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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Govt in rural flight push as 32 airports lie idle

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 17, 2013
First Published: 21:09 IST(17/2/2013) | Last Updated: 21:11 IST(17/2/2013)

Thirty-two airports in the country, built and maintained by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a considerable cost, are lying completely unused. Six other airports have just a single flight a day, nine have two and six others have three to four flights per day.

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These statistics has got the government worried and are key to the recent aviation ministry push on increasing air connectivity to smaller towns.

The ministry is set to bring measures that encourage domestic carriers to fly to remote areas that can serviced by turboprop planes. Airlines will have the freedom to choose destinations. The government also plans to set up a fund of around R400 crore to aid such airlines for the first three years.

“Our only concern is to increase connectivity. We don’t wish to impose anything on airlines,” said a senior aviation ministry official. “The government can (only) provide infrastructure.”

“There are no airport charges for small aircraft that seat 80. Some states have offered to underwrite a percentage of the seats in order to enable air connectivity,” he said.

Industry experts feel that growth in the coming years in Indian aviation would be in the smaller towns.

“We would encourage airlines to have code-shares with regional carriers or operators of air taxis,” the official said.

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