The Kerala State Haj Committee has asked for the revival of the Calicut International Airport as a Haj pilgrimage embarkation site.
On Thursday, C. Mohammed Faizy, the committee's chairman, told the media that the Malabar region accounted for more than 80% of applicants for the Haj trip each year. Given this, naming the Cochin International Airport as the embarkation site, where just 20% of pilgrims rely, is an injustice. In 2019, a total of 13,457 people departed for the Haj pilgrimage from two airports, with 11,204 departing from the Calicut airport. That year, just 2,253 people from eight districts from Thrissur to Thiruvananthapuram took off from Kochi airport. In 2020, a total of 26,604 people applied for the pilgrimage, with 20,881 choosing the Calicut airport as their departure point.
Faizy explained that the embarkation site was moved from Karipur to Kochi in 2015 due to runway re-carpeting work. Kochi remained the boarding place for the Haj pilgrimage for the following several years. The infrastructure at the Calicut airport was restored in 2019 after persistent objections. When the number of embarkation locations was reduced due to COVID-19, the Calicut airport was once again overlooked.
Pilgrims from Malabar Region are Compelled to Travel to Kochi Airport
According to Faizy, the pilgrims are highly disappointed. The Malabar region's elderly pilgrims are now compelled to travel for hours to reach Kochi airport. For the past one and a half decades, tens of thousands of travellers have used the Calicut airport. A well-equipped Haj house is near the airport, and a women's block is constructed.
Faizy said that the decision to shrink the runway in the name of enlarging the runway safety area would result in refusing a licence to fly wide-bodied aircraft. He advised the authorities to abandon such actions favouring more effective alternatives.
Since its inception in 1988, Calicut International airport has grown to become one of the busiest in the country in terms of passenger volume. In 2006, the airport was granted international status. P.A. Mohamed Riyas, Minister of Public Works and Tourism for Kerala, recently stated that the state government is committed to developing the Calicut international airport.