India is planning to open 100 additional airports by 2024, as part of a plan to revive economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy, a Bloomberg report quoted people with knowledge of the matter as saying. The report said the Indian government has committed investments of 1 trillion rupees (US$14 billion) to build airports in the next 5 years. In a simultaneously taken decision, budget carrier IndiGo placed a large order for Airbus-built A320 variants.
More airports are urgently needed
The proposal, which includes starting 1,000 new routes connecting smaller towns and villages, was discussed at a recent meeting to review infrastructure needed by 2025, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussion is private. Steps to start a plane-lease financing business in the country and a substantial increase in the use of drones were also discussed, they said.
India’s plans to expedite airport development still trails that of China’s, which has set a goal of having 450 commercial airports by 2035, almost double the number at the end of 2018.
Many runways are in poor conditions
The proposal by India’s state think tank also includes boosting the number of locally trained pilots to 600 a year and double the domestic aircraft fleet to 1,200 during the period, the people said.
The Bloomberg report pointed out that just three years back, only 75 of India’s 450 runways were functional, as airlines avoided flying to smaller, World War-era airstrips in smaller towns. However, Modi’s subsidy programme, which partly funds airline losses while capping fares on remote routes, has helped add as many as 38 airports to the nation’s aviation map at the start of this year, while contracts were given to airlines to start flights to a further 63 airports with no or limited connectivity.
Rationalised tax regime announced
India's economic growth and a resulting emerging middle class flying for the first time - has attracted companies such as Singapore Airlines and AirAsia to set up local units.
However, provincial taxes in the nation make jet fuel one of the most expensive in the world. The report said that the government is aware of the high taxation burden and high jet fuel prices and will rationalise the tax regime as soon as next year, the report disclosed.
IndiGo inked major A320-family order
European plane maker Airbus secured a mammoth deal selling 300 narrow-body aircraft to Indian budget carrier IndiGo, worth more than US$33 billion (€29.7 bn) according to list price. The transaction takes IndiGo’s orders for A320 variants to 730, making it the world's top customer for these aircraft. "This order is an important milestone, as it reiterates our mission of strengthening air connectivity in India," commented Ronojoy Dutta, IndiGo’s chief executive officer.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said the order represented a “strong vote of confidence” in the A320neo from a company that’s already its largest operator, with 97 in service.
For IndiGo, the purchase will widen its lead in the world’s fastest-growing major aviation market as the carrier embarks on an ambitious expansion plan, seeking to eventually provide long-haul flights to European cities.
Nol van Fenema / Heiner Siegmund
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