Keralaâ€™s fourth international airport, the Kannur International Airport, was inaugurated on Sunday morning amidst much fanfare. The inauguration was marked by a ceremonial lamp being lit by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu in the presence of various ministers, including Sports and Industries Minister EP Jayarajan, and Social Justice and Health Minister KK Shylaja.
Its inaugural commercial flight, a Boeing 737 to Abu Dhabi, was flagged off by CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, and it took off from the 3050 metre long runway at 9.55 AM on Sunday. Later on Sunday, its inaugural day, Air India Express and GoAir flights are scheduled to operate out of the airport with flights to Thiruvanathapuram, Bengaluru and Delhi.
The Chief Minister, speaking at the event, mentioned that the new airport at Kannur was a source of particular pride and happiness to Kerala. He also said that the airport at Kannur would be useful to people from other states, not just Kerala, such as those travelling to and from Mangaluru, Coorg and Mysore. He also mentioned that the government is conducting studies to uncover logistics around the construction of a new airport at Erumely near Sabarimala to ease access of pilgrims to Sabarimala.
Intriguingly, the airport and its maiden flights have a unique father-son link. When the airport saw its first landing in 2016, of a 228-Dornier Indian Air Force aircraft, one of those present in its cockpit was Kannur-native Raghunath Nambiar. His son, Ashwin Nambiar, will be the first officer of the first domestic non-revenue flight landing in Kannur airport, which will be a GoAir flight from New Delhi to Kannur. A few hours after this flight lands, he will be the First Officer of the first domestic flight taking off from Kannur airport, from Kannur to Bengaluru.
Ashwin Nambiar and his father, Raghunath Nambiar
The festivities around the inauguration of the Kannur International Airport began at around 6 AM on Sunday morning. The event was attended by over 2000 members of the public, and included performances by various music and dance groups, including a percussion set headed by renowned percussionist Mattannoor Sankarankutty.
The fourth international airport in Kerala, and the second to be built under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, the new airportâ€™s terminal building is said to be the largest in India. Onmanorama reports that the runway, too, will be expanded from its current 3050 meters to 4000 meters, making it, upon expansion, one of the four largest airports in India.
The new Kannur airport currently boasts numerous self-check in machines, 24 regular check-in counters, 32 immigration counters and bays to park 20 planes at a given point of time. The new airport is expected to be of particular service to Keralites working in the Middle East, and ease access to tourist destinations like Coorg, Mysore, Kasargod and Wayanad.
Kerala Ports Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally inaugurated the airportâ€™s VIP lounge, while the ATM counter was inaugurated by transport minister AK Saseendran, who cut a ribbon tied around the ATM and withdrew a few Rs 2000 notes in the presence of the media. The foreign exchange counter was inaugurated by health minister KK Shylaja, and the food and beverage service at the airport was inaugurated by revenue minister E Chandrasekharan with a ribbon cutting.
The inaugural event was boycotted by BJP and UDF MLAs, who have boycotted various government events, including the swearing in of new minister K Krishnankutty, and disrupted the progress of the Kerala Legislative Assembly in protest against the imposition of curfew under sec 144 at Sabarimala. UDF MLAs in particular have boycotted the airportâ€™s inaugural to protest the fact that two former Kerala Chief Ministers, VS Achuthanandan and Oommen Chandy, both of whom played key roles in the construction of this airport, had not been invited to the inauguration. A few individuals could also be seen at Kannur International Airport holding placards that registered their discontent that former CMs VS Achuthananthan and Oommen Chandy had not been invited to the inauguration.