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Business News/ Industry / Mint Explainer: What does it take to build an aviation hub?
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Mint Explainer: What does it take to build an aviation hub?

The civil aviation ministry is working on a national aviation hub policy to provide a fillip to Indian airlines in international expansion to and from India

In early 2023, the Indian government started looking at the potential of creating a global aviation hub in the metro cities. A plan is also underway to pilot the same at Delhi, India’s largest and busiest airport. Photographer: Pankaj Nangia/BloombergPremium
In early 2023, the Indian government started looking at the potential of creating a global aviation hub in the metro cities. A plan is also underway to pilot the same at Delhi, India’s largest and busiest airport. Photographer: Pankaj Nangia/Bloomberg

To place its airports on the global aviation map, the Indian government is looking to enhance the country's airport infrastructure to rival the world's premier aviation hubs. This initiative aims not only to boost international traffic through Indian airports but also to increase their operational efficiency. Mint takes a look at the world's largest centres of international traffic, the benchmarks set by the world's busiest airports, and the key factors that drive their efficiency.

What is an aviation hub?

An airport hub is characterized by a concentration of air traffic and flight operations. These airports act as transfer points for passengers to reach their final destination. Traditionally, these hubs are also identified with one or two leading airlines that provide direct connectivity between major international cities and also to tier-2 and tier-3 cities with one-stop connectivity.

This results in a hub-and-spoke model with airlines bringing massive air traffic to a hub airport, creating economies of scale and then distributing it via spokes to multiple destinations. Such a model enables airlines to serve more cities with fewer aircraft.

Mega hubs of 2023

As per aviation research firm OAG, a mega-hub connectivity measures the effectiveness of an international airport as connecting points – globally and regionally – as well as gateways into domestic markets. It takes into account the number of scheduled connections to and from international flights as well as the number of destinations served from the airport.

OAG has marked London Heathrow as the most connected airport in the world for 2023, followed by New York's JFK Airport, Amsterdam Airport of Netherlands, Kuala Lumpur Airport of Malaysia and Haneda Airport of Tokyo.

One of the commonalities among these five hubs is the dominance of at least one airline. To be sure, British Airways has a 50% share in the total number of flights that operate out of London Heathrow, Delta airline has 34% share at JFK airport, KLM-Royal airline has a 53% share at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, AirAsia has 34% share in flights from Kuala Lumpur, and nearly 36% flights from Haneda airport are operated by AII Nippon Airways.

Another feature of an airport hub is to offer minimum transit time between two connections whether it is international to domestic or international to international connectivity. For example, Dubai international airport which has a capacity of 90 million passengers per year, has three major terminals with over 50 gates each, and facilitates a transfer time of up to 30 minutes between each of these terminals.

Similarly, the Singapore Changi Airport gives a travel experience to a transit passenger with a heavy usage of technology in airport design, check-in kiosks, biometric passport control, smart and hassle-free security systems. The airport is also an ideal example of multi-modal connectivity to the airport.

India hubs

In early 2023, the Indian government started looking at the potential of creating a global aviation hub in the metro cities. A plan is also underway to pilot the same at Delhi, India’s largest and busiest airport. Delhi airport handled 4,29,964 aircraft movements and 65.32 million passenger traffic in 2022-23 (Apr-Mar).

In December, Mint reported, quoting government officials, that the civil aviation ministry is planning a national aviation hub policy to provide a fillip to Indian airlines in international expansion to and from India. Under the draft national aviation hub policy, the government is also likely assessing the introduction of differential charges for Indian and foreign airlines at airports in the country.

The Indian civil aviation ministry is working with airport operators, airlines and other stakeholders to enable improved infrastructure at Indian airports to create global aviation hubs. The government also aims to reduce transit time for passengers, use India's geographical position as an advantage in establishing connectivity to the East and the West, and provide multi-modal connectivity for efficient connectivity.

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Published: 11 Feb 2024, 09:57 AM IST
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