Those who are flying to and from Kochi, Kerala must prepare themselves for some major travel disruption later this year. Cochin International Airport (COK), one of the major international airports in Kerala, will shut its operations for four months during the daytime. The airport will halt its daytime operations on 20th November 2019 and this will be effective till 28th March 2020. This four-month closure is due to the mandatory runway re-carpeting work that is scheduled for the said period.
According to the authorities of Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), no flight will be allowed to take off or land at the airport for 8 hours, from 10:00 am till 6:00 pm, during this period. Airport authorities have also instructed all airlines operating to and from Kochi Airport to reschedule their daytime flights to the night.
As per the prescribed practices, it is mandatory that runways are re-carpeted in every 10 years or even before this stipulated timeline if required. Cochin International Airport, which started its commercial operations in the year 1999, had its first runway re-carpeting done in 2009. The one scheduled from November 2019 is the second re-carpeting of its runway that is 3400 meters long and 60 meters wide.
It is estimated that the re-carpeting work, which includes the overhauling, re-tarring, and maintenance of this entire runway stretch and taxiway, will cost around 151 crores Indian rupees. As a step towards enhancing operational efficiency, the current Airfield Ground Lighting system (AGL) will also be upgraded to the latest version – that is, from CAT III to CAT I – during the course of re-carpeting. This will also help increase the safety of the aerodrome when there is low visibility or when weather conditions are adverse.
Currently, 240 aircraft movements are being handled by Kochi International Airport on every day, making it the busiest and the largest airports in Kerala. The airport, which has three passenger terminals, connects Kochi to all major cities in India such as Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, etc. through its domestic airline services. According to CIAL, about 35 domestic flight services will be affected by the runway repair and will have to be rescheduled.
The major international flight operators from Kochi Airport include Air Asia, Air Arabia, Indigo, SpiceJet, Air Indian Express, Gulf Air, Oman Air, etc. Since most of these international airlines have their flights scheduled between 6:00 pm to 9:00 am from Kochi, the daytime runway closure will not impact international traffic in a significant way.
According to CIAL authorities, all airlines operating from and to Cochin Airport have been intimated of the closure and instructed to reschedule their flights. The updated flight schedule will be made available to passengers shortly.
Since the runway re-carpeting work at Cochin Airport coincides with the beginning of Kerala’s tourist season, tourism sector might also be affected. Calicut International Airport, Kannur International Airport, and Trivandrum International airports are the other options for travelers flying to Kerala during this time.