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June 5, 2024

India to Transform 300 Airstrips into Brownfield Airports: Aviation Secretary

The Indian government is embarking on an ambitious project to transform 300 airstrips into operational brownfield airports, aiming to enhance air connectivity across the country. Aviation Secretary Vumlunmang Vualnam revealed this initiative during the CAPA India Aviation Summit 2024 on Wednesday. India, with a total of 453 airstrips, currently has 157 operational airports.

In addition to the airport development plans, Vualnam shared that the government is nearing the final stages of ratifying the Cape Town Convention (CTC) into law. This move comes as a major relief to aircraft lessors, who have been advocating for the ratification to facilitate the repossession of aircraft in the event of airline bankruptcies, such as the Go First crisis last year.

“India is a large country and connectivity to different parts of the country is important. The government, on its part, has actively been looking at increasing connectivity to Tier-II and Tier-III cities,” Vualnam stated.

The initiative to develop 300 airstrips as brownfield airports is part of a comprehensive strategy to bolster air travel infrastructure. The government has been evaluating all 453 airstrips to identify those that require development, considering factors such as population density and proximity to industrial areas within a 100-kilometer radius. This thorough review is intended to prioritize and optimize the development of these airstrips.

Vualnam highlighted that the number of operational airports in India has doubled over the past decade, reaching 157. The government envisions a 25-year plan to create an extensive ecosystem where smaller airports feed traffic to larger hubs, mimicking the relationship between smaller and larger airlines. Additionally, there are plans to initiate civil aircraft operations at more defense airfields to further expand connectivity.

The demand for air travel in India has surged, prompting Indian carriers to place significant aircraft orders. The Tata-run Air India Group ordered 470 planes in February 2023, while IndiGo made headlines with the world’s largest aircraft order in June 2023, signing a deal for 500 A320neo family planes. Akasa Air joined the trend in January 2024, ordering 150 B737 Max aircraft from Boeing. Last month, IndiGo further expanded its fleet with an order for 30 A350-900 widebody aircraft from Airbus, valued at $4-5 billion, and is reportedly considering an order for 100 turboprop aircraft from ATR.

The resurgence in air travel demand post-pandemic has been noteworthy. In the fiscal year 2023-24, India surpassed its pre-pandemic peak air traffic levels from 2018-19. International air traffic experienced robust growth, with 69.7 million passengers in 2023-24, marking a 22.5% year-on-year increase compared to 69.5 million in 2018-19. Domestic air traffic also saw a significant rise, reaching 153.4 million passengers, a 13.46% year-on-year growth from 137.6 million in 2018-19.

The Indian government’s strategic efforts to develop airstrips and enhance air connectivity are poised to support the burgeoning aviation market, catering to both domestic and international travel demands. The ratification of the Cape Town Convention is expected to bolster investor confidence and streamline aircraft leasing processes, ensuring a more resilient aviation sector.

By transforming underutilized airstrips into thriving airports, India aims to facilitate regional connectivity, stimulate economic growth, and support the dynamic needs of its rapidly expanding aviation industry.

Read more latest news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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