In an interview to The Sunday Guardian, Guruprasad Mohapatra, chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), talked about a host of issues. Excerpts:
Q: Given the expansion plans of the Regional Connectivity Scheme, what plans does the Airports Authority of India (AAI) so far developed?
A: The UDAN scheme for regional air connectivity in the country encompasses airports owned not only by the AAI, but also airports owned by the Government of India, state governments, defence, CPSUs and private entities. AAI has a lot of roles and responsibilities for implementing the scheme including provision and management of the enabling infrastructure for bidding by airlines, coordination with various stakeholders for making the airports ready for operations, providing assistance for meeting the mandatory regulatory requirements, doing the civil and electrical works at some of the airports on behalf of the airport operator, assistance for licencing of the airports and providing trainings for various activities like fire, security etc. AAI is fully geared up and has made provisions for operationalising several non-operational airports at Tier-II and Tier-III cities and upgradation of unserved airports for operations of RCS flights by making provisions like pre-engineered building/ porta cabin for terminal buildings and mobile towers at some of the airports to cope up with the timelines.
As a matter of fact, in the first and second rounds of bidding under RCS-UDAN, 56 (31+25) unserved airports have been identified for operation of RCS flights. Out of 31 unserved RCS airports of RCS round one, 18 airports have already been operationalised and it is expected that flights from balance airports will commence within two months. Flights from 25 unserved airports of UDAN-2 are expected to commence within 6 months, except some of the airports where major development works are required to be carried out.
Q: Several complaints have been received about overcrowding in airports in Tier-II cities; what is the AAI doing to address these complaints?
A: At present, the terminal capacity across Indian airports is 334 MPPA against the demand of around 300 million passengers per annum. Around 10 airports in Tier-II cities are congested and the demand is more than the terminal capacity. The airports are Pune, Guwahati, Jaipur, Patna, Bagdogra, Jammu, Imphal, Dehradun, Leh and Rajkot.
AAI, on its part, is in the process of executing plans for development of infrastructure by creating additional capacity at these airports as well as at other airports to provide capacity ahead of demand. To undertake this development, Capex budget of approximately Rs 20,000 crore has been earmarked for expenditure in the next 4-5 years.
In addition, to cope with the demand, airside infrastructure such as runway, aprons, parallel taxiway, other taxiways will also be added/expanded based on the demand and projections. AAI has undertaken extension/strengthening of runways. Work has been completed at Jaipur, Kolkata, Chennai, Surat, Trivandrum, Calicut, Ahmedabad, Amritsar and Vadodara. Work is in progress at Dibrugarh, Rajahmundry, Raipur, and Vijayawada. Extension and strengthening of runway has also been planned at seven airports—Jammu, Tirupati, Kadappah, Dimapur, Jabalpur, Lucknow, Varanasi—and is expected to be completed in the next 2-3 years. Parallel Taxiway has been constructed at Trivandrum; work is in progress at Goa, Mangalore and Jaipur. With airlines operators planning to induct around 900 aircraft in the next 4-5 years, we have planned to construct about 300 more aircraft parking bays in a phased manner, matching the induction to accommodate these aircraft.
In order to enhance the capacity further, certain airports like Patna, Indore and Ranchi have been made operational on a 24-hour basis and additional watch hours are being provided at Guwahati airport with effect from 25 March 2018. AAI may consider making few more airports operational on a 24-hour basis in the future for increasing airport capacity.
Q: How is the AAI working towards Greenfield airports?
A: Greenfield airports in India are developed as per the Greenfield policy. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has granted in-principle approval for construction of 18 Greenfield airports. The airports are taken up for construction by state government as per the decision on how the airport will be operated i.e by the state government, PPP/JV route or by AAI. The AAI being the extended arm of the government normally takes up the development of Greenfield airports upon request from the government based on the strategic and socio-economic considerations where the land is made available to the AAI, free of cost and encumbrances. In case of financial viability of the airport, the AAI also bids for the Greenfield airports.
The AAI has recently completed development of a Greenfield airport at Pakyong, Sikkim, at a cost of Rs 553 crore. The process for obtaining licence from the DGCA is in progress. Pakyong airport will be operationalised in March 2018. Spicejet has been awarded routes from Pakyong to Delhi and Guwahati in the second round of UDAN.
Also, a Greenfield airport is being developed in Hirasar, Rajkot, by the state government with technical guidance from AAI. In phase I, Hirasar airport will be developed for operation of A321 type of aircraft and terminal building suitable for catering 0.25 million passengers per annum. Another Greenfield airport may be taken up in Arunachal Pradesh. The modalities will be worked out with the state government.
