New Delhi: The government is working on a proposal to privatize another 20-25 airports operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the statutory body’s chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said on Friday, adding that the final decision will be taken soon.

The Airports Authority of India is in the process of identifying airports with annual passenger traffic of 1-1.5 million, he added. “We have privatized six airports... We are now planning to privatize 20-25 airports in next phase," said Mohapatra at a press briefing.

The government is already in the process of privatizing six other airports. The Cabinet had earlier this month cleared leasing three airports in Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru to Adani Enterprises Ltd, which had in February emerged as the highest bidder for these and three other airports in Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram. Leasing out these three airports is also on the agenda, although the status of the Thiruvananthapuram airport is still not clear due to objections raised by the Left-ruled Kerala government against handing it over to private hands. The private contractor who develops these airports under public private partnership will have to offer employment to 40% of the staff, while the rest will go back to the AAI, according to the terms of the contract.

Air travel is no longer a privilege of the few, but a common mode of transport, and hence the AAI will keep expanding its network of airports, including by building greenfield airports. India reported over 344 million air trips in FY19, a growth of 11.6% from the year-ago period. The AAI has earmarked 25,000 crore for capital spending in five years up to 2023-24. Intense competition in the market, which has kept fares low, and the concessional air travel scheme of UDAN, under which taxes on jet fuel and certain airport charges are waived off, have aided the growth in India’s air travel market. Mohapatra said due to the expansion in the domestic air travel market, many cities need a second airport in the neighborhood as scarcity of land makes expansion of the main airport difficult.

Mohapatra will take over as secretary, department of industry and internal trade, in the ministry of commerce from 1 August.