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Pressure mounts on AI to resume flights from city

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A decade since it wound up services from Trichy, pressure is mounting on Air India from various quarters to resume services. They include frequent flyers, aviation enthusiasts, travel agents and the newly elected member of parliament, S Thirunavukkarasar, among others. Meanwhile, top sources in Airport Authority of India have hinted at the possibility of Air India commencing services to Delhi and Mumbai from Trichy soon.

The stakeholders point out that the national carrier has been connecting 17 international destinations with India and 57 cities within the country but has yet to find any merit in operating from Trichy, the 11th busiest airport in the country. Before its merger with Air India, Indian Airlines connected Trichy to five international destinations such as Sharjah, Kuwait, Fujairah, Ras-al Khaimah and Colombo and had been providing three domestic services to Chennai, Kozhikode and Trivandrum. The services continued in the name of Air India even after the merger till 2009 when they were withdrawn.

However, Air India’s low-cost carrier Air India Express has been providing services to Dubai, Sharjah and Singapore from Trichy. Thousands of Tamils working in Gulf countries have been demanding that Air India operate direct flights to Trichy international airport. They point out that a large number of Tamils working in Kuwait have to reach Trichy via Colombo spending more money as well as time. “There are many Gulf carriers willing to operate flights to Trichy. However, since it requires lots of legal formalities like bilateral agreement, it would be easier for an Indian carrier to operate without hassles”, Mohammed Ziavudeen, 48, a native of Trichy and doing business in Bahrain, said.

As of now, foreign carriers like Sri Lankan Airlines, Air Asia, Malindo, and Scoot Air are providing services to Colombo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Besides AIE, IndiGo Air is providing services to Singapore. As for domestic services, IndiGo Air connects the city with Kochi, Bangalore and Chennai. Air Alliance is also operating a service to Chenna while Jet Airways withdrew its services to Mumbai and Delhi last year. International passenger traffic from Trichy crossed 15 lakh during 2018-19. Despite its overall growth, the national carrier had not been giving due importance to the city, said S A Sayeed, an exporter and president of Express Courier Operator’s Association. Trichy MP S Thirunavukkarasar who raised the issue in Parliament in his maiden speech a few weeks ago, told TOI that he would raise the issue again in Parliament. “We intend to meet civil aviation minister and concerned officials of Air India along with the airport director. We will apply necessary pressure to meet our demands”, he added..

Airport director K Gunasekaran expressed the hope that Air India will commence domestic services to Delhi and Mumbai. “I have sent a representation to Air India as well as MP Thirunavukkarasar in this regard. There is a possibility that it will provide services to Mumbai and Delhi from Trichy soon. Once the terminal expansion work is completed, the carrier is likely to commence international service too”, he said.


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