Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 28: K.C. Venugopal, the new minister of state for civil aviation after the cabinet reshuffle Sunday, will have to work towards infusing changes in Air India Express, the budget airline of Air India, say aviation experts in Kerala.
A top aviation expert told IANS that the need of the hour is that Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy should prevail upon Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh to see that Venugopal is given complete charge of Air India Charters Ltd., a subsidiary of Air India under which Air India Express comes.
Close to 70 per cent of Air India Express flights operate from three Kerala airports and Mangalore, on the Karnataka-Kerala border.
“Though the Air India Express headquarters are located in Kochi, all operational and commercial activities of the airline take place from Mumbai and certain key functions are handled by retired Air India officials. This has to end and if done at the earliest, then Air India Express will become the darling of Keralites,” an aviation expert said, declining to be named.
Air India Express has 21 aircraft and operates to all Middle-East countries where more than 90 percent of the Kerala diaspora work.
Of late, Air India has drawn flak from passengers as well as Chandy, who said that each time he asks Air India to pull up their socks, they hike air fares.
According to K.V. Muraledharan, president of the Kerala Association of Travel Agents, Venugopal has to ensure that the issues of the merger between Air India and Indian Airlines is settled once and for all.
“Another important task before him is to ensure that professional managers are given a free hand because today in many places retired Air India officials occupy posts and hence no responsibilities can be fixed,” said Muraleedharan.
“Yes, I know this portfolio is a very challenging one and I wish to do my best,” Venugopal said.
Venugopal, 49, a three-time legislator from Alapuzha, won his maiden Lok Sabha election in 2009. Before Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle, he was minister of state for power.