The Narendra Modi government is moving ahead with plans to develop 200 low-cost airports in Tier-II Tier-III towns across country in the next years and has already identified 50 such cities under the first phase of this development.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) has drawn up a low-cost model as the first step to provide air connectivity to these smaller towns where it was felt a sufficient number of people could afford to pay for air travel if the facility is made available.
Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju had in his presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month included plans for the development of 50 no-frill airports in several states and greenfield airports which are in the pipeline for Navi Mumbai, Juhu, Goa, Kannur, Pune, Sriperumbudur, Bellary and Raigarh.
During the 12th Plan (ending March 31, 2017) alone, about Rs 1,500 crore is being earmarked to develop non-metro airports. The idea is to connect Tier II and Tier III cities and enhance air traffic beyond metros.
"Almost 70 per cent of the population does not have air connectivity. There is a large population residing in smaller towns who can afford to fly by air. We aim to expand fast with more airports in smaller towns.
We have over 125 functional airports and another 400 air strips, of which many can be developed as full-fledged airports. The new government appears to be very enthusiastic in reviving the aviation sector ," said a top AAI official.
The minister of civil aviation had met Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha last month to discuss issues relating to improving connectivity of commercial flights at airports under the control of the Indian Air Force (IAF). As a part of the strategy to encourage airlines to fly to smaller towns, the government plans to offer financial incentives to Indian carriers including waiving of landing charges for aircrafts with a maximum certified capacity of less than 80 seats operating from non-metro airports.
Minister of state for civil aviation G. M. Siddeshwara said, "The night parking charges for airlines will be waived off."
Officials said the government is also considering upgrading some airports in Tier-II cities into international airports. Airports at Bhopal, Indore and Raipur would soon be declared as International Airports.
"This will lead to more international flights arriving in smaller towns and cut costs for fliers. This will also spread inbound tourist footfall to a larger geographic area in India and open new destinations and products," a MoCA official said.
Senior officials are of the view that with Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia taking the lead in entering smaller cities , the development of these smaller airports will encourage other carriers to follow suit. The MoCA official added that by 2020, the government plans to upgrade another 10 airports at smaller cities as international airports.
Air traffic has been growing in the country in recent years as fierce competition has brought down the cost of tickets. In 2013-14, domestic carriers carried as many as 26.72 million passengers.
According to the MoCA official, the number of domestic aircrafts in India's airspace is set to increase from the current 400 to 1,000 by 2020.
AIRPORT PROJECTS COMING UP IN TIER-II & TIER-III TOWNS
>> The expansion of the Jaipur and Jodhpur airports so they can cater to a wide bodied aircraft like B-747-400. The Jodhpur Airport belongs to IAF and AAI maintains an enclave for civil operations. IAF has indicated its willingness hand over 37 acres of land to AAI for expansion of the civil enclave.
>> A plan to connect 18 Indian tourist destinations with Sri Lanka - under existing bilateral agreement between the two countries - which include Patna, Lucknow, Guwahati, Gaya, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Khajuraho, Aurangabad, Goa, Jaipur, Port Blair, Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut, Amritsar, Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad and Tiruchi.
>> The government is also giving preference to providing better air connectivity to Naxal-affected states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. It conducted a pre-feasibility study for development of Jagdalpur airport Chhattisgarh earlier this month, while the master plan for development of airport at Raigarh has already been finalised.
>> The construction of a new Integrated Terminal Building will soon start at Port Blair airport, an International Airport which currently works as a civil enclave.
>> The expansion of apron with additional bays for parking A-321 type of aircraft at Dimapur Airport, Assam.
>> AAI is working on the construction of a Greenfield Airport at Ciethu near Kohima. However, the proposed site has certain limitations for operations which is why another site at Ruzaphema in Peren district is being considered.
>> New Greenfield Airport at Pakyong, Sikkim is expected to be completed by the year end.
>> Kargil airport will be expanded. However, no airline is operating from this airport as it is not commercially viable.
>> Taj International Greenfield airport project is proposed at Hirangoan, Firozabad, UP and is presently under the preliminary scrutiny of the civil aviation ministry.
>> The government has approved the proposal by IAF for handing over of AAI-controlled Rupsi Airport in Assam on lease, where the two will jointly develop for civil and IAF flight operations.
>> Airports at Bhopal, Indore and Raipur would soon be declared as International Airports.
>> The construction of new terminal buildings at Tirupathi and Chandigarh (Mohali) and expansion of the terminal building at Jammu has been taken up.
>> AAI has further plans to construct new terminal buildings at Hubli, Belgaum and Agartala.
In association with Mail Today