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Every time I visit India’s airports, I feel I am watching history being made.
There’s an incredible sense of momentum here, with two new greenfield airports – Bangalore and Hyderabad – being opened in the past few months, and sweeping, ambitious, complex modernisations taking place in Delhi and Mumbai. There are also dozens of other airport developments happening around this vast nation, while commercially speaking there are around 26 airports that will offer commercial activities to tender in the coming couple of years.
Having stepped off my Jet Airways flight from Hyderabad – are there any better domestic airlines on this planet than Jet and Kingfisher? – and exited the packed domestic arrivals hall, I immediately came face to face with the modernisation of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Below you can see the new extension of the domestic arrivals terminal, well advanced and due to open soon.
It’s just one of many changes here. An improved T2 (international), offering many new features, was inaugurated on 1 July. And later this month a major milestone will be reached as the airport’s new, third runway is unveiled. At 4,430m, it will be India’s longest – and one of the longest in Asia – and, of course, A380 compatible.
Like all the developments here, the new runway is designed to increase capacity in the face of the airport’s booming past and projected traffic growth.
The aviation industry may be going through some pain here at present due to rising oil and (therefore) ticket charges (a big deterrent to Indian consumers in a highly price-sensitive market), but its recent growth has been phenomenal and long-term projections remain bullish.
The runway is likely to open around 21 August and local media interest is intense. On today’s site tour of the new facillity, I was accompanied by two of Delhi’s most senior television reporters, both planning their coverage of the inauguration of the runway (in the far background behind me in the picture below).
From a commercial revenues perspective though the big story revolves around the new Terminal 3, due to open in March 2010. Delhi hosts the Commonwealth Games in October of that year, and the new facility has to be in place well in advance of the event.
GMR, as one would expect from one of the world’s most efficient airport developers, is bang on target, with over 30% of the work completed.
That still leaves a daunting 70% and as the picture of the new building below shows, the task of creating the major showpiece that GMR has promised, remains a stiff one.
The facility will have 48 gates, 75 aerobridges and 165 check-in counters, including 20% self check-in, plus 5km of travellators.
“Every facility will be world class,” Chief Development Officer Airport Development I Prabhakara Rao (below) told me today as he gave me a a fascinating insight into how T3 will take shape.
All full service domestic carriers and all international flights will operate out of T3, which will have a capacity of 34 million passengers. So that spells major commercial opportunities – if you thought India’s duty free tenders until now were hotly contested, just watch out for this one.