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Plan to set up 25 low-cost airports

July 19, 2007 02:45 IST

After low-cost airlines, it is the turn of no-frill and low-cost airports. In a bid to encourage regional airlines and provide air links to small cities and towns, nearly 25 greenfield or unutilised airport projects have been identified by various states, which will be up for bidding by the private sector.

Planned in tier-II or tier-III cities, the airports would be in addition to the Ministry of Civil Aviation's ambitious modernisation programme for 35 non-metro airports.

A no-frill airport is built at a minimum cost and allows operation of small jets as well as slightly bigger aircraft like Boeing's B737 or Airbus' A320. The investment in such an airport could range from Rs 40 crore to Rs 100 crore.

The places identified for the purpose include Hassan, Shimoga, Gulbarga, Bidar, Mysore (all in Karnataka), Shirdi, Jalgaon, Solapur, Akola (all in Maharashtra), Kannur (Kerala), Madurai, Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu), Rupsi (Assam), Ajmer, Mount Abu, Kailashar (Rajasthan), Behala, Cooch Behar, Malda (West Bengal), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Muzaffurpur (Bihar), Kamalpur (Tripura) and Passighat (Arunachal Pradesh).

Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) Managing Director R C Sinha told Business Standard: "We are planning to set up no-frill and low-cost airports at Shirdi, Jalgaon and Solapur. Though we are yet to finalise modalities, the estimated cost of each is Rs 40 crore excluding land cost."

MADC is a special purpose vehicle set up by Maharashtra to execute the multi-modal hub project at Nagpur, which includes an airport and a special economic zone.

A budget airline executive said, "A low-cost airport can be constructed at a cost of Rs 100 crore, including land cost. Such an airport can increase its revenue through retail outlets, entertainment sources and hospitality projects."

Low-cost airports are already catching the fancy of high profile airport developers and corporates, as well as budget carriers. Earlier, budget carrier Air Deccan had evinced interest in participating in four low-cost airport projects in Karnataka. Big players such as Changi Airport of Singapore, Tata group, GMR Group and GVK Group are also keen on such projects.

A government official said the airports could act as operational bases of regional airlines. "The identification of regional hubs could be made on the basis of origin-destination surveys, traffic demand and the requirements of airlines," he added.

P R Sanjai in Mumbai