Cochin International Airport (Malayalam: കൊച്ചി അന്താരാഷ്ട്ര വിമാനത്താവളം) (IATA: COK, ICAO: VOCI), also known as Nedumbassery Airport and CIAL, is located at Nedumbassery, near Kochi, Kerala in India. It is the first Private Airport in the country, outside Indian Government's Airport Authority of India ambit in Public-Private partnership mode. It is the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic, seventh busiest airport in terms of general traffic and also the busiest airport in Kerala in terms of domestic and international traffic. The airport is the primary base for Air India Express operations and it is a focus city for many airlines like GoAir, IndiGo Airways, Jet Airways. India's national carrier, Air India also announced that it will be the anchor airline for the Cochin Airport along with its secondary hub.
The airport pioneered the concept of private investment in Airport sector by incorporating it as a public limited company and it received investments from nearly 10,000 non-resident Indians from 30 countries.
The airport handled 3.93 million passengers and had air traffic movements (ATM) of about 130 per day in the year 2009. The airport handles around 420 aircrafts per week with nearly 10,000 passengers each day. Seven domestic airlines and 16 international airlines connect Kochi with nearly 40 destinations nationally and internationally. The Cochin airport has been termed as the most profitable airport in India despite the major slowdown across the airports in various cities in India.
Kochi originally had its aerodrome and airstrip at Willingdon Island built by British Residency of Kochi Kingdom for carrying its officials, in 1936 as part of development of Cochin Port. During the World War II, the Royal Indian Navy quickly converted the airstrip into a major military airport for accommodating its naval fighter planes, to thwart a possible Japanese air-raid over Kochi. After Independence, Indian Navy took over the airport, though it allowed civilian aircrafts to use the facility. However the rising number of passengers using the facility, put the naval officials under concern, as the airport is located inside Naval zone which highly sensitive strategic point that requires no civilian movements. The Gulf boom in late 80s, pushed nessecity for international connectivity from the state for the interest of Malayalees working in Middle East who makes regular visits during vacations.
In October 1990, Kerala Chamber of Commerce and various local industrialists passed a resolution of expansion of Naval airport to accommodate large jets and direct connectivity from Middle East, which was outrightly rejected by Indian Navy, citing security reasons. At a meeting convened by representatives of the Government of Kerala, National Airport Authority, GCDA, Navy, Railways, Cochin Port Trust etc, in 1991 finally resolved for construction of the new Airport near Cochin instead of expansion of the existing Naval Airport. V.J Kurien, then-the District Collector of Ernakulam was appointed as special officer of this project.
The airport site proposed by State Government officials was inspected and found suitable by the Airport Authority of India. The Ministry of Civil Aviation accorded its clearance to the proposal for developing the International Airport put up by the Government of Kerala in March 1993. However in 1994 a major set-back came when Airports Authority of India decided to keep the project frozen, citing lack of funds. It was then, V.J Kurien proposed the model of private-public partnership which was unheard at that time. He suggested for raising funds from public, particularly from Non-resident Indians (mainly Malayalees from Middle East who are the major beneficiaries of having an airport) by issuing shares and forming a public limited company. Though the project received several objections and criticisms for proposing it outside Government of India's control, the strong determination of V.J Kurien, helped it to start. A society was formed to handle land acquisitions along with a master plan for an airport. As there was a shortage of funds, the airport was proposed to be constructed in low-cost model by adopting traditional architectural style along with reduced overhead operations. The project was completed at a lower cost of .300 Crores ( 3 Billion) under the leadership of Mr. V. J. Kurian, which was a record in Indian aviation history.
The Airport was formally inaugurated by the Hon'ble President of India on 25 May 1999 and the first Inaugural flight of Air India took off on 10 June 1999. The Air India Jumbo Jet Boeing 747 touched down for the first time in Kerala on 21 June 1999. The domestic operation from the Naval Airport was shifted to Cochin International Airport on 1 July 1999, which was closed for all civilian passengers.
