NEW DELHI: The is now expected to remain closed till August 26. The water level inside the airport complex was rising on Thursday due to continuing heavy rain. The airport was earlier expected to open on Saturday (August 18) but with the situation not improving, the closure has been extended.

Aviation secretary R N Choubey said, “The Cochin International Airports Ltd has informed that due to rains, the airport is not available upto 2 pm on August 26. Therefore, Air Navigation Services wing of Airports Authority of India (AAI) has issued NOTAM (notice to airmen) till the date and time mentioned above. As a result, aviation operations and flights will remain suspended till then. The situation is being constantly reviewed in consultation with the state government.”

The aviation ministry had on Wednesday asked airlines to reschedule their flights to the city and operate them to nearby airports of Calicut and Trivandrum. The DGCA has directed airlines not to hike fares on these flights due to the sudden rush. For example, the regulator has asked Delhi-Trivandrum fare should not exceed Rs 10,000.

A day later on Thursday, the DGCA is inundated with complaints of high airfares to Kerala, despite the regulator asking airlines to keep fares to Trivandrum and Calicut under check due to sudden rise in demand on the sectors following the closure of the flooded Kochi airport. Airline websites show Delhi-Trivandrum fares for remaining last few seats on direct flights Thursday in the range of Rs 15,000-36,000 in economy and up to Rs 81,000 in business.

“The DGCA does not have any authority to dictate fares to airlines. It can only request,” said a senior official. The regulator has set up a 24-hour control room “to address issues due to suspension of flight operations to /from Cochin airports”.

“The control room received the following queries from the public: Re-scheduling status of flights… (and) high fare especially on Delhi–Trivandrum sector. Concerned airlines were advised to keep a check on the fare and cap the maximum fare on Delhi-Trivandrum sector to Rs 10,000. Airlines have also been advised to check the fares on other flights going to Trivandrum and Calicut,” the aviation ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

“The control room has spoken to Cochin airport for latest update on Cochin weather. It has been informed water level inside the airport continue to rise and heavy rain is predicted till Saturday (August 18),” the statement added.

Many airlines are trying to reschedule their Cochin flights either from Trivandrum or from Calicut. AAI has asked airport directors of Calicut and Trivandrum to accommodate additional flights.

Flights of foreign airlines like Air Arabia, Emirates, Etihad, Fly Dubai, Jazeera, Oman Air, Qatar, Saudia Airlines and Srilankan have been rescheduled for Trivandrum airport. Other foreign airlines like Air Asia Berhad, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airlines, Malindo, Scoot, Silk Air and Thai Air Asia have suspended their flights to/from Cochin.

Meanwhile, most airlines have waived off cancellation and rescheduling charges for passengers booked to fly to and from Kochi. Airlines say they will try to operate extra flights to Kochi to clear the backlog of passengers of cancelled flights when the airport opens.

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