The ministry of civil aviation (MCA), in consultation with its tourism counterpart, is likely to add to the list of 50 locations identified for development of low-cost airports to improve connectivity to remote areas.
To expedite such projects, MCA has written to the finance ministry to allow the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to raise funds by issuing tax-free bonds for developing budget airports, especially along tourist circuits.
A senior aviation ministry official said, "Development of low-cost airport infrastructure is a priority area for the new government. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), in its election manifesto, had indicated it would focus on improving connectivity, particularly along tourist circuits. Now, the locations identified for the development of low-cost airports might be expanded, after consultations with the tourism ministry."
The Narendra Modi-led government is focusing on modernising existing airports and developing new low-cost ones to promote air connectivity, particularly to remote and regional areas. The BJP's election manifesto had mentioned "potential for (developing) inland air transportation to various remote and local locations in the country. Such air strips will be developed so that low-cost air travel becomes possible within the country."
Last year, the United Progressive Alliance government had said AAI would develop 50 new low-cost airports across Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Now, it is planned airport building will be energy-efficient, with minimum security hold and air-conditioned areas to keep costs in check. "The steel-and-glass structure for airports designed in the West cannot be replicated in India, as it increases the cost of air-conditioning. We have, more or less, frozen the concept. The purpose is to create the bare minimum facilities for aircraft to operate, without compromising on safety and security," the official said.
The ministry is also assessing the viability of these projects to ensure sustained connectivity. "If the objective of ensuring connectivity is fulfilled, traffic will increase and airport operations can be scaled up in time," said another ministry official.
For such projects, the government will encourage participation of the private sector to tap into its resources and expertise. While an institutional framework will be established, regulators will be given greater autonomy and accountability.
"The next phase of growth of Indian aviation will be driven by no-frills airports in India's interiors. The new government should focus on enhancing regional connectivity to have equitable development of air connectivity across the country," said Amber Dubey, partner and head (aerospace and defence), KPMG.
Last year, the government had identified locations for development of 50 low-cost airports across the country by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). These include Vijaywada, Nellore, Kurnool, Kadapa, Nizamabad, Tirupati, Anantapur and Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh; Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh in Jharkhand; Muzaffarpur, Chapra and Sasaram in Bihar; Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Firozpur in Punjab; Agra, Allahabad, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Meerut, Aligarh, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh; Tezu, Momdila and Along in Arunachal Pradesh; Silchar, Jorhat and Tezpur in Assam; Gwalior, Singrauli, Burhanpur, Khandwa, Jabalpur, Sidhi and Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh; Brahmpur, Rourkel and Kendujhar in Odisha; Ajmer, Kota, Bhilwada and Alwar in Rajasthan; Kohlapur, Nasik, Jalgaon, Solapur and Amarawati in Maharashtra.