After a brief closure, Cochin International Airport was delighted to welcome passengers back. Image Credit: CIAL

Kochi: For a state which has roughly a fourth of its families having someone working abroad, an airport is an absolute necessity.

Little wonder then that Kerala, with a population of 33 million and a north-south stretch of less than 600km is awaiting opening of a fourth international airport at Kannur to add to the ones at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.

The flood-induced closure of the Kochi airport was a big blow to Keralites, which put out of service the most-frequented airport in the state.

Says Vino K. George, who was flying back home this week from Dubai for the first time after landing a job in the UAE only a few months ago: “My plan was to fly into Kochi and then drive down to Kottayam district where my family is based. Instead (as the airport would reopen only on Aug 29), I had to fly to Thiruvananthapuram and travel nearly five hours by road to reach home.”

The closure was particularly severe for thousands of Keralites, with the reopening of schools in the Gulf only a few days away. Tickets from Kerala to the Gulf region are pricey at this time of the year, and flight cancellations owing to the Kochi airport closure meant steep financial implications for many.

Several families in Kerala who were eagerly awaiting their breadwinners based abroad, have had to wait to see them because the Kochi airport was closed. At the height of the floods, the non-residents’ misery deepened as they had to land in Kozhikode or Thiruvananthapuram and then navigate rain-damaged roads to reach home.

George Alex, 27, a business development manager at an IT firm in Dubai, who was flying on an Indigo flight at 7pm Wednesday awaiting the airport reopening. “I had cancelled my plans to be with my parents for Onam celebrations because of the airport closure. Now I am happy I can travel to see them,” Alex said.

Alex said he had been checking on the airport’s reopening from August 23. “Finally, it has happened,” he said.

P.K Sajith Kumar, CEO & MD of IBMC Financial Professionals Group in Dubai, was scheduled to fly to Kochi from Dubai Thursday morning. He had to cancel his trip to Kochi on August 15, the day the airport was closed. Thereafter he was constantly checking on the reopening date of the airport so he could visit his company’s branch office in Kochi, which is a business hub of Kerala.

The closure of the airport affected many businesspersons, he said. “It is great news that it is reopening today [Wednesday] and I have scheduled my travel tomorrow [Thursday] morning,” Kumar told Gulf News on Wednesday.

(With inputs from Binsal Abdul Kader, Senior Reporter)