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Union Cabinet Approves AAI’s 2,870 crore Varanasi Airport Expansion Proposal

Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) proposal for the expansion of Varanasi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport has been approved by the Union Cabinet. The estimated cost for the expansion of Varanasi airport is Rs. 2,869.65 crore as per AAI’s proposal.

Passenger Handling Capacity to be Increased by 6 Million Per Annum

Post expansion, the passenger handling capacity of the Varanasi airport is set to be 9.9 Million Passengers Per Annum (MMPA) from the current 3.9 MMPA. This marks an increase by 6 MMPA, and for this purpose, a new terminal building will be constructed at the airport.

The new terminal building will sprawl over 75,000 sq.m, and has been designed to handle 5,000 Peak Hour Passengers (PHP)*.

*As per International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) manual, peak hour refers to the thirtieth or fortieth most busy hour at an airport during a year. The peak hour can also be found by considering hours with the highest average passengers at an airport over a specified period.

Currently, Varanasi Airport has two terminals, one for domestic flyers and the other for international flyers. While the domestic terminal sprawls over an area of 2,900 sq.m, the international terminal spreads over an area of 1,000 sq.m.

New Airport Apron, Runway to be Extended

Apart from the new terminal, a new apron to park 20 aircrafts will be built at the Varanasi airport. AAI’s expansion plan also involves extending the runway to a length of 4,075 m and width of 45 m. Currently, the Varanasi airport runway is 2,745 m long.

A Parallel Taxi Track & other associated works at the airport are also a part of the plan.

Focus on Environmental Sustainability & Energy Usage Optimisation

Varanasi airport will be developed/operated as a ‘sustainable green airport’. Solar energy will be used at the airport, and the utilisation of natural daylight will be maximised. Further, waste recycling measures will be adopted at the Varanasi airport, which will aid in reduction of its carbon footprint.

Some Other Airport Projects in the Pipeline

In March 2024, the Indian Prime Minister inaugurated 12 airport terminals, and laid the foundation stone for 3 terminals. New terminal buildings at 12 airports were inaugurated, namely at Pune, Kolhapur, Azamgarh, Chitrakoot, Moradabad, Lucknow, Jabalpur, Aligarh, Adampur, Shravasti, Gwalior and Delhi airports. Foundation stones were laid down for new passenger buildings at Belagavi, Kadapa, and Hubballi airports.

Some of the other ongoing greenfield airport projects under progress include the Noida International Airport, Navi Mumbai International Airport, Bhogapuram Greenfield International Airport, and Lalitpur Airport.

Volume of Passengers at Indian Airports Expected to Grow

According to a press release by Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency (ICRA) dated 16th May 2024, air passenger traffic at Indian Airports is expected to grow to 40.7 crore to 41.8 crore passengers during FY-25. ICRA also mentioned that during FY-24 itself, the number of air passengers had grown to 37.64 crore, which is 10% higher than pre-CoVid level.

Adding to this Mr. Vinay Kumar G, Vice President & Sector Head, Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said, “The recovery in the Indian airport passenger traffic is one of the best compared to other major global counterparts. While the global passenger traffic recovered to just 96% of global passenger traffic in CY2023, the Indian airport passenger traffic revived to 106% of the pre-Covid level owing to strong economic growth as well as the addition of new airport routes.

Therefore, keeping in mind the projected growth of air traffic, expansion of airports, especially in major cities such as Varanasi, is vital.