These 4 Indian airports recorded more international footfalls than domestic

The last few weeks have seen “International” being the buzzword. From the large Air India order to IndiGo’s comments on flying to Jakarta and Nairobi, along with Vistara’s expansion to Africa – the coverage for International plans has been more than that of domestic expansion. 

Even as the focus shifts to International for just about every carrier, only Air India and Air India Express deploy higher capacity by ASK on International routes than they do on domestic. Of this, Air India has lower departures on International than domestic, but the widebody operations to North  America make the difference for ASK (Available Seat Kilometre). Air India Express was specifically created to operate international routes, primarily to the gulf from South India and the airline has been splendid with its work – given the constraints of limited number of aircraft. 

The country has always seen the two major airports be the gateway for foreign travel – Delhi and Mumbai. Over the years, even when Bengaluru started climbing up the chart with higher domestic passenger numbers, Chennai stood its ground on the international front. There have always been airports in the country which have seen higher international passenger traffic than domestic. 

This January, there have been four such airports. A look at each of them and their connectivity.


Calicut International Airport (IATA: CCJ) also known as Karipur airport is located in the South Malabar region of Kerala. It is located roughly equidistant from Kozhikode and Malappuram. The airport opened in the late 1980s and went international only in the mid 2000s. The airport has been in the news for its table top runway and since the crash of Air India Express flight IX1344, widebody aircraft have been banned again at the airport. Yet, it has not stopped the airport from clocking higher international footfalls.

The airport saw a footfall of 209,887 international passengers in January 2023. This was nearly four times the domestic footfall which stood at 52,272. 

Airlines which operate to Kozhikode: Air Arabia, Air India, Air India Express, Fly Dubai, flynas, Gulf Air, IndiGo, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Salam Air, SpiceJet.

Destinations which are connected: Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Al Ain, Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Ras Al Khaimah, Riyadh, Salalah.

The domestic destinations are Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad. 


The airport is operated by the airport division of Adani Enterprises and was part of the six airports which the Adani group bagged in the last round of privatisation. The airport serves the state capital of Kerala, but loses out to commercial capital Kochi when it comes to traffic. 

The traffic at Trivandrum was neck to neck with the international footfalls at 168,767 while those of domestic footfalls recorded 154,882 last month. 

Trivandrum has a larger connectivity – both by airlines as well as destinations with airlines like Emirates, Maldivian amongst others being part of the airline network while the airport has non-stop flights to Delhi, connecting the state capital with the national capital.

Interestingly, the domestic ATMs (Air Traffic Movements) for Trivandrum were higher than International ATMs, but the mix of widebody network for international and turboprops on domestic ensured that the international footfalls edge over the domestic ones.


Kannur Airport’s (IATA:CNN) entry in this list is special. Of the four airports where International footfalls are higher than domestic, Kannur is the only airport where foreign carriers do not operate. This means not only is the international footfall higher than domestic, the entire international connectivity is done only by Indian carriers. The airport started operations in 2018.

One would wonder why this is the case. Kannur has not been granted as a point of call to any foreign carrier. The issue has also been raised in the parliament as well and the government has shared that it does not want to add point of calls to ensure that there is parity and foreign carriers do not walk away with all the traffic. 

While this gels well for Indian carriers who flocked the airport in plenty, for a passenger who wants to go beyond these flights – lack of a network carrier at the airport means that one would have to make it to one of the metros in India before taking another carrier. The market though is majorly gulf centric as is the case with other airports in the region and driven by working class traffic who work in the gulf but are from Kerala or south coastal Karnataka.

Kannur saw a footfall of 88,121 international passengers in January 2023 while the domestic numbers were only 36,426.

Air India Express, Go FIRST and IndiGo operate to Kannur and destinations include Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Riyadh, Sharjah on the international side. The domestic connectivity is to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi and Trivandrum.


While the three airports listed above are in Kerala, Trichy is the only one outside it. Tiruchirapalli International Airport (IATA:TRZ) is one which has been traditionally occupying this spot of handling more international passengers than domestic.

In January 2023, the airport saw international footfall of 114,196 while the domestic numbers stood at 35,914. The airport is one of the 18 points under ASEAN open skies; the ones which have made the most of it have been the Malaysian carriers. The Malaysian Indians have their roots in this part of India and that has assured a steady traffic which at one point saw 4 daily flights from AirAsia Bhd while 3 daily from rival Malindo (now Batik Air Malaysia). 

Currently, the airport is connected to Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat, Sharjah, Singapore and Colombo. Over the years, the domestic connectivity has improved as well, going beyond Chennai. AirAsia Bhd, Batik Air Malaysia, IndiGo, Air India Express, Scoot and Sri Lankan Airlines operate to Trichy.

Network Thoughts

In a country where international traffic is still not a significant percentage of total traffic, such airports are always of interest. From an airline network planning perspective, Go FIRST looked at Kannur when most of the other avenues were difficult to crack for the airline as it was late to start international services. 

For a larger airline like IndiGo – which has the muscle to play around with the schedule and experiment, why would it be going ahead with the same routes as foreign carriers but not start services from cities where foreign carriers do not have rights? Is it time to think differently to have incremental revenues? SpiceJet has done so in the past having launched flights to Dubai from Madurai, Pune amongst others. 

These four airports are largely driven by traffic to the gulf and it makes sense for passengers to avoid the hubs for longer wait times as well as being closer to their hometowns. The diaspora, irrespective of the level of work, wants to spend maximum time with their loved ones back home than in transit!

You can now order Network Thoughts baggage tags and/or book marks!

Follow NetworkThoughts on Twitter, Facebook, Telegram and YouTube.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s