Delhi-based Chipsan Aviation, has started chartered helicopter services to Sabarimala from Kochi on Saturday.
The helitaxi service, which starts from Kochi International Airport at Nedumbassery, was formally inaugurated by Excise Minister K Babu, by flagging off the first take off.
“The government would provide all sorts of support to the venture as it aims not only to transport pilgrims to Sabarimala but also to carry out critical operations like rescue services, VIP visits and tourism promotion,” the minister said.
The French-made Eurocopter AS 350 B3 will be put into service, which can carry six passengers, including the pilot, on an average speed of 230 km per hour. The journey to Sabarimala can be finished in around 35 minutes.
The pilgrims to Sabarimala, as of now, will be offloaded at Perinad, 38 km from Sabarimala. The next phase of the journey from Perinad to Pamba, will be on a car.
In the beginning, flights will be charted only for groups of five people. “The package, which costs `1.5 lakh, will include services at Kochi airport, journey from Kochi to Perinad and back, car journey from Perinad to Pamba and back, and if need be, overnight stay at Sabarimala,” said a Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) spokesperson.
The passengers will undergo the same security checks as in other flights from the airport.
Chipsan Aviation is mainly targeting devotees from neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“There has been a phenomenal increase in the number of passengers arriving at Kochi airport these days en route to Sabarimala. The number is not going to come down, and they are going to be the beneficiaries of the present helitaxi service,” said airport managing director V J Kurien.