The rule restricting construction and operation of two airports within a radius of 150 km from each other in India may be scrapped soon. The civil aviation policy which will likely be taken up for approval by the Union Cabinet next week has proposed to remove the restriction while encouraging construction of Greenfield airports within the radius of an existing airport, according to sources. If the rule is removed, two airports will be allowed to function irrespective of the distance between them so long as their air space and flight routes are separate and demarcated.
“The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has concluded discussions with different stakeholder ministries on the new aviation policy. The Ministry will put the policy up for approval before the Union Cabinet next week. The rule restricting construction and operation of an airport within a radius of 150 km of an existing AAI airport has been done away with. It awaits the Cabinet’s nod, but we are hopeful that the Cabinet will approve it. It also encourages construction of Greenfield airports,” said a source in the MoCA who didn’t want to be named.
It is understood that several private stakeholders operating airports in India were lobbying against scrapping of the rule as it would affect their business. “The government is keen on opening up the aviation sector to ease air traffic flow and increase passenger traffic. Several airports in India are privately constructed and operated or leased from AAI by private operators. Naturally, a new airport in close vicinity will hit their business and hence they had been lobbying against removing the rule. This government has been very pragmatic in its approach and has made some very sound reforms that will help the aviation sector,” he said. “Cities across the globe… London, New York and many more… they have multiple airports operating inside the city’s boundaries. These airports have more traffic than any airport in India and still function safely and effectively. So the security issue argument is not without agenda,” he said.
Kanu Gohain, former director general of Directorate General of Civil Aviation, told this newspaper: “The restriction according to radius rule was taken up because some existing airports have been privatised. They do not want their market share to go down. But today, suddenly airports have been encouraged at various locations where there is a demand for air travel, air connectivity. The only thing we have to see from the technical side is that the air space of two adjacent airports do not infringe into one another.”
“A major point is commercial viability. Airports, when built, have to be self sustaining. For that, you need air traffic… not only scheduled flights. Non-scheduled operators have also gone up. Chartered operations have also gone up. So such airports will be beneficial operating like satellite airports. They will be beneficial for these operators like non-scheduled, chartered and even airlines when you have that feeder connectivity,” Gohain said. “Operationally, the airspace of the two airports should be separate and demarcated. They should not be dependent on one another. London has Heathrow and Gatwick; we can have multiple airports as well. It depends on the airports’ policy, but that should also not be sacrosanct because the growth is there,” he added.
The removal of the policy will also help fast track the process for construction of airports proposed in places like Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Jewar in Uttar Pradesh and more. The MoCA finalised the aviation policy after a long period of discussion with airline operator, airport operators, other ministries and aviation experts.