Kochi: The direct air connectivity between Kochi and Europe, a long-cherished demand of the NRIs and business community in this port city fructified on Friday with Air India commencing services in the London-Kochi sector.
The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) welcomed the AI 1186 aircraft with a water salute as a mark of gratitude.
In a statement, CIAL said as part of promoting direct connectivity to Europe, it has decided to waive the entire landing fee of airlines operating direct European services to Kochi.
The decision will give instant advantage to the national carrier as it schedules direct London-Kochi flight till September 27, it said.
The Air India flight from London-Heathrow Airport (LHR) landed at Kochi at 03.28 am on Friday with 130 passengers on board.
A 'follow me' vehicle service was facilitated by CIAL and as the aircraft entered the taxiway link, the fire tenders of CIAL Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting team rendered water salute, the statement said.
A water salute is a welcoming ritual offered by an airport operator to receive a new service or a new model aircraft or to mark the aviation fraternity's respect to a pilot who is commanding his last flight, just before his or her retirement.
The Air India flight departed to London at 06.30 am with 229 passengers.
This is the first time that the national carrier operates a direct London service from Kochi and back.
It also operates stopover flights from Heathrow Airport, Australia and from US cities to Kochi regularly.
CIAL said it had taken the decision to waive landing fees for airlines operating direct flights from Europe years back and has been in discussion with many of them.
The decision, an economy booster, will finally reflect in the ticket price as the airlines can pass on the discount eventually to the passenger, it said.