• Pvt airlines scuttling regional connectivity scheme

    Now it is confirmed that all domestic airlines, barring PSU carrier Air India, have joined hand to fail the Government’s plan to promote regional connectivity by encouraging setting up of smaller carriers.

    The Federation of Indian Airlines which represents scheduled carriers like Jet Airways, Indigo, Spicejet and Go Air have gone to court challenging the Government notification imposing a levy per flight to create a fund for development of regional airports. It is a paltry Rs 7500 to Rs 8500 per flight of levy that the Civil Aviation Ministry notified recently.

    The Government wants to take flying to the masses by making if affordable and convenient. This would ultimately lead to growth of the civil aviation sector as a whole. If every Indian in the middle class income bracket, for example, takes just one flight in a year, it would mean sale of 35 crore tickets. It would be a quantum jump from just about 7 crore domestic tickets sold during 2014-15, according to the civil aviation ministry. It is a very valid argument.

    Apart from the overall growth of the aviation sector ultimately benefiting the air carriers, consider the convenience for the people who are denied air travel to smaller towns and cities for lack of infrastructure like proper airfields and connecting roads. Most of the funds needed for the development of this infrastructure is, anyway, being provided by the civil aviation ministry and the state governments. The airlines are also being asked to chip in, like a small levy per flight. But these airlines have pleaded that they cannot charge extra from passengers to pay for the levy.

    This is a very specious plea. What if the Government charged the amount in the name of, say, the airport development fee? Indeed such a fee was charged in the past for select airports. Now it is for development of around 200 airports across the country. The issue is just about broad-basing fund sources from stake holders. All domestic carriers have huge stake in the development of the civil aviation sector. The Government’s scheme of making flying cheaper (Rs 2500 for a flight of one hour and less) will benefit all. Wendell Smallwood Authentic Jersey

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