Flight Plan

How will developing Jewar airport change the Delhi aviation scene?

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on December 10, 2019 Published on December 10, 2019

Analysts see advantages but also caution about prickly issues, including traffic sharing

Delhi will soon join a growing number of Indian and global cities that have more than one airport as Flughafen Zurich AG has won the bid for developing Jewar airport on the outskirts of Delhi.

Jewar will be developed in four phases and its passenger handling capacity will increase from 12 million passengers per annum to 70 million by the time phase IV, the last one, comes to an end in fiscal year 2050.

Many feel that more than one airport, especially in the metros, is ‘inevitable’ if the Indian economy keeps growing. Kinjal Shah, Vice-President, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA Ltd, believes Jewar airport will definitely help travellers. She points out that Delhi is already a congested and slot-constrained airport, thus preventing additional flights out of the existing airport. “The new airport will allow airlines to start new routes, which will provide convenience for travellers. The expected growth in domestic passenger traffic means that airports, especially in the metros, will continue to witness congestion,” she adds.

Mudassir Zaidi, Executive Director, North, Knight Frank India, gives another perspective when he says, “we have also seen that newer airports help in promoting lower cost carriers by providing facilities at lower costs, thereby providing efficiencies to the civil aviation business and making better travel costs available to travellers.”

However, VP Agarwal, former Chairman, Airports Authority of India, adds a word of caution when he says that land for four/six runways should be acquired. “Once an airport becomes operative, further acquisition will become prohibitively expensive. It may also require fresh tenders,” he says.

Traffic sharing issues

Jewar airport becoming operational is still some time away and the process is not going to be without some problems.

For example, transfer of passenger traffic between the existing Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport and Jewar is a cause of concern for many. Agarwal points out that this will be an issue as the old airport will be cheaper to operate from, and will offer more connections. “Slots will be an attraction at Jewar. There will be no problems as spillover traffic will be sufficient for capacity being created (at the new airport). (The new airport will be) more convenient for Western UP traffic, which is a rich belt,” he says.

Then there is the issue of how traffic between IGI and Jewar will be split. Though there is no clarity on this as yet, an industry watcher gives the example of Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo, both of which handle domestic and international air traffic. According to him, splitting traffic between IGI and Jewar with one becoming a domestic airport and the other an international one will not be a good idea.

“Making Jewar wholly domestic, for instance, is not really feasible as you need connections in both. IGI should not become wholly international,” he points out.

Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Practice leader and Director - Transport and Logistics, CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, feels that Jewar will have to initially compete for traffic before it can attract the spillover traffic from Delhi.

Too late in the day?

Besides all these finer details there is also a larger question: is the second airport coming up a bit too late for Delhi?

According to Mudassir, even though Jewar airport has been approved and an operator selected, it will take five-plus years for the airport to be available for use. Interestingly, as far back as 2017, the Centre For Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) had cautioned that airports at Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata will reach their maximum capacity between 2019 and 2022, assuming a passenger growth rate of 10 per cent per annum.

Cities, globally, with more than one airport
  • 1) New York: John F Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark
  • 2) Chicago: O’Hare, Midway
  • 3) London: Heathrow, Luton, Stansted
  • 4) Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi, Dom Mueang
  • 5) Paris: Charles de Gaulle, Orly
  • 6) India: Goa: Dabolim, Mopa (upcoming)
  • 7) Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport and Navi Mumbai (upcoming)

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Published on December 10, 2019
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