• Many airports without passengers: will the new aviation policy make a difference?

    The recently unveiled National Civil Aviation policy aims to transform the aviation map of India by reviving numerous airports and airstrips that are either not operational or witness little activity. Boosting regional air connectivity is a highlight of the policy – a task that may prove challenging given the present domestic passenger traffic trends at our airports.

    The country is dotted with as many as 450 airports and airstrips but only 75 have scheduled operations, the policy document says.

    A number of these belong to Defence establishments while some others belong to State governments or private entities. Many of these airports or airstrips are not operational or have fallen into disuse. They also include newly constructed airports that have not taken off, for various reasons.

    The large Metro airports account for the bulk of the domestic traffic. The data released by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for April 2016, relating to 82 airports (international and domestic airports, apart from ones owned by state governments and private parties), reveals that nearly 65 per cent of the domestic passenger traffic totalling nearly 1.6 crores was handled by just six airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. And just 26 airports had recorded traffic exceeding one lakh domestic passengers that month. And between them, these airports accounted for over 90 per cent of the total domestic traffic handled.
    Some of these airports have also witnessed a dramatic growth in passenger traffic year over year – over 50 per cent in the case of Varanasi, Mangalore and Visakhapatnam. Six other airports have recorded a growth of 25 to 50 per cent.
    The majority of the remaining airports have handled less than 50,000 domestic passengers. Some of the small airports have recorded a big surge in traffic but the total number of passengers they have handed are relatively small. Among the airports which have accounted for more than 50,000 domestic passengers, Udaipur, Dehradun and Madurai have seen a growth of more than 50 per cent, while Imphal and Vadodara have recorded a surge of 25 to 50 per cent.

    The Regional Connectivity Scheme, to be implemented from the second quarter of 2016-17, aims to revive the fortunes of un-served or under-served airports and routes. The government offered several incentives to promote these underserved locations. Kevin Labanc Jersey

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