When Kingfisher Airlines pulled back its operations two months ago from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport,Ahmedabad (SVPIA),it became the sixth airline to do so over the past six years. It was a major jolt to the airport which annual revenue growth rate has declined from a record 48 per cent in 2005-2006 to 30 per cent in 2011-2012.
Although the number of domestic flight and passengers’ movement have been soaring every year,what worries the airport authorities is the dwindling number of international flights and passengers over the years. In 2010,a record eight lakh foreign passengers travelled through the airport which again dipped to seven lakh in 2011.
In 2002,airport recorded a mere 1,100 international flights’ movement which reached its peak in 2009 with more than 6,700 movements. But since 2009,the number has been dwindling rapidly.
Over the past six years,at least six airlines including Kuwait Airlines (international),Deccan Cargo,Paramount Airways,Air Deccan (merged with Kingfisher),Alliance Airway and Air India Express (international) shut down their operations from Ahmedabad airport.
At present,SVPIA has reduced to six international airlines. Four of them including Air Arabia,Qatar Airways,Emirates and Fly Dubai which connects Dubai,Doha and Sharjah. Besides,Singapore Airways has direct flights to Singapore while Air India connects Ahmedabad to Newark (US),Toronto (Canada) and London (UK) via Mumbai and Delhi. The bad news is that Air India after doing away with the Frankfurt flight is said to be reducing the number of flights to London as well.
To lure the airlines to start operations from SVIPA,the Airport Authority of India (AAI) pumped more than Rs 400 crore in erecting a world-class international terminal and other infrastructures but even 50 per cent of them are not utilised.
The AAI is also spending crores of rupees to upgrade its aircraft navigation system with installation of new radars and a proposed state-of-the-art building for Air Traffic Controllers to secure safe air navigation.
SVPIA is the third largest airport in the country controlled by Airport Authority of India (AAI). The airport receives maximum revenue from passenger service fee,landing,parking and housing charges (LPHC),user development fee and route navigation facilities charges (RNFC). According to officials RNFC and LPHC is the maximum contributor of airport’s revenue.
The airport is equipped with all the basic facilities that international or domestic carriers need. However,growth of two-tier airports such as SVPIA lies in the hands of central government. Unless new airlines start their operations the growth of airport will be hampered, said a senior airport official.
According to Gujarat State Aviation Minister Saurabh Patel,despite having huge potential the flight connectivity from Ahmedabad airport to Europe and US has reduced over the year. There used to be an Air Indias direct flight to London which was discontinued.