India has evolved as the third-largest aviation market globally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.

With the country emerging as a tourist hub and there being an upsurge in demand for tourism post-Covid, it was time to push for “ease of travel,” he said. From 14 crore domestic tourists in 2014, India’s tourist count went up to 70 crore last year. There is potential to increase it further.

While the UDAN scheme, the country’s flagship regional connectivity scheme, has benefited over one crore passengers, ease of travel benefits include simplifying and speeding up Visa processes, ramping up Visa-on-arrival, and improving last mile connectivity of tourism circuits, with the Railways doing their bit through the introduction of “modern” and high-speed trains like Tejas and Vande Bharat.

“Air travel was seen as an elitist activity, with not much focus on pushing the common man towards air travel. That change was initiated post 2014 with UDAN. But now, in 8–9 years, we have doubled the number of airports in India (from 70 in 2014 to 141 now). Today, India is the third largest aviation market globally,” Modi said at the inauguration of the second airport in Goa.

Commercial flight operations at the airport begin January 5, 2023 onwards. ‘

Greenfield Airport

The New Goa Airport airport at Mopa (now named Manohar International Airport) is located 35 km from the capital city of Panjim. It is being built at an estimated cost of ₹2,870 crore and will currently cater to 44 lakh passengers annually in the first phase; and will be ramped up to 58 lakh, 54 lakh, and finally 1.3 crore in the second, third, and fourth phases. The final passenger handling capacity will stand at 3.3 crore.

Built on 2,132 acres, the airport has earmarked 232 acres for “city-side development” for commercial purposes. It has 12 immigration and 8 emigration counters.

GMR Goa International Airport Limited (GGIAL) had, on November 8, 2016, signed a concession agreement with the Goa government to build and operate the new Goa airport for a period of 40 years from the appointed date. This contract can be further extended by 20 years.

In November 2016, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the new Goa airport.

Along with a 3,500-metre-long runway capable of handling large aircraft like A380s, the airport has rapid exit taxiways and six cross taxiways for quicker aircraft movement, those in the know said.

The airport currently has 14 parking bays: five with passenger boarding bridges and seven remote parking bays.

Push for Cargo

Apart from tourism, which has a multiplier effect on state revenues, the second airport will now allow Goa to tap into the air cargo segment, the Prime Minister said.

Exports of perishables, fruits and vegetables, and pharmaceuticals are expected to get a fillip now.

“With two airports, air cargo operations will get a leg up too,” he said, adding that the Centre was pumping in over ₹10,000 crore for various highway connectivity projects in the State.

This will help improve not just travel for tourism purposes but also cargo and goods movement.

“For previous governments at the Centre, votebank mattered. Naturally there were lopsided investments across projects or infrastructure developments that perhaps did not need them. For instance, the demand for a second airport at Goa was a long-standing demand cleared by the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. But subsequent governments sat on it for no reason,” Modi said.

₹95000 crore investment

The Ministry of Civil Aviation is investing over ₹95000 crore to set up new airports - including water aerodromes for last mile connectivity through sea planes - and to ramp up capacities in existing one, Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia said.

Calling Goa, “gateway to India”, Scindia said, two new water aerodromes are expected to be set up in the coming days, while regional connectivity between Goa and other smaller towns like Nasik will be improved.

“We already have connectivity from Goa to Mysuru. And in the coming days, there will be Goa-Nasik connectivity. Water aerodromes will also come up in the State,” he said, adding that four airports have already been added to India’s aviation map this year.