Jewar airport starts picking up steam

Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) – a 100% subsidiary of Zurich Airport International AG is picking up steam. From approaching Indian banks for loans to finalizing designs, the airport is slowly starting to make a mark. Over the last couple of months, the positioning of the airport has also changed. From the erstwhile use of Noida International Airport or Jewar airport, the entity is now consciously calling it Delhi Noida International Airport (DNIA) at Jewar with Delhi being featured prominently! 

In October, the Government of Uttar Pradesh had signed the concession agreement with Zurich Airport International to commence the development of the airport for a period of 40 years. Zurich Airport International had out-bid GMR and other vendors to win the contract to build and operate the airport at Jewar in November 2019.

The first phase of the airport is expected to be operational in 2024 and would cater to 12 million passengers annually. Reports indicated that the airport would have 5 runways and would eventually cater to over 70 million passengers annually when the fourth phase is complete. The Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport at New Delhi currently caters to 70 million passengers annually and has a plan to scale up to 100 million in the next few years.

Infrastructure – Physical & Digital

While YIAPL has submitted a plan to regulatory authorities as per various news reports, it will be critical for the entity to ensure that they do not repeat the mistakes which other entities did in the past. The glaring case of Bengaluru International Airport not anticipating demand and opening up its first phase to a near full airport and substantially deviating from the master plan to offer quick fixes for the growing traffic does not bode well with the travelers. While in case of Bengaluru, passengers have no other option but that won’t be the case when it comes to DNIA – where GMR has been efficiently running the IGI airport at New Delhi and is investing further for a fourth runway and expanding capacity across terminals. 

Renderings of the airport terminal and surrounding area were released yesterday. A consortium consisting of Nordic, Grimshaw, Haptic and STUP were selected as architects to design the passenger terminal. A three-phase design competition was held between June and August with the other consortiums being Gensler & Arup along with SOM & Mott McDonalds. Merging Swiss efficiency with Indian hospitality to create a modern and seamless passenger experience is the theme of the airport.

The airport recently ran an online survey to understand potential customers and their needs and seems to have plans of investing in IT enabled airports right from the beginning. Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru airports have been investing in global technologies for the last few years but are yet to make a mark in terms of innovation. A mix of cheaper salaries, first time fliers finding it difficult to use automated systems and not having an airport designed for these systems have kept current day airports from investing heavily.

 Proximity

The new airport will be located 60 kms from NOIDA, 70 kms from Faridabad and Ghaziabad and 50 kms from Greater NOIDA. This is longer in distance when compared to IGI, Delhi airport but these are distances and in a traffic congested metropolitan areas like Delhi NCR – the distance may not mean anything if it takes hours to reach! On the contrary NOIDA and Greater NOIDA would have quick access to DNIA from the Yamuna Expressway. 

DNIA will also be closer to Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan along with Aligarh and Bulandshahr. However, airports seldom work on only the catchment areas and catchment areas help build additional traffic. The core traffic in this case would be NOIDA and Greater NOIDA – a growing urban area in the Delhi NCR region and probably the only one which has land available to expand.

NetworkThoughts

The first two greenfield airport experiments in India – Bengaluru and Hyderabad have seen deviations from the master plan. A deviation typically leads to a drop in customer satisfaction. For an aircraft parked far away, the passenger is unhappy with the time it takes to be bussed to the arrivals section at Bengaluru and while Hyderabad had no dearth of slots – the small terminal became a problem for both passengers and the airport (to expand business).

Established International carriers may not want to move from IGI, Delhi to DNIA but there always is scope for incumbent domestic carriers to expand from DNIA. A couple of airlines who offer more than one frequency to Delhi could experiment with shifting a frequency or two to DNIA. With the Air Traffic Management with state owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) – there always is a restriction on increase in traffic movements and security being under a dedicated force (CISF) – the bottleneck could still be around at DNIA. However, what the airport does have in control is everything apart from that – from check-in counters to design, food, retail and lounges and the airport could make best use of future technology to ensure passengers like the experience and that experience is more than just an airport! 

I won’t be surprised if the airport manages to attract an airline for exclusive use initially and throw in long term freebies!

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