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Govt to soon announce measures to curb high airfares: Minister

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New Delhi: After months of deliberations, the government is finally going to announce a mechanism soon to curb high airfares and unveil a new civil aviation policy to address all major issues affecting the sector.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said the civil aviation policy will lay out a roadmap to make India a leading player in the sector which is growing at over 20 per cent currently. The policy will be placed before the cabinet within two weeks.

He said government’s priority is to improve infrastructure and it is investing around Rs 15,000 crore in 2016-17 in upgrading of the existing airports and setting up new ones.
On fixing airfares, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very keen to have an upper cap on the ticket price and government would announce the measures while taking views of the airlines and that it would be by consensus and not through any regulation.

“We are in the process of adopting certain measures to cap ticket price. But we are trying to do it by consensus and not by regulation. Our Prime Minister also envisions that fares be kept in control,” Sharma told PTI in an interview.

Airfares usually go up by around 40-50 per cent during the festive seasons and vacations. The airlines had faced severe criticism when the fares had even touched as high as Rs 50,000 for a one way ticket between Bengaluru and Delhi during the Chennai floods in December last year.

The fares had gone up significantly during the recent Jat agitation as well.
Aviation regulator DGCA had last week said that discussions need to be held with airlines before any decision on fixing upper cap on ticket prices.

“If a capping of airfares is required, then we will have to have discussions with them (airlines),” Directorate General of Civil Aviation Chief M Sathiyavathy said.

On the civil aviation policy, which is hanging fire since for a long time, the Minister said majority of the issues were sorted out.

India is currently ranked ninth in the global aviation market and it is aspiring to become third largest by 2025, Sharma said.

The Minister said the basic thrust of the aviation policy will be to expand growth of the sector. “We wanted to make it a fool proof policy that is why we went through repeated meetings.”

He said the policy will address all the pending issues including the 5/20 norm, regional connectivity scheme and the ground handling issues. Under 5/20 norm, a domestic airline cannot fly overseas unless it has completed five years of operation on local routes and has a fleet of 20 aircraft.

“This (policy) will address all the pending issues. Be it 5/20 or regional connectivity scheme or the ground handling issues. All issues related to the sector will be addressed,” Sharma said.

“We have a vision. We are currently at ninth position in the aviation market. By 2025, we want to come to level three,” he said.

On the issue of listing of Government-run chopper operator Pawan Hans and Airports Authority of India, the Minister said, “Pawan Hans is in the process of listing.

“Airports Authority of India, definitely not now. For Pawan Hans, we have initiated the process. We are preparing the ground to do so. Internal process is going on (in this regard).”

He said that the country at present has 476 airstrips and if another 100 more are added, it will help in boosting airport infrastructure further.

“We are investing around Rs 15,000 crore in upgrading and modernising the existing airports and in setting up new ones,” he added.

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