India’s domestic traffic growth of 20 percent a year has led the federal government to clear a $3 billion proposal to construct a greenfield airport at Jewar, some 72 miles from Delhi International Airport (DIA), the busiest in the country. DIA, which now sees annual passenger throughput of 62 million, will become saturated once it reaches its peak capacity of 109 million.
“In-principle clearance has been granted,” declared civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju during a media address in New Delhi on June 24. “By 2024 Delhi will require another airport.” Officials expect completion of the first phase of the new airport in about five years, state minister of civil aviation Jayant Sinha confirmed. He added that Jewar, once fully ready, would hold the capacity of Mumbai’s airport, which now that handles 45 million passengers a year.
The new airport will reside in the 42,000-sq-km National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Delhi and surrounding urban areas of three neighboring states. The cluster comprises one of the largest metropolises in the world, holding a population of more than 47 million. “With so much industrial activity, education institutions and retail activity around it, we expect it to be an aerotropolis [an airport city],” said secretary of civil aviation Rajeev Nayan Choubey.
Growth projections call for India soon to overtake Japan as the world’s third largest domestic aviation market after the U.S. and China. However, the International Air Transport Association has expressed concerns that lack of airport infrastructure will curb the potential growth.
As the economies of satellite and secondary cities boom, authorities have already hatched plans for upgrading and reviving unused and remote airstrips and airports to fuel the regional connectivity scheme introduced last year. The country will require an investment of $30 billion over the next 10 to 15 years for establishing new airports and adding capacity at existing ones, said Sinha. “Some 150 to 200 airports are needed for 90 percent of the population to be within 60 to 90 minutes from an airport,” he added. “We have to add more airports as well as airspace capacity. Over 30 airports have become operational in the past two years.”
India’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) called Udan, meaning "Flight," represents an effort to include remote areas to the wider transportation network. Legislation caps airfares at around $39 per passenger for a one-hour flight for at least 50 percent of seats, in return for concessions including waived airport charges, lowered tax on aviation turbine fuel and tickets and free security services. Of 45 proposals received in the first tranche of bidding under the RCS, the authorities accepted 27 from five operators. Choubey confirmed the second round of bidding would soon start and would include incentives for helicopter operations.