The city has recorded the highest passenger growth among the top 12 airports in India and is set to overtake Chennai this year to become the country’s fourthlargest airport after Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
The passenger count at Kolkata airport increased from 1.58 crore in 2016-17 to 1.99crore in 2017-18, a whopping 26% growth. The number of passengers has nearly doubled in four years—it was just 1crore in 2014-15.
Sources said the city airport also saw the highest decadal growth. In absolute numbers, only Delhi airport added more passengers than Kolkata did.
Barring a major disruption, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is projected to add over 40 lakh flyers in the current fiscal, which will take the overall passenger count close to 2.5 crore.
It’s a combination of more flights into the city with very high passenger loads that helped Kolkata airport achieve such a spectacular growth. In the domestic sector, passenger growth outpaced flights though it was the reverse in the international sector.
While flights from Kolkata to other Indian towns and cities rose by 20%, the flyer count spiralled by 27%. On the other hand, the number of international flights went up by 19% while passenger growth was 16%. The city’s pie of domestic flyers is six-and-a-half times that of international flyers.
The overall aircraft movement in Kolkata went up by 20% during the year with the airport handling 1.5 lakh flights, nearly as many as Hyderabad and Chennai.
The traffic surge has led to fresh challenges for the airport operator, forcing urgent measures to cut congestion and expedite capacity enhancement plans.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has had to add more food and beverage kiosks as well as retail stores. It has also added 300 more seats at the waiting lounges to take the count to 3,300.
“While chairs were adequate, we enhanced capacity to pre-empt a shortage from the phenomenal growth. The additional seats will also come in handy in case of an exigency like multiple flight delays when the terminal gets crowded,” said airport director Atul Dikshit.
The airport has already added 1,500 new luggage trolleys and is set to take the trolley count to over 3,500. Another 1,000 new baggage carts will replace the old ones.
“We have set up 10 new self check-in kiosks to reduce congestion in the departure lounge. This October, we hope to further reduce congestion by commissioning the inline registered baggage Xray facility,” Dikshit said.
In the apron area, the AAI has plans to increase aircraft parking bays to accommodate more planes next year. Better utilisation of existing space has increased the number of bays from 51to 55.
Next, a hanger near the terminal’s international wing will be demolished to carve out 10 more parking bays. The new hangar will be constructed to the east of the primary runway.
Also on the cards is a plan to extend the taxi track F by demolishing two other hangars to the north so that departing flights can taxi down to the Barasat end of the primary runway instead of entering it midway, taxiing to the end and then doing a Uturn for takeoff.
“This project is essential to reduce runway occupancy time and increase the airport’s flight handling capacity to keep the growth momentum going,” said regional executive director (east) K L Sharma.
In cargo though, the growth is a modest 7%, way below the top-four. In 2017-18, Kolkata airport clocked 1.6 lakh tonne cargo against 3.5 lakh tonne by Bengaluru, 4.2 lakh tonne by Chennai, 9 lakh tonne by Mumbai and 9.6 lakh tonne by Delhi.
Source: Times of India