Making sense of new airports

Written by Rhik Kundu | Updated: Nov 27 2013, 08:21am hrs
Mumbais international air traffic is set to more than double in the next decade, mounting enormous pressure on the state government to fast-track the much-delayed second airport project.

While 30.21 million passengers travelling on international routes graced the Mumbai International Airport during 2012-13, the airport has seen 18.28 million international passengers in the first half of this year (April-September), according to data from Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), the developers of the airport.

The figure, civil aviation ministry data shows, is set to rise to 40 million by 2015 and 80 million by 2026, making it one of the busiest airports of South Asia.

Mumbai needs a second airport. It is a critical national issue, Kapil Kaul, CEO, CAPA (South Asia).

However, the construction of a second international airport, whose first phase was to be operational by 2014, has been delayed due to land acquisition problems.

Put on paper 27 years ago, the first phase of the R14,574-crore Navi-Mumbai airport project is now expected to be completed by the end of 2017, provided the government is able to acquire the remaining land without any major glitch, say senior officials.

The Mumbai airport, which currently has two intersecting runways, with both being upgraded to Code F to accommodate larger aircraft like the Airbus A380, has also seen much traffic congestion. MIAL has currently set a target of 48 aircraft movements an hour in an effort to reduce congestion at the airport.

We need a second airport as we need additional runways to ease congestion, said Peeyush Naidu, senior director, Deloitte. Multiple airport system, like those that exist in the European and American capitals, would solve the problem of congestion at Mumbai, he said.

Air traffic in India is set to hit 450 million by 2020, comprising 360 million domestic and 90 million international passengers, says a CAPA report. Mumbai and Delhi airports will take up more than 50% of this load.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, which is spread over 5,220 acres, was previously operated by the Indian Air Force until its management was transferred to the Airport Authority of India. In May 2006, the management of the airport was passed on to Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), a joint venture led by the GMR Group, to modernise and expand it.

The New Delhi airport handled 35,881,965 passengers in 2011-12, as compared to 30,747,871 by Mumbai. During 2012-13, the Delhi international airport handled 34,368,411 passengers as compared to Mumbais 30,207,514. The aircraft movement in Delhi, during 2012-13 stood at 280,713 compared to Mumbais 244,499. However, the traffic for 2013-14 is set to be more than in the previous years, say industry experts.

An expansion programme currently underway will also enhance the capacity of the New Delhi airport to handle 100 million passengers by 2030.

With the commencement of operations at the new Terminal 3, Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport has become Indias and South Asias largest aviation hub, with a current capacity handle more than 62 million passengers per year.

CAPA has projected that International traffic growth in India is expected to be more buoyant than domestic growth and could grow by 10-12% as Indian carriers expand and as more bilateral entitlements are granted to foreign carriers. At a recent report, CAPA added that the international traffic in the country could accelerate to 100 million by FY21, as the government could abolish the criteria of five years in operation and fleet of 20 aircraft to allow domestic players to fly internationally.

The Mumbai international airport is the second busiest airport in India in terms of overall passenger traffic and has five operating terminals spread over an operational area of 1,500 acres.

It was handed over to MIAL, a consortium of GVK Industries Ltd, Airports Company South Africa and Bidvest, to carry out the modernisation of Mumbai airport in February 2006. The final completion of the project, set to happen by the end of 2014, will allow the airport to handle 40 million passengers and one million tonnes of cargo annually.

CAPA expects the opening of Mumbai International Airports Terminal 2 next month to further increase international traffic.