Why Bengaluru may pip Mumbai as India’s 2nd busiest airport

The southern city has upped the ante with a second, parallel runway and several other attractive facilities

Bengaluru airport
Over the past year, Bengaluru has witnessed a greater number of domestic air passengers than Mumbai.

Bengaluru may soon replace Mumbai, the nation’s financial capital, as the second busiest airport in terms of domestic traffic.

A Money Control report attributes this to two key reasons, centred around demand and supply. First, Bengaluru is becoming a more happening city than before, with a young, cosmopolitan crowd that travels often for business and pleasure, and demanding greater airport facilities. Second, the city’s airport is robustly expanding its supply of facilities, upping its ante in the airports game.

New Delhi remains the nation’s busiest airport.

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Bengaluru’s rapid growth

India’s Silicon Valley has witnessed quick economic growth in recent decades. This has translated into increased demand for aviation facilities. The city plays host to numerous IT companies as well as rapidly mushrooming start-ups populated by young founders and employees who need to — and like to — travel.

The city becoming a major business hub also means more inbound travel, both from within and outside the country. This again increases the footfall at its airport.

COVID has further changed equations, noted Money Control. After the national lockdown last year, Mumbai, which had taken the hardest hit from the pandemic, had been more cautious in opening up flight services. Bengaluru, on the other hand, could open up faster.

Over the past year, Bengaluru has consistently witnessed a greater number of domestic passengers than Mumbai, said the report.

Focus on airport facilities

In terms of airport facilities and services, Bengaluru has rapidly implemented projects, while Mumbai has often lagged. In a very recent example, Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL), owners of the Taj Group of Hotels, announced a proposal to develop a giant property near the Bengaluru airport. The property will hold 450 rooms of the high-end Vivanta brand and 325 rooms of the low-cost brand Ginger, said the report. This would be in addition to another group property close by, Taj Bangalore.

That Bengaluru has more land to offer for an airport project helps, vis-à-vis land-starved Mumbai. According to Money Control, Bengaluru International Airport Ltd (BIAL) hold a 500-acre land parcel close to the airport that can be developed. It has incorporated a separate arm, called Bengaluru Airport City Ltd (BACL), to monetise the real estate around the airport. On the drawing board are malls, a concert arena and so on.

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More importantly, the Bengaluru airport hosts a second and parallel runway, which drastically increases its capacity to handle traffic. Mumbai also has two runways but, like in Chennai, they intersect. This hinders its ability to handle more traffic. Bengaluru has increased its air traffic movement to over 60 per hour, against Mumbai’s 45, said the report.

Where Mumbai falls short

The existing airport in Mumbai has reached saturation, and there’s little scope for expansion, said the report. On the other hand, work at the Navi Mumbai airport continues to crawl.

The report noted that while Mumbai posted a 6% growth in domestic air traffic in the period between FY15 and FY19, Bengaluru’s grew about 18%. The new defunct Jet Airways had its hub in Mumbai. So, when its flights got grounded, traffic at the city decreased pro rata.

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