New Delhi: GMR Infrastructure Ltd-run Delhi airport has acceded to a government request to allow UDAN flights to operate from the Hindon Air Force Station, near Ghaziabad, starting from the winter season.
Aviation secretary R.N. Chaubey had said in August that the aviation ministry had asked capacity-constrained Delhi airport to allow alternative airports to host subsidy-backed flights to remote towns in smaller planes, under the new UDAN regional aviation scheme.
Under a 2006 privatization agreement, commercial flights are not allowed to operate from any airport within a 150-km radius of the Delhi airport.
While agreeing to the ministry request, said a person with knowledge of the matter, Delhi airport has added conditions. “They have said you can operate to Hindon but only till their capacity enhancement is over. Then the flights will have to return to Delhi airport," said this person, declining to be named.
A GMR group spokesperson confirmed the move, saying that “DIAL (Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd) has agreed with MoCA’s proposal."
The caveats will include the use of Hindon Air Force Station as a temporary and stopgap arrangement until DIAL completes expansion and upgradation of facilities at Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport.
The Delhi airport will have exclusive rights to allocate slots at the Hindon Air Force Station and only 80-seater aircraft will be allowed.
The aviation ministry is not looking at reopening the old Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports as the new airports in those cities are not congested, Chaubey said in August.
GMR seems to be mindful of the fact that Hindon should not be used as a future template. “The consent given by DIAL is a one-off case, on the basis of specific request of MoCA and it shall not be construed as a pre-cursor for any other RCS airports within the range of 150km from IGI Airport," it said in an emailed response to Mint’s queries.
Hindon also does not provide CAT III approach lighting and landing equipment needed to counter heavy dense fog in winters.
The Delhi airport is in the process of expanding the capacity of existing terminals and building a new runway by 2021. DIAL said it will give out 80 additional flight slots in the coming winter season.
The Hindon airport is a single-runway base and home to Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft that form the backbone of the heavy airlift division of the Indian Air Force. To be sure, while the government pegs the UDAN airfare at about Rs2,500, taxi fare from Hindon to the Delhi airport would be about Rs900-1,300, and to the centrally located Connaught Place area about Rs600-800, as per Uber app estimates.