Steep rise in passenger traffic gives further boost to AP's new airport plans

A steep rise in passenger traffic across the five operational airports in Andhra Pradesh in the current year comes as a shot in the arm for the state government as it has stepped up efforts to implement its ambitious plans to have one airport in each district besides the upgradation of the existing facilities.
A meeting held by the government with the potential bidders for the new airport projects last month was attended by companies such as L&T Construction, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited, GMR Airports, Shapoorji Pallonji, Essel Infrastructure, indicating a strong interest for these green field projects.
The state will have six new airports, including a large green-field international airport project at Bhogapuram in Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju's home district Vizianagaram bordering Odisha, if the government takes its plans to their logical conclusion.
Out of the six new airports the government plans to develop four airports, including the greenfield international airport project in private sector while it had requested the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to develop the remaining two no-frills airport facilities-one at Nagarjunasagar in Guntur district and the other one at Donakonda in Prakasham district.
The five operational airports in AP- Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupati, Rajahmundry and Kadapa, have together registered a 51 per cent growth in passenger traffic during the seven month period between April and October, 2015 reflecting an enhanced activity in the truncated state after the bifurcation. The total passenger traffic during this period stood at 1.26 million compared to 8.3 lakh passengers in the same period last year.
High passenger traffic has been witnessed in almost all the airports in AP. Visakhapatnam airport registered a 45.1 per cent growth in passenger traffic at 8 lakh passengers despite a high base of 5.52 lakh passenger traffic in the corresponding period last year.
Passenger traffic in Vijayawada, now the seat of power, almost doubled in the same period while the pilgrim center Tirupati saw a 50.6 per cent rise.
Authorities have been in advanced stage of preparations for bidding for the two important no-frill airports-one at Dagadarthi in Nellore district bordering Tamil Nadu and at Orvakallu in Kurnool district bordering Telangana, a move aimed at facilitating the affluent Andhra citizens to use the airport facilities within their reach instead of traveling to and from Hyderabad or Chennai city for the air travel.
On its part AP government had already tied up Rs 1,700 crore loan from HUDCO towards land acquisition for three airports. Of this Rs 1,500 crore loan was taken towards land cost for Bhogapuram airport, for which notice for acquiring 5,311 acres of land was issued in August. The remaining Rs 200 crore was earmarked for Dagadarthi(1350 acres) and Orvakallu airport (1081 acres) projects.
Earlier this year the government had announced its aviation policy offering multiple incentives to both the airport developers and the airline companies including an offer to buy a portion of seating capacity in the flight services operating to the no-frills airports.
According to the authorities, the potential bidders have been asking for a longer concession period of more than 60 years in place of the existing 30 year norm, even though the latter comes with an in-built clause for extension of the concession period.They were also seeking more freedom in usage of land for commercial and residential purposes to ensure the project viability.
The state government was expected to take a final call on these suggestions before launching the formal bidding process for the two no-frill airports.
The government was also said to be in talks with the management of Bangalore International Airport Limited(BIAL) for its consent to set up a third private no-frills airport at Kuppam in chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu's home district Chittoor. Karnataka government had opposed this airport proposal as the location falls within the 150-km exclusivity area of BIAL.

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