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.


Saudis cut, Russians hiked output ahead of pact: IEA

Updated 22 min 35 sec ago
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Saudis cut, Russians hiked output ahead of pact: IEA

  • OPEC members along with allies including Russia agreed in early December to trim production by 1.2 mbd from Jan. 1

PARIS: Saudi Arabia demonstrated its resolve to lift oil prices by slashing output ahead of the entry into force of new pact limiting production while Russia boosted output to a record level, the International Energy Agency said Friday.
World oil markets have been on a rollercoaster ride in recent months, with OPEC and its partners including Russia, often called OPEC+, agreeing to cut back production again from January in order to reverse a slump in oil prices on abundant production and worries about slower global growth.
In its latest monthly report, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the Saudis took the lead by cutting output in December as prices tumbled by more than a third in just two months.
“Recently, leading producers have restated their commitment to cut output and data show that words were transformed into actions,” said the IEA.
“While Saudi Arabia is determined to protect its price aspirations by delivering substantial production cuts, there is less clarity with regard to its Russian partner,” it added.
But the cut was mostly due to the Saudis, with data indicating several OPEC members increased production last month.
The IEA said data show that Russia increased crude oil production in December “to a new record near 11.5 mbd (million barrels per day) and it is unclear when it will cut and by how much.”
OPEC members along with allies including Russia agreed in early December to trim production by 1.2 mbd from Jan. 1, in a bid to eliminate a production glut and shore up prices.
Just months earlier, they had relaxed production caps as prices shot higher on market worries about the impact of US sanctions on Iran, but Washington eventually granted waivers allowing several countries to continue to import Iranian oil.
Meanwhile, US production rose considerably more than expected last year, adding further to supplies, while concerns about demand emerged as the US-China trade spat deepened in the second half of last year.
The IEA said the US increased output by 2.1 mbd last year, the “highest ever” annual growth ever recorded.
The boom of shale oil production in the US this decade has redrawn the map of global energy politics as the nation no longer depends as heavily on imports and has even resumed exports.
The IEA said “the US, already the biggest liquids supplier, will reinforce its leadership as the world’s number one crude producer” in 2019.
“By the middle of the year, US crude output will probably be more than the capacity of either Saudi Arabia or Russia.”
The IEA left its estimate for global oil growth in 2019 unchanged at an increase of 1.4 mbd, saying “the impact of higher oil prices in 2018 is fading, which will help offset lower economic growth.”
It said there were signs that the rebalancing of the oil market will be gradual.