New Delhi, June 24: Countries such as Dubai, Singapore and Bangkok have edged past India in creating aviation hubs to attract transit passengers.
Airports and airlines of these countries had teamed up years back to develop modern hubs where partner carriers stop over with travellers moving between destinations not served by direct flights.
India, however, failed to seize the opportunity because of badly managed bilateral air service agreements, stringent visa norms, lack of co-ordination between ministries to promote tourism and lack of infrastructure at the airports, according to a report by the civil aviation ministry.
As a result of the lapse, airport-airline teams such as Dubai-Emirates, Frankfurt-Lufthansa, Changi-Singapore Airlines, Doha-Qatar Airways and Heathrow-British Airways benefited.
“Around 15 million passengers flew into or out of India via an airport hub in 2011 and of this, 11.4 million went through a hub outside India, mainly in West Asia and Southeast Asia,” states the report.
One of the reasons for the country to lose out to its Asian peers is the under utilisation of bilateral service agreements even as large foreign airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar are operating more flights and routes in India, penetrating even tier-II destinations. A large percentage of the international traffic from India is, thus, being captured by foreign carriers.
“Airport charges are more, there are almost no maintenance, repair and operations facilities and there’s no great duty-free setup. How can India be a hub in such circumstances?” said R.N. Pathak, former director of Air India.
Moreover, jet fuel prices at Indian airports such as Delhi and Mumbai are 10-18 per cent higher than their competitors.
Also, service tax on tickets in India is among the highest in the world. As a result, air travel becomes expensive, limiting the growth of the domestic and international aviation industry.