India’s government has granted international airport status to facilities in Lucknow, Varanasi in northern India and Mangalore, Tiruchirapalli and Coimbatore in the South.

“All these airports are capable of handling medium capacity-range, long-range type aircraft and are also equipped with facilities for night operations,” says Finance Minister P Chidambram.

There are 454 airports and airstrips in the country, of which the state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) owns and manages 97 airports and 28 civil enclaves at defense airfields.

So far, 16 facilities have been designated as international airports, while several more are defined as “Limited International,” which allow for a restricted number of long-haul flights.

Conversion of a domestic airport into an international facility primarily entails the creation of immigration services and the deployment of sufficient customs staff.

The government plans to have 500 operational airports by 2020 and aims to attract private investment in aviation infrastructure to meet this end.

All five of the newly upgraded airports already host at least one international airline. Air India Express operates to both Tiruchi and Mangalore, while Air Asia recently started services to Tiruchi. Similarly, FlyDubai operates regular flights between Lucknow and Dubai and Mihin Lanka and Thai Airways have seasonal operations to Varanasi.