500 airports for India by 2020: CAPA

Mumbai: As per to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), India's Civil Aviation Ministry has even more aggressive plans than the Chinese, who themselves have aggressive plans to develop 43 new airports by the end of 2010, for a total of 190, increasing to 244 by 2020.

The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has an aim of 500 operational airports by 2020, including the redevelopment of currently unused airports and development of greenfield airports and so-called 'merchant' (dedicated cargo/logistics) airports.

India presently has 448 airports, including small landing strips, although only 80 airports in the country currently handle scheduled services (up from 60 in Mar 2006). Of these airports, 136 belong to defence establishments and agencies, 156 to state governments and 63 to the private sector.

Unlike China, where just 60 per cent of the population lives within 100 km of an airport, in India, virtually every district has an airport (includes landing strips) and can, in theory, be connected by air. This fact was one of the drivers of the optimism with which low cost carriers (LCCs) established in India.

Like China, air traffic is concentrated at a few key airports in India. The 24 international and customs airports put together account for 94 per cent of traffic and the balance is spread over 36 smaller airports.

For the 500 airports target to be achieved in a little under 13 years, India will require a very liberal aviation policy, backed by an aggressive programme to upgrade existing small airports, says CAPA.