Airports Authority banks on non-metros for overnight parking of planes

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) wants airlines to park more planes in non-metros as major airports under its control have limited room for expansion.


The fleet size of scheduled airlines is expected to double to over 1,200 in five years and India is expected to be the third largest aviation market globally in a decade.


While Bengaluru and Delhi (third busiest and busiest airports in country) will have new terminals and around 60 extra parking bays for airlines by mid to end-2021, major AAI-run airports, including Chennai, Goa and Pune (among the 10 busiest) are not seeing any expansion because of non-availability of land.


At a recent meeting, the AAI asked airlines to consider tier-II and III cities for overnight parking of planes in view of capacity constraints at busier airports.


At present, Kolkata does not have any vacant bay for night parking while Chennai has a few left but they are far from the terminal building and hence inconvenient for operations. Among the private ones, while Bengaluru and Hyderabad are adding parking facilities in 2020, Delhi and Mumbai have run out of space for night parking of planes.


Around 360 bays will be added in 20 airports between now and 2022, an AAI official said. The authority is upgrading infrastructure at airports, including at Aurangabad, Bhubaneshwar, Indore, Guwahati, Mangaluru and Madurai, among others.


It has told airlines to set up bases in Chandigarh, which is now equipped to handle flights in foggy conditions.


The AAI’s western region also requested the Madhya Pradesh government to reduce value-added tax (VAT) on aviation turbine in Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur to encourage overnight parking of planes.


A similar initiative was undertaken by the Tamil Nadu government last year by reducing tax on ATF at Coimbatore airport, resulting in overnight parking of planes by IndiGo and Jet Airways.


On their part, airlines have raised concerns about limited passenger demand in tier-II and III cities and increase in costs due to creation of additional bases.


“An airline would need to park at least four planes in a tier-II or III airports, considering extra costs related to security, engineering, transport and accommodation of pilots and crew,” said a senior executive of private airline.


Airlines have also pointed out that many of tier-II and III airports have restricted operating hours and these must be open for operations round-the-clock. 


“Over the past few years, airlines have opened night parking at Indore, Nagpur, Coimbatore, Patna and other airports. Airlines would have to park more planes in non-metros in the coming months but that would depend on fleet induction. In 2020, net fleet addition will depend on how soon the Boeing 737 Max returns to skies and when A320Neo engine issues are sorted," said Ameya Joshi, founder of aviation blog Network Thoughts.


A Vistara spokesperson said the airline will have 42 planes by March 2020. It has 56 planes on order, including A320s and Boeing 787s and these will be inducted within the next four years. “As many of the new aircraft will be flying overnight on international sectors, we estimate that many will require parking bays only for about 50-60 per cent of the total fleet. We are working with our airport partners to secure the bays to meet the requirement,” the spokesperson said.


IndiGo said it is regularly engaged with airports and AAI on long-term requirements. It is confident that there is adequate infrastructure in the pipeline to enable its growth plans.


“The airline utilises night parking bays in both metros and non-metros, and the airline’s seasonal schedule development process incorporates bay availability as an important design input to ensure alignment at all times,” IndiGo said.


Aviation consultancy CAPA, had in February, projected the combined fleet size of airlines in 2024 at 1,199. These would include 1,068 narrow-body planes and 133 wide-body planes.

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