In aviation policy draft, India seeks to make air travel affordable

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) Incentives to fly to small towns at affordable costs and easing the norms for domestic carriers to operate services abroad are some of the highlights of the new draft aviation policy, released on Friday for inputs from stakeholders before finalisation.

The primary aim of the policy is to ensure a tariff of no more than Rs.2,500 per ticket for each flying-hour with a host of incentives and other benefits to both airport developers and operators to make that happen.

“A lot of consultation has taken place. We invite suggestions from stakeholders and public — since it involves the people of India. After all those suggestions come in, we will look into it,” Civil Aviation Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju said.

“The policy will also have a fixed period of existence, so that Industry can plan in advance. That is the idea,” the minister told a press conference to unveil the new draft, along with his deputy Mahesh Sharma.

“The basic behind of National Civil Aviation Policy is to take flying to the masses,” Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey said, adding: operators will get some doles to fly to smaller towns with incentives linked to fuel prices and inflation.

“We currently have some 430 airstrips and airports. But only around 90 in operation — nearly 300-odd are not being used. This is a Huge unused asset. These airports will form the basis for enhancing our regional connectivity,” Choubey added.

He said these will be upgraded into a no-frills airport at cost of Rs.50 crore each. Besides, to make operations in such airports feasible, the security will be aircraft-based — so that the airport is sanitised just around an hour or two before the flight.

The policy dwells on upgrade of airports, better regional connectivity, easing of norms for flying abroad, further liberalisation in open skies regime, development of cargo business, chopper services, attracting investments in maintenance sector, ground handling and security.

For an open skies regime, the draft policy proposes total liberalisation in time-bound manner, but based on a reciprocal arrangement from the partner country. It has proposed three ways forward on allowing domestic airline operators to fly abroad:

One, to continue with the existing norm of five-year operation with a 20-aircraft fleet. Two, to abolish this altogether. Three, draft new set of norms under which an operator must earn some minimum credit with domestic operations before being allowed to fly abroad.

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