“The country has taken a big decision with regards to Air India for ensuring that the civil aviation sector functions professionally while providing safety and passenger amenities,” Modi said, addressing a ceremony after inaugurating the Kushinagar International Airport in Kushinagar district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier this month, the diversified Tata Group had emerged as the successful bidder of the Air India divestment process. Tata group’s holding company Tata Sons, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Talace Private Limited, had submitted the winning bid of Rs 18,000 crore as the enterprise value of the national carrier.
Post acquisition, the Tatas will own a 100 per cent stake in Air India (a full-service airline operating in domestic, international markets) as also 100 per cent in its subsidiary Air India Express (a low-cost carrier airline for short-haul international operations, especially in West Asia geography), and 50 per cent in joint venture Air India SATS (airport services on ground and cargo handling).
Without explicitly referring to the Tata Group, the PM underlined that the decision pertaining to Air India would inject fresh energy into the domestic civil aviation landscape. “A similar decision has been taken to open domestic defence airspace for civil use, which has led to the curtailment of the distance and travel time on several air routes.”
Meanwhile, referring to the fast pace of Covid-19 vaccinations in India, he said that it would evoke confidence among foreign tourists by bolstering India’s image as a “vaccinated country” and thus safe for travelling.
Modi said flying academies were being set up at five airports while the existing rules had been rationalised for training youth. He said about 1,000 new aircraft were projected to be added to the domestic air fleet owing to the accelerated growth in the sector and the development of new airports. He also mentioned the roadmap for drones and manpower needed for the new age segment.
“I am confident the civil aviation sector will become the symbol of the speedy growth and economic development in the country,” Modi observed.
Built at a cost of Rs 260 crore, the Kushinagar airport is spread over 590 acres and boasts of world-class facilities. It also has UP’s largest runway of 3,200 metres and a width of 45 metres.
The opening ceremony was marked by the arrival of a Sri Lankan Airlines flight carrying a large delegation, including Buddhist monks and pilgrims.
Modi said the Kushinagar airport would realise the global tourism potential of the domestic Buddhist Circuit and boost the socioeconomic development of the entire Eastern UP region. ‘The airport will not only provide direct air connectivity and provide jobs, but help the farmers, traders, small businesses, entrepreneurs, tourism industry, hotels and tour operators.”
He said the Kushinagar airport will lead to increased inflow of tourists from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Japan and Korea. He said under the flagship UDAN Yojana, more than 900 new routes had been approved, of which 350 had already been serviced with flights even as more than 50 new airports and airstrips had been developed.
“In the next 3-4 years, the plan is to prepare more than 200 airports, heliports and ports to service seaplanes,” the PM added.