With the Government of Maharashtra agreeing to double the movement of aircraft into Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), India’s financial capital will over the next few weeks see an increase in air traffic movement with the present 50 arrivals and departures reaching 100 each.
“The details of approvals for increasing flights to Mumbai have been shared with airlines. It is now up to them to increase flights or not. But we at MIAL are ready to fly with the new capacity of 200, which includes 100 departures and 100 arrivals each,” senior officials said.
But is the city ready to receive more flights? Are people willing to fly? The Maharashtra government’s move to ease travel norms under its Mission Begin Again programme is being seen by the Aviation industry stakeholders as a positive sign that will gradually rise.
Answering this in his own style at a recent session organised by the Indian Express, Union Minister of Civil Aviation (Independent Charge), Hardeep Singh Puri said:
“We are increasing domestic passengers at the rate of 5,000 a week. With Mumbai hopefully having Covid numbers under control, I’m hoping that after the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, we will open up Mumbai more; Bengaluru, Kolkata will be a little less sporadic. We will be looking to touch the 50 per cent mark before too long… By Diwali (November 14), we should be getting a bulk of our civil aviation traffic back in form.”
An increase in daily flights has long been a request by both airlines and airport operator GVK. Mumbai, which was the country’s second busiest airport is now operating at around 20% of total capacity. On August 31, 2020 Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, GAD-SEO 1, Civil Aviation & Sales Tax, wrote to Union Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola conveying the decision to increase flights.
When domestic flight operations resumed on May 25, after a two-month ban due to COVID-19, the Government of Maharashtra imposed a restriction on flights to and from the city in wake of the pandemic. Much to the dislike of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, a cap was set at 50 daily flights – 25 arrivals and 25 departures – before being increased to 100 daily flights from June 15.
The Mumbai Airport is operated by the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), a joint venture between GVK Group, state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other minority shareholders.
At present, the GVK Group owns a majority 50.5% stake in MIAL while AAI has 26%. The rest 23.5% are with Bidvest and Airports Company of South Africa.
The move to ramp up operations comes at a time when, GVK and Adani Enterprise in separate statements said that the latter’s airport company, Adani Airports will acquire controlling stake in CSMIA from the GVK Group, apart from acquiring the stakes of foreign partners in the airline venture.
A five-point Terms of Cooperation between GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited (including it’s subsidiaries) with Adani Airport Holdings Limited will include:
- Acquisition of debt by Adani from various GVK lenders including a Goldman Sachs led consortium and HDFC.
- Release GVK of various obligations, securities and Corporate Guarantees given in respect of debt to be acquired by Adani.
- The ability for Adani to convert the acquired debt to equity of GVK Airport Developers Limited on mutually agreed terms, subject to obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.
- Infusion of funds by Adani into Mumbai International Airport Limited to provide liquidity support.
- Achieving Financial Closure of the Navi Mumbai International Airport project by Adani at the earliest in order to commence construction.