Hurdles Dog Adani's Airport Venture
Cruising Heights|April - May 2021
Adani has control of seven airports – six Airports Authority of India airports through privatisation and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) at Mumbai by acquiring GVK’s stake — and almost a quarter of India’s air traffic. However, to make them profitable, Adani will have to overcome infra and other challenges that each of the airports face, writes AMEYA JOSHI.
Ameya Joshi

Privatisation of airports in India is gaining momentum. What started as a small effort at Kochi has grown manifold with existing airports at Delhi and Mumbai airports being privatized on one hand and Bengaluru and Hyderabad seeing Greenfield airports being developed. There was, however, a long hiatus, post the success of the four airports.

The next movement in this space happened only in 2019 and 2020 with the Union cabinet approving the transfer of six airports on 50-year leases to the Adani Group. The firm has taken control or is in the process of taking control of airports at Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati. In addition, the group acquired GVK’s stake in Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) which operates the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) at Mumbai, the financial capital of the country.

The company turned out to be the highest bidder for these airports; its highest bid was way beyond the second bidder or anybody else. Privatisation is not a great word in India, especially when used by politicians. Privatisation of state assets is not smooth as it had led to strikes, court orders, and agitations in the past. Even in this case, the state government of Kerala knocked on the doors of the court against privatisation of the airport at Thiruvananthapuram.

The airports

Ahmedabad is the seventh busiest airport in the country, right behind the top six metros. Over the years, Ahmedabad has gained a lot of connections, primarily due to routes added under the ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) - UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik). The airport saw connections to Jalgaon, Nashik, Jaisalmer, Udaipur in other states, and to multiple cities within Gujarat, something that was absent in the past. As major cities across the country saw their airports being congested and not having slots available to add flights, focus shifted on airports beyond the six metros and that is where Ahmedabad made the most of it. As it stands today, Ahmedabad does not have any more parking bays available for night parking, and slots are a challenge to get during the day!

AHMEDABAD IS THE SEVENTH BUSIEST AIRPORT IN THE COUNTRY… OVER THE YEARS, AHMEDABAD HAS GAINED A LOT OF CONNECTIONS. AS IT STANDS TODAY, AHMEDABAD DOES NOT HAVE ANY MORE PARKING BAYS AVAILABLE FOR NIGHT PARKING AND SLOTS ARE A CHALLENGE TO GET DURING THE DAY.

Lucknow is the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country. The airport serves the thriving city of Lucknow and neighbouring areas like Kanpur which are trade hubs for the region. The city is also coming up as an alternative IT hub with a few companies adding headcounts. However, the real traffic also lies in the residents of the city who are working across the country: primarily at IT hubs like Delhi NCR, Bengaluru or Hyderabad. The city has thrived with connections beyond Delhi -- its mainstay once upon a time -- and now has connections to most major cities across the country. With a runway long enough, the airport can handle widebody aircraft

Mangalore is a gateway to the Gulf for coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala. It is also an important cultural centre. The city has acted as a gateway to Dakshina Kannada or southern Karnataka along with some parts of neighbouring Kerala. Famous for its port, a refinery nearby and storage of oil, the airport has strong business connections with the Gulf region.

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