Air India to resume flights to Middle East next week

Keralites who put off their visit to their home owing to non-availability of seats and exorbitant airfare in the Gulf-Kerala sector may be able to reconsider their decision with Air India gearing up to resume its flights to the Middle East.

By T K Devasia

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Published: Tue 31 Jul 2012, 10:23 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:41 AM

The airline, which was battered by a two-month long strike by the pilots, will restart its international operations by resuming its flights from Cochin and Calicut in Kerala to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on August 9. Air India is operating two flights from Cochin and three from Calicut to Riyadh a week now.

Air India sources said that the flights to other destinations in the Middle East will be resumed subsequently. The management is currently working on fares and marketing plans for these routes under a ‘restoration plan’. They hope to normalise international operations by the end of August.

The Air India Express (AIE) , the low-cost arm of the national carrier, has also initiated steps to resume services disrupted by the strike. It will be beginning the restoration process by launching the Calicut-Mangalore-Kuwait flight in the first week of August. This will be followed by the Calicut-Abu Dhabi flight. The strike by 500 Air India pilots demanding exclusive rights to them to fly the new Boeing Dreamliners had affected 20 per cent operations of the AIE in the Kerala-Gulf sector. The airline has also plans to operate special flights to clear the summer rush.

This may to a great extent solve the problems faced by Keralites to get a ticket to any one of the three airports in the state. Although the Kerala-Gulf sector faces extreme pressure for seats every year during July-September due to school holidays in the Gulf and the holy month of Ramadan and Onam festivals in Kerala, the strike by the Air India pilots worsened the situation.

The resumption of flights by the Air India and AIE is also expected to bring down the fares to some extent. Although Air India senior executives have ruled out any drastic cut in fares, the presence of the airline in the sector is bound to have an impact on the fare.

The state government has been mounting pressure on the federal government to direct Air India to bring down the fares. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Monday urged the members of parliament from the state to raise the issue in the coming monsoon session.

He said that the non-resident Keralites were losing confidence in the airline because of frequent cancellation of flights and delay.

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