Monday, October 8, 2012
Thiruvananthapuram : Air Kerala, the state government's airline, would be launched April 14, 2013, to coincide with Vishu, new year's day in the Malayalam calendar, says Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. 'It (Air Kerala) will be airborne April 14. The only question is whether the first flight will be an international or domestic one. Next month, we will be applying to the director general of civil aviation with the preliminary capital of Rs. 100 crore, which we will raise by then,' Chandy, who is convalescing after a leg injury, told IANS during an exclusive chat. The chief minister explained that under the rules, an airline can only fly international routes after completing five years of domestic service; there is also a stipulation about the number of aircraft that an airline operating internationally should have. 'But Air India Express was given a relaxation in rules when it started international operations. They said it was because it was a subsidiary of Air India. So, when the state government put up the application, we also sought similar exemption. Moreover, at the moment, we are given to understand that one foreign airline is allowed to fly in here, without observing these stipulations,' Chandy said. Chandy first took up the project in 2004. After he stepped down in 2006, the project lay in cold storage, during the tenure of the Left government. On returning as chief minister last May, one of the first decisions Chandy took was to revive this project. He has received support from Malayalee businessmen in the Middle East. 'We have, in principle, decided to float shares of Rs.10,000 each and we were surprised when our own Malayalee businessmen there (in the Middle East) who employ thousands of employees agreed to take shares in their employees' names. Each of them employ more than 20,000 employees, so the issue of raising money of Rs.500 crore is not at all a problem. We are confident our dream will soon take flight,' Chandy said. Chandy has drawn out a schedule, and fixed April 14 as the target date for launch of the new airline. And if Air Kerala is unable to fly international, it will at least take to domestic skies. With Air India having opened a brand new hangar facility in the Thiruvananthapuram airport, Air Kerala, on entering into a contract with Air India and paying the maintenance charges, can use the hangar here, the chief minister said. Air Kerala will also have access to the engineering department of Air India, so it will not need to recruit engineers, he added. Air India was given the land for setting up the hangar free of cost by the Kerala government. What this means, though, is that Air Kerala can only lease B 737-800 aircraft; these are what the hangar here is equipped to service.