Air transport is the fastest and highly convenient mode of transport, although it is more costly than other modes. One can cover a journey between Delhi and Bangalore in about two and a half hours by an aeroplane while this distance is covered in about 42 hours by a railway express train.
Air transport becomes very important in the regions where surface means of transport are difficult to develop. These regions may have dense forests, marshy land, hilly terrain and high mountains.
India is favourably situated on a busy international air route, connecting North America, Europe and South-west Asia on the one hand and East and South-east Asia together with Australia on the other.
In the public sector, there are Air India Indian Airlines, Air India Charters Limited (Air India Express) and Alliance Air. In the private sector, there are 7 scheduled airlines (passenger), namely, Jet Airways, Sahara Airlines, Deccan Aviation, Spice Jet, Go Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Paramount Airways and Indigo. There is also one cargo private scheduled airline, i.e., Blue Dart Aviation.
Air India is the international air carrier. It handles the foreign traffic which includes both cargo and passenger services. It provides Regular and more frequent flights to the USA, Canada and and European countries.
In 2004-05, Air India carried about 4.4 million passengers. There are eleven international airports which are located at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Channai, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Amritsar, Jaipur and Lucknow handle the entire foreign air traffic.
Indian Air Lines handles the domestic air transport. There are regular flights among the state capitals and major cities of the country. The places of tourist interest are also served by this airline. Besides it, Indian Airlines operate 55 domestic and 18 international stations. It provides services to neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Male and Middle East.
Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd., a public sector company, is engaged in providing helicopter services to ONGC for its off shore operations. It is also used by various State Government.
Promotion of air transport in the North-eastern region is a necessity owing to several adverse physical factors like mountain terrain, thick forest cover, big rivers with frequent flood. Socially and economically too, the region needs to be drawn closer to the rest of India.