CANCUN: The Navi Mumbai international airport is unlikely to be ready for operations before 2022, said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airlines’ body that represents about 275 airlines which operate 83% of the global air traffic.
Early this year, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had set a deadline of 2019 for the completion of the airport, which was then revised to 2020, reports The Times of India.
The IATA DG’s statement then makes the government’s 2020 deadline for start of commercial operations a highly unrealistic one.
“The second airport (Navi Mumbai) will be effective at best in five or six or seven years,” said Juniac in an interview to TOI during the three-day IATA annual general meeting held last week. His statement wasn’t India specific.
“Everywhere it’s the same. The only airport that was built faster was Istanbul (Turkey),” he said in reference to the average time it takes to build an airport. Juniac who has over 20 years experience in the airline industry and served as chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM before he took over as IATA director general in September 2016.
After over a decade of dilly-dallying, this year, the state government woke up to the fact that the lone Sahar-based airport is saturated beyond capacity.
The delay in construction of a second airport for Mumbai will bring consequences. For one, India’s domestic air passenger traffic has topped the global chart for the highest growth rates, 24 months in a row.
Mumbai displaced London Gatwick with 45.2 million passengers (in the fiscal ending March 2017) to became the busiest single-runway airport in the world. In the India aviation growth story, Mumbai is one of the key feeders of the demand, but the land-starved airport, whose single runway handles over 850 flights per day, is ill-equipped to play the role of an enabler.