“Airports Authority of India (AAI) has plans for infrastructure development at various airports including 20 major airports with a capex of Rs 25,000 crore in next five years,” minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha informed the Lok Sabha in response to a question.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has placed a lot of emphasis on making air travel affordable. In his speeches, he has often talked about his vision of making air travel so affordable that even people wearing slippers can afford it. However, lack of viable airports has been acting as a deterrent for aviation companies that want to expand to smaller cities under the government’s affordable UDAN scheme.
In a separate question, the government informed the house that India has become the fourth largest civil aviation market after the United States, China and Japan as per Airports Council International’s (ACI) Annual World Traffic Report of 2018.
India is the fastest growing major economy in the world with the annual growth rate in excess of 7% per annum. It has become the sixth largest economy in the world after the US, China, Germany, Japan and UK by surpassing France in March this year as per a report by the World Bank. Aviation industry experts believe that ordinarily, any country’s civil aviation sector grows twice as fast as its GDP growth rate. The number of India’s domestic air travellers has constantly grown at a double-digit rate till recently, only registering a slight slowdown in the month of October this year.
The government also informed the Lok Sabha that at present seven greenfield airports are operational in the country. These are Hyderabad in Telangana, Bengaluru in Karnataka, Durgapur in West Bengal, Shirdi in Maharashtra, two greenfield airports in Kerala at Kannur and Cochin and Pakyong airport in Sikkim.
The government has also placed a lot of emphasis on connecting the North-Eastern states and previously ignored parts of the country with air connectivity. Prime Minister Modi also inaugurated another airport at Jharsuguda on Odisha-Chhattisgarh border in September this year, giving a big boost to under-connected regions of the country, as it will connect Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur with Jharsuguda in Odisha.