By Kumar Vikram
NEW DELHI: It’s not the metros, but increasing traffic to and from tier II cities which is driving the booming aviation sector in India. While airports in the country have seen about 17 % of annual growth in air travelers, airports at smaller cities like Surat, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Patna and Amritsar registered much higher growth. According to Civil Aviation Ministry data, more than 25 cities have clocked a growth of over 20 per cent, while Delhi and Mumbai have only seen 14.5 and 6.5 per cent growth, respectively.
Airports in the country saw 308.75 million passengers in 2017-18, compared to 264.97 million the previous year. While cities like Ranchi and Amritsar have shown dramatic growth of 72 and 64 per cent respectively, Surat in Gujarat has seen a staggering growth of nearly 250 per cent. The total number of air passengers at Ranchi and Amritsar was 1.77 and 1.69 million in 2017-18, compared to 1.01 million in 2016-17.
A civil aviation ministry official better infrastructure and affordable options from airlines have helped. “This also shows that spending capacity in smaller cities have also gone up,” the official said.
Officials predicted further robust growth with the government’s efforts to connect more smaller cities with the aviation map of the country. Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha in Parliament this week said that the ministry has started work on a new version of regional air connectivity scheme for tourist destinations, which would connect 56 unserved and 17 under-served airports as well as 31 heliports.
Sharat Dhall, COO of travel portal Yatra.com, felt that while government initiatives like UDAN have given a fillip to the sector, there has also been a shift of rail passengers towards aviation sector.