October 14, 2008

Mangalore Air Traffic Sees 125% Jump in a Year

Anshul Dhamija & Stanley G Pinto

BANGALORE/MANGALORE: The coastal city of Karnataka, Mangalore, is now on the radar of many international flyers. Bajpe Airport at Mangalore has reported a whopping 125.6% growth in international aircraft movement during April-May 2008 as compared to the same period last year.

According to the latest Airports Authority of India statistics for April-May 2008, Mangalore's growth is the second highest in the country after another southern tier-II city, Coimbatore, which reported a whopping 213.7% increase in aircraft movement.

In Mangalore, the total aircraft movement to and from foreign destinations increased to 370 from 164. The total passenger movement for the same period was 33,041, up from 25,216. Compare this with the country's international aircraft movement growth of only 13.4% during the same period.

The three Indian airports that reported a triple-digit international air traffic growth were tier-II cities - Coimbatore , Mangalore and Nagpur.

Goa, the favourite of foreign travellers, saw a decrease in aircraft movement of 22.3% during April-May this year with 348 movements, as against 448 reported in the same period last year.

"Mangalore has a lot of non-resident Indians working abroad, who for long used Bangalore as their hub to connect . But airlines have now realised the potential of offering direct flights," says Gopinath Nair, CEO of Travel Tours.

Currently, Mangalore is only connected to the Gulf region by the public sector budget airline Air India Express, which offers around 20 weekly flights to Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, Bahrain and Sharjah. Other international budget carriers like Air Arabia are also expected to start operations at Mangalore.

The inception of budget carriers on these international routes has increased air traffic growth. "Earlier, passengers who visited the city once a year are now seen coming thrice due to huge savings in cost and time," says M R Vasudeva, director of Bajpe Airport.

Even business class travellers , who used to fly to Bangalore , has switched over to flying on Air India Express to save time and money.

This continuous spurt in air traffic has been reflected in the airport's balance sheet too. Bajpe Airport's operating profit for the year ended March 31, 2008, was Rs 9 crore, against Rs 83 lakh in the previous fiscal year - a growth of 950%. The total revenue of the airport stood at Rs 19 crore in the last fiscal year.

The growth is likely to remain at these levels once more budget airlines enter the lucrative Mangalore market. A new terminal is also likely to be opened by February 2009 at a cost of Rs 147 crore.

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