Indian airports across the country handled 275 million passengers in 2019-20, but the following years saw a significant dip in air travellers due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government data shows. Total domestic passengers in 2020-21 had declined by 61.7% to 105 million. The following year, 58.55% growth was seen as 167 passengers across domestic airports. In 2022-23 till October, 147 million domestic passengers have already travelled, 96.5% growth over the same period last year, Gen (Dr) VK Singh (Retd) said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha today.

"Due to the adverse effect of COVID-19 on the aviation industry worldwide, the passenger traffic in India decreased to 105 million during 2020-21. Air travel has increased by approximately 58.5% in the financial year 2021-22 over the financial year 2020-21," Singh said in a written reply.

To stimulate regional air connectivity and make air travel affordable for the masses, he said the Centre launched the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) - UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) in 2016. The scheme provides connectivity to unserved and underserved airports via the revival of the existing airstrips and airports. "As of 30.11.2022, after four rounds of bidding under UDAN, 453 routes have commenced, operationalising 70 airports including 2 water aerodromes and 9 heliports. More than 2.15 lakh UDAN flights have operated and over 1.1 crore passengers have availed the benefits of UDAN flights so far," he said.

On the impact on India's goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions due to the expansion of air travel under UDAN, the minister said the aviation regulator DGCA is compiling CO2 emissions data based on the data received from airlines. The trend of CO2 emissions from the Indian aviation sector up to 2021 shows a 27% increase in emissions due to Indian scheduled passenger airlines to or from domestic destinations as compared to a 10% rise in the pre-Covid period of 2018 and a 4% fall in 2019. The CO2 emission rose to 11% in 2021 due to Indian scheduled passenger airlines to or from international destinations as compared to a 55% fall in 2020, a 16% fall in 2019 and a 7% increase in 2018.

The minister also answered questions on whether the GST council has received any proposal to bring Aviation Turbine Fuel under the GST. He said the issue of ATF was taken up with states or UTs levying high VATs on ATF, following which many of them cut VAT in the range of 1-4%. Some states like Gujarat and Karnataka reduced VAT on ATF to 5% and 18%, respectively.

On airports leased out to private companies, Gen Singh (retd) said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has leased out eight of its airports -- Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai, Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, Lucknow, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad, Mangaluru International Airport, Jaipur International Airport, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram International Airport through Public Private Partnership (PPP) for operation, management and development on a long-term lease basis.

Besides, Delhi and Mumbai airports have been awarded on the basis of a revenue share model to operate, manage and develop the airports for a period of 30 years, which is further extendable by 30 years. For the other six airports viz. Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram, the basis was per passenger fee (PPF) payable to AAI, with the condition to operate, manage and develop these airports for 50 years.

So far, the AAI has received annual fees of over ₹30,000 crore as revenue share from the private partners of Delhi and Mumbai airports, he said. Further, the private partner of the other six airports has paid approximately ₹710 crore to AAI as PPF till 31st October 2022. AAI has also received around ₹2,349 crore from the private partner of six airports in the form of an upfront fee towards the capital expenditure incurred by AAI at these airports.

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