Connecting Kerala to the world, Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) handles over 62 per cent of the state’s air passenger traffic. 

Celebrating 25 years of operations, the airport — the first in India to be built under a public-private partnership — is augmenting its infrastructure through seven mega projects. These include a one-lakh sqft import cargo terminal; phase 1 expansion of the international terminal (T3); modernisation of the airport’s emergency services for enhanced safety; a golf tourism project; and India’s biggest luxury aero lounge, among others.

Dips and surges

There was a surge in activity during fiscal year 2023-24, with the airport handling 10.5 million passengers and 70,203 aircraft movements, compared to 8.9 million and 61,231, respectively, a year ago. The airport credits its strategic planning and focus on passenger well-being for the record profitability of ₹350 crore achieved in its silver jubilee year after surmounting significant challenges in the past years.

In FY2020-21, it incurred a loss of ₹87.21 crore after the pandemic-induced lockdowns led to a drop in passenger traffic and revenue. It bounced back using a mix of operational and financial restructuring.

Passenger traffic nearly doubled from 2.47 million in FY2020-21 to 4.76 million in FY2021-22. The following fiscal saw operating profit of ₹521.50 crore and net profit of ₹267 crore.

S Suhas, Managing Director, CIAL, says the company board has chalked out a strategic development plan to align with the anticipated 16 per cent annual growth in the Indian aviation industry. This includes deploying the latest technology to enhance passenger experience at the airport. 

Tourist routes

This year, the focus is on introducing new international routes and expanding domestic services with cost-effective options. “With innovation as our compass, we are charting a new course for a seamless and sustainable aviation experience,” Suhas says.

Currently there are 25 airlines operating from the airport, connecting international and domestic destinations; CIAL has now set its sights on Europe, with plans for direct connections in the near future. 

On domestic routes it has added popular destinations like Kolkata, Chandigarh, Varanasi, Raipur, Ranchi, and Lucknow. Besides offering travellers more connectivity options, this is expected to boost tourism in the destination cities, across a diverse cultural and historical landscape.

CIAL also focuses on multiple non-aero revenue streams to boost its income. The company has completed work on a five-star hotel project and, through a global tender process, selected Indian Hotels Company Ltd’s Taj hospitality brand to run it.

Further, through a rights issue to eligible existing shareholders, the company has raised ₹478 crore in 2023 to fund the upcoming infrastructure projects.