The scene inside the flooded Cochin International Airport after the opening of Idamalayar, Cheruthoni and Mullaperiyar dam shutters on Wednesday. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Many expatriates from the South Indian state of Kerala were upset to hear about the closure of Cochin International Airport due to heavy rain and flooding, which disrupted their planned travel for Eid Al Adha and Onam (Kerala’s national festival) celebrations back home.

Most of them have been eagerly waiting for a long time, some even for years, to join their families during the festivals.

However, the expats who spoke to Gulf News on Wednesday said their financial loss and inconvenience for making alternative travel arrangements were nothing compared to the suffering of thousands of their compatriots who lost their dear ones and properties across the state in the nature’s fury.

Mohammad Raafi (right), 36, a draughtsman, said he was very eager to travel on Friday night, as he has not been able to join his wife and two children during Eid in the past six years. “Somehow, my annual leave was always some other time and finally it occurred this year and I was so excited.”

However, he is still scrambling for an affordable alternative flight. “Frankly I am sad but when I think of the people who are suffering back home … this is nothing. I am ready to bear with this,” Raafi said.

He said if he is able to reach home, he will do everything possible for the flood victims. “When I buy new clothes for my family, I will buy the same clothes for a family in relief camp as well,” Raafi said.

Ramesh Ramakrishnan (right), 48, a director at Etisalat, had to spend a huge amount to book new tickets for his four-member family on a flight from Dubai, instead of a cancelled Etihad flight on Saturday.

As no seats were available on Etihad’s alternative flights to Kozhikode or Thiruvananthapuram before his relative’s wedding on Sunday, he took a refund and spent double the amount for new tickets to Coimbatore, near his hometown of Palakkad. “For me this was not at all an inconvenience, compared to the suffering of thousands in Kerala, who lost houses and family members,” Ramakrishnan said.

Suresh Padoor (right), 54, an accountant in Abu Dhabi, has not been able to join his family during Onam in the past 15 years. Finally, it was about to happen this year but he is still not sure whether he can find an alternative flight instead of the cancelled Etihad flight on Saturday.

“That’s fine. This is the worst natural calamity in 100 years and when so many people are suffering, I should not complain about my travel problem,” Padoor said.

He and his colleagues at Shakthi Theatres, a cultural organisation in the capital, have been making some attempts to help flood victims back home. “If I am able to reach home, I will coordinate the efforts for the people living in relief camps,” Padoor said.

Abdul Kader (right), 34, a wallet parking supervisor, said he was also not sure about his plan to join his wife and two children during Eid because of the flight cancellation on Friday.

“I may have to spend an extra day even if I get an alternative flight to Thiruvananthapuram, which is far away from his hometown, Malappuram. I am ready to bear it … thousands of people are going through worse suffering than me,” Kader said.

Airlines ask passengers to change bookings

Abu Dhabi: The UAE-based airlines have advised the passengers travelling to and from Kochi in the next four days to contact them for changes in the booking following the cancellation of all flights after the closure of the airport until Saturday due to heavy rains and flooding.

Etihad guests are being provided alternative flights or accommodation where needed, a spokesperson said.

Etihad Airways guest control team is assisting guests with rebooking and their onward travel arrangements and passengers can call on +971 (0) 25990000.

According to an Emirates spokesperson, all Emirates flights from Wednesday to Saturday (August 18) to Kochi have been cancelled. “Affected customers are advised to contact their travel agent or Emirates booking office to make changes to their bookings,” the spokesperson said.

Flydubai said all Flydubai flights to and from Kochi will operate to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (TRV).

“Passengers who have purchased tickets for travel to or from Kochi during this period are being contacted,” said a Flydubai spokesperson.