Cost of running ‘ghost airports’ rises

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on March 30, 2021

These airports were built with the objective of improving regional connectivity   -  The Hindu

Many small airports have not taken off due to poor demand following the pandemic

The cost of running 27 ‘ghost’ airports across the country has gone up from ₹36 crore in 2018-19 to ₹51 crore in 2019-20. These airports were built with the objective of improving regional connectivity, but have been lying idle over the past few years. Most of them are located in remote and unconnected areas such as Donakonda in Andhra Pradesh, Deesa in Gujarat, Dhalbhumgarh in Jharkhand, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh and Balurghatin in West Bengal.

Under the Airports Authority of India (AAI), these airports have not operated a single flight so far. Though the AAI has been trying to kick-start operations through schemes and incentives, they have not taken off. According to industry players, there is a lack of co-ordination between the Centre and the State governments.

Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, while replying to a question raised in the Lok Sabha recently, had said, “Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal for the revival of existing unserved/underserved airports/airstrips/heliports/water aerodromes of the AAI, State governments, public sector undertakings and civil enclaves at an estimated cost of ₹4,500 crore.”

But in the backdrop of the widespread of the covid-19 pandemic, the revival of these airports has taken a toll. The overall domestic air traffic reduced from 10.8 crore passengers in April-December 2019 to a mere 3 crore between April-December 2020. Industry experts point out that there is no demand for air travel at these airports.

“The expansion of airports under the scheme is ‘demand-driven’, depending on firm commitment from airline operators as well as from the State government for providing various concessions,” Puri added.

Better connectivity

To expand the reach and utility of the smaller airports, the Ministry had also launched RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) Udan (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) in October 2016 to stimulate regional air connectivity and make air travel affordable to the masses.

However, RCS Udan, too, is a market-driven scheme. The interested airlines, based on their assessment of demand on particular routes, submit their proposals at the time of bidding under RCS Udan from time to time. Since its inception, 56 RCS Udan airports, including five heliports and two water aerodromes have been operationalised for operating RCS flights.

Published on March 29, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like