BUDGET 2015-16 WISHLIST: AVIATION SECTOR
- Traffic: The sector had a mixed year in 2014, with some airlines struggling financially but the overall passenger traffic increasing steadily across existing private airports, at seven to 10 per cent
- Investment: Private airports have seen an investment of close to Rs 29,000 crore, while those developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) have received close to Rs 5,000 crore
- Planned airports: A number of new airports are being planned at Navi Mumbai, Goa, Dholera, Pune and Greater Noida, and existing airports are being augmented
- Limited reach: Air travel in India continues to be restricted to metro cities, with minimal connectivity to Tier-II and -III towns
- Tapping the demand: There is a need to integrate existing airports with larger catchment areas with high-speed multi-modal connectivity to tap latent demand
- Non-aero revenue: Airports need to be allowed to increase their non-aero revenues, in line with global standards, to make running smaller airports attractive
Privatisation of airports like Jaipur will bring in contractually committed level of efficiency in operations and planning. It will also add another stakeholder in attracting tourists to the cities concerned. However, good airport operators will be interested only if the private-public partnership (PPP) model provides predictability and certainty. The revenue share model (between an airport and the Airports Authority of India) and the regulatory framework (between an airport and the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority) are not sufficiently aligned, leaving airport operators with financial uncertainties. A pre-determined revenue cap framework (for regulation) and a capped revenue share (with AAI), even if limited to the first 10 years, could provide a structure compatible with the risk appetite of infrastructure investors; that is, low risk and steady returns.