check-in baggage airports
Passengers wait at the check-in hall at Bengaluru International Airport in Bangalore March 9, 2012 [Representational Image]Reuters

In a bid to cater to the expected one billion passengers in 10 years' time, airline companies in India have announced plans to induct hundreds of aircraft over the next decade, according to Minister of State for civil aviation Jayant Sinha. Keeping in tune, the central government too is planning to upgrade airport infrastructure in six years' time.

"Looking at the passenger growth, we expect the size of the Indian aviation market to grow to about 600 million air passengers annually over 10 to 12 years from now. This would mean a billion footfalls at our airports. We are working with a strategy spread over a period of up to six years to ensure that capacity does not become an impediment to the growth in aviation in India," the Economic Times quoted Sinha as saying. 

In the present scenario, metro airports in India are extremely crowded as airlines struggle to cope with the influx of passengers and chock-a-bloc runways.

Upgrade infrastructure

In an attempt to free the airport space, the central government has already sanctioned construction of two new airports — Navi Mumbai and north Goa.

In the next two years, the ministry said it plans to "look at Juhu as an alternative and shift out general aviation traffic from the current airport in Mumbai. Between the second and fourth year, we will be carrying out upgrades at airports like Delhi, airports in the Northeast and others. Even as we do this, we will keep awarding new airport projects, which will be available post the fourth year onwards," Sinha added.

Saturating airport capacity

The civil aviation ministry's plan of upgrading infrastructure will help domestic airlines as they aim to expand their fleet in a decade. However, the carriers are now complaining about the saturating capacity at airports across the country. According to media reports, Mumbai airport cannot add new flights due to the unavailability of free slots and airport in Delhi cannot add new flights during the peak season.

"It seems we are again back to 2009, when airports capacities were saturating and there were no slots or space for new flights. New private airports came up and state-owned AAI also improved its infrastructure and things improved and airlines grew. Expansion plans might get impacted if airport infrastructure does not catch up with growth," a senior airline executive was quoted as saying by the publication.

India's domestic air passenger traffic grew over 26 percent in July as compared to the same month in the previous year.

Domestic air carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, GoAir and Air India flew 5.60 crore passengers during the January to July period in 2016, as against 4.55 crore passengers flown during the corresponding period in the previous year.