As most of the top airlines in the country are preparing to increase their fleet sizes in the next few years, the six airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata — which attract almost 70% of domestic traffic may not be able to accommodate too many new aircraft due to capacity constraints.
Airports in Mumbai and Chennai are operating at their full capacity and 15-20 minute delays in the departure and arrival of flights takes place regularly.
Airports in both Delhi and Bengaluru are also running at full capacity although the expansion work of the domestic terminal is likely to start in the near future.
According to industry executives, this lack of infrastructural growth takes a toll on the financial performance of the airlines as delay in departure of a flight disrupts the schedule of connecting flights in other airports. The on-time performances (OTP) of the top five airlines in the Mumbai and Delhi airports are the lowest in the current month and are not expected to improve given the high level of congestion at these airports.
“Due to huge delay in arrival and departure, fuel consumption increases and takes a toll on the utilisation of the aircraft. In the recent past, expenses have increased in the form of higher fuel prices, airport charges and employee expenses. Deployment of additional capacity is a concern unless there is some major expansion on the ground,” said a senior official of Air India.
In the first quarter of the current financial year, most airlines have reported decline in yields, or RASK, as a consequence of higher expenses and subdued growth in the topline. “We have been suffering immensely from the congestion at airports as the flight schedule gets distrupted because of the flights, especially to and from Mumbai. Since it is the second hub for most of the airlines, the capacity constraint there has an adverse impact. Maintaining the high utilisation levels and healthy OTP are becoming a challenge these days,” said a senior executive from one of the private airlines.
The OTP of all the leading airlines, barring SpiceJet, at the Mumbai airport is below 70%.
“Existing airports at Indian metros like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata running at peak capacity could prove to be bottlenecks for growth,” said Santosh Hiredesai of Edelweiss in a report on the sector.
Another aviation expert pointed towards a shortage of runway capacity in most of the top airports in the country and the cascading impact on the financials of the top airlines. Construction work for the new airport in Mumbai is yet to start and the airport is expected to start operations by 2019. The expansion of the Delhi airport has been approved by the Union government and its capacity is to be enhanced to 109 million passengers.
A second terminal in Bengaluru is also coming up to handle 35 million passengers in a year.
“Most of the capacity that the airlines will add are expected to be deployed in the non-metro routes, since slots in the metro airports are all full. Airlines will lose on yields but they have little choice unless the infrastructure improves in all the airports,” said an analyst with an institutional research firm, on condition of anonymity.