Kerala will soon start a seaplane service for tourists, the first of its kind in the country. Houseboat cruises are passe. Take a trip on a seaplane instead! By the end of this month, tourists visiting Kerala can take a flight cruise, which will have landing points at water dromes in Bakel, Bolghatty, Punnamada, Ashtamudi and Kumarakom, besides the three airports in the state. More landing points are in the pipeline, say officials. “It was after an extensive research that the state government concluded that the water bodies here are ideal for seaplanes. It is very popular in foreign countries where there is water connectivity. And of course, there is no other state in India which is so well connected through water,” says Umesh Kammath, GM of a private company with which the government has tied up. Two planes, a six-seater and a 10-seater, will be introduced in the first stage, after which they plan to introduce an 18-seater as well. The authorities are planning to set up floating jetties at the landing points for a safe landing. “Tourists will have to take houseboats and speedboats to reach the land,” says Umesh and adds that foreign pilots will be helming the planes initially, after which the company plans to train and recruit Indian pilots. If all goes well, the service will be functional by the end of April, after a trial run and other safety and security checks. However, the trip will be a bit expensive. The charges are expected to be around `5000 per person for an hour. “Tourists can avail themselves of extra facilities, like landing near the resort they stay in or take a customised trip to their preferred destination,” says Umesh.
The officials say they are particularly targeting cruise ship passengers. “Usually, cruise ships dock in Kochi for just about a day, and hence the passengers are not able to do much sight-seeing. But with the seaplane, they can take a trip around the whole of Kerala in a day,” says Umesh. Apparently, Goa and other tourist destinations in the country are eyeing the seaplane, and are watching out its viability in Kerala.