Abu Dhabi - The first Kannur-bound Air India Express flight also took off from Abu Dhabi today.
"It was not like a flight any other. There was festive atmosphere onboard with people singing and celebrating." Keralite expat Jayachandran Ravari said, his voice still reeling under excitement when the first flight from Kannur International airport landed in Abu Dhabi at 12.30pm on Sunday.
He was among the 180 passengers who boarded the Air India Express flight IX715 that took off from the Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) on Sunday morning.
Passengers ready to board the inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi with a 'History Created' certificate from Air India Express. Photo by Anjana Sankar
The first flight was flagged off at 10am with much fanfare and celebration including an elaborate cultural programme. Ministers, senior politicians and hundreds of people had gathered at the airport to witness the formal inauguration by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
"This was a long-pending dream of people of Kannur. For the first time, I could fly from an airport that was just 30 minutes away from home," Ravari told Khaleej Times minutes after landing at the Abu Dhabi International Airport's Terminal 1.
Kannur is the fourth international airport in Kerala after Trivandrum, Kozhikode and Kochi. KIAL is slated to serve more than 1.5 million international passengers annually.
Initially, flights from Kannur will fly to sectors including UAE, Oman, Qatar in addition to domestic flights to Hyderabad, Bangaluru, Mumbai among others.
Gifts, garlands and bouquets awaited the passengers when they landed at the airport in Abu Dhabi. Naoushir, the first passenger walked out of the arrival gates in Abu Dhabi a little after 12.45pm.
"It is a fantastic day. I cannot express in words how happy I am that Kannur airport is finally open," he said. A Dubai resident, Naoushir said he wanted to be part of history and so had planned to take the inaugural flight.
Nazeel Arayilakth, a financial analyst said he used to fly from Calicut airport that was around two hours drive from his home. Now, it is hardly 20 minutes away. I feel like I can fly to Kerala every week."
The Rs1,892-crore airport is located at Mattanur, 16 km from Kannur. It is spread over 2,000 acres. With the inauguration of Kannur airport, Kerala is the only state in India to have four international airports.
The first Kannur-bound Air India Express flight also took off from Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Senior officials from the Abu Dhabi International airport, Air India Express and community members were present for the formal inauguration that witnessed a ribbon and cake cutting ceremony.
Mohamed Nishad, a Keralite expat received the first boarding pass from Air India Airport manager Uma Devi. "It feels like I am flying home for the first time. And it literally is," said Nishad, a native of Mattanur, where the airport is located.
A resident of Sharjah, he said he came all the way to Abu Dhabi to take the first flight to Kannur.
"This is special. People like me had to always land in Kozhikode or Cochin and travel for many hours to reach home and meet our families," said Nishad, who works as a supervisor in a supermarket.
Another native of Kannur and a long-time Abu Dhabi resident Gangadharan said the new airport will boost tourism in Kannur, Kozhikode and Wayanad.
"This will give wings to new trade and tourism potential in Kannur and other districts. Now I can proudly say that the world will come to discover Kannur and its natural beauty."
"I feel like life has come a full circle now. I first flew from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi, then from Trivandrum and Kozhikode to Abu Dhabi. Now, finally I am connected to my own district. In less than 30 minutes after landing, I will be home," said Gangadharan, who first came to Abu Dhabi in 1988.
He is among the first passengers who boarded the inaugural Air India Express from Abu Dhabi to Kannur on Sunday morning.