DGCA nod for wide-bodied aircraft at Calicut, Haj flights likely

New Delhi : Aviation regulator DGCA on Thursday granted permission to operate wide-bodied aircraft at Calicut airport that will see Saudi Arabian airlines operate direct flights to the Kingdom from the city in Kerala, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said.

The operation of international flights from Calicut would also likely lead to its becoming an embarkation point from Haj pilgrims, Prabhu told reporters here at a briefing. He was accompanied by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam.

"The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has today decided to start operations from Calicut, which will facilitate a large number of people from Kerala who are living abroad," Prabhu said.

Sinha said that the Saudi Arabian national carrier plans to fly aircraft like A330 and Boeing 777 to Calicut and technical clearance had been given for these wide-bodied planes.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had suspended wide-bodied aircraft operations at Calicut airport in May 2015 following a directive from the DGCA, citing safety concerns.

"Safety and passenger convenience are our primary concern and we have to ensure that these are not compromised," Prabhu said.

"AAI has informed us that all mitigation measures (to enable wide-bodied flights) will be in place by August 20," he said.

Ministry officials said the Saudi Airlines had not intimated a date for starting operations from Calicut.

Work is underway to construct a new international terminal at Calicut which will increase its current passenger handling capacity of 3.5 million people per annum to 5 million when completed, officials said.

"Calicut is likely to be an embarkation point for the Haj pilgrimage from next year," Sinha said.

It was also announced that Kerala's fourth international airport at Kannur will start commercial flight operations in October.

"It is rare that a new greenfleld airport like Kannur starts with operating international flights," Prabhu said.

Kerala will also soon start twin-engine sea-plane operations following the DGCA's issuing of the regulatory framework for such aircraft and the waterdrome certification, the Minister announced.

"Operators can now apply for the licence to ply sea-planes on specified routes. Other possible destinations for such services can be island areas like Lakshadweep and Andamans," Sinha said.