Airlines are reluctant to fly to many airports despite providing adequate infrastructure there, even as 32 airports have remained non-functional, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Thursday. "Airlines are like a horse. We can take them to the water but can't force them to drink," he said in Lok Sabha replying to demands for regular air connectivity to Mysore and some other places.
Raju said even though adequate infrastructure is in place, airlines are not flying to many airports in the country. There are 32 airports, under the Airports Authority of India, which are non-functional.
"Our constant effort is to increase the number of airports and regional connectivity," he said during Question Hour. Replying another question, the Minister said Civil Aviation Ministry has granted in-principle approval to 15 new airports including Mopa in Goa, Navi Mumbai, Shirdi and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Hasan and Shimoga in Karnataka, Kannur in Kerala, Durgapur in West Bengal, Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh and Pakyong in Sikkim. Meanwhile, first phase of aircraft operations at the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport is expected to be functional by December 2019, the government said.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the Navi Mumbai airport project has received all approvals except stage-II forest clearance, which is expected shortly. The request for proposal (RFP) and bid documents were issued to the qualified bidders on May 4.
"Selection of concessionaire on PPP (public private partnership) basis shall be finalised by December 2016. All major clearances have been obtained. 160 hectares have been acquired. Resettlement and rehabilitation awards are declared," Sinha said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. "... Phase I of aircraft operations with capacity to handle 10 million passengers per annum is expected to commence by December 2019." In a separate written reply, Sinha said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) renovated the Jalgaon airport in Maharashtra to facilitate flight operations at a cost of Rs 57 crore.