India’s long-awaited new civil aviation policy needs to address key issues on infrastructure and high taxation, according to Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Speaking at the annual India Aviation Day in New Delhi on March 26, he urged the country’s government to produce a coordinated policy framework for aviation that all relevant departments, including the ministries for finance, economy, development, rural infrastructure and tourism, can pursue. Tyler made the point that an uncoordinated approach across government undermines what little aviation policy India now observes.
“Sadly, the [Indian] finance minister did not include aviation infrastructure, a catalyst to growth, [in the recent Indian budget],” he complained. India’s promises, first made in 2008, to upgrade its immigration service to a modern advance passenger information (API) system used in other major countries still have not been honored, lamented Tyler. “India is unfortunately well known across the industry for the non-standard API that it requires airlines to transmit–and in a non-standard format I should add,” he said. The IATA leader also decried what he called “policy disarray in ground handling” in India that denies airlines other than state-owned Air India the right to perform ground operations for themselves.
“The legal challenges, the multiple government notifications and their different interpretations have all made ground handling an area suffering from deep policy confusion,” said Tyler. “This is not an environment where safety and security can thrive.”
Another major issue involves constrained airport infrastructure. Mumbai International Airport, for example, ranks as one of the busiest in the country and suffers from runway saturation. Various complex land-use issues have delayed the development of the proposed new Navi Mumbai Airport. Delhi International Airport CEO Prabhakara Rao told the conference that airport managers struggle to cope with the conflicting demands of various government agencies. “You have no control, but [you are expected to] control all the services [such as security, customs and so on],” he said.
However, the past week has brought some relief for India’s beleaguered air transport sector. The ministry of civil aviation has announced the abolition of the unpopular Aircraft Acquisition Committee, which wielded power to approve or block individual aircraft transactions. Meant to try to shape the development of airline service in India, it instead simply caused an unmanageable backlog of acquisition requests by operators.