India has emerged as the third-largest domestic aviation market in the world, and by 2024, it is expected to surpass the UK. The Indian aviation market contributes about 5 per cent of the country’s GDP. India’s civil aviation industry is now focusing on achieving sustainability and net-zero carbon emissions, which is the need of the hour.
The passenger segment saw a very high year-on-year increase between 2021-22 and 2022-23. International passenger traffic grew by over 184 per cent, from 16.4 million in 2021-22 (April to January) to 46.63 million in 2022-23 (April to January). Similarly, domestic passenger traffic witnessed an increase from 130.4 million in 2021-22 (April to January) to 220.61 million in 2022-23 (April to January), registering a growth of about 69 per cent.
However, there was not much growth in freight traffic. Domestic freight traffic registered an increase of only about 11 per cent, from 0.98 mt in 2021-22 (April to January) to 1.08 mt in 2022-23 (April to January). On the other hand, international freight traffic witnessed a decline of about 6 per cent, from 1.64 mt in 2021-22 (April to January) to 1.55 mt in 2022-23 (April to January). This was due to global macro headwinds, which have reduced the demand for cargo flights to India.
India’s airports are adopting green energy in order to fulfil their commitment of net zero emissions. The Indian government has set a target of making 90 airports carbon-neutral by 2024, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
Airports are adopting sustainable ways of building infrastructure. Delhi and Cochin International Airports are leading the way with their initiatives. The Delhi International Airport has adopted green energy, using only hydro and solar power for all its energy requirements. Delhi International Airport Limited has signed a long-term power purchase agreement with a Himachal Pradesh-based hydropower-producing company for the supply of hydroelectricity for the airport until 2036. This will help in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 200,000 tonnes.
The Cochin International Airport is also leading the way in adopting green energy. It became the first green airport in the world. The airport operates fully on solar power, which meets all its electricity requirements. It is also the first-ever airport in India to be developed under public-private partnership (PPP). Similarly, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport has switched entirely to green sources for its energy consumption needs, making it one of India’s 100 per cent sustainable airports.
The government is focusing on building infrastructure with the support of the private sector to make it more feasible through collaboration. Many new greenfield airport projects are in the pipeline in the country. Sustainability, carbon dioxide emissions and power generation disposal are important metrics for greenfield airports. The government is aiming to make most Indian airports carbon-neutral by December 2024, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2030. The upcoming Noida International Airport, which is a greenfield airport, will become the first airport in its category in India to reach net-zero emissions, setting a new standard for sustainable airport operations. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has recommended that all existing brownfield and upcoming greenfield airports work towards carbon neutrality and net zero, which would require solely utilising green energy.
Aircraft movement has been increasing in both international and domestic airports. International aircraft movement registered a rise of about 78 per cent during 2022-23 (April to January) as compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. Similarly, domestic aircraft movement also increased by about 41 per cent in 2022-23 (April to January) compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
There were about 400 aircraft in 2013, and 700 in 2021-22. According to government estimates, 100 to 110 aircraft (about 15 per cent of the existing capacity) are expected to be added annually to India’s aviation market. India is looking at placing an order for 1,500-1,700 aircraft in the next two years, and Air India is expected to make the first move. Air India recently placed an order for 840 planes from Airbus and Boeing, including an option to purchase 370 additional aircraft. This is one of the largest aircraft orders by an airline. Currently, in India, around 470 commercial Airbus aircraft are in service, and the company’s order book for Indian airlines is around 850 planes. Indian carriers operate around 159 Boeing planes. The country’s airline industry is poised for expansion, with more than 1,100 planes having been ordered by various domestic carriers. Moreover, the entry of Jet Airways and Akasa Air, alongside the revamped Air India, into India’s aviation sector is expected to precipitate phenomenal growth in the sector.
As per the latest updates, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices are falling. According to a price notification from state-owned fuel retailers, ATF price has fallen by Rs 4,606 per kl (4.09 per cent) to Rs 107,750.27 per kl in the National Capital Region. Meanwhile, in Mumbai and Chennai, the prices are Rs 106,695.61 and Rs 112,497.99 respectively, while in Kolkata, it is Rs 115,091.33 per kl. The price of ATF in the country has been revised to be lower, in line with softening international oil prices.
India has outlined plans to invest billions of dollars in airports and aircraft, as the world’s fastest growing economy seeks to meet booming air travel demand. By 2026, the Indian government intends to spend around $1.83 billion on expanding airport infrastructure and aviation navigation services. This growth will include new airports, more regulators and air traffic controllers, and new flying schools. Civil aviation infrastructure and capabilities need to be in place for the country to be able to support a $20 trillion economy by 2047.
The government is aiming for private investment in the aviation sector. It is using the PPP model to privatise 25 airports under the National Monetisation Pipeline. The PPP modalities include clubbing two airports – one large and one small – in the same state or region, so as to make them more attractive for bidding. The airports identified are Nagpur, Varanasi, Dehradun, Trichy, Indore, Chennai, Calicut, Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Madurai, Tirupati, Ranchi, Jodhpur, Raipur, Rajahmundry, Vadodara, Amritsar, Surat, Hubli, Imphal, Agartala, Udaipur, Bhopal and Vijayawada. The government’s vision is to privatise around 35 airports owned by the Airports Authority of India by 2025. This should bring improved efficiency, increase in revenue, investments, upgradation of infrastructure and boosting of the overall economy.