Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday inaugurated the Kannur International Airport by jointly flagging off an Abu Dhabi-bound Air India Express flight. Kerala now has four international airports, including ones at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.

The airport is spread across over 2,000 acres and can handle around 2,000 passengers at a time. The runway is currently 3,050 metres long and will be extended to 4,000 metres. All four airports are expected to cater to passengers flying to and from the Gulf, and give a big push to tourism in the state. The airport has been built under the Public Private Partnership model.

Nearly one lakh people were present at the airport to witness the inaugural ceremony. “It is a historic moment for north Kerala. No doubt the new airport will fuel growth in Malabar area,” the chief minister said, according to the Hindustan Times.

The inauguration, however, also courted controversy with the BJP and the Congress boycotting the event. The BJP claimed that it will not participate in the event to protest the Kerala government’s handling of the Sabarimala matter. The Congress protested the government’s decision to not invite former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy.

Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this article had stated that Kerala is the first Indian state to have four international airports. The error has been rectified.