New Delhi airport joins the 50 million passengers club

The Indira Gandhi International Airport, still popularly called IGI by many, crossed 50 million passengers in calendar year 2016. The airport handled 55.64 million passengers and was 12th worldwide by passengers in November. It is an achievement which makes the country proud.

The growth at Delhi is primarily fueled by National Carrier Air India which has its hub at the National Capital and market leader Low Cost Carrier IndiGo which has been growing rapidly over the last few years.

Delhi overtook Mumbai in passengers handled in 2009-10 and there has been no looking back since then. This was largely fueled by the third runway and new Terminal 3 (T3) – which was inaugurated in July 2010 leading to higher capacity. Jet Airways and Air India started integrated operations from T3, along with now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. T3 now sees all the international carriers along with international flights of domestic Low Cost Carriers (LCCs). All operations of Jet Airways, Air India, Vistara and AirAsia India operate from the sprawling terminal built to handle 34 million passengers annually. With all its terminals the airport has an annual capacity of 62 million and set to increase with modernization of Terminal 1.

The growth however was primarily driven from T1 – the terminal which houses the three LCCs, IndiGo, Spicejet and Go Air.

The airport sees an average of 1185 air traffic movements each day, of which over 70% are domestic movements. The airport will see the commissioning of a new Air Traffic Control Tower soon which is likely to increase the handling capacity of airport. Of the seven major airlines which operate out of Delhi, IndiGo operates approximately 37% of all domestic departures while Jet Airways group operates 21% and Air India 16%.


The airport has been adjudged as the World’s No. 1 airport in 25-40 million passengers per annum category in 2014-2015. The airport would compete in the 40 million plus category for 2016 with increase in traffic. There are less than 25 airports in the world which handle over 50 million passengers annually. These rankings are often criticized by passengers who travel by LCCs and use Terminal 1. This terminal has been constantly criticized for the lack of space and amenities as compared to T3.


The airport now has maximum international destinations connected in India, highest international passengers, highest domestic passengers, apart from other operational highlights like only airport with three operational runways, two simultaneous runway operations, Cat 3B complaint Instrumentation Landing System (ILS) and more.


New Delhi International Airport also saw the highest movements handled in one hour for any airport in India – crossing the previous best of 77 (own record) in November 2016 with 82 movements which comprised 40 landings and 42 take offs.

Way forward for Delhi

While the debate on having second airport for NCR goes on, DIAL looks firmly placed to attract more traffic and see some of the airlines in India launch flights to Central Asia, Middle East and some points in ASEAN.

With increase in bilateral allocation based on reciprocal utilization, flight connectivity to Saudi Arabia and Oman is likely to increase further. Domestic carriers will also start international expansion as more and more airports come close to peak operating capacity in near future.

The unending stream of A320neos on order by IndiGo and Go Air followed by measured expansion of Spicejet and Air India will see additional flights and points being added from Delhi.

On the international side – Air India, which has its hub at Delhi, will see further expansion with flights to Copenhagen and Washington along with frequency addition to Bangkok. The city will also be a natural choice for International flights for Vistara, when it will start services to foreign shores in 2018.

Tail note

DIAL has been constantly trying to improve itself and that has happened without inconveniencing passengers. It certainly helps that they run the airport in the National Capital Region and would thus get help from the government much quicker than airports like Bengaluru which has seen repeated closures and lack of metro connectivity.

Fourth runway could be operational as early as end of 2018 and by then the expansion of T1 would be complete as well which will lead to additional slots being allotted to IndiGo, Spicejet and Go Air. With this and the commissioning of the new Air Traffic Control Tower, the capacity could well cross 100 movements per hour and take Delhi in one of the elite airports in the world in terms of movements as well as capacity.


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