TRIVANDRUM — Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Tuesday demanded chartered flights from the Middle East to the state to clear the passenger rush in the wake of cancellations of flights by Air India because of the ongoing pilots’ strike.
Replying to a calling attention motion moved by Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator A.M Arif, he said that he would take up the matter with Federal Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh when he visits New Delhi next week.
He said that he would urge the federal minister to explore the possibility of operating chartered flights at normal rates during peak July-September season, when schools in the Gulf are closed and Kerala celebrates Onam.
Arif said a large number of Keralites were finding it difficult to get a ticket to Kerala as Air India has been cancelling 20 international flights every week and the private airlines were hiking the fares since the strike.
Arif pointed out that the most affected were Keralites in Saudi Arabia, which is connected to many destinations in India, including Kerala, mainly by the Air India.
He pointed out that thousands of Keralites were stranded in Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and other major cities in Saudi Arabia because they are unable to get a ticket at affordable price.
The CPM legislator said that qxprivate airlines had steeply hiked the airfares to Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut, forcing many of the non-resident Keralites to cancel their trip. The chief minister had last week sought the federal government’s intervention in bringing down the airfare in the sector, which has gone up during the peak season.
The Kerala Association of Travel Agents (KATA) demanded implementation of open sky policy in the sector to clear the rush and avoid the increase in airfares. Association president K V Muralidharan urged the chief minister and the federal ministers from the state to mount pressure on the civil aviation minister in this regard. The Gulf-Kerala sector is usually overbooked during the July-September season, as the workers plan their annual holiday coinciding with the summer vacation in the Gulf and the Onam festival in the state. The strike during the coming season has put their plans in total disarray.