• The region saw the highest growth rate in aircraft movement in August 2022 compared with the same month in 2017

NEW DELHI : The North-east has emerged as a new hub of demand for air travel over the last five years. with a Mint analysis of aircraft movement showing growth in the region far outstripping other parts of India.
The region saw the highest growth rate in aircraft movement in August 2022 compared with the same month in 2017. Aircraft movement is counted as either a landing or a takeoff.
Aircraft movement in the North-east from August 2017 to August 2022 rose by 36% to 7,973 flights—higher than the growth rates in the West, East, South and North zones. By comparison, growth was 5% in the airports of the North and South regions, 14% in the East and 0.5% in the West.
To be sure, the high growth in North-east air travel, much of it fuelled by migrant labour, is from a low base. The year 2017 is taken as the base year for this analysis as it when the government launched its Udaan regional connectivity scheme to put smaller towns and cities on the domestic aviation map. The government provides financial support to airlines that operate UDAN routes.
“If one looks at the total number of flight movements in other zones, clearly all the zones are much ahead as compared to the North-east. However, what is clear is that airlines have realised the potential there is in this region. There is demand from passengers, cargo and with limited supply on these routes, fares are generally high and airlines are also able to generate better yields from these routes,” an analyst said. Disaggregated by state, the demand is fuelled by Assam, which has six operational airports—the highest in the region—followed by Tripura, Manipar and Mizoram. Arunachal Pradesh, a large border state with poor airport infrastructure, could further fuel growth when the Hollongi airport, which will serve the capital Itanagar, becomes operational soon.
 
For Indigo, India’s largest airline by market share, the North-east is of strategic importance. “IndiGo remains one of the few carriers who have achieved successful expansion in the North-east over and above merely adding service because of route dispersal guidelines mandates. We continue to evaluate North-east international services, but are unable to commit to a timeframe right now,” Abhijeet DasGupta, head of network planning at IndiGo said.
In terms of flight movements, Guwahati is the busiest airport in the region with 3,498 aircraft movements, followed by Agartala at 1,052. Connectivity to Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland), Dibrugarh and Lilabari (both Assam) has seen higher rate of growth than other airports in the region.
“You know there are these organic gingers which are available in Manipur and they are a craze in Europe. These perishable items fly to Kolkata and directly from there to Europe. There is a massive potential when it comes to cargo as well,” an airport executive said. The freight handled by Imphal airport registered a 61% increase in five years to 650 tonnes in Aug 2022.
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