The programme initiated by Modi last year aims to boost economic growth by refurbishing idled colonial-era airstrips or building mint airports and incentivizing airlines to offer discounted fares to connect them with bigger cities. However, the work of upgrading existing facilities and construction of new airports in small towns has failed.
Two of the government officials said, “could knock off course the government’s lofty goal of bringing 100 million more passengers to the skies in the next five years”. the two officials commented, “But with even the first phase still behind schedule–flights have begun on just 60 of the 128 planned routes–the government plans to delay the start of phase three”.
Under Modi’s “regional connectivity scheme”, the government aimed to organize at least 31 new airports by the end of 2017, but only 16 are completed so far. The government has now also stepped in, with procuring much of the equipment also lease it to state governments to get the 15 remaining airports construction work complete till June end. The official said, “It is a trade-off. We either keep adding more flights or calibrate the existing ones with the capacity we have”.
The civil aviation ministry gave approvals in two phases, to airlines company, including start-up companies like Air Deccan and Air Odisha as well as established carrier’s companies like IndiGo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet, to start flights on more than 450 routes covering all with 56 new airports also.
One of the government officials said, “the civil aviation ministry had not expected such a large response to the programme, and was now scrambling to get airports ready on time”.
An analyst at India Ratings, Arindam Som, a Fitch Group company said, “If the pace of development of smaller airports is not accelerated and it does not meet the targets, it will be a major challenge for airlines”, He said that some airlines were looking at these regional routes to feed into their wider network and boost growth.