The Airports Council International (ACI), a trade body that represents airports across the globe, has ranked Kolkata airport among the fastest growing in the world. In its report released on Tuesday, ACI’s World Airport Traffic Forecast predicts that India will represent the third largest aviation market in terms of passenger throughput after the US and China by 2020. Kolkata is all set to contribute significantly to the pie.
In reference to the projected surge in air traffic in Indian cities, ACI has referred to it as ‘awakening of the Bengal tiger’. If the regional connectivity scheme — Udan — takes off in a major way, it will further fuel the growth. In the past 12 months, Kolkata airport has consistently recorded the highest growth in passenger traffic, outperforming other fancied airports. While the traffic in Delhi and Mumbai grew around 14% in 2017-2018 over the corresponding period last year, Kolkata grew at nearly twice the pace and ended the financial year with passenger growth of 27% over the previous fiscal. Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai, in contrast, ended the year with growth rates of 19.6%, 12.9% and 10.5%, respectively.
Delhi remains the country’s busiest airport for passenger traffic and has jumped up the ladder in global rankings from the 22nd to 16th busiest airport in the world. Though Kolkata is still a fair distance behind Delhi, which handles over 4 crore passengers a year, the city is nibbling into the gap at a frantic pace. This year, Kolkata airport is projected to have ended with passenger numbers close to 2 crore. Though March 2018 figures are yet to be computed, the growth in the 11 months this fiscal over the previous financial year is pretty impressive.
Till February 2018, international passenger traffic had grown by 17% while domestic passengers increased by 27%. The number of flights, too, recorded 21% growth in international and 24% in domestic sector. “We were expecting to comfortably operate for a few more years. But the pace of growth will necessitate advancement of the expansion plans as well as interim measures to better utilize the existing assets. For that, US-based consultant Landrum & Brown is preparing a report that is expected in May. Among other things, the firm that specializes in aviation planning and development may suggest reuse of a section of the old domestic terminal post refurbishment,” airport director Atul Dikshit said. While there is space for additional passenger facilities and increasing the terminal space, runway constraints are amajor hurdle in sustaining the current growth.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is trying to maximize runway capacity in conjunction with authorities of Copenhagen international Airport in Denmark. The latter has constraints similar to Kolkata but has 83 operations against 35 in Kolkata. Aware of the challenges, AAI chairman Guruprasaad Mohapatra is keen that the state government identify a fresh plot of land where a second airport can be constructed.
The proposal is still in the talks stage. An offer to convert the private greenfield airport at Andal near Durgapur into the second city airport has been rejected by AAI as the distance between Kolkata and Durgapur is too much for it to serve the purpose. Kolkata airport currently handles over 350 flights a day with 60,000 passengers transiting through the airport.
Source: Times of India