India’s airport infrastructure is close to crisis mode. Read More » Domestic passenger numbers will exceed 300 million this year yet the country’s airport network will only be able to handle 317 million passengers annually.
With passenger numbers rising every 12 months by above 20%, including this February’s figures of 24.14% over the same month a year ago, airport saturation is a given. Indian passenger numbers are forecast to grow five-and-half times in the next two decades, which raises numerous red flags, particularly for air safety.
India is by no means the only country in the Asia-Pacific that has failed to invest in sufficient aviation infrastructure to meet rising airline demand, but its situation is worse than in many nations in the region because its aviation growth is so explosive.
It is forecast that by 2023 to 2025, India’s 30 to 40 busiest airports will be operating beyond their capacity. Ten of them, including Dehradun, Jaipur, Guwahati, Mangalore, Srinagar and Pune, are there already.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which is functioning at 94% capacity, cannot expand because it is ringed by slums. Construction of a second airport, 30 kilometres away at Navi Mumbai, has been delayed by a series of land disputes and is not scheduled to open until 2023 – at the earliest.
India’s government, under prime minister Narendra Modi, has made aviation expansion a priority. Airlines have responded to demand with orders for jets valued at US$250 billion.
But views vary about India keeping up with demand for new infrastructure, especially as some analysts predict India will have a billion air passengers a year by 2030. Earlier this year the government committed to $10 billion in airport infrastructure. Doom sayers believed $45 billion might be the right number.
In such a conflicted debate, it might be worth taking note of an airline veteran who is the new CEO at Indian full service carrier, Jet Airways. Vinay Dube told Orient Aviation in this month’s cover story that “I can honestly say we have a wonderful minister, a great secretary and an excellent directorate general of civil aviation”.
“Is it the world’s best in terms of maturity, rules and regulations? Of course not. There is a lot more we can do. But they are great people to work with. Absolutely.”