Is Sikkim Airport Really India’s 100th Operational Airport?
PM Narendra Modi claimed that with the inauguration of Sikkim’s Pakyong airport, India will hit a century.
PM Narendra Modi claimed that with the inauguration of Sikkim’s Pakyong airport, India will hit a century.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Is Sikkim Airport Really India’s 100th Operational Airport?

“Today, it is not only a historic day for Sikkim but also for the country. With the inauguration of the Pakyong airport in the state, the country got its 100th operational airport,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 September at the opening ceremony of Sikkim’s first airport.

How the number of airports in India adds up to a 100 as of today remains a bit of a mystery in the absence of any clarification on what kind of airport was being referred to or criteria was being followed.

Assuming PM Modi was referring to operational airports in India (domestic and international) the government data sourced from the Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) do not corroborate his claims of Pakyong airport being the 100th airport in the country.

The DGCA is the Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation under the Ministry of Civil Aviation while the Airports Authority of India or AAI under the same ministry is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India.

What Does Civil Aviation Data Say?

According to the Civil Aviation’s official annual report 2017-18 (Chapter 4,5,6 Part 1) published on 5 September 2018, there are 129 airports under AAI with 23 international airports, 78 domestic airports, 8 customs airports and 20 civil enclaves at defence airfields.

(Photo: Civil Aviation official annual report 2017-18 published on 5 September 2018)

Of 129 airports, 101 airports –including civil enclaves – are operational and 28 are non-operational, according to government replies (here and here) to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on 19 July 2018 and 8 August 2018.

Government reply to Lok Sabha on 19 July 2018.
Government reply to Lok Sabha on 8 August 2018.

What Does DGCA Data Say?

According to 2017-18 data released by DGCA, as on 31 March 2018, there were 110 operational airports in the country.

(Photo: Handbook on Civil Aviation Statistics 2017-18 on DGCA’s website)

The data, sourced from Airports Authority of India (AAI), till 31 March 2018, showed that there are 26 international airports, 8 customs airports and 74 domestic airports which are operational.

If we were to add only the international and domestic airports, there were already 100 operational airports till March 2018, which would make the Pakyong airport the 101st operational airport. However, there is a possibility that one airport might have become non-operational between March and September.

As per the data, there were a total of 28 non-operational airports in the country till 31 March, 2018.

Where is the Data on 65 Airports Till 2014?

During the inauguration on 24 September, PM Modi also said that the country had only 65 airports till 2014 and the BJP government built 35 airports in four years. He said:

“After Independence the country had only 65 airports till 2014. But in the last four years we have built 35 airports. Earlier the average was one airport every year, now the average is nine airports per year,” Modi said at a programme after the inauguration of Pakyong airport.

However, the 2013-14 annual report by the Civil Aviation, published on 29 May 2015 says that AAI owned and maintained 125 airports, of which 68 were operational.

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