We have close to 400 airports across the country which are un-served - they do not handle even a single flight. But we also lack airport infrastructure at several places where demand actually exists. In the past, Civil Aviation Minister A Gajapathi Raju has laid the blame at airlines' door and compared them to horses who can be taken near the water but cannot be made to drink it.
According to him, airlines not mounting flights to many existing airports are the biggest reason for patchy air connectivity in India. But look at this: there is a long list of airports run by AAI – 97 out of 122 - incurred losses in 2015-16.
Not all of these are un-served. In fact, the Raja Bhoj airport in Bhopal, Sri Guru Ram Dass ji airport in Amritsar and the one in Aurangabad together accounted for over Rs 150 crore in losses but both these airports service flights regularly. They are not ghost airports at all. So should airlines solely shoulder the blame for the unused airports and loss making ones?
Raju said in a written reply in Lok Sabha yesterday that airports incurred losses due to low revenue generation and that AAI has drawn up a master plan for development and increase in non-aeronautical revenues at airports across India.
There is a historical method to the airport madness in India. Under previous governments, airports which are turning in losses and those which remain un-served, were built partly to pander to local politics, partly because of inability of the AAI to judge where an airport should be in a state so that airlines find it viable to operate flights there and again, partly in the hope that airlines will get smaller aircraft to operate on these routes.
02/12/16 Sindhu Bhattacharya/F.Business