Kannur International Airport (KIAL) in Kerala started its operations less than 3 years back, is quickly transforming into an important cargo handling hub in India. It lies 28 km from Kannur town and serves several regions in the districts of Kerala, Karnataka, and Pondicherry, India. Within the first nine months since its opening, this airport served over one million passengers. The Kannur Airport recently announced plans to start its cargo operations. In today’s post, we are going to talk about the potentials of this airport which is all set to play a major role for the air freight forwarders in India.
A bit about the Kannur International Airport
Ever since its inauguration, the state government of Kerala has been advocating for opening it for many foreign carriers. Presently, there are regular international flights from this airport to several destinations in Asia like Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, and more. Moreover, the MD of KIAL is pitching for its inclusion in the ASEAN Open Skies policy. This will allow the flight operators from the ASEAN member countries to fly all over the region. Additionally, it will also help to strengthen the Indian air freight industry by forming a single market for air transport. Several important international airlines regularly operate flights to/from this airport. These airlines include Fly Dubai, Salam Air, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Oman Air, Etihad Airways, Oman Air, and Saudia. On the domestic front, the Kannur Airport serves Kerala’s North Malabar region, Pondicherry’s Mahe district, and the Mysore and Kodagu districts of Karnataka.
Additionally, the state government is making more efforts towards making available more services of domestic and foreign airlines from the KIAL. Presently, this airport is the 4th international airport in the state of Kerala. The Mangalore International Airport and the Calicut International Airport are located at a distance of less than 200 Km. Nevertheless, the KIAL is notable for its capacity of handling much larger aircraft. This is because of its runway length. Moreover, its connectivity to the industrial hubs, as well as plantations in the surrounding regions makes it ideal for gradually coming up as the freight gateway of this region.
The cargo services at the KIAL
Earlier this year, the Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan opened the cargo complex at the Kannur International Airport. The cargo complex of this airport sprawls over an area of 1,200 square meters. It has a yearly freight handling capacity of 12,000 metric tonnes. Moreover, within a few months, the 6,000 square meters international freight terminal of this airport will be operational. Presently, this airport is seeking to come up as an airfreight hub of this area. It will primarily be responsible for moving freights to/from the Gulf region although plans are being made to start cargo flights to cities in the US as well. Putting it simply, on completion the Kannur International airport will be an important step forward for the air freight shipping industry in India.
Cargo Service Center is responsible for the management and operation of the Kannur Airport. To quote Tushar Jani the chairman of Cargo Service Center, “From the inquiries, we could see that both our customers and international airlines are just waiting for the cargo operations to start.” He says that this new airport is one of the ‘most promising new airports’ globally. The state government of Kerala along with the NRI community from this region is investing massively for further development of the Kannur Airport. “The density of the NRI population around Kannur airport is highest among all airports in Kerala which is a great opportunity. Also, it is one of the technically advanced airports with better connectivity in the region and has many advantages above all other airports in the region,” adds Mr. Jani.
The scope of the cargo operations at Kannur International Airport
To begin with, the cargo center at KIAL will handle bother domestic and international freight. However, on the completion of the international cargo complex, the present cargo area will be solely dedicated to domestic cargo operations. This area will soon come with a cold storage facility for storing perishable items and pharmaceuticals. Kodagu, a major coffee, pepper, and tea producing region that frequently exports its produces is just 82 km away from Kannur Airport. The agricultural sector has a good market in the Gulf countries and this new air cargo hub will provide better opportunities to boost the trade ties with foreign countries.
A government brochure from 2019 states how this airport can become a nerve centre of air freight forwarding operations in the future. To quote from the government brochure, “The airport will facilitate the export of high-value handloom, coffee, fish, meat, spices, pharmaceuticals, flowers, etc. There are a large number of processing units for dry fruits and spices, apart from export opportunities related to marine and fishery products.”At present, KIAL is serving the Gulf and Southeast Asian countries with perishables like meat and vegetables. Air India Express, Go Air and Indigo are also handing cargo consisting of garments.
Moreover, export items from the districts of Kasargod, Malapuram, and Wayanad will also come to the KIAL. Fisheries will also become an important export item. The state government is presently working on a series of road construction projects that will further improve the connectivity of this airport. More flight services are expected from 1 st December 2021, when DGCA opens Indian skies for all international airlines.