Runway expansion of Mumbai Airport's Terminal 2 won't be an easy task

Written by Rhik Kundu | Updated: Jan 23 2014, 00:35am hrs
Mumbai airport terminalMumbai Airport's T2 terminal, to be operational from February 12, can handle 40 million passengers a year.
Despite the recent inauguration of the swanky Terminal 2 at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which is set to ease the air traffic pressure at Indias financial capital, the plans to expand the runway lies in a limbo as almost a sixth of the airports 1,982 acres of land is still occupied by slums.

The T2, to be operational from February 12, can handle 40 million passengers a year against about 30m passengers handled by the airport in FY 13. However, it is constrained on the airside due to cross-runways and inadequate apron area and taxiways.

The T2, available only for international flights initially, would integrate full-service domestic flights by mid-2015. But, the shifting of domestic traffic to the terminal depends on the clearance of slums. With the slum removal project stuck in legal tussles, the dream of an integrated terminal and a longer runway could well be delayed.

It is expected that CSIA may be able to stretch its capacity to handle around 45 mppa (million passengers per annum) against the current traffic of 30 mppa. Assuming that the annual traffic grows by an average of 3 mppa, it can handle additional requirements for the next four-five years. But, then thats all the time we have, said Amber Dubey, India-based partner and head-aerospace and defence at KPMG. Since the bulk of the traffic is concentrated around peak hours, we may see increasing cases of airspace and land congestion. This may lead to flight delays and wastage of fuel by aircraft hovering in the air, waiting for landing clearance.

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

Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) officials are, however, confident that the integration of domestic operations at the T2 is on schedule for mid-2015, though it means freeing about 600 acres.

The 600 acres (currently occupied) are not just slums, but include other facilities and buildings of the Airport Authority of India and Air India. Also this land includes city side area and not just airside. As per our plan, we will have no problems in integrating it with domestic operations next year, said a MIAL official.

Indias local airline passengers is set to reach 107.2m by 2016, making it the worlds fourth-largest domestic market, the International Air Transport Association predicts. According to Boeing, Indian airline operators will need 1,450 new planes in the next 20 years. This is set to increase the congestion at Indian airports.

Improvements in air traffic control (ATC) procedures and creation of rapid exit taxiways (RET) have helped improve peak hour movements from around 35 to around 45-48 per hour, agrees Dubey, while an increase in the number of double-aisle aircraft and A-380s in the near future will enhance the airport's passenger capacity further. But, then the need of the hour remains a second airport.

Mumbai needs a second airport. It is a critical national issue, which is unfortunately not being addressed seriously, said Kapil Kaul, CEO, Center for Aviation (CAPA). We need a second airport as we need more runways to ease congestion, said Peeyush Naidu, senior director of Deloitte. Multiple airport system, like those that exist in the European and American capitals, would solve the problem of the congestion at Mumbai, he said.

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 December 2017, according to Cidco, the nodal agency in charge of the airport, if the remaining project affected people (PAPs) allow the government to take their land to develop a new airport. The government is considering reclaiming land from the sea to make the airportif PAPs refuse to part with their landwhich will delay the project by at least two more years.

I dont see the second airport in Mumbai before 2020 as there is no certainty in resolving all outstanding issues, added Kaul.

India needs continuous investments in airport development. We need a more long term approach to our airport planning, including airside planning. Land scarcity will be a major issue and a barrier to expansion, and perhaps, viability, Kaul pointed out.