Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, today advised state government to board the “Udan” regional connectivity scheme to give a fillip to intra-regional and inter-regional air connectivity and realize the growth benefits from the multiplier effect of travel and tourism.

Inaugurating the 3rd edition of “Wings 2019”  in Delhi, organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) jointly with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Mr. Prabhu said that in order to make air travel affordable and accessible to the common man, states would have to be an integral partner of the scheme and join hands with airlines and other stakeholders. “It is the states where the action is. It is they who will have to drive the process and become beneficiaries of growth,” he said.

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The states, he said, would have to think big and envisage the facility of having wide-bodied aircraft take off and land from their airports. Such an approach will provide the tailwinds to the Indian aviation sector that has the potential to become the country’s growth engine.

Prabhu also released the FICCI-Deloitte knowledge Paper, “Indian aviation: Bracing to ride out headwinds.”

Pradeep Singh Kharola, Secretary, MoCA, laid stress on the physical and financial aspects of enhancing accessibility to air travel. The need is for more airports in more locations, minimizing expenses and optimizing resources to ensure financial viability and improve affordability to the travelling public. States, he said, had a big role in providing land at affordable rates for building airports and rationalize taxes on ATF.

Gurudas Mohapatra, Chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI), said that the challenge before the aviation industry was to bring down costs for which adequate infrastructure was crucial. AAI, he said, was undertaking a capital expenditure of Rs. 25000 crore of which, Rs 16000 crore was already in the pipeline. Yet, land was a big constraint which the states have to provide.

Anand E. Stanley, Chairman, FICCI Civil Aviation Committee and President & MD, Airbus India, emphasized the need for building airlines’ profitability, exploiting the opportunities offered by MRO services and investing in skills to overcome the shortage of pilots.

Ashwani Lohani CMD, Air India, Ajay Singh, CMD, Spicejet Ltd. and Ms. Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, MoCA, shared their perspectives and stressed the role of states in making air travel affordable and accessible to all.

Need to bridge skilled manpower needs in aviation: FICCI-Deloitte Paper

The FICCI-Deloitte knowledge Paper, ‘Indian aviation: Bracing to ride out headwinds’, based on earlier industry interactions with the stakeholders, recommends that to ensure that the regional aviation market is sustainable in the long run there was a need to bridge the gap in the requirement of skilled manpower in aviation industry; bring more focus to air cargo operations, upgrade the physical infrastructure in a big way and exploit all avenues of growth for the sector to thrive in the decade to come.

The paper notes that the Government of India, through the National Skill Development Council (NSDC), is already looking at a host of initiatives to involve the industry in some of the programs launched to bridge the gap in skilled manpower. The government could also consider supporting a comprehensive program to impart the requisite knowledge and skills specifically for the aviation industry, such as government-sponsored apprenticeship programs for the industry.

The government must also focus on the air cargo segment and could look at implementing a policy framework on the lines of “Udan” scheme wherein freighter operations are incentivized just like passenger flows. The program could also possibly look at incentivizing air cargo movement from unconnected areas of the country. Building on the government initiatives already launched, the program must help enable faster adoption of online platforms for tracking and capturing air cargo movement.

Likewise, in order to sustain viability of a number of routes and for the demand to mature at regional airports, proactive actions are required on the part of both the states and communities. Such actions could include creating Regional Connectivity Forums for risk sharing and marketing of routes through tourism departments of various state governments in collaboration with hospitality industry and look at airport-centered urban development and promotion of General Aviation.