As airline ticket prices look poised to soar in the festive season after imposition of customs duty on aviation turbine fuel, Union minister Jayant Sinha said the government wouldn’t intervene in setting a higher price or changing the pricing mechanism. “There is no such proposal for capping on prices.”
Sinha said there was a lack of captains to man the aircrafts designed for the government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme, known as UDAN. The problem stems from the fact that most of the pilots have licences to fly larger aircrafts such as the Airbus 320, while the licence needed for smaller aircrafts such as ATRs still needs to be obtained. Flyers need to spend specific time on a particular aircraft variant to be eligible to command and fly it.
“For certain types of aircraft we have shortages,” Sinha said.
However, he said Rs 1,000 billion of investment was in the pipeline for the airports to improve air traffic management, capacity and infrastructure. Under the Navnirman initiative, designed for a 15-20 year timeframe, aircraft operators are expected to complete a billion trips every year from the current level of 220 million trips a year. Asked about a second airport in Kolkata, Sinha said air traffic to the city was poised to grow significantly in the coming days and the government “will have to add significant capacity”. Either a second airport on this metropolis’ fringes or enhancing the capacity in the NSCB Airport is being worked out.