Plans on the Anvil: Several AAI initiatives to increase capacity and improve airport facilities

Several AAI initiatives to increase capacity and improve airport facilities

Airport development in India is primarily under the purview of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Of the country’s 134 airports, AAI manages 125, of which 21 are international facilities. In addition, the authority is also solely responsible for managing air navigation services (ANS) over the entire Indian airspace.

Over the past year, in line with passenger demand, AAI has augmented capacity of several non-metro airports, and has plans to enhance capacity at many others. Further, the operations and management (O&M) contracts for the Ahmedabad and Jaipur airports are to be awarded soon. This model is being introduced for the first time in the sector, making AAI a pioneer in this area.

Initiatives at metro airports

Currently, AAI operates two metro airports – Kolkata and Chennai – while the rest are run by private operators.

Capacity augmentation at Kolkata airport is not needed at present, as it saw footfalls of 12.4 million passengers in 2015-16 as compared to its capacity of 20 million passengers per annum (mppa). Thus, AAI is essentially focusing on improving service standards and airport sustainability.

The construction of a new air traffic control (ATC) tower and technical block is set to begin soon, with the contract having been awarded to Rama Construction Private Limited. The ATC tower has been approved at a cost of Rs 4.58 billion and will be operational by mid-2021.

Chennai airport is set to begin the implementation of its Phase II modernisation plan by end-2017. The modernisation project, which is estimated to cost Rs 25 billion, will take about three years to complete and will include the construction of new terminals, a multilevel car park, and airside development such as the construction of additional parking bays and walkalators.

The expansion will increase aircraft movement at the airport from 32 to 40 per hour and passenger capacity of terminals from 18 million to 30 million. Further, AAI has plans to extend the airport’s second runway, which will require 14 acres of land.

Initiatives at greenfield airports

AAI is developing two greenfield airports in the Northeast, at Pakyong (Sikkim) and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh).

Work at Pakyong airport, which was expected to be operationalised in 2015, had been stalled since January 2015 over issues regarding compensation to displaced persons. The work restarted in July 2015; however, the delay has resulted in a substantial cost escalation, to Rs 6.1 billion compared to the Rs 3.1 billion estimated earlier. The airside works are almost complete but other associated works are under way. The airport is now expected to be operational by end-2017.

For Itanagar airport, a high-level committee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, AAI and the North Eastern Council has recommended the Holongi site near Itanagar for the construction of the greenfield airport. The state government has approved the site and will undertake land acquisition for the project. Meanwhile, AAI has prepared a draft master plan for the project.

Capacity augmentation initiatives

On the infrastructure development front, there has been steady progress. New terminal buildings have been commissioned at the Vadodara, Tirupati and Vijayawada airports. Phase II development works are also being undertaken at the Srinagar, Pune, Dehradun, Lucknow, Mangalore, Jaipur, Goa, Agartala, Guwahati, Leh, Patna, Trichy, Vijayawada and Jabalpur airports.

The extension of runways and taxiways, the expansion of aprons to provide additional parking bays and the construction of parallel taxi tracks have been taken up to enhance airside capacity at various airports like Vijayawada, Mangaluru, Hubbali, Goa and Tezu.

Currently, most AAI airports have surplus capacity in terms of availability of parking bays with respect to present aircraft movement. Nonetheless, AAI has planned 191 additional parking stands across several airports to accommodate flights in the future. In addition, work is under way at 18 airports to provide 73 additional night parking stands.

With respect to the ancillary segment, during 2016-17, AAI took up the development of common user domestic cargo terminals at 24 airports in a phased manner to accommodate the growth in air cargo. Domestic cargo facilities have been commissioned at the Ranchi, Goa and Srinagar airports, while international cargo facilities have been set up at the Indore and Bhubaneswar airports. Further, international courier facilities have been created at the Kolkata and Chennai airports.

Initiatives under RCS

Under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), the government has approved the revival of 50 airports within a twoyear time frame, at a cost of Rs 45 billion. AAI, the implementing agency for the RCS, is all set to not only upgrade AAI-owned airports but also coordinate with other airport operators such as state governments, public sector undertakings and private airport operators for the upgradation of their airports. The authority has made interim arrangements for operationalising flights at Tier II and Tier III cities by making provisions such as pre-engineered buildings/porta cabins (for terminal buildings) and mobile ATC towers at some of the airports to meet the stringent timelines.

ANS initiatives

On the ANS front, AAI adopted several state-of-the-art technologies including GAGAN (GPS-Aided GEO Augmented Navigation), Central Air Traffic Flow Management (CATFM) and automated systems for air traffic control. Green initiatives like CATFM, the implementation of RNAV–ATS (area navigation air traffic services) routes during the en route phase of flying, the implementation of approach procedures with global navigation satellite systems such as Baro-V and GAGAN-based LPV (localiser performance with vertical guidance) procedures have been put in place to reduce fuel burn and thereby carbon emissions. Instrument landing system Category III-B facilities have been commissioned at the Jaipur and Lucknow airports to deal with bad weather/fog conditions and flights diverted from major airports, thus also reducing fuel burn.

City side development

City-side development is being planned by AAI with a view to enhancing passenger convenience and improving facilities at AAI airports as well as increasing revenues through non-aeronautical activities, to the extent permissible under the provisions of the existing AAI Act. Under Phase I, city-side land has been identified for development purposes at the Lucknow, Raipur, Tirupati, Jaipur, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Kolkata and Amritsar airports. The construction of multilevel car parks with commercial facilities has also been taken up at the Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Calicut, Jaipur and Amritsar airports. Further, a request for proposal has been floated for the construction of hotels at the Amritsar, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata airports.

Future plans

In order to address the growing challenge of constrained capacity at Indian airports, AAI has begun to implement an expansion plan for a number of airports throughout the country at a capital expenditure of Rs 175 billion over the next five years in order to meet capacity requirements. This includes the upgradation and expansion of existing airports, the revival of non-operational airports, and the upgradation of ANS and telecommunications infrastructure.

There are plans for creating an additional capacity of 154 mppa in the next four-five years, of which 56 mppa will be created at AAI airports, including those at Chennai, Srinagar, Pune, Dehradun, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Goa, Agartala, Guwahati and Leh, while the remaining 98 mppa of capacity will be created at joint venture/private/state government airports. In addition, AAI is in the process of awarding project management consultancies for the expansion of 13 airports including those at Chennai, Srinagar, Pune, Dehradun and Lucknow, and plans have been drawn up for the expansion (subject to land availability) of another 12 airports.

New ATC-cum-technical blocks are planned at the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Raipur, Varanasi, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Trichy, Khajuraho, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Gaya, Ranchi, Dibrugarh, Diu and Kolhapur airports.

Besides, several initiatives are being planned to make airports more customer friendly. Some of these are the optimisation of terminal space, putting up art works for greater visual appeal and the organisation of cultural events, among others.