Chennai: The Union government plans to double the number of airports in the country over the next two to three years to serve the largely untapped domestic aviation industry which has seen an increase in passengers, minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha has said.
“Our party in its 2014 elections manifesto announced the UDAN (Udey Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, under which we have to expand the number of airports. The fact is we have 75 airports with scheduled services. We think to double it in next two to three years,” he said while delivering the third memorial lecture on G. Ramachandran organised by the Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) Saturday night.
The government on 1 July had unveiled a draft UDAN scheme, fixing an all inclusive fare at Rs2,500 for one-hour flights to try and make flying affordable for the common man. Sinha said government would raise about Rs400 crore to run the UDAN air connectivity scheme. Government was asking airlines to bid for these routes that provide connectivity to other major airports. Airlines that bid with lowest rates would be awarded the route, he said.
The scheme was aimed at developing regional routes that are “under-developed” with increased profitability, he said. “When bids are finally given out in January 2017, we will create an entirely new regional market,” he said.
Stating that 14 crore people take flights compared to the 13 crore people who use air conditioned coaches in railways every year, he said, air passenger growth in India averaged around 10-11% over the last 10 years.
On expansion of airports, he said most airports across India face “capacity challenges.” “Building an airport is a long drawn process, and I think we have got to really triple our airport capacity. In 10 years, we will see four airport hubs coming up in India. Delhi airport is the single largest infrastructure project. We will be adding another runway in Delhi,” he said.
“We are working towards Chennai to be a global airport. Along with Chennai, we are looking at Bengaluru and Kolkata. Already there are about over 100 (aircraft) movements at the Chennai airport,” he said.
Sinha said that under the government plan to develop airport infrastructure, regional hub airports providing connectivity to local towns and cities would be set up on the lines of setting up global hub airports. “We are also looking at setting up a major cargo and manufacturing hub,” he said.
On availability of trained employees for the aviation sector, he said, “We are facing shortage of planes and crew. We have to pay a lot of time in developing the skills. For every plane, we need 14 crew. And that tells the kind of recruitment we need (to fill the shortage of manpower).”