The airport is the first airport in India to be built in public-private partnership mode and owned by a public limited company called Cochin International Airport Limited, better known as CIAL, floated by Government of Kerala in 1993. The Kerala Government owns a stake of 25%, a consortium comprising of leading corporate houses like Abu Dhabi based Emke Group, Oman based Galfar Group, UAE based Majeed Bukatara Trading, Kochi based Synthite Group and several local business firms, holds a combined stake of 37%, Central Government enterprises like Air India, BPCL, AAI etc holds another 8%, scheduled commercial banks like Federal Bank, SBT, Canara Bank etc owns 6% stake and remaining 14% stake by general public and private individuals. A 10% stake original held by Kerala Government was transferred to HUDCO in lieu of the loans issued to the company. The Chief Minister of Kerala, currently V. S. Achuthanandan is ex officio chairman of CIAL. Former HAL Chairman and Aviation expert, Dr. C.G Krishnadas Nair is the current Managing Director of the company.
As Kerala Government holds 26% stake in the company, emerging as single largest stake holder, along with a combined stake of various government controlled PSUs and nationalized banks that makes a total of 51% stake, the company is defined as Public Authority by Public Information Commission under RTI. The company is in process of filing a litigation in Supreme Court of India, to ensure its maintain its character as a private company (Public limited company).
Cochin International Airport is located about 30 km (19 mi) from the central city area of Kochi. Its location near tourist areas of Ernakulam and Thrissur and the availability of undeveloped land near the location provides opportunity for growth in the region. As the airport is located almost at center of the state, it is easily accessible for large number of people.
The airport company holds 1,500 acres (6.1 km) of prime land out of which 800 acres (3.2 km) is used for airport and allied facilities and remaining 700 acres (2.8 km) for construction an Aerotropolis (Airport City). A 35-billion-rupee master plan (involving construction of an 18-hole golf course, business centre, hotel chains, malls, industrial and IT parks and logistics centre) has been developed by CIAL to generate revenues. Airport fees for international passengers have been waived and customs processing time is relatively quick. Supplemental revenue is generated from leasing advertisement space within the terminals. The terminals have been commended for its unique heritage style which is unusual for an airport and clean image. Both the terminals are constructed in traditional Kerala Architecture in strict accordance of Vastushastra, combining elements of modernity.
In addition to flights connecting it with all major cities in India, Cochin International Airport has direct flights to several destinations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Scheduled connections to US and Europe are planned soon by various carriers.
The airport has two terminals. The Domestic terminal consists of 100,000 sq ft divided into two blocks, one for arrival and one for departure in a single level. Both departure and arrival blocks are interconnected through a corridor inside. Non-passengers can enter into terminal on purchase of guest ticket. This enables non passengers to accompany passengers upto X-ray screening. The departure hall has 20 Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) enabled check-in counters including 5 premium check-in counters. It also has 5 security gates and a common waiting lounge that can accommodate 400 passengers at a time. There is also a premium lounge available for business class passengers and a family lounge. A child play area and small food court is also available in waiting lounge. 4 gates and one jetway facility is available for domestic passengers. The arrival hall has 2 baggage carousels along counters of several tourist operators, hotel reception counters, car-rentals, mobile kiosks and a pre-paid taxi counter.
The international terminal consists of 478,000 sq ft divided into departure and arrival blocks. Both departure and arrival halls are designed to accommodate 1500 people at any given time. Non passengers can enter into the terminal on payment of 50 for guest tickets. There are 37 CUTE enabled check-in counters including 5 premium check-in. It also has 30 passport control counters, 10 security gates and 6 customs counters. The waiting lounge is located in second floor which is very spacious and large enough to accommodate 1500 passengers at any point of time. There are two premium lounges for first and business class passengers. Expansion works are underway making many parts closed. There are 8 gates with 4 jetways. The departure hall has several money changers, banks counters, medical facilities and offices of various airlines. The arrival hall is equipped with 23 passport control counters and 4 large baggage carousels, 8 red channels and 2 green channels of customs. The arrival hall also has various car-rental counters, hotel reception offices, bank and money changer counters located near the exit.
