New Delhi: The company that runs the Delhi airport, Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd (DIAL), plans to continue operations at the old terminal (1D) and make it a dedicated one for domestic as well as international low-cost airlines, according to two senior executives at GMR Infrastructure Ltd, who did not want to be identified.
The move would appear to be prompted by growth in traffic, the expansion plans of low-cost airlines and a desire to seek returns on the money that went into building 1D.
GMR heads the consortium that owns DIAL, which had initially planned to either raze 1D, built at a cost of Rs500 crore as a transitory step in the development of the Delhi airport, or use it for other purposes.
All airlines were to shift to the new T3 terminal. 1D is currently used by domestic low-cost airlines such as IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, and they too were expected to move to T3 by the end of this month.
That plan has now changed, said the GMR executives, and largely because passenger traffic has grown at a fast pace (18% last year).
T3 at the India Gandhi International Airport is designed to handle 34 million passengers a year. 1D can handle 10 million.
This year, the India Gandhi International Airport is expected to handle around 30 million passengers, of which around six million will be those accounted for low-cost airlines.
Moving low-cost airlines to it could saturate T3 as early as next year, said one of the two officials. “We have to keep both running,” he added.
If it shuts down 1D, DIAL cannot include the Rs500 crore spent on it in the project cost of the airport and seek returns from airport regulator Airports Economic Regulatory Authority, which is currently vetting its proposal for an extension in airport development fee on account of higher-than-expected project costs.
Then, there are the expansion plans of low-cost carriers.
Indigo and SpiceJet alone will add at least 30 aircraft to their current fleet of 59 aircraft in 2011 and many will be based out of Delhi.
The second GMR executive said that once the decision was final, DIAL would add customs and immigration counters to 1D in the “April-June quarter” to allow low-cost airlines to operate international flights from 1D.
SpiceJet operates its Kathmandu service from T3 while all its other flights are from 1D. If the plan is firmed up, 1D will end up being used for both domestic operations and for flights to South Asia, South-East Asia and West Asia, where IndiGo and SpiceJet have announced plans to fly.
“The aviation ministry has already indicated it wants 1D to continue running,” the first executive added.
An analyst said retaining 1D was a good move, adding that he has doubts about the staffing of the new immigration and customs counters at 1D.
“You will have international passengers spending half their lives in T3 and 1D, as the customs and immigration departments are not going to increase their manpower. The numbers will have to be distributed to the two terminals and there will be chaos,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a Chennai-based analyst.
Meanwhile, a former Airports Authority of India executive, who did not want to be named, said Delhi’s growth could necessitate a second airport sooner than expected. If 27 million is taken as the base, he said, in the next 10 years it could grow to 70 million at a compounded growth rate of 10% a year; 84 million at 12%; or 109 million at 15%. “The moot point is that I believe a second airport will be required, and soon - say four to five years,” the executive added.