Hyderabad: India’s civil aviation ministry plans to review the current policy of not allowing more airports within 150km radius of an existing airport, in a move that could bring considerable relief to passengers but runs the risk of getting entangled in litigation with existing airport developers.
“The current policy of no additional airport operations within 150km radius is fundamentally flawed,” said Praful Patel, Union civil aviation minister, at an international conference on Indian aviation. “We need to change our mindset, and we will be able to find a solution to that.”
Plane speaking: A file photo of Praful Patel. The government has committed to the developers that no other airport will come up within a radius of 150km of the new airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Patel said that London city has at least seven airports while the greater New York area has nearly 20 air fields.
“Including (in) Bangalore and Hyderabad, there can be more than one airport. We want to see creation of more and more airports.”
Patel’s statements contradict the government’s own contracts. In agreements with the developers, it has committed that it will not allow another airport to operate within a radius of 150km of the new airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The government closed existing smaller airports in both cities once the new airports opened earlier this year.
Kiran Kumar Grandhi, chairman (airports) of the GMR Group, the developer of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Hyderabad and the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, declined comment.
A spokesperson for Bangalore International Airport Ltd said the move has not been officially notified by the ministry and, hence, she cannot comment on this matter.
“This is just a thought process. Only the ministry of civil aviation can give you more clarity,” said Airports Authority of India chairman K. Ramalingam.
An analyst tracking airlines and aviation stocks for a domestic brokerage said India should have multiple airports in a city, including low-cost terminals. “As per government data, there are over 400 unused airports and only 84 operational airports. The number should go up to increase connectivity. This will also give a fillip to low-cost airlines,” the analyst, who cannot be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said.
The analyst admitted that companies operating airports in Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad would be adversely affected by this move.
Although Mumbai will soon have a second airport, the GVK Group-led consortium that operates the existing airport will have the first right to develop this too.
K. Raghu contributed to this story.