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Aviation ministry to meet cabinet tomorrow over privatisation of airports

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New Delhi, Aug 18: The Ministry of Civil Aviation will place a proposal for "further" privatisation of airports before the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

Representational Image

In the first round of privatisation under the Narendra Modi dispensation, the airports in Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati were cleared for operation, management and development through public-private partnership (PPP) model in February 2019.

Subsequently, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had in September 2019 recommended the Civil Aviation Ministry to privatise airports in Amritsar, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Raipur and Trichy.

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Hardeep Puri said during a webinar today that, "We are going to the Cabinet tomorrow for further airport privatisation. We have got many more airports lined up, dozens of them, and the 100 new airports we will build between now and 2030."

The Airports Authority of India, which works under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, owns and manages more than 100 airports across the country.

Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run six airports - Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati - after a competitive bidding process in February 2019.

Adani Enterprises signed the concessionaire agreement with the AAI for three airports - Ahmedabad, Mangaluru and Lucknow - on February 14, 2020. It is yet to sign the concessionaire agreement for the other three airports.

In June this year, the AAI gave three more months to the Adani group to take over the management of the airports of Ahmedabad, Mangaluru and Lucknow due to the COVID-19 scenario.

This means the Adani group, which was expected to take over the operations, management and development of the three airports by August 12, can now take over the airports by November 12.

Around 94,000 passengers travelled through domestic flights on Monday, Mr Puri said at the aforementioned webinar organised by industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

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    Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, around 3 lakh passengers per day travelled domestically in India, he said.

    "By the time we reach Diwali, we would be 50-55 per cent of our pre-COVID figures. By the end of the year, we will revive civil aviation to pre-COVID levels," he mentioned.

    After a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, India resumed domestic passenger flights on May 25, albeit in a curtailed manner.

    Currently, airlines in India are permitted to operate 45 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights.

    International passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country.

    However, since July, India has signed separate bilateral air bubble agreements with countries like the US, the UAE, Germany and France under which airlines of both the countries in a pact can operate international flights with certain restrictions.

    The aviation sector has been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March this year, all airlines in India have taken cost-cutting measures like pay cuts, leave without pay and firings of employees.

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