India working on low-cost airport model

Hyderabad, March 13: With high cost of operations at the major airports in India adding to the losses of the carriers, the government is evolving low-cost airport model, which is also expected to improve regional connectivity, a senior official said Thursday.

Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Lavasa said the ministry has invited suggestions from whoever wants to contribute to developing the model.

He was addressing a session on ‘Enhancing air connectivity’ at the India Aviation 2014, the country’s largest civil aviation show currently underway here.

The official referred to a suggestion made at CEOs forum during the event that the government should create airports like railway stations to provide people the facility to fly in and fly out without all frills associated with beautiful buildings.

Lavasa said his ministry had identified 50 airports to connect small cities not connected or underserved.

“We are bringing out a framework within which the government of the state where the airport is located has to be a key stakeholder because that destination is sought to be promoted and all the intending benefits that flow from increased connectivity will garner by that state,” he said.

Noting that it would be collaborative framework between the state governments, the central government and the airlines, he assured that, if required, the ministry would consider viability gap funding.

Pointing out that some states have already come forward to promote connectivity, he said Odisha has reduced Value Added Tax (VAT) on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) to four percent, West Bengal has done it at selective airports and Madhya Pradesh has also taken similar measures.

In the northeast, an air service provider has been identified on basis of competitive bidding to cover seven destinations.

Lavasa said while work was on the policy of regional connectivity, there is temporary interregnum because of elections. “Some decisions will have to wait,” he remarked.

The ministry is also working on rationalizing route disbursal guidelines and obligation to fly underserved areas.

The official said considerable work was done on separation of air navigation system from airport authority. A cabinet note was circulated on creating a separate entity for air navigation services.