Six more flights to connect Kerala with Saudi Arabia every week

Kochi: Six more flights will connect Kerala with Saudi Arabia every week from March 2002. The sector will have 900 seats per week on board six frequencies that will be shared equally by Air-India and Saudia, says Indian civil aviation secretary and Air-India chairman K Roy Paul.

Paul says two of the three proposed flights by Air-India between Thiruvananthapuram and Saudi Arabia will be via Kozhikode, while the third will fly via Kochi.

Air-India will start additional flights from Kochi and Kozhikode to Jeddah and to Damam from Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. These services will begin latest by July this year. In addition, steps are being taken to increase the frequency of flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to seven a week.

About the possibilities of starting a direct flight to the US, Paul says there aren't enough passengers to fill the flights. ''Several small aircraft, which can seat around 300 passengers, will be acquired during the next fleet acquisition.''

On the Airport Authority of India's (AAI) investment plans in Cochin International Airport (CIAL), he says AAI is willing to invest Rs 50 crore for developing the Nedumbassery airport. But CIAL managing director C Babu Rajeev says another Rs 180 crore is needed to develop the airport.

''The Nedumbassery airport is a toned-down version of its original plan, which could not be executed due to lack of funds. The airport would have been better had there been a cargo village and an air-surveillance radar. The present taxiway is only one-third of the originally proposed one,'' says Rajeev.