Airlines in India have been busy adding capacity as the aviation market grew the fastest globally, at 20.3%, in 2015. IndiGo and Go Air have between them placed orders for 322 Airbus A320neo aircraft over the past few months. The problem, however, is airport capacity. According to a CAPA study, India’s Airport Capacity Crisis, 18 of the 30 larger non-metro airports have already exceeded capacity or will be saturated over the next two years. Capacity utilisation at the Jammu airport is 278%, 167% in Bagdogra, 127% in Kozhikode, 115% in Guwahati and 95% in Lucknow.
Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Coimbatore and Srinagar too will join the list in 2018. Mumbai will get some respite in 2020, if the Navi Mumbai airport (25 million) is commissioned. A new airport is planned at Mopa (Goa) while a smaller one is coming up at Kannur (Kerala).
However, Chennai and Kolkata have no immediate capacity addition plans. Bengaluru ,with 19 million passengers, saw traffic rise 23.2% during 2015-16 while Delhi, with 48.4 million, saw a 18.1% rise. Mumbai’s rose by 13.7%, while Hyderabad’s rose by 18.1% rise and Kochi’s by 21%.
Since it takes five years to commission an airport, this problem is not going away soon. While India needs to invest $40 billion in airport capacity over the next 10 years, the commitment is limited to $4.9 billion. Meanwhile, China is investing $130 billion over the next 15 years.
Investment is also needed in air traffic management and building skills. For a country slated to be the third-largest aviation market in 2020 after the US and China, India is way behind in airport infrastructure. Before the shiny new jets land, the government needs to get capacity augmented.