Thanks to expansion efforts by the Airport Authority of India, the Coimbatore airport has attracted new operators, especially the low-cost airlines.
It remained an idling airport with only two airlines operating to and from here till about three years ago. Its portal would then be conveniently shut by the evening, making its precincts a preferred terrain for the evening strollers.
But today Coimbatore's civil airport at Peelamedu is buzzing with activity day and night. One can see the silhouette of the terminal building and the streams of passengers moving in and out, basking in the high-mast floodlights even at 10 p.m. or beyond ever since October last year, when the airport was thrown open for night operation.
A quick look at the airport's passenger/aircraft movement will reveal the rise in the volume of traffic as well as the number of flights. Unlike in the past when only Indian Airlines and Jet Airways operated two flights to/from Coimbatore, the number of airlines operating here now has gone up to seven. The number of flights operated daily through the airport has touched 17, besides an international flight from Sharjah to Chennai via Coimbatore thrice a week, which together will add up to 19. In addition to this is the twice-a-week freighter aircraft from Sri Lankan Airways. These have put the monthly aircraft movement through the airport at 1,028.
The new operators include Air Sahara, Air Deccan, Paramount Airways and GoAir, the latest to introduce its low-fare services connecting Coimbatore and Mumbai. .
The peak passenger traffic at the Coimbatore airport in December 2005 was an all-time high of 62,275; this figure includes the 1,410 passengers handled by the Indian Airlines' Sharjah-Chennai-Sharjah flight via Coimbatore.
The previous peak passenger traffic recorded in the airport was in May 2005 at 49,505. The peak passenger traffic from Coimbatore airport has been steadily rising in the past three years. The traffic handled by the airport, which was just 24,343 during December 2003, went up to 40,862 during December 2004.
The vibrancy in Coimbatore's civil aviation arena is reflective of the city's booming economy, thanks to the recovery of the region's textile industry and the engineering manufacturing sector that have given momentum to the overall industrial recovery of Coimbatore. Apart from business travellers to Coimbatore, those visiting the neighbouring active export zones such as Tirupur and Karur also use the Coimbatore airport.
However, the recent air traffic growth at the Coimbatore airport could alsobe traced to the expansion efforts taken up by the Airport Authority of India.
Even as the new facilities attracted new operators to Coimbatore, the low-cost airlines have strategically extended their services to Coimbatore, and their timings have gone down well with the passengers.
If the profile of air passengers is any indication, the services of low-fare airlines are the triggers that set the stage for the passenger volume boom. For example, in December 2005, of the total domestic passenger traffic of 60,062 accounted by all the airlines, the share of the low-cost operators alone worked out to around 32,000. While Air Deccan alone had handled 21,342 passengers in its five services during December to and from Coimbatore, the new low-cost carriers Paramount and Go Air managed to fly around 5,400 and 5,800 passengers respectively.
Picture by S. Siva Saravanan