NEW DELHI: While low-cost carriers drove the aviation growth in the last few years, experts feel that it will be the low-cost airports (LCA) fuelling expansion of aviation in India. India has about 457 (functional & non-functional) airports spread across the country. Of these, only 91 airports are owned by AAI. A total of 125 airports in this list are owned/managed by Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Indian Navy. However, state ownership of an airport can increase these numbers.
About 160 airports are owned by state governments, 57 are privately owned and six are JVs between private airport operators and AAI. While airport infrastructure can be huge investments with no immediate returns, their potential is untapped.
Ravi Radhakrishnan of the Reliance Airports opined that their airports are yet to be utilised to their full capacity and the investments are huge. “We have to look at ATC support from AAI, security cover from government agencies etc. Hence, it is not just an airport building and runway cost. And the returns are slow,” he said at a recent seminar. However, the low-cost model for airports has been explored internationally in a successful manner.
“The economic advantages offered to airlines by airport operators are extremely important for low-cost operations which alone can make aviation affordable to the Indian population. It is with this perspective that low-cost airports are going to be the main theme for improvement of connectivity in India in the next two decades,” a committee headed by Air India chief Rohit Nandan opined.
Small planes should be treated as the main driver for future growth of regional airports. Regional airports must be capable of handling at least 80-seater aircraft in the first phase with only day landings to keep operational cost minimal.
Low-cost airports will have minimal design aesthetic value while being fully functional of important parameters of quick turnaround time, efficient ground service for airlines etc.