India approves new air routes for its north-eastern states
India has greenlit four new air routes that connect the country's north-eastern states with international destinations, including Dhaka and Chattogram, under a project for improving regional air connectivity called "Udan".
Officials of the Indian civil aviation ministry said fares on these routes -- Guwahati-Bangkok, Guwahati-Dhaka, Imphal-Mandalay and Agartala-Chattogram – will be subsidised by the state governments of Assam, Manipur and Tripura to facilitate air travel.
The move comes as part of a larger project, called the "International Air Connectivity Scheme (IACS)", which was launched in 2022 with the aim of enhancing air connectivity in the remote region.
Besides, the project aims to boost socioeconomic growth in the region as well.
Also, some other routes connecting Guwahati, Imphal and Agartala with Kathmandu, Yangon, Hanoi, and Kunming have been identified.
However, the economic viability of the new routes will be tested by the passengers' response, the officials said.
This is because at present, these are not lucrative routes and therefore need to be supported by subsidies to keep fares low enough for attracting passengers in the high-competitive market for air travel.
The officials also pointed out that airport operators in the north-eastern region at times undertake development projects for enhancing their airports to international standard depending on the commercial viability, traffic demand and availability of land.
Currently, there are two international airports in Guwahati and Imphal, which are operated by the Guwahati International Airport Limited and Airports Authority of India (AAI) respectively.
The AAI has taken up various development works to boost international connectivity to and from the region, which includes establishing an integrated terminal at Agartala airport in view of the future requirement for international flights.
Additionally, the construction of a new integrated terminal building that can handle 2.4 million passengers per year at the Imphal airport has been approved at a cost of around Rs 500 crore.