The Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh supports the demand of industries in the Coimbatore region for enhanced airline operations to and from Coimbatore airport that was recently made an international airport by the Centre.

Speaking to Business Line from New Delhi after meeting the Civil Aviation Minister this morning, R.R. Balasundharam, President, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), Coimbatore, said the Minister expressed his support for providing greater connectivity between Coimbatore and other cities, both within and outside India. He wanted the ICCI to take up the issue with the airlines concerned and the Civil Aviation Ministry would back its request.

The ICCI President said the Civil Aviation Minister also assured that improvements would be made in the infrastructure at Coimbatore airport.

Balasundharam, who was accompanied by the ICCI Vice-President (Infrastructure) D. Nandakumar, said the airport at Peelamedu in the city suffered from infrastructure bottlenecks and connectivity was inadequate. He urged the Minister to accelerate Coimbatore airport's expansion programme and the number of cargo flights from the city should be increased so that exporters from the region did not have to go to Kochi, Chennai, or Tiruchi.

In his memorandum to the Minister, he also sought the inclusion of Coimbatore under bilateral agreements for unrestricted operations. He said barring Coimbatore, all other airports (non-metro airports) in the South such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode, Tiruchi and Vizag were listed in bilateral agreements to get more international connections.

He wanted operation of international flights to the Middle East with onward connections to Europe and North America and introduction of daily flights to Dubai. The current tri-weekly service of Silk Air to Singapore should be made a daily service and the Air Arabia flight to Sharjah should be enhanced from five-times-a-week to a daily service. Besides, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo and Kuwait should be linked to the city.

Balasundharam also made a strong pitch for permitting Air Asia, Fly Dubai and Bahrain Air, which had earlier showed interest in landing in Coimbatore, to operate their services and global airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Malaysian Airlines and Lufthansa should be wooed.

He sought improves airport infrastructure including in-line baggage checks (skipping pre-check in X-ray scanners), adding more immigration and customs and security check counters and provision of escalators, lifts and walkways within the airport.

(The expansion of Coimbatore airport is held up because of delays in land acquisition due to opposition from thepublic because a significant portion of the proposed acquisition was in thickly populated areas).

(This article was published on December 6, 2012)
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