Thursday February 2 2006 00:00 IST IANS
NEW DELHI: The Indian government gave "full fledged international status" to the Kozhikode airport on Wednesday, a decision that was welcomed in northern Kerala that has a sizeable number of expatriates in the Gulf.
"Some international flights are already operating from Calicut (Kozhikode). Granting it full fledged international status will enable the strengthening of facilities there," Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters here after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Rajya Sabha MP P V Abdul Wahab, who has been pushing for international status for Kozhikode, said he was thrilled.
"I see this as a momentous decision for which north Kerala has long been waiting for. This is certainly going to take the airport to newer heights," Wahab, a member of Parliament’s consultative committee for the Civil Aviation Ministry, told IANS in Kozhikode.
Kerala will now be the only State in the country to have three international airports. The other two are at capital Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Kozhikode airport serves Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur districts, which accounts for close to 30 percent of the two million non-resident Keralites in the Middle East.
Air India and Indian Airlines operate flights from here but Sri Lankan airline is the only foreign carrier that serves the airport. An Rs 2 billion ($45 million) modernisation project is underway at the airport and could be completed by June.
"We are happy that finally Kozhikode airport has got international status. Soon you will see several international carriers making a beeline to Kozhikode," Kerala Association of Travel Agents President K V Muraleedharan said.