Cochin International Airport, owned and operated by Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), is the first airport in India built under Public Private Partnership (PPP). Remarkably, it is the world's first fully solar-powered airport. Located 28 km northeast of downtown Kochi, it ranks as the third busiest for international passengers and seventh largest overall in India. As of 2022, Cochin Airport handles 61.8% of Kerala's total air passenger movement. The airport features three terminals, including India's first charter gateway— an exclusive Business Jet Terminal. For over 24 years of dedicated service, Cochin International Airport has seamlessly connected 31 countries, collaborating with 24 airlines and welcoming more than 10 million passengers annually to its world-class facilities.
Despite not being publicly listed, the company has a robust foundation with 19,000 investors hailing from 28 countries, primarily expatriate Keralites. This diverse investor base has played a crucial role in nurturing the airport, a significant undertaking materialized by the State Government, which remains the largest investor with a stake of approximately 34%. Notably, the company has consistently paid dividends since 2003-04, with a cumulative payout reaching 317%. The airport, featuring three terminals, collectively possesses a peak-hour handling capacity of 8,000 passengers.
CIAL has already earned a well-deserved reputation for its operational efficiency and strict adherence to international standards. For the past four years, Sial has been recognized as the "Best Airport" in the Asia-Pacific region by the Airports Council International (ACI) with 5 to 15 million passengers.
Cochin Airport (IATA code: COK) started operations in the year 1999 and has been feverishly adding infrastructures since then. It covers an area of around 1300 acres and is classified as an Aerodrome Reference Code 4, identified by the letter E. Its location at a latitude of 10°09'13.81"N and a longitude of 76°24'25.31"E indicates its strategic position on the map. The airport sits at an altitude of 30 feet above sea level, positioned 28 kilometers away from Cochin, specifically near the Ernakulam Junction Railway Station. Cochin International Airport, boasting a precise geographical position and topnotch aviation infrastructure, functions not only as a vital transportation hub but also as evidenced by its Aerodrome Reference Temperature of 29.60°C. The airport features separate passenger terminals for domestic and international flights, as well as a dedicated Business Jet Terminal. With a runway measuring 3400 meters in length and 45 meters in width, the airport is Code E compatible, accommodating a range of aircraft, including Boeing 747, 777, 737, Airbus 340, 330, 310, 321, 320, 319, Embraer, ATR-42, and ATR-72. Cochin International Airport offers sophisticated amenities, including an Instrument Landing System categorized as CAT 1, an AGL system that is compatible with CAT 3 for RWY 27, and an advanced Visual Docking Guidance System. The airport has a runway that is 3400 meters long and 45 meters wide. It can handle various aircraft types such as Boeing 747, 777, 737, Airbus 340, 330, 310, 321, 320, 319, Embraer, ATR-42, and ATR-72. The air traffic services function round the clock using the Area Control Centre, Approach Control Centre, Tower Control, and supported by Airport Surveillance Radar systems. Additionally, the airport is equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as an automated in-line baggage system, CT-based image scanning, and a CCTV network covering high-resolution cameras.
The electrical system is equipped for 24-hour operation and ensures the smooth operation of important components such as central air conditioning, fire alarm system and sophisticated escalators.Lighting systems such as approach lighting, runway lighting and taxiway lighting comply with international standards, ensuring safe and efficient operations during night landings.Cochin International Airport is also focusing on energy saving methods and backup power for critical lighting components. The airport's quality assurance extends to communications and navigation, including an instrument landing system, Doppler VHF omnidirectional range, omnidirectional radio beacons, range finding equipment, VHF communications equipment, and a 45-meter-tall control tower.
CIAL has three wholly owned subsidiaries; 1) CIAL Duty Free and Retail Services Ltd (CDRSL) which manages the duty-free business in the airport, 2) CIAL Infrastructures Ltd which plans and implements green energy production, 3) Cochin International Aviation Services Ltd (CIASL) which facilitates MRO activities & two hangars. In addition to these, CIAL is an associate of Kerala Waterways & Infrastructures Ltd (KWIL) having an equal share of investment with the Government of Kerala. KWIL supervises and shares it technical capabilities with GOK in fulfilling the renovation of west coast canal stretching from Kovalam in the south to Bakel in the north.
CIAL believes in the responsibility to venture into projects producing green energy and thereby lessening our carbon footprint. In 2015, Cochin International Airport became the world's first fully solar powered airport with the inauguration of a dedicated solar plant. CIAL also ventured into a hydroelectric project which was commissioned in 2021. The hydropower plant located at Iruvanjippuzha in Arippara, Kozhikode district, has an installed capacity of producing 4.5MW. CIAL also inaugurated a new solar power plant on 06th March 2022 elevating its status of being a power neutral airport to a power positive airport. The 12 MWp Payyanur plant is situated at Ettukudukka near Payyanur, Kerala. With the commissioning of Payyanur plant the cumulative installed capacity of solar plants of CIAL has been scaled up to 50 MWp. These include seven plants functioning in the premises of the airport, a solar carport and the one at Payyanur. CIAL’s solar power plants together generate two hundred thousand (2 lakhs) units of power a day whereas the airport’s daily power consumption stands at 1.6 hundred thousand units. For this entrepreneurial vision, the airport won the coveted ‘Champion of the Earth’ award in 2018, the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations.
