India must quickly increase airport capacity

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India should quickly increase capacity and improve air traffic control at the country's two major airports — New Delhi and Mumbai — to ensure safety and sustain the country's air travel boom, the International Air Transport Association has said.

IATA Director General and Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani said the association expects air travel in India to expand about 15 percent annually over the next four years, but growth could falter if the country's airport infrastructure doesn't catch up.

"There is an emergency situation. I really believe the government has to act very quickly, within the next one year," Bisignani said.

The airports in New Delhi and Mumbai handle 63 percent of India's air traffic, and flights are often forced to circle in the air while waiting for a landing slot. Also, about one-third of all planes must wait at least 15 to 20 minutes after landing until getting approval to head to the terminal.

Air travel is booming in India. Several budget carriers launched in the past year are attracting first-time flyers, and officials expect there to be 50 million passengers in India by 2010 from 14 million now.

With an outdated, short-staffed air-traffic control system, the worst fear is that a signal mix-up could lead to a mid-air collision.

"I am not saying the airports in Mumbai and New Delhi are not safe. But six months into the next year, you could start having safety problems," Bisignani said.

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