India has growth and opportunities

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Look at how Indian airports are responding to the challenges of global demand, writes Angela Gittens of Airports Council International.

India is set to become the third largest aviation market in the world in just three years. This is according to the latest Airports Council International (ACI) growth forecasts which also show that global demand for air services is set to double to an estimated 22 billion passengers per year by 2040.

This is the challenge facing airports in India – how should they work with airlines and other aviation partners to meet this demand and how can governments and regulators help to facilitate the accommodation of that growth so that the local, regional and national communities that airports serve can benefit from the social and economic benefits that aviation delivers.

Put simply, Indian governments and the aviation industry must continue to strive for greater efficiency and sustainability in the use of existing infrastructure – on the ground and in the air – and pursue sustainable development in building new infrastructure.

And, in doing this, Indian airports must continue to deliver what have been in many cases exemplary results in putting the needs of the passenger at the heart of their plans. 

The scale of current and forecast demand air service in India clearly indicates a need for increasing levels of investment to maintain and enhance current capacity and to build more infrastructure.

The injection of private investment into what had historically been a public or government-operated sector has been successfully pursued in India, as it has in other countries. This has supported the growth of the national airport system and helps to deliver the benefits this growth will bring.

There is no ‘one size fits all' model for privatisation, however. The decision on whether privatisation would be a successful option for an airport or airport network needs to be guided by a set of principles and incentives that are suited to local conditions.

But, it is important to have a stable, predictable, consistent and proportionate economic regulatory regime and risk must be factored in when considering privatization.

The objective of governments to shift risk away from the taxpayer needs to be balanced with the private sector’s requirement to recover its costs and try to earn a reasonable return on their investment which factors in the associated risk.

Disproportionate efforts to restrict or micro-manage the airport business should be avoided, especially considering the strong competitive pressures that now shape the airport industry.

The needs of the passenger must be prioritised and factored into any plans. Delivering a high-quality customer experience has become the expectation and the hallmark of the major airports in India. India is home to a number of best-in-class airports in the world for customer experience. 

Indeed, Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport achieved first place in the ACI Airport Service Quality awards for an airport serving over 40 million passengers a year in Asia-Pacific for 2017, tying with Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Nine other Indian airports achieved recognition in other ASQ Award categories: Ahmedabad, Cochin, Kolkata, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Indore, Lucknow, and Hyderabad.

As India prepares to become the third largest aviation market in the world, airports, airlines, and other aviation partners must continue to work together to accommodate this accelerating growth. Governments must do their part by providing clear and reasonable oversight so that Indian airports can remain the global benchmark for customer experience. 

Angela Gittens is Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) World based in Montreal; she spoke at the IATA Global Aviation Summit in New Delhi, India.

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