Aviation is one of the fields which is being reprimanded for the production of greenhouse gases. At this juncture, CIAL believes in the responsibility to venture into projects producing green energy and thereby reducing our carbon footprints. In 2015, the airport installed a massive solar power plant, becoming the first airport in the world to operate entirely on solar energy. This initiative has not only reduced the carbon footprint but has also significantly reduced operating costs. At present, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) generates a remarkable 73 million units of clean and green energy on an annual basis. cumulative installed capacity of CIAL’s green projects is 50 MW. CIAL generates 2 lakh units of power daily, while its daily power consumption stands at 1.6 lakh units. This impressive power production positions CIAL as the second-largest power producer in Kerala after Kerala State Electricity Board.
CIAL is now embarking on an ambitious journey with a portfolio of 163 ongoing projects, of which 9 hold utmost importance and are considered highly prestigious, catering to its ambitious expansion plans. It aims to further enhance its infrastructure, including the construction of a new 5 star hotel in partnership with the acclaimed IHCL (TAJ) group, a new transit accommodation, renovated cargo terminals, utilization of commercial spaces in front of the international terminal and additional aircraft parking bays. The airport also envisions becoming a major center for aircraft maintenance, repair, and operation (MRO) services of both domestic and foreign carriers.
CIAL is governed by a board of directors. The chairman of CIAL is Shri. Pinarayi Vijayan, honourable Chief Minister of Kerala. Other board of directors include key figures such as Shri. P. Rajeeve, Minister for Law, Industries, and Coir, Shri. K. Rajan, Minister for Revenue and Housing; and Dr. V. Venu, Chief Secretary, each contributing to the airport's governance. Other directors are Shri. E.K. Bharat Bhushan, Former Chief Secretary and former DGCA chief; Smt. Aruna Sundararajan, Former Telecom Secretary; Shri. M.A. Yusuff Ali, Chairman & MD of Lulu Group International; Shri. N.V. George, MD of M/s Geo Electricals Trading & Contracting Company Ltd, Sharjah; Shri. E.M. Babu of M/s Majeed Bukatara Trading Esst, Dubai, UAE; and Dr. P. Mohamed Ali, Founder of Galfar Engineering and Contracting Co. Shri. S. Suhas IAS, the government nominee, is currently the Managing Director of CIAL.
Cochin International Airport has three main terminals: domestic, business jet and international terminals. The airport also has a domestic cargo terminal and international export and import cargo terminals.
Terminal 1 (Domestic)
The Domestic Terminal Complex has exclusive arrival and departure areas spread over a floor area of 6 lakshs sqft, with a peak hour passenger handling capacity of 2000 incoming and 2000 domestic outgoing passengers. It is fully integrated with all modern passenger amenities to cater to the domestic travellers to/from Cochin. With traditional Kerala style architecture and design, the airport ambience is warm and welcome, and at the same time, world-class. All domestic flights are handled through this complex.
Terminal 2 (Business Jet Terminal)
CIAL is the fourth airport in India with a terminal for business jets. The terminal is poised to provide customised services to charter and private jets. This terminal stands unique as it is India's first Charter Gateway. This one-of-a-kind terminal integrates tourism, international summits, business conferences and the movement of high-net-worth individuals, also accentuates the idea of cost-effectiveness in the development of an elegant airport terminal. Spread in 40,000 sq ft, the business jet terminal will cater to international and domestic business jet operations with a ‘safe house’ facility for security-exempted persons. Besides, it comprises an exclusive private car parking space, a drive-in porch, a grand lobby, five opulent lounges, a business center, a duty-free shop, a foreign exchange counter and a high-end video conferencing room. Dedicated aircraft parking, professional terminal management and passenger handling including the shortest distance from car door to aircraft door, makes it a unique gateway terminal for promoting ‘Brand Kerala’ in other parts of the world.
Terminal 3 (International)
The new international Terminal 3 was opened to travellers in March 2017. The terminal has 5 entry gates, 84 check-in counters and 80 immigration counters. It is equipped with 10 escalators, 21 elevators, and 3 moving walkways. The terminal has a solar carport facility with a capacity of generating 2.7 MW power and can provide a parking facility for 1,400 cars. Along with the solar carport at the domestic Terminal 1, it is the largest solar carport in the world with a total capacity of 5.1 MW of power and a parking facility for 2,800 cars.
With a total area of more than 150,000 m2 (1,614,587 sq ft), the terminal is built over 4 levels. The ground level handles arrivals. With a total ground area of around 41,156 m2 (442,999 sq ft), it has 10 customs counters, 3 bank counters, a shopping complex for the passengers and the general public, a VIP lounge, arrival duty-free shops and a baggage claim area. The second level (5.5 metres above ground level) also handles arrivals and is equipped with 30 immigration counters, 10 e-T-Visa counters, 5 health check counters, and 2 moving walkways. The third level (10.5 metres above ground level) is the departure facility area. It has a 20,836 m2 (224,277 sq ft) check-in area, 3 check-in islands having a total of 84 counters, 40 emigration counters, an 800-square-metre (8,611 sq ft) departure duty-free shop, 3 VIP reserved lounges, airline offices, 2 prayer rooms, and 1 moving walkway. The fourth level (15.5 metres above ground level) is the departure security hold area. With an area of more than 8,674 m2 (93,366 sq ft), it has a food court, restaurant, 3 airline executive lounges, smoking lounge, bar and reclining area.