At a time when Madurai airport is witnessing an exponential growth, the sudden decision taken by Air India to withdraw its Mumbai-Chennai-Madurai service and Jet Airways’ proposal to terminate four flight services has come as a rude shock, according to a statement from Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s senior president S. Rethinavelu and president N. Jegatheesan.

In a release, they said the Mumbai-Chennai-Madurai flight introduced in 1992 not only brought tourists to Kodaikanal, Kanniyakumari and other destinations, but also provided Madurai passengers easy access to Mumbai and connecting flights from there. Likewise, the withdrawal of Jet Airways’ four ATR flight services to Chennai and one service to Bengaluru would result in other competing airlines increasing the airfare between these destinations. In all, Madurai passengers would stand to lose about 550 seats daily.

Ironically, this development had come at a time when the Madurai airport was on an expansion mode in three phases over a period of one-and-a-half-years, with provision of additional parking bays and better infrastructure. The passenger traffic had also gone up by 47.4% – from 9.78 lakh passengers handled in 2016-17 to 14.42 lakh passengers in 2017-18. In these favourable circumstances, withdrawal of flights would only give an impression that Madurai was being neglected by the government.

While the Air India management had claimed that the withdrawal of its flight was only to facilitate additional flights for Haj pilgrims, it only reflected the poor capability of the national carrier. It must find an alternative and the Civil Aviation Ministry must intervene in this regard.

“Only when the long-pending demand of allowing foreign airlines to fly into Madurai is met will the domestic carriers stop from indulging in such actions in future. The BASA (bilateral air service agreement) will pave way for more airlines from Singapore, Malaysia and Gulf countries operating direct flights to Madurai,” Further, like in other sectors, competition from foreign entities should be encouraged as consumers would benefit ultimately, the release added.

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