Ever since Delhi and Mumbai airports transitioned from being a government entity to a private one in May 2006, India’s tryst with Brownfield airports began
More than half of the air traffic in South Asia is handled by the Indira Gandhi International Airport of Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai. These two airports are vital for maintaining the air traffic and is a mega hub traffic portal supporting Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. In a recent analysis done by Martin Consulting LLC based on public domain data indicates that Delhi and Mumbai rank as one of the world’s busiest city pairs when it comes to departing and arriving flights. This alone should remain as one of the most significant, standalone fact that must drive airport modernisation.
Ever since Delhi and Mumbai airports transitioned from being a government entity to a private one in May 2006, India’s tryst with Brownfield airports began. It is interesting to note that private airports existed way back in the 1940s but India’s commercial private airports commenced in 1999, seven years before the Delhi and Mumbai airports were disinvested. So in short, our ‘privately’ run airport industry is just about to turn into a ‘mature adult’ with 18 years of experience.
Delhi airport, in comparison with Mumbai airport, is blessed with abundant land which can be used to the traveller’s benefit. In contrast, Mumbai airport, owing to its geographic position and being encroached from all sides, has no scope or means for physical expansion. Mumbai airport runs a single runway operation, while Delhi is blessed with three runways and soon would build a fourth runway.
Clearly, traffic at Delhi airport can sustain airport expansion and the simultaneous use all of its terminals including the decommissioned old Terminal 2. Interestingly, Terminal 2 was one called the NITC or the New International Terminal Complex back in the 1980’s but is it practical to use it?
Well, at best Terminal 2 should be used as a make shift terminal, for now, to cater to the gap created on account of the Terminal 1 Arrival and Departure being demolished for a much-needed update, but these again are ‘stop-gap’ steps.
The global battle for airport supremacy is driven by traffic, passenger use and feedback and Delhi airport cannot afford to lose out on its strategic standing. Delhi’s blessed with space and GMR should use it smarter albeit wisely. The expansion of Terminal 3 should be initiated to have a more integrated and structured airport operating model. Terminal 1 Arrival and Departure at Mehram Nagar is not practically viable as the village nearby will not want to relocate. And this leaves the copious portions of land that is between runway 28-10 and 29-11 that should be utilised effectively, logically and sustainably.
In the airline business, one fact that rules paramount is customer experience, for the passenger, the pilot as well as for the airline. So every flight delay or traffic jam, hold sequence while coming into Delhi airport, the time taken by taxi to the gate and time taken by the traveller to get the to gate play up significantly with the traveller’s experience.
Running three active terminals increases operational, planning, management and oversight challenges, but clearly, nothing can be done. However, now is the time to begin the much-needed redesign and planning of an integrated terminal, more like a single portal as opposed to three or in some cases four different gateways.
Sadly, Delhi airport functions as if it was three different airports with three different runways merged as one with force. Not as one combined, but a unified airport operating model that is something needs to be changed.