After much delay, Air India would soon have its low-cost arm, Air India Express, serving the domestic routes in line with its competitors JetKonnect, JetLite and Kingfisher Red.
"Air India Express would soon start operations on domestic routes as the low cost arm of Air India," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his ministry.
He also informed the committee members about the turnaround in Air India, which has now started showing "a great deal of improvement, especially in the last quarter and promise of further improvement near future".
Soon after taking over in May 2009, CMD Arvind Jadhav had said that Air India Express would soon start flying domestic routes. The national carrier's fully-owned subsidiary already flies on Gulf and Southeast Asia routes.
Air India is the only airline that does not have a domestic low-cost arm though its competitors, Jet Airways and Kingfisher, have been running no-frill carriers for over two years now.
Addressing the committee, Patel said Delhi would have another plush terminal at the IGI Airport like Terminal-3 by 2016 to handle the rapidly growing air traffic. The new Terminal-3 became operational today.
While the passenger traffic in Delhi currently was 26 million a year, the integrated Terminal-3 (T3) has a capacity to handle 35 million per annum. However, this excess capacity is likely to be exhausted in a few years time and capacity augmentation would be required soon enough, Patel said.
Keeping this in mind, the Master Plan of the airport has been drawn up envisaging extension of the present terminal to accommodate additional traffic. "Along these lines, the next terminal T4 would come up around 2016," he said.
The Committee members, who were taken on a tour of the T3 last evening, appreciated the world class infrastructure, created in a record time of 37 months establishing a new global benchmark, an official spokesperson said.
While the MPs of various parties congratulated the Delhi International Airport Limited and the Airports Authority of India, the minister pointed out that the challenge now would be to keep it functional and well-maintained.
Patel said India was progressing towards becoming one of the top five civil aviation sectors in the world and the aviation infrastructure was being geared up along those lines.
He expressed regret and grief over the Mangalore accident and said such an incident should have never happened.
"There are lessons to be learnt by every stakeholder in the civil aviation sector, including the ministry, the DGCA, the airlines and the AAI," he said, adding that all stakeholders should endeavour to make course corrections to avoid recurrence of such accidents.
However on the positive side, Patel said India has once again been ranked Category-I or the topmost category by safety audit conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration, implying that Indian safety standards were amongst the best in the world.