Terminal utilization at Indian airports at 92.2%, most important airports operating over capacity

The Indian government released data related to per annum terminal traffic capacity against the demand at present in the country. The data was given out as an answer in Lok Sabha – the lower house of Indian parliament. This lists out data for 111 airports for year 2018-19 and lists out capacity of the terminal. This website has analyzed data for 95 airports which were operational during this period which saw some traffic.

At the country level, the terminal utilization was 92.21% with 344.55 million passengers flying through the 111 airports listed down which have an aggregate capacity of 373.65 million. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has made an assessment and has forecasted that 730 million passengers are likely to be handled at all the airports in the country by 2030. In the next nine years, additional greenfield airports like those in Jewar – NOIDA, Dholera – Ahmedabad, Navi Mumbai, Mopa – Goa will also be operational increasing the capacity of the country.

This website analyzed the data and made two buckets, one where the terminals are operating at overcapacity and another where airports have capacity at the terminal. There are 39 airports which are operating at capacity or overcapacity while the rest 56 have some spare capacity. Unfortunately, the ones which have spare capacity are mostly those who have seen addition under UDAN or those in North East which hasn’t attracted much traffic. While this budget saw the Hon. Finance minister talk about 100 new airports by 2024, there is little that is progressing to upgrade the existing airports.

Over utilized

There are certain airports like Nagpur and Kanpur which are handling three times more passengers than the terminal capacity. Bagdogra, Leh, Surat, Dehradun and Rajkot handle twice the number of passengers than terminal capacity.

Under utilized

39 of these 95 airports are operating at capacity or over capacity while the remaining 56 have terminal capacity to handle additional passengers. However, many of these 56 are those under UDAN or have minimal terminal capacity and handle only one flight a day or so. While numbers indicate capacity, there is little that can be added at the airports to have significant growth.

There are only six airports in the country who have terminal capacity of over 20 million with New Delhi leading the way with a capacity of 75 million passengers per year, which will soon increase to 100 million. Seven airports can handle between 5 and 20 million passengers, while a majority of the airports (51) have capacity which is less than 1 million passengers per year.

airports

Interestingly, the data indicates that Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai airports have capacity on the terminal side. However, these airports do not have any additional slots to allocate to airlines! While Bengaluru and Hyderabad are expanding their infrastructure, the terminals are running at over capacity! India is a classic case where planning on the airside and terminal side doesn’t work hand in hand and there are airports where there is ample capacity on the apron side, but the terminal cannot handle passengers if all bays are occupied at the same time. Likewise, there are large terminals without traffic or ability to handle multiple aircraft at the same time!

However, this data must be looked at holistically since there are airports like Chandigarh, Vishakhapatnam, Goa and more which have capacity or are operating at capacity but cannot due to restrictions related to operating hours, runway capacity or apron capacity. This data is for 2018-19 when Jet Airways was operational. A lot of airports from the list have grown exponentially since then, especially Belgaum and Hubli.

India aims to become third largest air passenger market by 2040, another 20 years from now. The country has 495 airports and airstrips, of which over 100 are operational. While new airports may become operational, it may not help increase the traffic until and unless bottlenecks at Metro and Tier I airports are resolved since there is limited traffic between Tier II to Tier II and almost NIL traffic between Tier III to Tier II/III routes.

India needs to look at this critical infrastructure immediately to have some hope of reaching the target of third largest air passenger market by 2040.

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