India to create privately-run airports soon: Praful Patel

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New Delhi, Nov 1: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said the government plans to allow more private players into the booming aviation industry.

"Today, the growth of aviation cannot be sustained by the existing infrastructure alone and, if the expansion of the aviation has to take place to newer or smaller cities, we must have a new policy, which therefore we are looking on that. By the year 2008, when the first quarter is complete, we will define a policy under which merchant airports and private airports can also come forward," Patel said on the sidelines of a conference.

The industry expects a twenty percent rise in the number of passengers travelling by air in the next five years. Air India, alone is slated to buy about 500 aircraft to meet the growing demand of air travel.

The boom in the Indian skies has been attributed to the mushrooming of low cost airlines that have brought fares down drastically.

India is working to modernize its airports and improve its creaky infrastructure, which many analysts say may impede economic growth.

The new airports would be developed as greenfield projects through public-private partnership like the ones being developed in Hyderabad and Bangalore.

The Central cabinet had cleared the construction of a second airport in Mumbai in May while expansion of the two busiest airports at New Delhi and Mumbai has been undertaken by a consortium of private companies in collaboration with foreign partners.

Asia"s third largest economy has seen a flurry of airline launches in recent years as several leading business houses have entered  the sector,  encouraged  by  a government increase  of   the  foreign investment cap  for aviation to 49 percent from  40  percent  in 2004.

State-owned Air India, which for decades enjoyed a monopoly, has been

facing competition  from private players like Jet Airlines, Kingfisher and

Spice Jet, which are luring fliers with cheaper fares.



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