Millennium Post

Regional Connectivity Scheme: 22 airports ready for take-off

About 22 airports to get connected under regional connectivity scheme in the first phase, said  Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chairman G P Mohapatra  while interacting with the media on Tuesday. "In the first phase, there are 22 airports that are already in place and flights can start as and when airlines plan to," said Mohapatra. About 22 airports include one in Andaman Nicobar, three in Assam, two each in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. 

Government plans to connect these underserved airports to key airports through flights that will cost Rs 2,500 for per hour flight. The government plans to provide subsidy to airlines to offer these fares. Mohapatra also said that AAI would invest Rs 17,500 crore in upgrading airport infrastructure over a period till 2019-20. "The amount we will invest will be generated through internal accruals. We may require to need money at a later stage and may raise money from outside," he added. The money to be spent will be on upgrade in building airport terminals and expanding runways at many existing airports. The money would also be invested in upgrading 30 smaller airports for regional flights. AAI also plans to build 50 no-frills airports across the country. 

For anyone who travels by air in India, the only thing worse than the performance of the state-owned airline is the experience at state-owned airports. While at least some of that may be more about perception than reality, AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra would like to change the way flyers feel about state-owned airports in the country.

The plan involves spinning off the cargo operations of AAI into a separate firm, a switch to a more profitable tariff model, increasing non-aeronautical revenue, outsourcing terminal management and addressing delays in airport projects. AAI owns and manages 128 airports across the country 21 international, 81 domestic and 26 military airfields.

The to-do list of the former municipal commissioner of Surat, who took charge at AAI in July, also includes giving wing to the government’s ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme that envisages taking flying to under-served locations, and addressing the problems at India’s major airports—many of which are managed by private developers—that are almost bursting at the seams. 

AAI owns a 26 per cent stake in the companies managing these airports. He also admits the need to “manage judiciously the vast network of airports across the country”. Only 94 of the 128 airports under AAI are operational.

Mohapatra, an IAS officer from Gujarat cadre, has extensive experience in power sector, urban development and industry. Among others, he has served as Managing Director of Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd (GACL), Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Company Ltd (GNFC) and as Municipal Commissioner in Surat from 1999 to 2002.
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