Can India become an aviation transit hub?

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An IndiGo executive recently said Indian airports are emerging as preferred transit destinations for travellers flying from one foreign country to another. What has changed and does India really have the potential to be a transit hub? Mint explains:

In aviation, what is a transit hub?

A transit hub is an airport that provides smooth connectivity from one foreign destination to another. Ideally, a transit hub should enable a seamless transfer experience to someone flying from country A to country C via country B. A transit hub often requires a stronghold of a large carrier with a widespread network so that the airline can offer one-stop connectivity to passengers with a wait time of no more than 2 to 3 hours between flights. Under this, a hub-and-spoke model is at play where traffic is concentrated and then distributed to final destinations at affordable price points and minimum wait period.

Can India become a transit hub?

In 2018-19, Indian airlines had a share of 40.2% of air passenger traffic to and from India, as per data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. This share has now increased to 44% in 2022-23. On the other hand, the share of overseas airlines has decreased to 56%. In the short and medium-haul segments, India now has low-cost carriers in the international segment. Apart from IndiGo, Akasa is expected to fly to foreign destinations in the next few months. Therefore, aviation watchers believe that India has the potential to become a transit hub that is economical and offers basic services to begin with.

Graphic: Mint

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Graphic: Mint

Which airlines can make it happen?

The Air India group and IndiGo are two players with the potential to turn the transit hub dream into a reality. The two have ordered nearly 1,500 aircraft to be delivered through the decade and beyond. Nearly 95% of the fleet to be inducted are narrow-body planes that can cover 5 to 8 hours of travel, including destinations in Europe.

Any candidates for transit hubs?

The plan is to start with New Delhi. A group representing the government, the Delhi airport and airlines have hired a consultant to come up with best practices in terms of concentration of airlines, minimal connection time and a quick transition between a domestic and an international connection. Transit hubs are also being planned at Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata. While flights from Africa could find an easy hub in Mumbai, those from Central Europe and West Asia can find one in Delhi.

Is there any policy support?

The ministry of civil aviation is keen on the idea and encouraging airlines to provide more non-stop connectivity overseas. Airlines and airports are also engaging to create larger spaces in airports for transit passengers. In April, Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told Mint that the government has set in motion a plan to transform Indian airports into aviation hubs. The plan may call for the creation of dedicated terminals for international flights or for a large carrier in order to harmonize travel.

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