Kerala seeks nod for additional flights from Gulf to state during upcoming festive season

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Pinarayi Vijayan. Photo: Biju Varghese/Mathrubhumi Archives

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Thursday sought the Centre's nod for additional or charter flights booked by it for travel of low income Keralite emigrants from Gulf nations to the state during the upcoming festive season in April.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct the Civil Aviation Ministry to give necessary approvals for additional or charter flights booked by the State from the second week of April.

The Kerala CM also drew Modi's attention to the huge hikes in airfares in the past two months and requested that the Central government "proactively" intervene and initiate negotiations with airlines operating in the India-Gulf sector to ensure they do not adopt an exorbitant pricing strategy during festivals and school vacations.

Vijayan, in a letter, said that major festivals for Keralites such as Vishu, Easter and Ramzan were falling in the second and third week of April and in view of the exorbitant air fares in the India-Gulf sector, the state government had decided to operate additional or chartered flights at reasonable rates for low-income emigrants in Gulf nations.

"I request you to direct the Civil Aviation Ministry to accord the necessary approvals expeditiously for the additional or charter flight operations booked by Government of Kerala from the second week of April 2023," he said.

The Kerala CM said the number of seats available for sale to or from a foreign sector was determined through a bilateral agreement with the Indian government. "As this permitted number of seats is fully utilised by scheduled carriers currently, unless the Union government grants exemption or relaxation, they will not be able to operate any additional flights.

"Only by obtaining such approval from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the foreign or Indian aircraft operator can operate additional or charter flights to India from the Gulf," he said.

Stating that the Centre's intervention was necessary, as exorbitant air fares from the Gulf nations to Kerala, especially during peak or festive seasons, "has been a vexing problem", he said these rates are unaffordable to many, particularly migrant workers.

"The airline operators have not responded favourably to various requests from migrant organisations and the Kerala government in the recent past to fix air fares at reasonable levels," Vijayan said.

As a result, millions of migrant workers are forced to pay exorbitant airfares, sometimes to the tune of several months of their meagre savings, to travel to their homes, he added.


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