Airports in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Delhi gear up for capacity expansion

Bangalore International Airport
Faster growth in the aviation sector has put yet another major international airport in the country on the expansion mode with the GMR Group-led Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) initiating plans to expand its capacity starting this year.

Having started operations in March 2008, the green-field Rajiv Gandhi International Airport surpassed the 14 million passenger mark in 2016, while it was built to handle only 12 million passengers in Phase-1.

This comes close on the heels of the capacity expansion already underway at Bengaluru's green-field Kempegowda International Airport, which had started commercial operations 2 months after the inauguration of Hyderabad airport, in May 2008.  While the initial handling capacity of the airport is 20 million passengers, the actual passenger traffic at the GVK-operated Kempegouda airport surpassed 22 million in 2016.

Even as plans are afoot to raise Hyderabad airport's capacity to around 20 million passengers through the addition of modular terminals and support facilities, the airport operator, however, has not shared specific details regarding the expansion and investment as the company is yet to get the government's approval for the same.

"In view of the growth in passenger traffic, we are almost doubling up the existing capacity of Hyderabad Airport. We are expecting to ground the physical work in the coming quarter, once we receive all the regulatory clearances and approvals," a GHIAL spokesperson said.

While the airport operators of both the Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports are trying to catch up with the consistently high growth being witnessed in passenger traffic in the past few years, the Chatrapathi Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, which has no further scope for expansion, handled 44 million passengers last year, more than 4 million passengers over and above its actual capacity.  

The country's second largest airport in passenger traffic, Mumbai airport, however, witnessed the lowest growth in passenger traffic among the six major international airports in the country last year. Expediting the green-field Navi Mumbai International Airport project – which was awarded to the existing airport's operator, the GVK-led consortium, earlier this year – is the only answer to the future air traffic growth in the country's financial hub, say industry observers.

An upgraded master plan for the expansion of Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport by GMR led-Delhi International Airport Limited was formally disclosed by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha on March 15, 2017, in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. However, with the existing capacity to handle 62 million passengers, the Delhi airport still has the headroom to partly meet the passenger growth in the current year. The Delhi airport has handled an additional 10 million passengers in 2016. Going by the growth trend, the master plan proposes to raise the capacity to 75 million in the immediate phase, with an ultimate aim to enhance the capacity to 109 million passengers over a period of time.

Among the six airports that handle 1 million plus passengers per month, only Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and the Chennai International Airport, which rank as the fourth and the fifth largest airports in terms of passenger traffic in the country, respectively, seem to be in a comfortable position as they still have some time to go before the demand matches with their existing capacity. Both these airports are owned and operated by the Airports Authority of India. The authorities have already announced the Phase-2 expansion for the Chennai airport in order take the existing capacity to 30 million from the present 23 million passenger level. 

Current capacity and proposed expansion plans at India's top 6 airports:

1) Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata: New terminal complex was completed in 2013 taking the total capacity to 25 million passengers per annum. Present expansion involves an 83 metre Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower costing around Rs 400 crore.

2) Chennai International Airport: Capacity enhanced to 23 million passengers from the previous 9 million in 2013 under the Phase-1 expansion plan at a cost of Rs 2,000 crore. Phase-2 proposes to raise the passenger capacity to around 30 million by 2020-21 at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore.

3) Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi: Present capacity is 62 million passengers. The upgraded master plan, approved by the government, envisages development works, including expansion of Terminal-1, Terminal-3, construction of Terminal-4 and a new runway, among other things, in three phases starting from 2017. The airport operator proposes to expand the passenger handling capacity all the way to 109.3 million in a phased manner.

4) Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai: The capacity has been enhanced to 40 million. As there was little scope for further expansion at the existing airport, the government proposed new green-field Navi Mumbai Airport, which too was awarded to GVK-group earlier this year.  

5) Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru: GVK-led consortium had built this green-field airport with an initial capacity of 20 million passengers in May 2008. The Phase-2 expansion, which was started in 2016, includes the construction of a second runway and a new terminal complex, among other facilities. This would further enhance the capacity to 35 million passengers by 2020-21.

6) Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad: GMR Group-led consortium had built this green-field airport with an initial capacity to handle 12 million passengers in March 2008. The airport had touched its full capacity in 2015. Phase-2 expansion plans are yet to receive government approval. Under Phase-2, the handling capacity is expected to be expanded to 18-20 million passengers level by 2020-21.

Passenger traffic across the top 6 Indian airports (domestic and international)

Airport 2015 2016 Percentage increase
New Delhi  4,59,81,773 5,56,31,385 21
Mumbai 4,06,37,377 4,46,80,555 9.95
Bengaluru 1,81,11,096 2,21,87,841 22.5
Chennai 1,47,82,201 1,77,33,375 19.96
Kolkata 1,20,75,947 1,46,13,578 21.01
Hyderabad 1,19,07,035 1,43,37,154 20.4
*Chennai and Kolkata airports are owned by the Airports Authority of India while the remaining four airports are run by the private airport operators

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