The government is seriously pursuing its target of establishing an international aviation hub in India and was already in advanced talks with a couple of Indian carriers and an airport in this regard, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has said.
“We are in talks with two to three airlines and an airport for the creation of an international hub in India. And for the creation of that hub, you got to take the volatility out of the arrival and departure plans and smoothen out that curve so that you can provide the incoming flights time to allow international departures,” the minister said in response to a query from an industry representative at a civil aviation conference organised by the industry body ASSOCHAM on Wednesday.
He said since the exercise could only be accomplished in conjunction with both the airlines and airports, the ministry of civil aviation was doing its bit in turning the ambition into a reality of creating a hub for international and domestic passengers in India by utilising Indian airports and Indian aircraft.
Referring to the significant growth being witnessed in the world’s third-largest domestic aviation market, the minister said India should be able to touch 400 million airline passengers in the next eight years, while it was just one airport short of doubling its airport capacity to 148 airports from just 74 in FY13-14. He added that given the fleet acquisition plans of Indian carriers, the total number of civilian aircraft in the country would reach anywhere from 1,500-2,000 over the next seven years from the present 700.
“That means you have reached capacity. You have reached a potential wherein you need to start sowing the seeds today of creating a hub within India,” the minister urged.
It was with this objective that MoCA was actively persuading Indian carriers to launch point-to-point flights on international routes.
“Today, on domestic routes we are pretty much well settled. But on international routes, it is mostly Sixth Freedom [Right]. You have hubs located outside India. They use India as a transit point and then a long-haul flight takes you to your ultimate destination. It is important for our airlines to also start going from point to point,” the minister said.
The Sixth Freedom of the Air allows a carrier the right to transport international traffic moving between two other states via its home state. For instance, Emirates is allowed to ferry passengers from India between India and the UAE to the US via its base in Dubai.
The minister praised Air India, Vistara, SpiceJet and other Indian carriers for ordering more wide-bodied aircraft as that would enable them to undertake flights above eight hours. He said that to help Indian carriers meet their short-term requirements, MoCA had allowed them to wet lease aircraft for an extended period of up to one year from the previous six months.
Under a wet lease agreement, the aircraft owner supplies the aircraft and one crew member and also takes care of maintenance, insurance and attendant legal responsibilities of operation.
The minister said that once the international hub was in place, it would be important to not only connect it with other international airports but also Tier-II and Tier-III airports within the country for enhanced connectivity.
If the minister’s plan comes to fruition, the country would not only offer an alternative to rival international aviation hubs such as Dubai and Singapore in Asia-Pacific but also make international fares from India more competitive.
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