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"Other airport hubs have beaten India"
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Other airport hubs have beaten India
By Manju V
The Times of India
MUMBAI - The Centre's decision to create two aviation hubs in the country
may have come a little late in the day. A recently released government
report admits that airports at Dubai, Doha, Singapore and Frankfurt have
stolen a march on Indian airports when it comes to attracting transit
The report blames the country's loss on the government's own policies.
In many parts of the world, airports and airlines teamed up years ago to
develop new-age hubs, where partner carriers stop over with travellers
moving between destinations not served by direct flights. India, however,
did not seize the opportunity. As a result of the lapse, several
airport-airline "hubbing" teams benefited, including Dubai-Emirates,
Frankfurt-Lufthansa, Changi-Singapore Airlines, Doha-Qatar Airways and
Hubbing benefits not only airports, but also airlines and passengers.
Prepared by the ministry of civil aviation, the report quantifies India's
loss in traffic numbers. Of the total international flyers handled by Mumbai
in 2011 just 12% were transit passengers; Delhi was worse off at 9%. In
comparison, Dubai's transit crowd made up 44% of its overall traffic, Doha
airport's figure was 61%, and Singapore's 25%.
The same dismal picture is painted by another set of data in the report. It
says that 15 million passengers flew into or out of India via an airport hub
in 2011; of this, 11.4 million went through a hub outside India, mainly in
the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Indeed, about 2.6 million passengers
from India flew via Dubai airport to countries around the world, making up
19% of the Dubai's transit crowd. These are passengers who would have booked
flights like, say, Mumbai-Dubai-Barcelona or Delhi-Dubai-Lisbon.
The absence of aviation hubs in the country, experts asserted, is as much a
reflection on Indian airports as on Indian carriers. A hub needs a strong
airline-something that, going by statistics, may be missing here.
According to the report, the majority of India's international travellers
fly international carriers. Only 34% of the country's 37 million
international passengers annually fly by local carriers like Air India, Jet
Airways. The rest pick international airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways,
Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.
"Most of these passengers transited through hubs in Dubai, Doha, Singapore,
Abu Dhabi and Bangkok. Today, the international travel from India is
dominated by Middle Eastern carriers (34%) and Southeast Asian carriers
(22%)," the report says.
In a self-indictment, the report blames the bilateral agreements the
government signed with other countries in the last few years-when Praful
Patel was the civil aviation minister, though the report does not specify
this-for causing the loss of transit traffic to Indian airports and
airlines. "Liberal bilateral agreements have helped large foreign airlines
like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, etc. to operate more flights and routes to
India, thus penetrating Indian market and even tier-II destinations," the
report says. It recommends a recalibration of future bilateral issuance to
Among other reasons mentioned in the report for transfer traffic loss are
poor financial clout and fleet size of Indian carriers in comparison to
competing airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa; and lack of seamless
transfer options for transit passengers at Indian airports like at Dubai and
There are benefits of hubbing for airports as well as for airlines and
passengers. For airports, successful hubbing translates to increased revenue
because the number of flights and flyers go up; more passengers also means
more opportunities to earn non-aeronautical revenue from duty-free retail
outlets. For airlines, hubbing brings a reduction in the operating costs due
to economies of scale, better load factors, fleet utilization, etc. "All
these benefits to airlines and airports eventually trickles down to
passengers in terms of more flight options, competitive prices and enhanced
service levels," the report says.
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