Q: How is AAI working towards making airports commercially profitable?
A: AAI is constantly engaged in operationalising unserved and underserved airports. This is further getting a fillip through the Regional Connectivity Scheme-UDAN, which has taken off well. Routes have been awarded under the RCS-UDAN to various operators for starting flights from 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads in the country. Though the AAI will not be charging the usage charges initially, it will be a win-win situation as the RCS operations can transform the erstwhile non-operational/underserved airports of AAI into profit-making entities gradually.
Further, to make our airports commercially profitable, we have taken several steps to improve the commercial viability and profitability at these airports. The AAI has transformed the concession model from Fixed Licence Fee to hybrid model of Minimum Monthly Guarantee (MMG) for optimum revenue generation. AAI has also introduced master concessionaire model for F&B and retail facilities at 12 airports (Trivandrum, Calicut, Lucknow, Guwahati, Goa, Srinagar, Amritsar, Indore, Bhopal, Raipur, Trichy and Bhubaneswar) and have added 3,835 sqm extra space for F&B; almost 66% over and above available space and 3153 sqm for retail, approximately 142% over and above existing space. With the master concessionaire model for F&B at 12 airports, the expected revenue is to the tune of Rs 158.7 crore per annum as against previous revenue of approximately Rs 15 crores. A similar outcome is in the offing in the retail segment.
In addition to the revenue, the master concessionaire will also bring in the best global brands and world-class facilities as evidenced at AAI’s NSCBI Airport, Kolkata. Leading players of F&B sector like Devyani, Lite-Bite, TFS etc., have joined in as F&B concessionaires at AAI airports. Prominent retail brands like Future Retail, Lifestyle, Shoppers’ Stop, Buddy’s Retail, WH Smith, Flemingo are being engaged initially for the 12 airports which will subsequently be replicated at other AAI airports based on the demand.
Another step taken is award of advertising rights at 24 airports. New industry-friendly advertising concession has been introduced which has been well accepted by the industry.
All of the above mentioned efforts will enhance AAI’s non-aeronautical revenue by over 30% in 2018-19 as against Rs 2130.04 crore in FY 2017-18.
The AAI is also in the process to maximise commercial space at airports to enhance passenger experience and has introduced new facilities like cab aggregator services, executive lounges and wellness centres of international standards and other passenger amenities like sanitary napkin vending machines for women travellers, medical inspection rooms, baby/child care rooms and information help desks etc., apart from regular state-of-the-art terminal building facilities with associated services for comfortable experience at the airports.
Q: Does the AAI have any plan to increase airfields for military training in the country?
A: At present, AAI manages around 26 Civil Enclaves at the defence airports. Further, there are plans for construction of new Civil Enclaves at Bareilly, Adampur, Purnia airports of IAF. It may be noted that in rounds one and two of the RCS-UDAN, routes have been awarded from 21 defence airfields, out of which there are 12 existing Civil Enclaves. New Civil Enclaves will be constructed for catering to new routes based on feasibility, land availability etc.
Q: Please tell us about the development of flight operations and ATC development by the AAI.
A: The Air Traffic Management (ATM) functions are fully capable of coping with the rising air traffic. The AAI, in the recent past, has implemented various state-of-the-art technologies, CNS-ATM systems and advance ATM procedures to enhance safety, efficiency and capacity across various airports. The entire Indian airspace has been brought under Radar/ADS-B surveillance. Radar/ADS-B sensors have been integrated to provide an integrated multi-Radar based situational awareness to the controllers. Advanced ATM Automation system with safety alerts and decision making support tools have been implemented at various airports.
ATS routes have been straightened to reduce track miles. Aircraft separation standards have been reduced to permissible limits, both in the terminal and enroute airspace which facilitate optimum flights levels and increased capacity. Performance Based Navigation procedures in terminal and enroute phase of flight will facilitate optimum efficiency and safety. Continuous descend operation procedures will ensure optimum efficiency and fuel savings. Airport Collaborative Decision Making process will enhance efficiency/slot monitoring/slot utilisation. Runway safety initiatives and reduction in runway occupancy time will enhance runway capacity. These measures will not only enhanced safety and efficiency level, but also provide huge savings in terms of time and fuel besides reduced carbon emissions. In addition to the above, AAI has also implemented the Centralised Air Traffic Flow Management system which will further enhance the operational efficiency and Collaborative Decision Making process to enhance capacity and efficiency.