The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is the first greenfield airport set up in the public-private partnership (PPP) model in civil the aviation infrastructure sector in India. Commissioned in 1999, the state-of-the-art airport is now on a fast track of growth with the most advanced systems of safety and security. In a short span of time, CIAL has emerged as a model airport and a fast-developing hub of international travel in south India. Following is an overview of the unique features of this flourishing international aviation hub.
Cochin International Airport is situated in the suburbs of the booming south Indian metropolis of Kochi, in the state of Kerala.Located at Nedumbassery,about 30 kilometres north-east of Kochi, it is today the busiest and largest airports in Kerala. For the financial year 2013-14, it was the fourth busiest airport in India in international passenger traffic, ferrying 3,272,350 passengers and seventh busiest in overall passenger traffic, carrying 5,383,114 passengers.
The airport is also a primary base for Air India Express operations and is a focus city for Air Asia India, Air India, Indigo, Jet Airways, and Spice-jet. A host of international airlines, including the leading Middle East-based airlines, operate from this airport to all major destinations across the globe.
The original air facilities in Kochi were an aerodrome and airstrip on Willingdon Island, built in 1936 by the British Residency of the erstwhile Kingdom of Kochi, intended for transporting British officials involved in the development of Cochin Port. The airstrip was converted into a military airport by the Royal Indian Navy during World War II. After India’s Independence, the Indian Navy operated the airport, though it permitted civilian aircraft to use the facility. The Gulf economic boom of the 1980s made it necessary to develop international transportation to Kochi in the interests of expatriates working in the Middle East.
In October 1990, the Kerala Chamber of Commerce, supported by local industry, passed a resolution to expand the naval airport to accommodate large jets and facilitate direct flights to the Middle East. The resolution was rejected by the Navy for security reasons. This resulted in the Kerala Government in mooting the idea of a new, greenfield civilian airport to be built near Kochi. However, the Government of India’s Airports Authority of India did not have enough funds to start a greenfield airport. This lead to the novel idea of collecting funds from the public and individuals to build an airport – which was for the first time in India. The idea was put forward by the dynamic and visionary IAS officer, V J Kurian, the-then district collector of Ernakulam, who is now back at CIAL as its MD after a brief interlude. Then Chief Minister Late K. Karunakaran gave him a free hand to make his dream a reality.
The original proposal for the airport outlined an estimated cost of Rs 100 crore (US $16 million) and an expected date of commission in 1997. For better fund mobilisation as well as for administrative convenience, a public limited company under the name the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) was registered in March 1994 with an authorised capital of Rs 90 crore (US $14 million).
A total of 3,500 acres of land was acquired for the construction of the airport. About 2,300 landowners and 872 families were resettled under a rehabilitation package. The facility was inaugurated by the-then President of India, K R Narayanan, on May 25, 1999. The first commercial service began on June 10, 1999. The operations from the old naval airport were moved to CIAL on July 1, 1999.
(Read the full part of this article from the April Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)