LONDON – India is set to undergo its most significant aviation and transport expansion as it looks to build 80 new airports in the next 4-5 years to meet the increasing demand for travel and connectivity to thriving and growing Indian cities across the country.
Indian Aviation Expansion
The country has one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world right now, with only China expanding and a similar pace over the last 8 years. During this time the country has seen its number of airports almost double from 74 to 141, with the ministry of civil aviation saying this will grow up to 220 in the next four to five years.
The 21 greenfield airports across the country, including Mopa in Goa; Navi Mumbai, Shirdi and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra; Kalaburagi, Vijayapura, Hassan and Shivamogga in Karnataka; Dabra in Madhya Pradesh; Kushinagar and Noida (Jewar) in Uttar Pradesh; Dholera and Hirasar (Rajkot) in Gujarat; Karaikal in Puducherry; Dagadarthi (Nellore), Bhogapuram and Orvakal (Kurnool) in Andhra Pradesh; Durgapur in West Bengal; Pakyong in Sikkim; Kannur in Kerala; and Hollongi (Itanagar) in Arunachal Pradesh.
Airports Must Meet Standards
While the idea of building an airport is not all that complicated there are important rules and regulations that surround such an expansion on this scale for 80 new airfields that will require each one to meet the specific requirements, with the management system, operational procedures, physical characteristics, assessment and treatment of obstacles, rescue and fire services, signs and other visual aids, airfield lighting and much, much more all needing to be taken into account before the building work can begin.
Nether the less, the fast-growing aviation market in India means that the government must push forward no matter the cost of such a plan.
The DCGA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) said that the ‘in-principle’ part of the expansion did not lift the companies building the airports from their requirement to still get the final approval and licences of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the government, both of whom it is understood will need to approve and greenlight any airport which hopes to obtain a commercial licence for operations.
Airbus A330neo Options
Such expansion will be greatly welcomed by many Indian carriers such as Indigo and Spice Jet, who just last week were told by the Indian government to perhaps start to look into widebody aircraft to help better meet the travel demands for Indian travellers on domestic services.
This could perhaps be the saving grace of the Airbus A330-800neo project, which has ultimately struggled with orders due to the fact it has a similar wing span to the A330-900neo but cannot carry as many passengers or fly as far.
What makes it so perfect for the domestic Indian market, however, is that it would be cheaper for the low-cost carriers to operate, it has no major backlogs in orders and it would also allow the carriers the ability to conduct flights out of India to neighbouring countries without the huge upfront cost risks.
For now, though this is all just speculation, no one knows how the Indian carriers will choose to meet the demand for 80 new airports with the potential of hundreds if not thousands of new routes that will need to be served over this period, it will remain to be seen which plane is chosen to help meet these demands as they come into play over the next decade.