Air India revival to help boost Delhi airport hub traffic, says DIAL chief

Air India revival to help boost Delhi airport hub traffic, says DIAL chief

GMR-run Delhi airport expects hub traffic to surge to 25 per cent in three years as the now cash-strapped Air India will expand its domestic and international network under the stewardship of Tatas, according to a senior official.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport, operated by DIAL, is the country's largest aerodrome and is already the hub for Air India, Vistara and IndiGo.

Currently, Delhi airport accounts for 15 per cent hub traffic. Hubs serve as a key point for airlines to operate flights to various destinations, including stopovers and connecting services.

Besides, Jet Airways, under the new owner Kalrock-Jalan Consortium, will be making Delhi airport as the base once its restarts operations from 2022. Prior to its grounding in April 2019, the airline was operating most of its flights from Mumbai.

Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar told PTI that Tata Group coming on board Air India is definitely a very positive move. As the airline is cash-strapped, it is actually affecting its operations and growth plan, which obviously is affecting other stakeholders, including airports, he added.

He hoped that the salt-to-software conglomerate will retain Delhi airport as the hub for Air India's operations as the aerodrome is the biggest hub full of potential.

"We are missing this potential because we didn't have a very strong anchor airline here unlike most of the hub airports (in other countries)," he said on Tuesday.

Even though Delhi is the hub airport for Air India, the airline was neither expanding its fleet nor the network internationally. With availability of cash, Tata Group-led Air India will expand much faster and help the airport in hub operations, Jaipuriar said.

"Currently, our hub operation is about 18 per cent of the total traffic -- domestic and international. I expect that to go up to about 25 per cent in the next three years or less and it should improve further because in the hub operations, the benefit is for everybody, whether it is airline or airport," he said.

According to him, Air India will be able to meet up with the demand for direct long haul flights from India, which are quite limited after the grounding of Jet Airways.

Air India is the only airline with wide-body aircraft which could fly to Germany or North America directly, among other destinations.

"... in fact, a lot of our transfer traffic as well as our direct traffic we lost to Middle East. Therefore, with Tatas coming in, and they have also a long haul in Vistara, I see that long haul traffic to North America and Europe is going to go up which means good business for all the stakeholders, including airport," he pointed out.

Also, there was a big dip in full service carriers' market share after Jet Airways shut down. It was low-cost carriers which were driving growth and "we see a lot of demand from many passengers for full-service carrier that's where you will find that with Vistara is normally doing pretty well in terms of load factor", Jaipuriar said.

With enough funds available, Air India's operations level is expected to go up. There will also be more business class seats and more full service carrier seats, which will be good from the airport economics point of view as well as the passenger convenience and passenger fees, he said.

DIAL is majority-owned by the GMR Group.