Hyderabad: GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL), the company that operates the city airport, has said it is in discussions with some European carriers for launching their services from here.

GHIAL, a GMR group firm, operates the Rajiv Gandhi International airport, which connects to 57 domestic and international destinations. GHIAL Chief Executive Officer SGK Kishore also said this year the airport expects to handle around 18 million passengers and 1.2 lakh tonnes of cargo.

"We are talking to European carriers. We are (also) talking to some of the long haul Indian carriers to fly to Europe. Basically our focus (is) Europe because apart from the UK, we don't have any other direct flight to Europe," Kishore told reporters here. He also said that unserved destinations in Southeast Asia like Indonesia are also focus area for GHIAL, adding that third area would be to have more wide-bodied connections out of Hyderabad.

"In the next two to three years we see some of the European carriers coming back to Hyderabad. Lufthansa and KLM used to fly earlier. We are in talks with them, it may take couple of years before they take a decision (in resuming flights)," Kishore added. He said the airport handled 15.5 million passengers last year. "We may end up the year at around 18 million passengers. If you see total traffic, one fourth is international, which is growing at around 9 per cent, while the domestic is growing at around 20 per cent. Cargo will be around 1.2 lakh tonnes," he said.

He said the company has submitted a Rs 2,500 crore- airport expansion proposal to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority for its approval and the tariff regulator may issue a consultation paper on this issue shortly. The executive said that the expansion may commence by the fiscal end from February and it will be initially for 25 million passengers per annum.

"If the traffic continues to grow the expansion will go up to 35 million passengers per annum," he explained. According to him, the expansion will be completed in two to two and half years once the work starts. On the Telangana Government's intention to start Warangal airport, Kishore said they are in discussions with the state Government to work in a "positive way" so that the Hyderabad airport's growth is not hampered.