Airline industry hails plan to expand airport infra

The airline industry has welcomed the government's plans to expand airport infrastructure in the country, as also increase flight connectivity.

Presenting the Budget 2018-19 in Parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has 124 airports. We propose to expand our airport capacity more than five times to handle a billion trips a year under a new initiative - NABH Nirman. The balance sheet of AAI shall be leveraged to raise more resources for funding this expansion."

Hailing this announcement, SpiceJet Managing Director Ajay Singh said, "The FM has proposed an ambitious scheme, NABH Nirman, to expand airport capacity by five times to one billion trips a year. India has about 125 airports today. This number can go up to 700."

"This initiative has the potential to transform the Indian aviation sector and make India a global aviation superpower. The initiative will help connect smaller towns and cities, and increase tourism and economic activity like never before," he added.

Said Colliers international India National Director (Occupier Consulting Asia) Amit Oberoi, "The government announces a major push for air travel by working on a passenger-handling capacity of two billion. This is a major upgrade, as the top 10 cities today only handle 225 million passengers per annum. We expect real estate development in land besides Tier II and III airports."

Jaitley said that the government's ambitious regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) initiated by the government last year shall connect 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads across the country. Operations have already started at 16 such airports.

"The Budget addresses the aspirations of a modernising nation through initiatives to expand air connectivity under the UDAN scheme," Airbus India President and Managing Director Pierre de Bausset said.

Amitabh Khosla, Country Director India of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated, "We welcome the focus on airport infrastructure capacity announced in the Budget. In our 20-year passenger forecasts, IATA anticipates India will become the third largest aviation market by 2024."

However, he suggested, "But this is by no means guaranteed. To make this a reality, airport capacity in India needs to be augmented and expanded quickly. IATA has earlier recommended and is supportive of leveraging AAI's balance sheet for infrastructure creation and expansion."

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