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For Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the civil aviation minister in the Narendra Modi government, removing the elitist tag from air travel would be the main agenda. To achieve this objective, the minister would like to bring about a policy in the first 100 days of his tenure to build around 200 low-cost airports, primarily in tier I &II cities.
To lower costs for the airlines he would also talk with various state government to bring down the price of aviation turbine fuel, which currently comprises around 50% of airlines’ cost as most state governments levy higher state level duties. He is all for facilitating more competition in the aviation sector and would bring about transparent guidelines to allow newer players to enter the market.
The minister told FE in the course of an interview that privatising Air India at this stage is not possible as the airline is not in a shape which would see buyers interested in it.
Putting the carrier back on rails will be a priority task for him but he agrees that a view regarding how it has to function in future on a long-term basis needs to be taken rather than leaving the issue open-ended.
On the current policy which bars the government from building another airport within a 150 km radius of the existing one, Raju said the issue would be seen on a case-by-case basis — meaning where expansion of the existing airport is not possible like in Mumbai another one is coming up, but in Delhi where the existing one has enough expansion capacity, it makes sense not to build another.
On the issue of domestic airlines opposing the entry of new players, he said, “any type of competition is healthy, and any competition resulting in people getting better facilities should be encouraged”.