Spreading wings: 6 airports in T’gana, Andhra set to hit cruise mode

The aviation sector across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is in for a massive explosion with all airports in expansion mode.

Apart from the big three — Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada — Rajahmundry, Kadapa and Tirupati are set to see operations being revved up this year, with better connectivity, increased flight frequency, higher passenger traffic and longer runways. While Kurnool and Nellore added their names to the list of airports recently, Warangal, Nizamabad and Kothagudem too could soon join the rolls, if the government’s plans stay on track. Also on the cards, according to Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials, is Donakonda (Prakasam district) and Bobilli (Vizianagaram).

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“Surveys have been conducted to ascertain if they are feasible locations and the results have been positive. Now, someone (either AAI or state government) has to come forward to give shape to the projects. As and when developed, it’ll be done under the Udan-Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS),” said G M S Rao, Vijayawada’s airport director who was part of the survey team.

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The central government scheme – aimed at making air travel more affordable and accessible – gave wings to Kadapa in 2017. Just about a year later, footfall at the facility has doubled – from 44,000 in 2017-18 to 90,000 in 2018-19 (till date) – and work is on to extend its runway length, begin night operations and even attract new domestic carriers. “We are expecting to finish the runway work by May. We are also coordinating with the forest department to install obstacle lights on hills around the airport. This will help us start night and allweather operations,” said P Siva Prasad, Kadapa’s airport director. The airport currently operates from dawn to dusk. Speaking about the potential of smaller airports in the two states he said: “It will boost businesses, within and outside the region. Vegetables and flowers, for instance, are very cheap in Kadapa. If we have strong air network with other cities, we can transport these perishables smoothly. It will, in turn, generate tremendous revenue,” Siva Prasad said.

Ditto Rajahmundry, which also exports a lot of seafood (fish, shrimps, prawns) to the rest of the country. “Once we finish our expansion, we will be capable of handling bigger aircraft (Airbus and Boeing) that’ll make way for belly cargo (freight). That will allow for better earnings from export. It will also benefit the tourism (heritage and temple) sector,” said M Raja Kishore, director of the facility that currently has only small 72-78 seaters flying in and out of it.

Given the hectic activity, airline operators are looking at the two states to increase their own footprint. Among them are: IndiGo, SpiceJet and TruJet. “We are a Udan carrier. So, we are certainly looking at Telangana and AP that are both growing economically. Also, we have found that each time we cater to an under-served airport, the loads increase significantly. We are certainly eager to participate in any new facility that is created, after we assess its commercial viability and ensure we have enough aircraft/pilot to service it,” said Sudheer Raghavan, chief commercial officer, TruJet.

The regional carrier operates five ATRs at present.

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