terms of passenger and cargo traffic after Chennai and Coimbatore International Airports.

However, there have been various long pending issues regarding Trichy airport. Several rounds of official discussions and representations from public welfare bodies have been held in the past. One major issue has been the expansion of the runway that would eventually facilitate the operation of wide-bodied aircraft from and to Trichy . AAI has decided to expand the runway to around 3,200 m (10,500 ft) initially from the existing 2,480 m (8,136 ft) and later to 3,800 m (12,500 ft). The runway expansion requires 510.30 acres of land of which over 160 acres belongs to the defense. Although the defense ministry had accorded “in-principle” approval for providing about 168.4 acres of its land adjoining the airport, it had sought alternative land of equal value in exchange. Despite several rounds of meetings involving the district administration, runway expansion work is yet to take off. 

The number of foreign flights from Trichy airport keep growing, but it has remained confined only to select overseas destinations. Direct connectivity to key Middle East destinations has been hugely missed by the travel industry and other public who have raised this issue on many occasions.

Air India Express has given Trichy the only direct connectivity to Dubai. There is a large number of people from central and southern districts employed in various Middle East destinations like Kuwait, Riyadh, Damam, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Doha. The absence of direct connectivity to these destinations forces passengers to travel via Chennai or Colombo. The Sri Lankan Airlines operates from here profitably.

2 years have passed since a notification allowing international courier operations through Trichy However, courier shipments are yet to take off from the Trichy airport which has seen a significant upward trend in overseas cargo movement.

There is a hope that the facility would be launched in 2016.  It is felt that launch of courier operations would change the profile of overseas freight shipments from Trichy – majority of which are perishable commodities sold overseas. Although the Airports Authority of India and the Customs have held discussion on this issue, international courier operation continues to remain on paper.

Union Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju paid his maiden visit to Trichy to study the various issues related to the international airport at Trichy. He interacted with the media after a meeting with the stakeholders at the Trichy International Airport, Replying to a query by the  media on the delay in executing Trichy airport runway expansion plan, Mr. Raju mentioned that the land acquisition was a State subject, and the Centre and the Tamil Nadu state government would work together for its development. 

He appeared optimistic on the implementation of the new aviation policy that is being formulated. “The new civil aviation policy  would make the Indian skies vibrant by promoting regional connectivity,” he said.

Travel and trade circles also raised a number of points;  a strong pitch was proposed on a slew of issues connected with Tiruchi international airport during a meeting with the Minister. Mr M. Sekaran, president, Air, Rail and Road Travelers Federation, said, “Non-inclusion of Trichy airport as a point of call under the Bi Lateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) has restricted operations to West Asian destinations by many overseas carriers. Given the rising air passenger traffic and the demand, time has come for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to include Trichy airport as a point of call under the BASA which would enable new carriers to operate flights to more West Asian destinations. This would not only address the long pending passengers’ demand, but also enhance overseas cargo movement from Trichy airport thereby augmenting revenue for the Airports Authority of India. 

The minister held discussions with airport officials on the status of land acquisition required for the extension of the runway and bringing the airport under the bilateral air services agreement (BASA).

“A major thrust will be given to Indian players than foreign carriers for flying to Gulf countries,” the minister has said. He stressed that the Centre was keen that the advantage should go to the Indian aviation players.

Making it clear that the Centre was not against foreign players operating services from India to other overseas destinations, the Minister said that the government wanted Indian players to go truly global, and the Centre was trying to motivate Indian aviation players to operate more services to foreign destinations that would prove beneficial to them.

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