KOCHI: Flying between Kerala and the United Kingdom is set to become hassle-free and smooth with the British Airways likely to launch a direct flight service between London and Kochi. Sources said that Cochin International Airport Limited (Cial) has already held discussions with British Airways, and if everything goes as planned, the service is expected to begin in three months.
Though Cial officially refused to confirm the plan, top sources said talks are progressing, and the airline company is interested in the scheduled sector. It is also learnt that the airline has assessed the baggage handling and passenger amenities at the Kochi airport.
“European connectivity has been a long-time demand of expats; increasing more direct services to European destinations has been a priority for Cial too. Cial officials have met with British Airways officials during the Routes World Conference 2022 held in Las Vegas and have shared the airport profile and facilities with them. Since then, there have been multiple rounds of positive discussions about a direct flight,” said a source.
The proposed service will be a big relief for Keralites in the UK, considering their huge numbers there. Malayali associations in the UK have always demanded more direct flights between London and Kerala.
Currently, only Air India operates directly between London and Kochi, thrice a week. The AI service that began in 2019 has been a big success. Later it was rescheduled to Gatwick-Kochi-London. However, passengers often are forced to rely on connecting flights via the Middle East. Moreover, the airfare on the route is often very high in the sector with AI being the monopoly.
Currently, the AI direct flight between Kochi and London costs around Rs 65,000 to Rs 1 lakh in economy class for a round trip, depending on demand. The business class costs around Rs 2.2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for a round trip.
Keralites in the UK said the proposed London-Kochi flight too will be a big success. The number of students opting for higher studies in the UK has increased, and there is a huge inflow of healthcare workers from Kerala to the UK after the country opened its health sector to foreigners. Moreover, passengers expect more competitive pricing of air tickets in the sector with a new player coming in.
“The new flight will benefit not only those Keralites in and around London but also those living in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland because British Airways has high number of connected flights between these places and Gatwick or Heathrow,” said Balagopal Balakrishnan, a Keralite in the UK and a Malayali community activist.
India is one of the major markets for British Airways which operates more than 50 weekly flights to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai.