Air Kerala Takes Flight: Malayali Expats’ Airline Gets Government Approval

Air Kerala, the proposed state-promoted airline, could take off finally after years of wait.
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In an exciting development for the aviation sector, Dubai-based Malayali entrepreneurs Afi Ahmed and Ayub Kallada have received a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) for their ambitious project, Air Kerala. This low-cost airline aims to make air travel affordable and accessible, especially for the Malayali community in the Gulf region.

A Long-Awaited Dream

For years, there has been a strong demand for Kerala to have its own airline service connecting the state to the Gulf. Despite Kerala boasting four airports, it has lacked a dedicated airline. The dream is now becoming a reality, thanks to the efforts of the co-founders of Zettfly Aviation, who are determined to provide an affordable air travel option.

Initial Operations

Air Kerala will be headquartered in Kochi and initially operate domestic flights within Kerala. The airline will use ATR 72-600 aircraft once they obtain an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from MoCA, which is expected to take eight to nine months. The primary focus will be on connecting Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with Tier 1 cities in South India.

Future Plans and Expansion

The long-term vision for Air Kerala includes expanding its fleet to 20 aircraft and exploring international routes, starting with Dubai. “NOC is just the first step,” says Afi Ahmed. “Once we procure the aircraft, Air Kerala will operate regionally before expanding to international flights. We are planning to start operations with three ATR 72-600 aircraft.”

A Vision Realized

The concept of Air Kerala was first proposed by the Kerala Government in 2005. However, the project did not materialize, prompting Afi Ahmed and Ayub Kallada to take the initiative. They purchased the domain and set out to launch India’s first ultra-low-cost airline owned by expatriates.

Overcoming Competition

In a market already dominated by private airlines such as Vistara and IndiGo, Ahmed acknowledges the competition but remains optimistic. “Despite having four airports, Kerala does not have its own airline,” he notes. The board of Zettfly Aviation, which includes Ahmed (holding 63% of the shares) and Kallada (holding 37%), is open to forming a new board and registering a new company if expatriates are interested in investing.


Air Kerala represents a significant milestone for Kerala’s aviation sector and the Malayali community. With the NOC in hand and plans to expand both domestically and internationally, Air Kerala is poised to transform air travel for Malayali expats and beyond. As the airline gears up for take-off, it brings renewed hope for affordable and accessible air travel in the region.

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