Views of Tariq Hussain Butt

The past two-three years have seen big-ticket greenfield projects making significant headway in terms of implementation. A number of these have been completed and commissioned as well. Kannur airport, located in the Malabar region of Kerala, was commissioned on December 9, 2018 and has made rapid strides since. At a recent conference organised by India Infrastructure, Tariq Hussain Butt, Chief Operating Officer, Kannur International Airport, shared his views on the operational experience at the airport, key success factors, challenges faced and the lessons learnt, Excerpts…

Despite being the fourth operational airport in the state, within just one year of commissioning (till December 31, 2019), Kannur airport has witnessed a footfall of about 1.5 million passengers and has operated 12,233 flights to and from the airport. The airport achieved a major milestone on September 10, 2019 when it crossed the 1 million passenger mark within nine months of commissioning. Of the total passenger traffic recorded at the airport, domestic passengers constituted a major share of 52 per cent and the remaining 48 per cent were international passengers.

The airport boasts of an integrated passenger terminal building spread across 97,000 square metres, a 3,050 metre long runway to operate Code E aircraft, an apron to park up to 20 aircraft, a parallel taxi track, 24 common use terminal equipment-enabled check-in counters with a provision for further expansion, self check-in kiosks, self baggage drop facilities, and a parking space for 700 cars, 200 taxis and 25 buses, among other facilities. Further, advanced technologies such as a Cat I instrument landing system (ILS) with a provision to upgrade to Cat II ILS, and six passenger boarding bridges with an automatic visual docking guidance system have been deployed.

Apart from this, in a bid to tap non-aeronautical revenues, the development of duty-free retail outlets has also been proposed, for which a contract has been awarded to the GMR Group. A 25-room hotel (expandable to 50 rooms) is also to be developed inside the terminal, bids for which have already been issued. Further, earning revenue through advertisements is being explored and  bids for this are expected to be invited soon.


About 150 domestic flights and 112 international flights are operated from Kannur airport on a weekly basis to various destinations. Domestically, flights are operated to Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Goa, Hubli, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Trivandrum and  international connectivity is provided to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait, Riyadh and Sharjah. At present, only select airlines – Air India, Air India Express, GoAir and IndiGo – operate at the airport. Going forward, connectivity is expected to be provided to international destinations of Singapore and Hong Kong, and cities in Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives that have high potential.

Trade potential

As the airport is located in the Malabar region, ample trade opportunities for exporting vegetables, fruits, dry fruits, spices, textiles, handloom products, handicrafts, meat, coffee, tea, and fresh flowers exist. However, these goods are currently being moved to the Kozhikode and Mangaluru airports.

To tap the potential, an integrated cargo terminal has been developed across a 1,200 square metre area and is expected to be operationalised by April 2020, subject to regulatory approvals. It is strategically located close to the passenger terminal and provisions have been made to take up future expansion with increasing demand. Another dedicated international cargo complex is being constructed across an area of 6,000 square metres. The two terminals have the capacity to handle 162 metric tonnes (mt) per day of international cargo and 32 mt per day of domestic cargo. Meanwhile, the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation and other government agencies have acquired land around the airport for promoting export-oriented industries. With this, the airport is rapidly transforming into a commercial hub and a growth centre for the region.

Future plans

In order to increase passenger throughput, plans have been made to expand the runway to 4,000 metres and increase the number of aprons from 20 to 40 and eventually to 80 in a phased manner. Apart from this, technologies like reciprocal ILS and a fuel hydrant system will also be deployed. Besides, other commercial facilities such as category hotels, an airport village, an international convention centre, hotels, an ayurvedic wellness centre, a movie theatre and an amusement park will also be established in the vicinity of the airport, thereby transforming it into an aerotropolis. For this, about 2,300 acres of contiguous land is available around the airport. For 2020-21, the passenger footfall is expected to increase to considerably as soon as the airport is designated as a point of call, whereby foreign carriers are allowed to commence operations at the airport.