The Directorate General of Civil Aviation will award licences for airport operations on the basis of the grades awarded by the Airports Council International, the largest airport body in the world.
The grading system would apply to all airports, including under private developers and the Airports Authority of India, Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla said at a seminar on Wednesday.
The licence of any airport failing to get the required grades will be cancelled, according to a DGCA source. On a scale of 0 to 5, an airport has to score a minimum of 3.75 points.
The grading will be done on the basis of 34 criteria, including terminal facilities, check-in counters, Customs arrangements and baggage handling. Facilities like toilets will also be assessed.
The consultants have already begun the grading process for Delhi and Mumbai airports.
Chawla said the ministry was in talks with the state governments on developing unused airstrips around the country. The issue was discussed at a recent meeting with several state governments. According to ministry sources, four airstrips in Karnataka and five in Maharashtra have already been identified.
Chawla said the government was also considering merchant airports. An official source said three options, in East, West and North India, respectively, were being considered. Merchant airports are developed by private developers on their own land. The government will give regulatory assistance.
Chawla said 35 non-metro airports being developed through the public-private partnership would be completed by March 2010.
Stating that a total investment of Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) would be required to create the necessary airport infrastructure in the country, he said this amount had to come from the public-private partnership route.
Civil Aviation Joint Secretary KN Shrivastava said considering the rapid growth in aviation, another 50-100 airports would be active in the next five years.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the seminar, Shrivastava said apart from states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, airports would also be developed in Poonch and Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir.