Scindia sets targets of 4 airports, 50 UDAN routes

Rationalising VAT on aviation turbine fuel also on agenda for next 100 days, says Civil Aviation Minister

Inaugurating the Kushinagar airport and starting construction of the Jewar airport, both in Uttar Pradesh; launching 50 new routes under the UDAN scheme; and rationalising the value added tax (VAT) charged on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) were on the agenda for the Civil Aviation Ministry over the next 100 days, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Scindia said the Ministry had set its targets for infrastructure, policy and reforms till November 30 with the aim of increasing accountability towards stakeholders. Mr. Scindia said the Kushinagar airport was ready for inauguration, while the foundation stone for the Jewar airport would be laid in the next 100 days. Work on new terminal buildings at the Dehradun airport and Agartala airport, to increase capacity to 1,800 passengers per hour and 1,200 passengers per hour, respectively, would also be started.

Airports under UDAN at Keshod in Gujarat, Deoghar in Jharkhand, and Gondia and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, as well as heliports at Sanjoli (Shimla), Sase (Manali), Mandi and Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and Haldwani and Almora in Uttarakhand, would also be operationalised before November 30. Of the 50 new routes, 30 UDAN routes would be started by October 30, he said.

Mr. Scindia said the aviation industry had been one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the government was working to “stabilise” it. When asked about refunds to passengers, Mr. Scindia said he believed the “free market” should decide the amounts, rather than the government mandating a certain amount. He said the AirSewa 3.0 portal would be launched by September 30 and that users would be able to escalate their complaints to senior airline officials. He added that earlier, only the travel agents were responsible for getting refunds processed, but now the airlines would also be held responsible.

With rationalisation of VAT on ATF as one of the goals, Mr. Scindia was asked why the government had not brought ATF under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). He replied that, ultimately, the responsibility lay with the States, either on their own or through the GST council. He said the Civil Aviation Ministry had written to Chief Ministers and was in the process of “canvassing” with States and the Ministry of Finance to rationalise VAT on ATF, which ranges from 1% to 30% in different States.

Mr. Scindia also announced a new policy for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO), aimed at making India a global hub for MRO. Open tenders, 30-year contracts and rates to be determined by bidding were among the changes proposed.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had also liberalised its policy for flying training organisations (FTOs) by abolishing the airport royalty to be paid by the FTOs to the AAI, he said.

Asked about the investigation into the Kozhikode plane crash last year, Mr. Scindia said the probe report had been submitted to the Ministry and would be made public in the next few days. He said a group would be created within the Ministry to ensure that the recommendations in the report were implemented.

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