However, skeptics question the authority's abilities to manage infrastructure growth. They say that of the 115 airports run by the authority, only 71 are commercially operational. The rest are closed, mainly because they have proved to be economically unviable.
The ministry official cites examples of companies such as Regional Airport-Holdings International Ltd. (RAHI), which had revealed plans to develop India's regional aviation market, starting with two airport projects. Over the next five years, RAHI has plans to invest $700 million in over 15 aviation infrastructure and services projects.
In addition to the model agreement to develop greenfield airports under the PPP mode, the government has also allowed 100% foreign direct investment, under the automatic route.
“The PPP model for developing greenfield airports as well as upgrading existing airports has provided the opportunity to develop integrated airport cities on the lines of Dubai and Hong Kong,” says Promananda Elangbam, marketing manager at Bangalore International Airport Ltd.
Meanwhile, although there is an unprecedented increase in traffic and demand, almost all Indian carriers are in the red. Operating costs are daunting, propelled by high fuel costs and taxes, and debts are soaring.
The government, for its part, opened up foreign direct investment (FDI) in Indian carriers to airlines abroad and is allowing direct importation of aviation fuel.
“Permitting FDI by foreign airlines was a right step for Indian aviation, as it requires resources for expansion to connect Tier 2 and 3 cities with metros and foreign destinations,” says R. Neelakantan, chief financial officer of no-frills airline SpiceJet.
Clearly, the air travel market in India has room for expansion. India is estimated to have one aircraft for every 2.89 million people, which is miniscule in comparison to one for every 1.14 million in China, 0.96 million in Indonesia, 0.89 million in the Philippines and 0.63 million in Brazil. Boeing estimates that Indian carriers will require 1,450 new aircraft worth $175 billion to cope with increasing passenger traffic over the next 20 years.
Despite such forecasts and India's attempts to foster its aviation sector, some policies threaten to nip growth in the bud.