Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget 2018-19, among myriad aspirational announcements, will be remembered for the push to the aviation sector in the country.
Jaitley's emphasis on people 'wearing hawaii chappals to fly' seems to be backed by a concrete plan of action. The 56 unserved airports will be connected this year. According to the ministry of civil aviation, there are 398 unserved and underserved airports in India. So if you are a resident of states like Bihar, Assam, Rajasthan and West Bengal, there is every reason to feel optimistic that at least some of the small towns in these states will be connected.
If you are a resident of Bihar and live in towns like Bhagalpur, Madhubani, Muzzafarpur and Begusarai, there is every possibility that a plane might just land this year in the 'unserved' airstrips in these towns. Similarly towns like Ajmer, Bikaner and Jaisalmer in the election bound state of Rajasthan could soon be connected to the flight map of India. With airfares ranging from Rs 1420 to Rs 3500 for these smaller towns under the government's UDAN scheme, these budgetary measures could help more Indians take to the skies.
The Indian government defines unserved airports as "any airport at which, there have been no scheduled commercial flights during the last two flight schedules approved by the DGCA."
If implemented with rigour, this could also massively help people in remote areas of the country. Data analysed by Business Standard shows that there are nine underserved or unserved airstrips in Arunachal Pradesh, three in Tripura, three in Andaman & Nicobar islands and nine in Jharkhand including in Maoist violence hit districts.
It is not just smaller towns, even existing airports are expected to get a big boost. With many people migrating to bigger cities from small towns and the rural hinterland in search of better fortunes, there has been enhanced footfalls at airports. Jaitley has announced that the passenger handling capacity of airports will be hiked to handle 1 billion trips every year across India. According to Jaitley, Indian airports can presently handle only 200 million trips a year.