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Dubai businessmen launch low-cost airline Air Kerala, plan to slash prices for expats

The airline is expected to promote tourism and trade in Kerala and bring in at least 350 jobs to the city

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Air Kerala services to be launched soon in state: CM

Published: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 12:26 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 12:33 PM

Indian expats could soon be flying home for very economical prices as a low-cost airline is one step closer to reality. Powered by two Dubai-based businessmen, Air Kerala received the initial no-objection certificate (NOC) from India’s civil aviation ministry over the weekend. This was announced at the press conference held in Dubai.

A copy of the NOC seen by Khaleej Times states that the airline, which is registered under the name Zettfly Aviation, has the permission to operate scheduled commuter air transport services for three years.

The brainchild of UAE entrepreneurs Afi Ahmed and Ayub Kallada, Air Kerala will be the first regional airline of India’s southernmost state of Kerala.

“This is the result of years of our hard work,” said Afi Ahmed, speaking to Khaleej Times. “My partners and I have been working tirelessly to make this a reality. Several people questioned us and dismissed it, saying it would never become a reality. We still have a long way to go but the NOC is a big step for us.”

Last year, Afi Ahmed- the founder of agency Smart Travels- had paid a local company a whopping Dh1 million for the domain name While looking for an aggregator website, he stumbled on the website and bought it. With this, he began to revive the hopes of Air Kerala- a project that was first touted by the Kerala government in 2005.

Moving forward

With NOC in hand, the airline must now do months of groundwork before it can launch its flights.

“Our next steps involve acquiring aircrafts and complying with the necessary regulatory requirements to obtain our Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC),” said Ayub. “This is a critical phase that ensures we meet all safety and operational standards set by the aviation authorities.”

According to the businessmen, the airline will soon begin its procedure for acquiring aircrafts. “Initially, we are planning to start operations with three ATR 72-600 aircraft,” said Afi. “We are currently exploring options in both the leasing market and direct procurement from manufacturers to ensure we have the best possible fleet for our operations.”

Zettfly Aviation’s board comprises of three people- Afi Ahmed, Ayub Kallada, and Kanika Goyal- all three of them with experience in the aviation industry.

Flying high

Once the aircrafts have been procured, Air Kerala will have to operate regionally before it can branch out into international flights. “Our initial operations will focus on regional connectivity,” said Ayub. “We plan to connect Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with Tier 1 and metro airports. This will help is improve accessibility and convenience for travelers across these regions.”

The international flights are part of its future operations. “Once we expand our fleet to 20 aircraft, we will start exploring international routes to expand our reach and service offerings,” said Afi. “The initial investment needed for our project is the equivalent of approximately Dh1.1 billion.”

Headquartered in the cosmopolitan city of Kochi, the airline is expected to promote tourism and trade in Kerala and bring in at least 350 jobs to the city. “Once we start our international flights, we will bring job opportunities to the UAE,” said Afi. “Once international operation starts we will ensure affordable travel for all expats. Dubai will be one of our first international flights.”

Read More:Dubai businessmen launch low-cost airline Air Kerala, plan to slash prices for expats