The closure of the international airport at Kerala’s commercial capital Kochi until August 18 due to heavy rains and floods in the south Indian state has upset the travel plans of thousands from Qatar and many more passengers, transiting through Doha’s Hamad International Airport.
The airport at Nedumbassery near Kochi (Cochin International Airport – CIAL) caters to a significant number of more than 3mn Malayalis living abroad.
CIAL is the largest airport in Kerala and among the busiest in India.
Doha, which provides excellent connectivity to the three international airports in Kerala – Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode, has been a popular transit point for thousands of Malayalis living in North America and Europe besides the Middle East.
The CIAL management on Wednesday said the airport would be closed until August 18 due to heavy rains and resultant flooding. The runway and the parking area at the Kochi airport, located near the banks of Periyar River, are flooded.
Qatar Airways in a communique on Wednesday said it was suspending all flights to Kochi until August 18.
The national carrier has advised passengers to use the ‘flight status tab’ on its website or call Qatar Airways’ 24-hour call centre on +974-40230000 or +91-7930616000 for the latest information.
Indian carriers Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo also operate services to Kochi from Doha. All their services have also been affected due to the airport closure.
Travel industry sources said current flights to Kerala from Doha are booked to capacity in view of the forthcoming Eid Al Adha holidays.
“Finding seats to the three international airports in Kerala – Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode is a tall order these days,” a travel agent said.
He said the heavy rush for seats was also because of Kerala’s national festival Onam, whose festivities begin next week. The highlight of the festival – Thiruvonam falls on August 25 this year.
Meanwhile, a red alert has been issued across Kerala in what has turned out to be the state's worst monsoon in almost a century.
The torrential rain - which forced the state to release excess water from its reservoirs, causing floods downstream - was expected to stop on Wednesday.
But the local weather office has said it is likely to continue until Saturday.
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