Can India’s airports cope with rapid passenger growth?

“Up to 2032, India has the airport infrastructure ahead of demand. The national capital region and Mumbai metropolitan have long-term infrastructure in place but for the rest of the country, we need to plan for airport infrastructure beyond 2032,” Kaul, who is CEO and director of the Australia-based CAPA Center for Aviation, told DW.

“The current capital expenditure for airport infrastructure is closer to $11 billion to support this growth, we have orders for 1,600 aircraft and more is expected by the end of 2025.”

However, Kaul pointed out that India also needs to significantly strengthen safety, security, skills, airspace architecture and institutional infrastructure to ensure that this growth is well managed.

The industry is still dogged by minor problems such as wintertime flight delays and cancellations when dense fog affects operations.

Regulatory enforcement also needs strengthening.

Unlocking potential for Indian aviation

“Fog-inflicted problems in Delhi basically revolve around a lack of coordination and sometimes there are operational constraints as well as runway issues. But make no mistake that the aviation industry is in major growth mode,” Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, told DW.

“These minor glitches happen across the world. Weather issues are not always under the control of airlines and airport authorities. When it happens in Europe, there is no backlash. However, potential growth in India is going to make it a very exciting market.”

Two years ago, the Airports Authority of India, which manages much of the civil aviation infrastructure, said air traffic services need to hire 40% more staff to boost its current strength of 3,163 personnel.

Already the third-biggest domestic aviation market by volume, India is projected to be the third-largest overall by 2026, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry body.

IATA also pointed out that the airline sector returned to profitability, with operating profit expected to touch $49.3 billion in 2024 — up from $40.7 billion last year.

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