Climate change has increased structural risks at airports but maintenance spends by airport operators have not kept pace with the change.

businessline’s analysis of media reports from 2019 to 2024 reveals there have been around 11 cases of structural collapse and 10 of rainwater leakages across airports in India from 2019 to 2024 with this year recording the maximum incidents. Public authorities do not maintain records of airport structural incidents.

Analysis of annual reports of Airports Authority of India (AAI), Delhi Airport and GMR Hyderabad International Airport shows repairs and maintenance of the airport buildings as a percentage of revenue declined in FY23. Details of FY24 were not available.

For AAI, the civil works maintenance spends declined from 11.9 per cent in FY21 to 8.5 per cent in FY23. Similarly, GMR-led Delhi International Airport Ltd’s funds dropped from 4.9 per cent in FY22 to 4.4 per cent in FY23. This comes at a time when user development fee (UDF) charged from passengers has been on a rise. AAI recorded a 74 per cent increase in airport revenue in FY23, which includes UDF.

Concern over safety

With climate change creating havoc in successive years, questions around safety of Indian airports and need for structural audits has come to the fore. The maintenance of the assets also comes into focus.

The recent roof collapse at Delhi Airport incident resulted in one fatality and is one among four such incidents in India’s airports in the last six months. In March 2024, the rooftop of Guwahati airport collapsed due to heavy rainfall, starting the worrying trend. Subsequently, there were back-to-back cases of canopy collapses at airports in Jabalpur, New Delhi, and Rajkot, all just in June this year. As per media reports, Chennai airport alone experienced around 65 structural collapses in the past decade. 

Why have these incidents become so commonplace?  Akash Jha, Council Member of the Institute of Town Planners India, said, “There are several flaws in the structural planning of airports including incorrect estimates of average rainfall in specific areas, failure to adhere to stated practices, issues with material quality, bureaucratic lapses and the impact of climate change.” 

Most airports in India operate under public-private partnerships and the division of responsibilities of the private and government entities in case of management of these airports is also unclear. 

“There are systemic issues across India’s public infrastructure. However, it is crucial for airport authorities to mandate annual structural audits and ensure that their infrastructure can withstand the varying capacities of rainfall in their respective locations to prevent such lapses,” Jha added.

With inputs from Jameela Suha, intern at businessline