The industrial town of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in southern Tamil Nadu will receive a major boost in air connectivity as the township’s airport is being spruced up to be able to accommodate larger aircraft such as Airbus 321. Currently, the airport handles only ATRs. While ATRs can seat about 78 passengers, the larger aircrafts can carry nearly 250.

The upgradation work at the airport is likely to be completed in the December quarter.

The airport will also have the capacity to handle international flights — a long-pending demand of the trade. The upgradation is also critical for the industry, considering that large industrial projects worth over ₹80,000 crore are coming up in the vicinity.

Among those who have signed up for investing in projects near Thoothukudi is the Vietnam-based electric car manufacturer, VinFast, which has said it would invest ₹16,000 crore. ACME, Semcorp, Umwelt and Leap Green Energy have mega plans for setting up various units of the hydrogen ecosystem. Also ISRO is building the country’s second rocket launch station at Kulasekarapatnam, 50 km from Thoothukudi.

The ₹381-crore airport upgradation work was started in 2021, but the pandemic and 2023 floods delayed the completion by almost a year. The Tamil Nadu government acquired 106 acres for the project.

The runway extension is being done by the Mumbai-based Tarmat. KEC International of the RPG group is building the 17,341-sq-m new terminal building. The existing terminal is just around 1,000 sq m.


The runway is extended to 3,115 m in length and 45 m in width (from the current 1,350 m and 30 m); the runway will then be the second longest in the State, after Chennai (3,611 m).

The departure side will have four entry gates (against just one today) with 21 check-in counters and seven X-ray baggage scanners at the ground level. The Mezzanine level connects to three aerobridges. The first floor has three boarding gates and seating capacity to cater 1,440 passengers. The arrival area has two baggage carousels.

A new 45-m Air Traffic Control tower has also been to meet the expansion needs. A new four-lane approach road to the new terminal building is being laid on the western end and the existing approach road is also being widened into a four-lane road, sources said.

Currently, six domestic flights — four to Chennai and two to Bengaluru — are being operated. However after the upgradation, long-distance flights to Delhi and Mumbai will be operated.

International connections

Currently, people from five districts — Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar and Tenkasi — depend on either Madurai or Thiruvananthapuram airport to travel to South Asia, Colombo or Maldives.

“We need international flights especially to Colombo and Male once the upgradation is completed. Nearly 75 per cent of supplies from India to these destinations are sent from Thoothukudi. There is a huge passenger traffic from Thoothukudi to these two destinations,” said Edwin Samuel, Managing Director of Pearl Shipping in Thoothukudi.

Celestine Villavarayar, Director, Vilsons Shipping, and Chairperson of CII Thoothukkudi District, said that the Thoothukudi airport is well poised to attract flights thanks to its thriving sea trade through the VOC Port and the fast-growing hinterland of Thoothukudi district and adjoining areas. The emerging investments by VinFast, development of furniture park and expansion of Gangaikondan Sipcot augur well for the flow of business travel to the southern district, and to which Thoothukudi airport will be the gateway, he said.

“The trade has been urging the Airports Authority of India to acquire further land to develop aircraft hub for hangar facility and maintenance,” he added.

Water needs

Water to the airport travels 28 km from the Thamirabarani river. The pipeline laying along National Highway 138 is underway in coordination with the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, sources said.