In one sweep, Uttar Pradesh gets the highest number of operational airports for a state

Published on: 11 March 2024 11:11 AM GMT
In one sweep, Uttar Pradesh gets the highest number of operational airports for a state

In one shot, Uttar Pradesh has become the only state in the country to have over 10 operational airports. On March 10, the prime minister inaugurated multiple airports and airport terminals across the country. This included Aligarh, Azamgarh, Chitrakoot, Moradabad, and Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh.

Close to the heels of this opening, regional carrier flybig has started sale of tickets for flights to Shravasti, Azamgarh, Chitrakoot and Aligarh from Lucknow. The airline on its website mentions these to be under RCS-UDAN, which will give a huge boost to the count of airports operational in the country, in addition to the operationalisation of routes and airports under RCS-UDAN. Beyond this, the inauguration will propel Uttar Pradesh to have 13 operational airports, the highest for any state in the country. Uttar Pradesh is also the most populous state in India but has lagged airport infrastructure for many years, largely due to the lower GDP as compared to other states. Over the last decade, the state has seen a turnaround in infrastructure and airports have not been left behind with expansion of existing terminals, operationalisation of new ones like the one at Ayodhya and building civil enclaves at defence airfields like the one at Bareilly.

The importance of these airports

Most of these places are of tourist importance while some have commercial importance. Shravasti, for example, is the place where Gautam Buddha lives the most after enlightenment. Archaeological excavations of the Sravasti site have unearthed numerous artworks and monuments related to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The closest airport today is Ayodhya which is over a 100 kilometres away and before Ayodhya became operational, Lucknow was the closest airport which is a distance of over three hours by road. Likewise, Chitrakoot is a major cultural and religious centre with Chitrakoot dham being located in Uttar Pradesh and the town of Chitrakoot in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. This is the place where lord Rama spent his 11 years in exile.

Moradabad is one of the most populous districts and is known for its metalcraft. The city is closer to national capital Delhi than to state capital Lucknow. The city is known for Brass and a flight connection will help traders the most. Azamgarh - almost equidistant from Varanasi and Gorakhpur, while Aligarh would have access to Jewar very soon, yet the airstrip will help link it to the state capital - which has its importance in terms of administrative matters.

How are the other states doing?

Currently, Gujarat leads the count of operational airports with 10 airports seeing scheduled commercial service. Mundra is likely to join the rank soon. This is followed by Karnataka and Maharashtra which have nine airports each being operational. In Maharashtra, Nanded and Jalgaon are likely to see connectivity being restored in the near future, yet it would not cross the operational count of airports in Uttar Pradesh - which will see Noida International Airport at Jewar being operationalized later this year.

Will the flights continue?

Flybig does not have the best of record when it comes to operating flights. The airline started operations from Indore but quickly moved out to the North East basing its ATRs in East and North East. For an intermediate period, the airline started another base at Hyderabad and served Gondia, from Hyderabad and Indore with plans to add more destinations from Hyderabad. This was quickly pulled out and the aircraft deployed to the north east again. The ATRs were abruptly returned to lessor which saw a sudden stop in connectivity across sectors in the North East including suspension of services to places like Rupasi, which were one airline stations.

In case of the four airports which will see launch flights in the coming week, the schedule for a longer term is not yet available on the airlines’ website. This could possibly be because of the transit to Summer schedule on March 31, 2024 or the airline taking some time to build up forward loads after the quick inaugural flights.

The RCS-UDAN scheme has had great intentions to connect the unserved and underserved airports and sectors, but with airlines folding up or not being able to optimise operations - many airports and sectors have lost connectivity in the past. This also would be a make or break for flybig, as any more withdrawals would mean the market as well as the government will not have any trust left on the airline.



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