Ahead of this year’s World Routes, Richard Maslen spoke to G S Bawa, general manager of the Airports Authority of India about the current state of the Indian aviation sector and how Government’s pledge to improve facilities at 15 low-cost airports under the green field policy will support the industry.
Q) What do you think are the main opportunities for growth in the aviation sector in the forthcoming years?
A) “There are tremendous opportunities for growth in the aviation sector in India in the forthcoming times. In fact the international organizations like ICAO, ACI, IATA and aircraft manufactures have projected the highest growth in Indian aviation in the world. Accordingly, to handle the increased growth a large number of greenfield airports have been planned along with the expansion of existing airports.”
Q) AAI is upgrading and modernising 35 non-metro airports in the country. How soon will the modernising process be complete?
A) “The upgrade and modernisation of 312 non-metro Airports has been completed. The modernisation of Kolkata and Chennai Airports has also been completed. With regards the remaining airports, work is in progress and likely to be completed by the year end.”
Q) Domestic traffic is expected to boom in the coming years. How do you plan to increase the facilities at the airports for the convenience of the passengers?
A) “Airports Authority of India is aware of the fact that Domestic Traffic has been growing on a fast track from 2002-2003 onwards. During the last ten years, the domestic passenger traffic has recorded a compounded annual growth rate of 14.9 per cent per annum and year-on-year growth has reached up to 38.6 pr cent in some of the years. The domestic passenger traffic has increased from 28.90 million in 2002-2003 to 116.37 million in 2012-2013.
“Because of the Euro Crunch, Dollar appreciation, global economic slowdown, high ATF price, increase in air fares and poor financial help for the airline industry, the domestic passenger growth has come down from 15.1 per cent in 2011-2012 to -4.2 per cent in 2012-2013. Keeping in view the historical trends, AAI has projected that the domestic passenger traffic will increase from 116.37 million in 2012-2013 to 148.52 million in the year 2017-2018. Notwithstanding with the current negative trend, an outlay of RS67,500 Crores has been allotted in the XII five-year plan for airport infrastructure development to increase the passenger facilities in the country.”
Q) What kind of potential do you think Chennai Airport has in becoming a hub for companies in South-East Asia Region?
A) “The modernisation and upgrade of Chennai Airport has enabled the airport to handle more passengers. Augmenting the airside capacity has resulted in handling increased numbers and a more varied spectrum of aircraft, including widebodied jets. AAI has projected that the total passengers of Chennai airport will grow at around eight per cent over the next 10 - 15 years. Air Asia visualised to make Chennai Airport the hub for its new low-cost operation and this will accelerate the traffic growth. Chennai being on the main route connecting South East Asia with Europe and having world class state of art facilities in place, can certainly act as a hub for companies in South-East Asia Region.”
Q) Skilled manpower is always an asset for any organisation. What kind of training is being provided to the officers and staff of AAI for updating their knowledge and skill?
A) “AAI have four training institutes namely CATC at Allahabad (Civil Aviation Training College), IAA at New Delhi (Indian Aviation Academy), Fire Services Training Institutes (FSTC, Kolkata & FTC, New Delhi). We have regular Ab-initio and refresher courses across all the disciplines. CATC, Allahabad is the pioneer institute in the country which has been imparting training in various aviation fields, the forte being CNS technology personnel in the CNS-ATM fields. The Indian Aviation Academy delivers certificate courses in various aviation fields such as Aviation Safety, Aviation Security and Airport Management. Fire Training Institutes meet the requirements of training fire safety personnel for the purposes of airfield fire & rescue services. Training imparted is in consonance with the ICAO guidelines.”
Q) What kind of values and expertise do you think foreign investors are bringing in the Joint ventures?
A) “Fortunately AAI has a highly motivated professional workforce which is not only technically oriented but also experienced in terminal and airside operations management, facility management, civil, electrical and electronics installations at airports, airport planning, airport commercial functions and airport cargo management etc. However, foreign investors in JVs have brought expertise in architectural and engineering consultancy services, 3ngineering works & project management and Airport management.”
Q) What latest modern techniques, procedures and technologies are being utilised to improve the performance of Air Navigation Services?
A) “AAI has drawn up the Master Plan for implementation of FANS (Future Air Navigation System). This includes a shift from voice communication to digital data communication, from ground based navigation to satellite navigation, i.e. GAGAN – Indian SBAS, modern radar coverage with ADS-B, multi-lateration etc. The Implementation of the CNS-ATM Master Plan will put India amongst the elite group of countries having an efficient ATM System supported by a strong and robust CNS infrastructure consisting of digital data unit, integrated ATM automation network, and SWIM (System, Wide Information Management) Separation Management System.
“The aim being to provide a safe and efficient, cost effective and environment-friendly ATM services applying gate-to-gate approach and to achieve a ‘collaborative and coordinated global approach’ to ensure harmonisation and adoptions of the technological solution that would be cost-effective and uniform ultimately to be part of the future global ATM system.”
Q) The Indian Government has improved 15 low-cost airports under the green field policy. How will the development of these airports be an advantage to the aviation sector?
A) "The development of low-cost airports will be an advantage of aviation sector. It will provide improved air connectivity to Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities. These airports will serve as feeder airports and this will generate enough traffic for the existing under utilised airports. Thus it will improve the utilization of existing capacity of these airports. These airports will also take a part of the traffic from the congested airports and will thus reduce the congestion at major airports, while they will help in bringing out civil aviation from a slow down by accelerating the traffic growth.”
Q) With the arrival of LCC like AirAsia in the Indian domestic market, how do you think the competition will react?
A) "Whenever a new airline joins the market the competition gets increased and customers benefit. With the arrival of AirAsia in the Indian market, passengers are likely to have more choice and options vis-a-vis schedule, fares, service etc. This will increase the competition among the airlines to provide better fares and service to the air travellers. While preparing its traffic forecast AAI has taken into consideration these developments and the domestic traffic is projected to grow at a rate of ten per cent over the next 15 to 20 years."
Q) What new CSR initiative is being planned for this financial year?
A) "In the year 2013-2014, AAI aims to create a combined policy and a structure for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability. In addition to the ongoing projects like paper unit, provision of an ambulance and medical unit at Pakyong Sikkim, AAI has decided to adopt one village worst affected by the recent floods in Uttarakhand. AAI has also selected the backward district of Udaipur to carry out CSR activities. Moreover, AAI is undertaking 14 environmental sustainability projects across India.”