Indian airports stretched as passengers reach new heights

An IndiGo plane pictured on the runway in Ahmedabad. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Indian airports stretched as passengers reach new heights

MUMBAI: India’s airports are struggling to cope with a massive surge in passenger numbers and billions of dollars must be spent to boost their capacity, analysts have warned.
The country is witnessing a huge boom in air travel as its growing middle class increasingly takes to the skies but experts say infrastructure is failing to keep up.
“There’s an urgent need for capacity building in major Indian airports as they are bursting at the seams and close to saturation,” Binit Somaia, South Asia Director at the Center for Aviation (CAPA), told AFP.
India has witnessed a six-fold increase in passenger numbers over the past decade as citizens take advantage of better connectivity and cheaper fares thanks to a host of low-cost airlines. Indian airports handled 265 million domestic passengers in 2016 and will cross 300 million this year, according to CAPA. The country’s entire airport network is only capable of handling 317 million passengers, it said. According to data compiled by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), an Indian regulatory body, there were just 44 million Indians traveling by plane in 2008.
Now CAPA predicts India will overtake Britain as the world’s third-largest market by 2025 and will have 478 million fliers by 2036.
Aviation experts say the government faces a race against time to build the infrastructure to handle the soaring congestion.
“Some top airports have reached saturation. In the next five to seven years, the top 30 to 40 airports in India will be performing beyond their capacity,” said Somaia of the Sydney-based CAPA. Flights have increased by around 20 percent every year over the last three years, stretching many airports to breaking point.
Travelers can snap up tickets sometimes for as little as 1,000 rupees ($15) — cheaper than many fares on the country’s rickety train network.
Ten Indian airports — including Dehradun, Jaipur, Guwahati, Mangalore, Srinagar and Pune — are already operating beyond their capacity, CAPA said in a report released last month. Others are nearing their limit. The aviation body predicts that New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chennai’s International Airport will reach their handling capacity within four to six years.
The situation is even more pressing at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). CAPA says it is at 94 percent capacity and is “close to saturation.”
Earlier this year, the airport said it had broken its own world record for handling the most number of arrivals and departures on a single runway in one day. Some 980 flights landed and took off within a 24-hour period.
Domestic travelers flying into India’s financial capital regularly complain of flights having to circle for up to half an hour before the plane is given a slot to land.
The airport is surrounded by slum settlements, making it impossible to increase the number of runways and highlighting the problem of acquiring space for infrastructure projects in India’s heavily congested cities.
The government is building a new airport at Navi Mumbai, 30 kilometers away, to ease the burden. It has been repeatedly delayed due to land disputes and is currently scheduled to open in 2023.
“The situation at CSIA will worsen until the new airport is operational,” Amber Dubey, India head of aerospace and defense at global consultancy KPMG, told AFP, describing the delays as “unacceptable.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made making air travel accessible to all a key priority since his election in 2014. He recently launched a scheme to connect remote regions of the country by air.
In the budget last month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated $613 million to the Airports Authority of India to expand facilities.
CAPA estimates that India needs to invest $45 billion by 2030 to keep up with demand.
“The government needs to ensure we have infrastructure to manage (the) growth rate,” Manish Agarwal, an infrastructure expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told AFP.


Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

Updated 5 min 56 sec ago
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Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

DUBAI: The emirate’s international financial center, has agreed in principle with the Shanghai Stock Exchange to cooperate in establishing an exchange focusing on China’s foreign trade and investment, ADGM said on Monday.
The partners signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the exchange in Abu Dhabi. It would cater to companies and investors involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a Beijing-backed drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe.
“At ADGM, we have the international platform to serve different kinds of enterprises and investors — global, regional and local — seeking exposure to the Middle East and North Africa and Belt and Road projects,” said Richard Teng, chief executive of ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Teng said he could not give specifics of which instruments the new exchange would trade or when it might open, saying this would depend on demand among stakeholders in both ADGM and Shanghai.
Chinese financial institutions have approached ADGM to discuss the financial environment in Abu Dhabi and their development needs in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he added.
Trade and investment ties between China and the GCC have been growing rapidly. The region is a big oil supplier to China, and Sino-United Arab Emirates trade exceeded $46 billion in 2016, according to Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency.
Ultimately, the new exchange will support not only the Belt and Road initiative but also the internationalization of the Chinese yuan in the region, Teng said.
Abu Dhabi is trying to build up ADGM, which opened in October 2015 and is smaller than the international financial center in neighboring Dubai, as part of a drive to develop its economy beyond oil exports.