At least 20 cities in India will need a second airport by 2030, the initial findings of a study by the civil aviation ministry has revealed, two officers directly involved in the exercise said on condition of anonymity.
Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Pune, Ahmadabad, Rajkot, Patna, Kolkata and Bangalore are among cities that will need a second airport by 2030. By 2035, more cities will join this list. The study is still work-in-progress and will also calculate by when each airport will reach its capacity.
Once it is completed, the ministry will write to respective state governments, sharing the information and asking them to identify land for a new airport at least five years before the airport reaches its capacity.
India’s airports currently handle 183.90 million passengers a year, according to the 2017-18 data released by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The number has grown in recent years. It was 158.43 million in 2016-17 and 134.98 million in 2015-16.
This year, it is expected to cross 200 million. Some of the bigger airports are already operating in excess of their capacity. For instance, the Delhi airport handled 63.5 million passengers in 2017, and is expected to reach 70 million this year and will start operating beyond its capacity. It is also among the busiest airports worldwide, according to Airports Council International (ACI).
For the first time, the Delhi airport breached the 60 million-mark in 2017, making it to the list of the world’s top 20 busiest airports. The Indira Gandhi International Airport also became the seventh busiest in Asia, ahead of Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok.
«The study should be completed by the end of this year, and the aim is to map the saturation point,» said one of the two officials mentioned in the first instance, a senior official at Airports Authority India (AAI), which is conducting the study.
«Some airports are already operating beyond the capacity but still have scope for expansion. But most of us agree that expansion is not matched with the growth in aviation sector, which is why we are observing congestion at airports. We do not want this when we are aspiring for one billion trips in next 15 years, up from around 200 million (trips a year) now,» the AAI official said.
The issue isn’t just passengers but also runways, flights, and parking slots for aircraft. The number of aircraft with scheduled airlines in India is 620 as on July 31, 2018, up from 448 in March 2016. India’s 17 scheduled airlines operated 9.22 lakh flights in 2017-18, up from 8.1 lakh from previous year. International aircraft movement was 3.79 lakh in 2017-18 against 3.45 lakh in 2016-17.
«When we are looking at saturation point, we are not only looking at terminal capacity. At some places we might not have space for another runway, while terminals can be expanded. But if the airport can’t handle more flights, there is no point in expanding the terminal. The study will reflect that and will also
point out the projected traffic so that expansion can be planned accordingly,» said the second person cited in the first instance, who also works for AAI.
In May, Hindustan Times had reported that at least 25 of the 50 busiest airports in India are already operating beyond their capacity, while almost all the others will reach optimal capacity in 2018-19.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on May 2 approved investments in expansion and upgradation of integrated terminals in Chennai, Guwahati and Lucknow by AAI at a cost of Rs 2,467 crore, Rs 1,232 crore and Rs 1,383 crore, respectively.
Increasing capacity requires both development of greenfield airports and expansion of existing airports; the plan is to use AAI and also involve private firms.
AAI, which runs all the non-private civilian airports in the country, is in the process of implementing plans to create additional capacity in airports in Agartala, Patna, Srinagar, Pune, Trichy, Vijayawada, Port Blair, Jaipur, Mangalore, Dehradun, Jabalpur, Kolhapur, Goa, Rupsi, Leh, Calicut, Imphal, Varanasi and Bhubaneswar with a capital expenditure of Rs 20,178 crore over the next four to five years.
The private firms that run the Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad airports are also working on expansion plans that will require an investment of Rs 25,000 crore over the next five years.
«Airports are not just a shiny terminal building; airside is equally important… capacity of runway and taxiway also need to be expanded. More holistic action plans need to be developed for the modernisation of airports. AAI along, with private developers, should form a joint action group to come up with a modernisation plan,» said Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Dubai-based Martin Consulting