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Nedumbassery: Ushering in a new chapter in the history of Air India, Kochi is all set to become the corporate headquarters of Air India Express, the low cost arm of the national carrier, from February 27.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi will inaugurate the airline's refurbished office space on the Durbar Hall Road in Kochi as the corporate office at a function to be held at 11.a.m on the day.
Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav, Central Ministers E. Ahamed and K.V. Thomas, State Ministers S. Sarma and Jose Thettayil are also scheduled to attend the function.
According to airline's officials, the new office will encompass such sections as administration, operations, cabin crew scheduling, training and licensing and security.
“The 4,000 sq ft area will also accommodate about 200-odd employees including the company's top brass, and the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer S. Chandrakumar will be in charge of the airline's affairs from then on,” said an official.
Division of functions
The case for shifting the airline's base to Kerala was first raised at a meeting between the senior NACIL officials and the representatives of passengers and travel agents association, apart from political representatives, held at Nedumbassery in August 2010.
The proposal was later finalised at a board meeting of the Air India Charters Ltd (AICL), which operates the flights under the brand name of AIE.
While all its operational and administrative functions would be shifted to Kochi, the engineering functions for AICL would be in Thiruvananthapuram.
For AIE, Kerala is an important market in terms of capacity and air connectivity with as many as 17 of its fleet of 21 Boeing 737-800 aircraft operating out of the three airports in the State. Now, it operates about 128 services a week from the State, a majority of them are to the Gulf countries.
The move is expected to enhance the availability of spare aircraft in case of engineering problems and reduce the time-frame for the availability of aircraft, as against going to its present base station in Mumbai.
With the initiative, the airline proposes formulating an operational back-up plan combining the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi stations and also aims at obtaining the first mover advantage in the Kerala market.
It has already completed the reinstatement of its services in the Kerala-Gulf sector that were cancelled at the start of September due to critical shortage of cabin crew.
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