The government of India says it is planning to spend $60bn on doubling the number of airports it operates as it races to meet demand in its aviation market, the world’s fastest growing.
Jayant Sinha, the minister for civil aviation, said in a recent interview with the Nikkei Asian Review that "India should have 150 to 200 airports … in the next 15 to 20 years".
At present, the country has 100 airports, although it is building new ones fast, with no fewer than 31 expected to be completed in the next 12 months.
Of the 100 new airports to be constructed, about 70 will go up in areas that have no airport now, and the remainder will become secondary airports.
The secondary airports are intended to deal with a sudden growth in demand for air travel that threatens to overwhelm the present infrastructure.
Ruthless price competition between budget airlines and India’s 7% economic growth rate have put air travel within reach of ever more people.
In 2017, the throughput of domestic passengers recorded its 42nd straight month of double-digit growth, and domestic and international passengers together grew 17% over the year. This will shortly push important hubs such as Mumbai and Chennai to operate above their design capacity.
The growth in demand is good news for companies in the sector. The International Air Transport Association has predicted that by 2025, India will have jumped over the UK to become the third largest market for aviation in the world, behind China and the US.
One of the big winners from this growth will be the state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI). This has built more than 60 airports in India, and is now looking to use the expertise it has gained to win work abroad. One of its first projects, Kalaymyo in neighbouring Myanmar, has already been announced.
The question that remains unanswered is how India will finance expansion on this scale. Sinha, the civil aviation minister, told the Nikkei Asian Review that the bulk of the investment would come from the private sector.
A ministry official told the paper: "A consultant is being appointed to estimate the projected demand across the country and in individual cities, determine required investments, identify possible sources of funding, and develop a regulatory architecture in consultation with shareholders."
Image: Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore, completed in 2008, is run on solar power (Kempegowda)