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India spent Rs 36 crore in 2018-19 on 27 airports where not a single flight takes off

Govt says it’s trying to start operations at these airports using market-based bidding under UDAN scheme, has planned parking charge concessions for aircraft.

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New Delhi: The Modi government ran up a bill of Rs 35.67 crore in 2018-19 for the upkeep of 27 ‘ghost’ airports from where no flights take off, an RTI query has revealed. These 27 are among a total of 31 non-operational airports in the country. There are another 15 airports that are operational but no scheduled flights operate from there.

The AAI manages 136 airports/civil enclaves (CE) but technically only 90 of them are operational at present. A CE is an area at a military air base allotted for the use of commercial airlines.

This information was shared by the directorate of finance and accounts, AAI, in reply to an RTI query seeking information on airports, number of non-operational airstrips as well as expenditure and losses incurred by non-operational airports in 2018-19.

The RTI has given a list of 31 non-operational airports managed by the AAI and shared losses incurred by 27 of them in 2018-19, saying that the remaining four are new ones.

These 27 non-operational airports were built at a cost of Rs 40.69 crore. 

Even though non-operational airports do not handle flights, they need to be maintained, their staff paid, and depreciation accounted for.

“We are trying to initiate air routes in some of the ghost airports. But airlines will only operate if there is a good demand from flyers. An airline cannot be instructed or forced to do so,” said a source at the RTI cell of the AAI.

Rajiv Jain, spokesperson of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said the government has already planned concessions on parking charges for aircraft at ghost airports to attract airlines.

“The AAI has been making efforts to start operations in all of these airports using market-based bidding under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS), slot coordination meetings, discussions with stakeholders and implementation of incentive schemes,” Jain added.

Under the RCS, also known as UDAN or Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik, airlines compete to win subsidies to operate flights linking small airports with bigger ones.


Also read: 209 Jet Airways slots lying unused at 31 airports: Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri


What RTI reply says

According to the RTI information, the 27 non-operational airports are located at Donakonda in Andhra Pradesh, Daparizo and Zero in Arunachal Pradesh, Rupsi and Shella in Assam, Jogbani, Muzaffarpur and Raxaul in Bihar, Deesa in Gujarat, Chakulia, Deogarh and Dhalbhumgarh in Jharkhand, Khandwa, Panna and Satna in Madhya Pradesh, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Nadirgul and Warangal in Telangana, Kailashahar, Kamalpur and Khowai in Tripura, Lalitpur and Kasia (Khushinagar) in Uttar Pradesh, Asansol, Balurghat and Malda in West Bengal, and Bengaluru (CE) in Karnataka.

The RTI reply said Bengaluru (CE) is a non-operational airport built by the AAI at Rs 36 crore in 2018-19. It has caused losses to the tune of Rs 31 crore. 

The four new non-operational airports are all civil enclaves — Darbhanga in Bihar, Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and Bareilly and Hindon in Uttar Pradesh.

The ministry spokesperson said that efforts are on to make nine of the 31 non-operational airports functional at the earliest. These are Deoghar, Dhalbhumgarh, Kasia, Rupsi, Vellore, Bareilly, Darbhanga, Hindon and Thanjavur.

“The civil enclave at Hindon airport was completed in March this year and is ready for commissioning flight operations. The remaining eight airports are being included under the RCS scheme to start the bidding process,” the official added.

A senior AAI official said the “situation has not changed in the past three years”.

“In 2016, the civil aviation ministry had issued a statement saying non-operational airports were spending more than their earnings. Former civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had also promised to make non-operational airports functional. But little has been done to that effect,” the official added.

According to a reply submitted by the ministry in the Lok Sabha on 25 July, the 15 airports without any scheduled flights are in Akola, Behala, Bilaspur, Faizabad, Gondia, Hyderabad (Begumpet), Juhu (Mumbai), Kanpur (civil), Keshod, Kota, Meerut, Moradabad, Safdarjung, Sholapur and Tezu.

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, aviation consultant and former instructor pilot of Boeing 737, said, “The 46 non-functional airstrips (31 non-operational and 15 without scheduled flights) exist only to boost the ministry’s claim of having more airports in the country. There is also severe shortage of qualified air traffic control officers in functional airports.”


Also read: In a tit-for-tat move, US bars Air India from managing ground operations at its airports


 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. The report says Kanpur does not have scheduled flight. This airport regular daily flights to Delhi,Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. It seems the report is flawed

  2. In the late 1970s, there was a lot of enthusiasm for building airstrips in all districts of the country. A lot of money was then spent on buying land for the airstrips. Later, all the enthusiasm petered out as . perhaps, we realised that we lacked the funds for even more basic needs. But one does wonder what happenned to the land that was purchased then.

  3. Spending Rs. 37 crores is pittance for airport maintenance and that too for 27 airports. The author should have some sense before wasting his time write such article.

    • Many of these airports have DVORs that guide the route of airplanes. The air strips are mostly used for chartered planes and VIP aircrafts.

  4. This should not be considered a waste. If an Airport is suddenly needed somewhere, neither land will be available, nor can it be built up overnight. Ways must be found to use these ones. The Armed Forces are never noticed except when there is war. But all the colossal expenditure on them is justified when there DOES happen to be a war. We cannot do without them at all times. This too is similar.

  5. This is a common problem in many countries. Never ending debate about building airports. You have to build airports first to attract airlines.

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