Use new airport facilities proactively, Indian government tells states

With the civil aviation industry in deep depression, the government is looking for a turnaround by ensuring full utilisation of all newly-created facilities, civil aviation secretary M Madhavan Nambiar said.

The country's new airport regulator, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) is likely to start functioning within two-three weeks. Y S Bhave has been recently appointed as its first chairman, Nambiar told the media.

The AERA would replace the regulatory role of the Airports Authority of India for deciding fees at high-tariff airports such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

The new body will have powers to determine capital expenditure and investments needed to improve airport facilities, set tariffs for aeronautical services, and prescribe standards for operations across all airports. The regulator will have a chairman and two members, Nambiar said.

Speaking at an interactive session with the members of the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce, Nambiar ducked questions on the possible restructuring of Air India, now run by the state-owned National Aviation Co of India Ltd. He instead chose to focus on the need to market the country's airports. ''We could talk to international consultants to effectively market our airports as the country is strategically positioned between the West and the East,'' he said.

Nambiar also failed to fully explain how India's creaky airports, with minimal facilities and maximal red tape (mostly created by the union government), would suddenly position themselves as world class. He merely said the civil aviation ministry was having discussions with state governments on how to go about improving utilisation of existing infrastructure.