Friday, December 15, 2017

Private airports' policies not aligned with UDAN scheme: G R Gopinath

Air Deccan, India’s first low-cost airline that made flying affordable for the middle class, is relaunching its operations from December 23. The airline’s promoter, G R Gopinath, tells Arindam Majumder about the hurdles it faced, the country’s aviation scene and much more. Edited excerpts:

You were supposed to start operations by September. What took you so long?

We faced huge problems in getting slots at Mumbai and Delhi airports. I wouldn’t mince words — you can call it monopoly of airport operators, and monopoly is a monster. Every major city in the world has second airports, and they compete among themselves to attract airlines.

Here, there is no competition. For instance, the Mumbai airport operates around 1,000 flights a day. Most of the flights operated from Mumbai are out of Maharashtra.

 But, the Mumbai airport should also serve the people of Maharashtra. A person from Kolhapur would like to go to Mumbai; a person from Agra would have a need to go to Delhi. Smaller cities of the region need to get connected to the hubs, only then connectivity will improve. But, I am sorry to say private airports’ policies are not aligned with the UDAN scheme.

What is your suggestion to solve this problem?

Why can’t private airports allocate 25 per cent of their flights for regional aviation? They are not doing it because it is not attractive in monetary terms, as parking charges of smaller aircraft are less (UDAN flights have zero parking charges). The government allocates certain portion of its funds for developing rural roads, rural infrastructure, and rural health. Why can’t a private airport do the same? The DGCA data says annually, Indian airlines sell around 100 million tickets.

 But, most of the flying happens between the metros, and they are frequent flyers. UDAN aims to connect the regional cities and bring new flyers in. I have not got parking in Mumbai.

So the aircraft has to fly from Nashik or Kolhapur to Mumbai in the morning. How does a regional operator make money this way? But, private airports are not allowing UDAN vision. We have replaced an inefficient public sector with a monopolistic
private sector.
15/12/17 Arindam Majumder/Business Standard