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Small airports make a big splash

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Tiruchi, Madurai and Thoothukudi airports are making their presence felt
Domestic air travellers, particularly those from tier two towns, never had it so good. And the reasons are not far to seek. Many airlines, independent of the Centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (popularly known as RCS UDAN), see potential in connecting smaller airports with Metro airports, and hence, have gone on an overdrive in recent times.

For instance, on Sunday, SpiceJet launched its flight from Thoothukudi to Bengaluru. The airport that had connectivity only to Chennai until recently, now has daily services to Bengaluru. The SpiceJet flight would depart from Bengaluru at 2.15 p.m. and would reach Thoothukudi at 3.30 p.m. It would again start at 4 p.m. from Thoothukudi and reach Bengaluru at 5.15 p.m.

IndiGo too sees potential in the Thoothukudi airport. “Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) is a key market for IndiGo and is fast gaining prominence as a crucial industrial hub. With rising business and tourism travel stemming from the southern cities, IndiGo is determined to provide the best travel experience to all those who wish to fly to these destinations. We are providing affordable fares on these new routes for 6E travellers,” said Sanjay Kumar, chief commercial officer, IndiGo.

Tiruchi comes alive
A classic example of tier-II airports expanding flight operations is the Tiruchi airport that had connectivity to just Chennai till sometime ago. Now, it directly links Bengaluru and Kochi and also connects with New Delhi via Mumbai.

Airport sources said 10 domestic flights were being operated every day from Tiruchi to five cities presently by different airlines. After the introduction of a flight service in the New Delhi-Mumbai-Tiruchi-Mumbai-New Delhi sector, the Tiruchi airport witnessed a over two-fold rise in domestic movements. Sources here say a new service in the Tiruchi-Bengaluru route could be expected soon, which will further boost domestic connectivity. The Madurai airport too saw commencement of direct flights to Singapore and Bengaluru a couple of months back.

The Puducherry airport, after a rather chequered air connectivity record, is back as a regular destination on the aviation map. From February this year, SpiceJet has been flying from the coastal town to Bengaluru.

In fact, this is SpiceJet’s second engagement with Puducherry: the airline had launched the Puducherry-Bengaluru commercial flight in 2013, only to suspend it in 2014. There are regular flights from Puducherry to Chennai now.

Also, as part of the RCS, Air Odisha is introducing a 19-seater flight service in the Chennai–Puducherry–Salem–Bengaluru sector.

(With inputs from Sunitha Sekar in Chennai, R. Rajaram in Chennai, Wilson Thomas in Coimbatore, M. Dinesh Varma in Puducherry, Syed Muthahar Saqaf in Salem, Hariprasad Radhakrishnan in Thoothukudi and S. Sundar in Madurai).


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