Pacing Up: Recovery on the cards for the aviation industry

Recovery on the cards for the aviation industry

The Indian aviation industry has come a long way, set many milestones and overcome many challenges to become one of the world’s most lucrative aviation mar­ke­ts. However, since the onset of the Covd-19 pan­­demic, the sector has been facing turbulent times.

Latin America and Asia have witnessed good recovery in the past year. The Omicron va­riant of Covid is raising concerns all across the glo­be. However, we are expecting a slowdown for only a brief period. The passenger traffic is ex­pected to reach 60 per cent of pre-Covid levels in Europe by the end of 2022. Further, additional manpower is being deployed in airlines and aircraft.

Adani took over the operations and management (O&M) of the Lucknow, Mangalore and Ahmedabad airports in 2020. Subse­qu­ently, they took over O&M of the Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports in 2021. In the first three airports, they have implemented all passenger safety measures including conducting RTPCR tests, thermal checks, regular an­n­ouncements for awareness and signages across the airports. The objective is to enhance the passenger experience, as due to Covid-19, passengers have become reluctant to travel.

The aviation industry had started to recover. Prior to the second wave, air traffic at Mum­bai airport had improved significantly. Domes­tic traffic had reached about 90 per cent of pre-Covid levels and international traffic, about 30-35 per cent of pre-Covid levels prior to third wave. However, overall traffic has now fallen by about 50 per cent due to rising concerns over the spread of Omicron. There are regular changes in regulations, with the governments of various countries announcing new travel guidelines. It remains a challenge to provide infrastructure and facilitate travelling and testing as per the requirements.

Key projects update

  • The Noida airport project is on track, though it had suffered minor setbacks due to the pandemic. Recently, the foundation stone was laid and the final designs have been finished. Currently, we are in the process of ap­p­ointing the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project. This is expected to be finalised in the next two weeks, and to conclude shortly after. Pre­liminary works have begun on the site. The project is being developed online with teams working across the globe. The airport’s ca­pa­city will be 12 million passengers per annum in the first phase, to be increa­s­ed to 70 million passengers per annum. Phase 1 inclu­des development of the terminal building al­ong with all necessary infrastr­ucture. There are plans developing and operating so­lar pro­jects as well. India is one of the lar­gest markets for renewable energy.
  • Further, there are plans to establish an in-flight catering business. Moreover, Noida airport is exploring the utility-as-a-service concept, and looking forward to tying up with infrastructure experts in certain areas of utilities and taking over their services. Also, working on digital infrastructure. The information technology space has been the focus of our approach since the beginning. There are plans to construct an op­en courtyard in­side the terminal, which will pro­vide ventilation and green space. Further, all services will be provided on mobile. Also, looking forward to having infrastructure for electric vehicles as well.
  • The Navi Mumbai airport is an upcoming project that will have two parallel runways of 3,700 metres each. They will be capable of ha­ndling all types of aircrafts. As per the concession agreements, the airport is being built with the capacity to handle at least 60 million passengers per annum. The project is expected to be completed in the next three years. Land constraints remain a key challenge for the project. Further, there are concerns related to air space, as the upcoming Navi Mum­bai airport and the Mumbai airport will be in close proximity to each other.
  • One of the important projects led by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is the Phase III expansion of the Delhi airport. Substantial progress has been made so far. Initially, during the first wave of Covid-19, labour shortage resulted in some delay, but time extensions have since been gr­an­ted. The domestic terminal of the Delhi airport has been upgraded. Further, the domestic apron is also being refurbished and work is under progress. The first runway of the airport, which is on the Palam side, has been upgraded. On the other hand, construction work on the fourth runway, which is on the Dwarka side, is almost complete, and testing has been started. Further, taxiway bridges to connect the southern and western sides of the airport are under construction. Another important project, the Navi Mumbai airport, is the first airport in the country that is being constructed on a rock field. There are challenges related to materials, which are limited to some extent.

Next Steps

Firstly, the focus should be on fulfilling functional requirements. Secondly, stringent codes and compliance are important with respect to safety. Thirdly, the focus should be on economic development, which has to be achieved through innovative and value-engineering solutions with an emphasis on sustainability. For instance, there are 31 different types of pavement combinations inside Mumbai airport, which were made for the sustainability and economic viability of the project. The Federal Aviation Adminis­tra­ti­on’s designs are being adopted according to our environment and requirements. The technical requirements are basically related to traffic, whereas development in aircraft and material engineering goes into creating the overall infrastructure. With the introduction of wide-bodied, heavy and new generation aircraft, the loads have increased, and spans, gearing arrangements and wing arrangements are being chang­ed. Nowadays pavement failures for top players are being evaluated.

Airport infrastructure is expanding and it requires management and planning for execution of projects. Going forward, basic engineering should be done appropriately at the conceptual stage for successful transformation.

Based on a panel discussion among Daniel Bircher, Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Airport International Asia, Prabhat Mahapatra Executive VP Operations, Adani Airports and Manoj Tipnis Chief Executive, L&T Infrastructure Engineering.