India’s busiest airports are among the world’s least punctual

Waiting to arrive.
Waiting to arrive.
Image: Reuters/Sanjeev Miglani
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India is simply running out of airports.

Its 132 operational facilities, which handle under 300 million flyers annually, just aren’t enough for the expected 12.5% increase in air traffic by 2022. And this is already beginning to show on their performance.

Two of the country’s busiest airports are among the world’s least punctual.

Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, India’s second-busiest, was the fifth-least punctual among the 513 airports across the world between June 2017 and May 2018, according to a report released last week by OAG, a UK-based air travel intelligence company. Flight disruptions in Mumbai reached a five-year high in December 2017.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport was ranked 451 with an annual on-time performance (OTP) of nearly 71%.

“These (Delhi and Mumbai) airports are too congested and are reaching their peak capacity. There is an urgent need for infrastructure support to these airports,” said Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, an aviation consulting firm.

India’s most punctual airport is thousands of miles away from the mainland in the Bay of Bengal island territory of Andaman & Nicobar. The facility in Port Blair, the island’s capital city, managed a global rank of 65, making it the best-performing Indian airport with an OTP of 84.6%.

The Veer Savarkar International Airport is controlled by the Indian Navy. But the passenger terminal building and parking bay are under the government’s Airports Authority of India.

Time for take off

To ease flight traffic, the existing infrastructure must be improved drastically.

In 2007, the government gave the nod for an additional airport in Mumbai and its first phase was expected to be operational by 2019. However, “it seems unlikely that the Navi Mumbai Airport will be up before 2024-26,” added Martin.

The government had also okayed a second airport in the National Capital Region surrounding New Delhi. It is expected to cater to between 30 million and 50 million passengers per year, over the next 10-15 years.

“The government needs to speed up the process of getting the promised two new airports on track at the earliest,” a New Delhi-based aviation analyst told Quartz, requesting anonymity.