Sixty million more

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Sixty million more

Indian aviation is booming but it risks stalling if further infrastructure isn’t built now

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport recently cracked into the top-20 airports in the world in terms of passengers when its audited numbers for 2017 showed that a massive 63.5 million people had used the airport in the said year. It is the world’s fastest growing large airport and has also recently announced plans to grow even larger with a new terminal, a new runway as well as an underground inter-terminal train. And it is not just Delhi that is growing rapidly, air traffic has exploded across the country, doubling in less than a decade. There is no doubt that the massive investment in airport infrastructure, made by the previous Government, played a huge role in this, including the public-private partnerships in Delhi and Mumbai as well as the privatisation of Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports.

However, all that massive growth now rests on shaky ground, many of India’s largest airports are at bursting point. In Bengaluru, while work on a second runway and terminal is progressing slowly, security queues remind old-timers of the city’s old airport. Work on a new airport around Pune has been stalled due to protests by professional agitators, putting at risk the growth of Maharashtra’s second city. In Delhi and Mumbai, proposals for second

airports to continue growth were delayed for far too long and additional capacity is still a few years away. Much more work remains to be done towards airports and associated infrastructure. At the same time, as India keeps buying hundreds of new planes, the country can insist that aircraft manufacturers move more manufacturing work to India, including the possibility of assembling aircraft in the country. Much like cars, tax incentives can be given for aircraft assembly in India.

And that work should be done soon because airports are like massive cities and provide thousands of jobs, not just during construction, but in airlines, operations, catering and commercial activity. In fact, Delhi airport has India’s most valuable retail space in terms of sales. The aviation sector must grow in India as it brings the country closer together and while in earlier times, it was the privilege of the rich, India has a whole new class of first-time travellers. In fact, one is certain that many of them would be airport employees. In a country where several sectors are stressed for jobs growth, the aviation sector is one that provides for millions and should not become choked due to slow decision-making. It is imperative that new terminals and runways are built and better air traffic control infrastructure is put down to ensure that this growth story does not suffer.

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