Delhi airport operator DIAL can choose the flights under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) that can be operated from Hindon airbase, according to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. The Indian Air Force has agreed to allow RCS flights to from the Hindon airbase amid the Delhi airport facing slot constraints. The international airport here is operated by DIAL, a consortium led by GMR group, and as per rules, commercial flight operations cannot be there at two airports within a radius of 150 kilometres. In such cases, the right of first refusal rests with the existing operator. “We told GMR why don’t you decide which of the RCS flights you can accommodate and the rest we can take there (to Hindon). The day Delhi airport can take them back, we will put them back,” Raju told PTI in an interview. About the discussions with the DIAL (Delhi International Airport Ltd) in this regard, he said, “they seem to accept it”.
The Hindon airbase is located on the outskirts of Delhi. The RCS seeks to boost air connectivity to unserved and under-served airports in different parts of the country. The participating airline operators are extended various incentives, including viability gap funding, while the fares are capped at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights. The second round of bidding under the RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik), began last month. In the first around of bidding, as many as 128 routes connecting 70 airports were on offer. Out of the 128 routes, 11 were from Delhi. These included flights to Bathinda, Shimla, Agra, Bikaner, Gwalior, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Jalandhar, Kanpur, Kullu and Pantnagar. Initially, the ministry had sought 24 slots from Delhi airport for RCS flights but could not be accommodated.The busiest in the country, Delhi airport sees 67 air traffic movements (departures and arrivals) per hour, which goes up to 72 during peak hours.
Earlier this week, civil aviation secretary R N Choubey said the government expects a huge demand for Delhi airport in the second round of RCS bidding and as a “pre-emptive” measure, the ministry had sought permission for use of Hindon airbase for these flights. To cater to increasing traffic, DIAL has announced plans to expand the passenger handling capacity of two operational terminals, recommission operations at terminal 2 and build a new runway by 2021. The Indira Gandhi International Airport handled 57.7 million passengers and more than 8.57 lakh tonnes of cargo in 2016-17.