Making India an International Aviation Hub

A committed and concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed to make an international hub in the country

Issue: 5 / 2022By Sanjay BhatnagarPhoto(s): By PIB
Prime Minister Modi inaugurates the Terminal 2 of Kempegowda International Airport, in Bengaluru on November 11, 2022.

India is a key aviation market for the Asia Pacific region as well as the rest of the world. It was severely hit by the COVID pandemic, adversely affecting the earnings. However, now a turn-around is evident in the Indian civil aviation sector, as per IATA (International Air Transport Association) it is expected to see a strong demand, with the Indian domestic air passenger traffic achieving pre-COVID levels. The rating agency ICRA brought out that the domestic air passenger traffic is estimated to have touched around 1.03 crore in September, higher than 1.01 crore recorded in August. It is expected to have 400 million air travellers in the next seven years.

All this is good news for the Indian domestic civil aviation sector. It is felt that for India to progress beyond the third biggest aviation sector internationally, it needs to breach the international air travel market. India needs to have a robust strategy to tackle this challenge. Speaking at a conference organised by industry body ASSOCHAM, in August this year, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, emphasised the need for a committed and concerted effort by all stakeholders to make an international hub in the country.

Towards India fulfilling its much cherished dream of becoming an international aviation hub, there seems to be lots of potholes on the aviation highway. Besides the airlines investing in latest more fuel-efficient aircraft, Air traffic services need to be further improved to bring in more efficiency. The sector faces shortage of air traffic controllers, the same would have to be addressed on priority. Security clearances also need quick, efficient and fool-proof handling. Also training of work force in various connected fields would have to be synchronised to meet new aspirations of airlines, airports and travelers. Correspondingly, ground operations would have to be made more efficient demanding more investments by ground handling entities.

Some of the current major international civil aviation hubs in the world are Dubai, Singapore (Changi), Hong Kong, London, Frankfurt etc. All these international airports offer unique experience and high class services to travellers, each one has its iconic architecture and theme. Major investments are required for Indian airports to reach these global standards that offer quick services with highly automated services offering clockwork precision. With the civil aviation now picking up the world over, time is now ripe for government to allocate resources in bringing up these airports.

There has been a great amount of investment made by the Government, especially in the past three years. More routes on domestic RCS UDAN (Regional Connectivity Scheme Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) schemes have been operationalised, as also domestic airports infrastructure has been modernised and a few greenfield airport projects are in the process of coming up. Besides, the government has made various policy interventions to smoothen the path of growth for the aviation sector, reducing the ATF charges by various states, at the behest of Minister of Civil Aviation, being one of the major steps. Further, from October this year, the price-band embargo has been lifted. All these are leading to a projected robust growth of Indian airline industry.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated Terminal 2 of Kempegowda International Airport at Bengaluru built at a cost of 5,000 crores and aims to multiply the capacity of flyers the airport can handle. With the inauguration of second terminal, the passenger handling capacity of Bangalore airport as well as counters for check-in and immigration is expected to double. It will be able to handle around 5-6 crore passengers annually, a massive increase from the current 2.5 crores. Bengaluru airport has been among the busiest airports of the nation. As of October 31, 2022, 16.75 million passengers have journeyed through the Bengaluru Airport in the current Financial Year 2023.

Finally, the Indian Government has taken note of the aviation sector and its importance in nation building and growth. Inaugurating the new Terminal 2 of the Kempegowda International Airport at Bengaluru, Prime Minister Modi tweeted, “Our Government has focused on the aviation sector, giving priority to more airports and better connectivity between destinations.” In order to achieve aspirations of India having international aviation hubs and to capitalise on growth of international air traffic, a more coordinated effort involving the airlines, airports, government policies, training, ground handling infrastructure has to progress in tandem. A concerted whole of sector approach would go a long way in India having an international aviation hub.