Kerala’s fourth and the biggest of all airports — the Kannur International Airport Limited ( KIAL) — is reeling under heavy losses.
After four years since opening, the losses have now crossed Rs 300 crore, sources said.
It was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2018 and has turned out to be a big relief for all political leaders hailing from Kannur, including Vijayan and numerous others, who had to earlier take a flight to the state capital from the neighbouring Kozhikode district.
One reason why KIAL is lying in the red is because just as the airport was getting traffic, the Covid pandemic hit and since then it has been struggling despite the best efforts of getting more airlines to operate domestic and international flights from there.
Registered under the Companies Act, KIAL is a government company with the Kerala government holding the maximum shares, accounting for 39 per cent, followed by the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited with 16.20 per cent and billionaire Keralite businessman M.A. Yusuf Ali, who owns close to 9 per cent shares.
While sitting in the opposition, the CPI-M had gone hammer and tong against the then Oommen Chandy-led government (2011-16) for not doing anything to increase the runway of the airport to 4,000 metres as a further close to 240 acres of land had to be acquired. But though the Vijayan-led government has now completed six years in office, it has also not been able to increase the runway to 4,000 metres.
Though KIAL is running under losses, it can take heart from the fact that the country’s first airport built under the PPP model — the Cochin International Airport Limited — was opened in 1999, but it started paying dividends only from 2003-04. And by now the total dividend payout has crossed 282 per cent.
Authorities expect that things will change if more and more domestic and international flights begin operations from the the Kannur International Airport.