100 more airports in 2-3 years under UDAN: Jayant Sinha
Aamir H Kaki
Minister for State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha, on Friday said that under the UDAN scheme, the government is slated to create 100 more airports in the next 2-3 years.
“In one year, under UDAN, we have added 31 new airports. Eventually, over the next 2-3 years we can add 100 more airports to the existing 75. So that we have 175-200 airports,” he detailed while speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Annual Session 2017.
Briefing about UDAN, he said, “We have created a market-friendly innovative scheme that lures the airlines to go to these under-served markets.”
“India is the 3rd largest aviation market now. We have 160 million passenger trips a year,” Sinha said.
However, we have to do more compared to other countries. “The US has 900 million passenger trips a year with 400 airports whereas China has about 500 million passenger trips with 250 airports,” he added.
On April 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the regional connectivity scheme - called the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik), which seeks to provide an opportunity for people to fly from tier II and III cities at a ticket price of Rs.2,500 for a one hour flight.
Sinha said that UDAN has market friendly innovative features like removal of navigation and airport charges, cut in ATF (air turbine fuel) taxes and routes exclusivity for 3 years that would incentivise the air passenger carriers. He also specified that safety and security are the main focus of his ministry and he is working with the stakeholders in reducing the risk factors.
Sinha pointed out that India’s FDI policy is one of the most open in the world. In airline carriers, up to 49% is allowed by foreign stakeholders. “The Indian aviation industry is quite competitive and fares are one of the lowest across the world,” he added.
“An estimated Rs.3 lakh crores are required for augmenting airport capacity,” he said.
Sinha said that there exists immense opportunity for investment in the aviation sector in the country, particularly in relation to transport connectivity to the airports.
Regarding congestion at the Mumbai airport and development of Navi Mumbai airport, the minister said, “There were several reasons why the airport was taking long to come up, including the fact that the area where the airport will come up is marshy.”
“It will take significant amount of time to resolve the issues. We also need to accelerate and expedite the process as much as possible,” he added.
“In the first phase, 1 runway and 1 terminal should come up by 2020 at the Navi Mumbai airport,” he said.
The Navi Mumbai airport was initially supposed to become operational in 2019.
Sinha also indicated that the government is working on a new initiative to ease the security and boarding process – Digi Yatra - in which Aadhaar card or passport number will be used to verify passengers in the digital mode. A working group has been created to streamline the modalities of this new initiative, which will be introduced in phases, he said.