Kannur (Kerala) Dec 9: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday inaugurated the Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) and expressed confidence that it will change the fortune of the state with all towns within four hours of drive from an international airport."Kannur Takes Off!" Vijayan tweeted, after flagging off the first flight at 10 a.m. along with Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu. All 180 passengers of the inaugural Air India Express flight to Abu Dhabi, received a gift each from KIAL.This is the fourth international airport in the state, the rest are in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.In his Facebook post, the Chief Minister said: "The airport will change the fortune of northern Kerala. It is spread across 2,300 acres and has a runway length of 3,050 metre, which will be extended to 4,000 metre. "Connectivity and mobility are vital for inclusive development. The admirable progress Kerala has made in human development is because of this focus on inclusivity." With the inauguration of Kannur airport, Kerala is setting new standards in connectivity. Among Indian states, Kerala now has the highest density of international airports, he said, adding: "All district HQs are now within three hours of drive from an international airport. Almost all towns in state are within four hours of drive from an international airport."Hundreds of people, including politicians, were present to witness a cultural programme ahead of the take off of the Abu Dhabi flight.Two more flights were listed for the day. Flights that would operate from here includes those to the UAE, Oman, Qatar, besides domestic ones to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai among others."Kannur International Airport was conceived with a very good model of development where State Govt, Central Govt(PSU) and Private Sector joining hands to create a world class infrastructure."This airport is in a way is a gateway to the future progress of Kerala," Prabhu tweeted, congratulating the Kerala government and people of Kerala for "making their dream to come to reality" which will "usher Kerala into a new growth trajectory".The KIAL is slated to serve more than 1.5 million international passengers annually.It is expected to boost tourism in Kannur, Kasargode, Wayanad and increase trade and commerce in the handloom and spices sectors.The airport would be able to handle 2,000 passengers at a time.