With a 3,400 m (11,200 ft) long runway with 45 m width, the airport is equipped to operate any type of aircraft currently in commercial service.It is the longest runway in India. It has a full length parallel taxiway of 3,400 m (11,200 ft). Spaces are reserved for a second runway in future along with open crash barrier space. The runways are spread over the panchayats areas of Nedumbasserry, Sreemoolanagaram and Kanjoor.
Currently, the largest aircraft flying into Cochin International Airport is the Boeing777-200ER operated by Emirates to Dubai and Boeing747-400 operated Air India to Riyadh.
Cochin Airport has a dedicated Cargo Village located on eastern side of the Airport complex. The Cargo center is one of the largest facility in the country with 3 complexes, with total built up space of 1,20,000 Sq Ft in 50 acres of land. The cargo terminal has handled around 40,000 MT last year with more than 25% growth. There are 3 complexes in the cargo village;
in the country, with around 25,000 sq ft built up space, commissioned in 2008 at a cost of 38 crore, jointly by CIAL, Agricultural and Food Promotion Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Kerala Government. Nearly 25,000 MT of vegetables, fruits and marine products are exported from this facility.
In addition an exclusive Domestic cargo complex is also constructed for private domestic logistics firms and India Post services.
In pursuit of earning more non-aeronautical revenue, CIAL has set up more shopping facilities. The Cochin Duty-free in International terminal is the first full-scale duty free shops in India and one of the largest managed Alpha Kreol, a joint venture between Alpha UK and Kreol Middle East. The arrival hall has large duty-free shopping area of 13,000 sq ft spread over two floors with large collections of leading liquor brands, perfumes, chocolates, handicrafts, watches, books and electronics. A gold and platinum jewelery also operates in the duty free. The departure block duty free is under construction, though a last-minute shopping counter of 2000 sq ft, currently functions for passengers to buy select liquor brands, chocolate, perfumes, ethnic handicrafts, spices etc.
A large shopping arcade is provided in departure hall of domestic terminal which has several stores selling traditional Kerala specialties and apparels.
A large 20,000 sq ft departure duty free terminal is under construction, with 2000 sq ft food-court, a wellness spa and 2 fine restaurants and a sports bar. The departure duty free is expected to open by October 2011. A Dilli-Haat modeled open-air shopping area is also planned, to showcase traditional Kerala souvenirs, handicrafts, ethnic items and food-stalls serving native foods. CIAL is one of the few airports in the country, that makes huge profits from duty free operations. In last financial year, CIAL made a gross turnover of more than 100 crore ( 1 Billion).
There is a large multi-cuisine fine restaurant operated by Taj-SATs inside departure hall of International terminal. Apart from this, several small cafes and sandwich counters operate in both domestic and international terminal. A large cafe operated by Cafe Coffee Day and mini food court operates in waiting lounge of domestic terminal. A food court is under construction in international terminal.
Both the terminals are Wi-Fi enabled giving passengers access to complimentary internet, apart from a business center operating in the departure hall of the international terminal. A large child care room is available in the international terminal. Complimentary public telephones for local calls and postal counters are also available. Large plasma televisions have been installed in all waiting lounges for entertainment.
Fixed Base Operators
The ground control is handled by Air India & Bird-Worldwide Flight Services(B&WFS). Cochin International Aviation Services (CIAS), a subsidiary of CIAL, is also expected to join soon for ground handling operations.
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) has been awarded the exclusive rights to constrict and operate the hydrant refuelling system at the Cochin International Airport. BPCL has provided full fledged state-of-the-art aircraft refuelling facilities at this airport. 1400 m long pipeline from fuel depot to the last aircraft parking bay ensures direct fuel connectivity. Each aircraft parking bay will have two numbers of hydrant pit box, pit valve and emergency isolation valve of international standards confirming to API/IP standards. A modern large fully automated tank farm is also commissioned within Airport area
BPCL also provides refuelling for all airport vehicles as well as passenger vechicles, through its main petrol station outside the terminal.
Flight Kitchen and Caterers
Cochin Airport has issued operating permits to Casino Air Flight Services (CAFS), Saj Flight Kitchen and TAJ-SATS Flight services to provide in-flight catering services to all airlines operating at Cochin. In addition Lulu-Oberoi Inflight Catering services and Ambassador Sky-Chef are scheduled to start their services by July 2012.
Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities
Cochin airport through its subsidiary- Cochin International Aviation Services Limited (CIASL) has commissioned 1,35,000 sq ft built up MRO facility on a property of 32 acres, at an initial cost of 80 crore. The first phase includes hangars for two narrow-body aircraft with facilities for line maintenance run-up bay, workshops, aircraft parking and a taxi-way link. The second phase proposes an additional two narrow body hangars along with two wide-body hangars, more parking bays and workshops. The component MRO will cover the areas of wheels and brakes, electrical and avionics, hydraulics, safety equipment, cabin interiors, engine storage and support, also with scope for further expansion. CIASL is in talks with an American Aircraft maintenance company for joint partnership. Air India has expressed its interest in partnering with CIASL for having an additional MRO facilities for its flights. With this project, CIASL proposes to attract large-scale investments from leading OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and hopes to reach out to cargo operators and business jets, especially from the growing markets of India, West Asia and South-East Asia.
Education and Training
Cochin Airport, in association with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has started CIAL Aviation Academy, which provides various management and technical education in area of aviation.
Connectivity to & from Airport
Airport is located inbetween to NH 47, one of the major National Highways in South India and MC Road, one of the major State highways of Kerala. An expressway is planned from the NH 49 to MC Road, to facilitate faster transport. The main railway line connecting Thiruvananthapuram with other northern parts of Kerala, transverses 500 meters near to Airport. An Airport Railway station was proposed several times, though Southern Railways are yet to respond. Currently Angamally Railway station and Aluva Railway stations are the nearest railway station.
Cochin Airport, in association with KSRTC operates JnNURM Air conditioned buses to City and Fort Kochi, at every 45 minutes. In addition, regular and fast passenger buses of KSRTC operates from Airport Bus area to nearby towns and villages almost every 5 minutes.
Cochin Airport manages a fleet of its own cabs under Cochin Airport Taxi Society (CATS), providing pre-paid and regular cab facilities. CATS maintains a large fleet of traditional white ambassador cars as well as modern cars along with limousines and SUVs, providing connections to almost all parts of the state, at government approved rates. CATS taxis can be booked at its prepaid counters in arrivals of both International and domestic terminals.
Terminals, airlines and destinations
The phase four activities of Airport expansion has planned to start by first quarter of next year. This envision for an expansion of common air side to domestic area to accommodate 4 additional jetways and 6 additional gates to the existing. The domestic terminal is planned to expand with another terminal similar to Arrivals-International terminal. This would increase the floor area to another 200,000 sq ft. A suggestion for integrating domestic and international departures is proposed and the company is studying for interior redesigning to accommodate integrated check-in facilities.
The passport control is planned to expand to 45 in International departures as well as 10 additional passport control counters in International arrivals. The proposal of increasing baggage carousel to 7 in International terminal is pending for final decision.
One of the major futuristic oriented project of Cochin Airport is CIAL Aerotropolis or Airport City at total area of 500 acres. The concept of aerotropolis was proposed by its founder director V.J Kurien to ensure additional revenue sources for the growth of the company and to increase airport traffic through tourism and allied activities. The aerotropolis features itself as the highlight of Cochin Airport Masterplan.
The proposed Aerotropolis will be located in Nedumbassery and nearby villages, aimed to convert into a self-sustainable town, with the airport forming the core element of the town along with a residential zone. Works for aerotropolis has commenced in 2007 with several facilities in planned or construction stage. The key zones for the aerotropolis are
Manufacturing and Business Zone
The masterplan envisages creation a Special Economic Zone for aircraft allied industries especially spare parts and OEM manufacturing units, an airline research and development center, workshops and service zones. In addition to this, an Information Technology park with dedicated Airline support technologies design & development centers is also proposed. An integrated logistics center and central container freight station are planned at Cargo village.
CIAL's proposal for establishing SEZ was approved by Board of Approval of SEZs in 2008. However the works are yet to start, due to recession. The current estimation is that the project will take off by August 2011.
Already phase one of the airside zone have completed with commissioning of MRO facilities. The company expected to start second phase soon.
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