With the Centre´s thrust on boosting regional connectivity and improving airport infrastructure, along with healthy air cargo growth prospects, India´s aviation sector looks all set to coast along to a bright future.
Airports are the next infrastructural buzzword that will be the game-changer in India´s developmental leap. This buzzword is expected to be exploited using existing growth drivers like exponential growth in passenger traffic and incremental cargo volumes over the next decade.
In addition, this growth trajectory of passengers and cargo is a given, a certainty, in an otherwise sluggish economy that has just experimented with out-of-the-box solutions like the´demonetisation´ exercise with limited success.
But the moot question is, do Indian airports match up to international standards maintained by the top airports of the world like the most punctual airport, voted by passengers for the second year in a row, - Tokyo´s Haneda airport? According to a recent survey, the Japanese airport logged 87.49 per cent on-time arrivals and departures of flights (with a maximum lag of 15 minutes from schedule time).
If you can tell time by the Tokyo airport standard, Singapore´s Changi International Airport was voted as the most entertaining, for the second year in a row, for its array of amusement theme parks, high-rise joy rides, five gardens, XBox 360 gaming stations, free movie theatres and many other parameters of comfort. Flight delays could be a very entertaining affair if you´re at Singapore.
The Chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Guruprasad Mohapatra, says we are firmly on course and set to achieve new heights with no flight deviations predicted on the Indian aviation horizon (Read full interview in the following pages). Mohapatra tells INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY, ´Reactions are positive and industry is also quite optimistic on the introduction of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) in 2016... The objective of the government through NCAP is to establish an integrated ecosystem to enable growth of the civil aviation sector, which would in turn promote tourism, increase employment and balanced regional growth.´
The AAI Chairman emphasises that the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) under the NCAP that seeks to make flying affordable for the masses in Tier-II and Tier-III cities, besides providing faster connectivity, would be a game-changer for the sector. He adds, ´More than 60 airports have been modernised by AAI in the last 10 years, on par with global standards. All of these airports have world-class large span buildings, runways and aprons equipped with state-of-the-art equipment with special focus on customer satisfaction.
AAI is continuously conducting customer satisfaction surveys and airport service quality surveys at airports. Recently, the AAI airports at Jaipur, Lucknow, Goa, Trivandrum and Srinagar were adjudged among the top airports of the world.´ The AAI chairperson also noted that the Central Air Traffic Flow Management (C-ATFM) has been installed, making India only the 7th country in the world to have this capability. ´The C-ATFM system is primarily meant to address the balancing of capacity against demand to achieve optimum utilisation of the major resources, viz., airport, airspace and aircraft, at every Indian airport where there is a capacity constraint,´ Mohapatra says.
According to Krrishan Singhania of Singhania Associates, ´India has emerged as the second fastest growing air cargo market after the Middle East and is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of about 7 per cent over the next five years, according to the IATA Industry Forecast 2014-2018. India would also be among the 10 largest international freight markets by 2018 with the industry lead by the United States supplying 10,054,000 tonnes and China with 5,639,000 tonnes.´
While obvious growth trajectories are being bandied about, suggesting an exponential outbreak in the airports and aviation business sector, passengers´ satisfaction with their airport experience has certainly witnessed improvements. If a senior industry expert is to be believed, the Shamshabad airport in Hyderabad keeps its passenger experience limited to a maximum of 27 minutes by which time the passenger has completed all airport formalities and is securely lodged in the passenger lounge area, waiting to take off.
The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sanjay Prakash, says, ´From the security perspective, there has been a change in mindsets over the last decade. Modern technology has now become a part of our daily lives. While earlier the government had to emphasise on the need for setting up of CCTVs as part of infrastructure, today it is utilised and invested in by airports, civic corporations and industry as a matter of practice. This significant shift will lead the way for the development of futuristic airports.´