After its inception in 1997, it took a decade for Mumbai’s second airport near Panvel to reach the drawing board. It took another decade to find a builder.
Although the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has set a deadline to get the airport ready by May 2020, industry experts feel that the project is unlikely to have it smooth.
“The project is likely to see challenges in terms of funds. And keeping in mind the volatile nature of the aviation sector, a major surge in international crude prices would have an impact on the timeline,” said a senior executive with an aviation think tank.
On Monday, the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the GVK-led private consortium that operates the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), won the bid to build the new airport
Experts said that even if it the project meets the new deadline, air travel out of Mumbai will continue to be chaotic for at least another four years. From handling less than 25 million passengers in 2006, the CSIA entered the big league of the world’s busiest airports by catering to 41.7 million passengers in 2015-16. Industry projections indicate that the clock has begun ticking for the city airport to hit saturation in the next two years.
For instance, a report released by aviation think tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, last November projected that by 2018-19, CSIA’s capacity would be filled with 48 million annual users. Until last year, the airport had consumed more than three-fourth of its capacity - the highest among metro airports in India, with Chennai. Even Delhi, the country’s busiest airport, has utilised only 41% of its capacity.
A comparison of Mumbai’s air traffic planning structure with Istanbul and Dubai showed a dismal picture. In 2014, the Istanbul Ataturk airport handled 56 million fliers, but the airport has already invested US$8 billion for a bigger airport with six runways, four terminals and a capacity to handle 150 million passengers a year. Similarly, Dubai airport, which saw 70 million air passengers in 2014, is being prepared to accommodate 100 million passengers by 2020. The city, with a population of more than 2 million, has started building its second airport at the Dubai Central World, with an estimated capacity for 260 million passengers, the report said.
Mumbai is projected to hit saturation by 2018. Even if the second airport is ready in the next five years, Mumbai would need a third airport by 2035.