Delhi's T3 has revolutionised the airport experience for Indian travellers and built a formidable reputation in just one year. I Prabhakar Rao shares the secret behind this success and unveils future ambitions for the airport.
What is the main reason for Delhi's T3 success?
As is often said in the real estate business, “location is everything”. It is no different in T3's case. Delhi is in the centre of a very rapidly growing economy with a large passenger base, (business and leisure), looking for faster and more effective ways of global travel. Keeping this very basic factor in mind, Terminal 3 was constructed in a modular fashion with state-of-the-art technology to assist in faster overall processing of passenger moveÂment and baggage handling. Keeping the expected groÂwth in mind, it was always our intention to build a terminal that could be easily reconfigured to add more gates or commercial space with minimum disruption to ongoing operations. This simple design module has allowed T3 to accommodate more aircraft, process
more passengers and handle more bags, in the most efficient way.
The success of Terminal 3 lies in the immaculate planning of this world-class facility. When we planned this airport in 2006, our aim was to make the most of the resources available to everyone-the passengers, airline and our concessionaire partners. If you notice the usage pattern, our terminal infrastructure works on the principle of common use, giving the airlines maxiÂmum operational benefits with minimum disruption in their individual business models. T3 allows the airlines to optimise their schedules by providing inbuilt benefits such as ease of connections, minimising aircraft turnÂaround and providing a world-class shopping and eating experience; all within a short span of time that the passenger has in the terminal. We work very closely with our business partners in T3 to ensure this success. Terminal 3 is a true game changer for all of us; T3 marks the arrival of Indian aviation to the global realm.
The airport has been operational for a while; what is your learning in this period?
It is one thing to simulate experiences in a terminal building as large as T3 and quite another to experience it live. In almost one year of operation, we have learnt many lessons and perfected others. Our passengers and stakeholders are our best teachers and we listen to what they have to say. From a passenger's perspective, we have increased the implementation of CUSS machines to allow faster check-ins at our terminal's departure lobby, we have implemented city-side check-in as well at varÂious train stations, wherein passengers coming from any part of the country can check in their bags from the New Delhi Railway Metro Station and get a boarding pass allowing them to access the terminal directly, proceed to security check and onwards to their respective boarding gates. Such facilities are very new to our country, but have been regular features of mega city airports across the world. Currently, we are focused on improving city-side accessibility to the airport.
The increase in aircraft operations has prompted us to add new apron area opposite Pier D, where additional aircraft such as ATRs can be parked. An airport is like a city within itself – being a 24-hour operation, we are prepared to assist and react immediately to situations as they arise. We never compromise on safety and security in our decision making. We have multiple cross-funÂctional teams that are empowered to make real-time decisions given the nature of our business.
What are your plans to cope with surging passenger and freight traffic at Delhi airport?
Our target for this year is to be among the top 10 airports in the world in the ACI rankings for Airport Service Quality. We have set targets for the upcoming years to increase the number of airlines connecting Delhi, for scheduled passengers and/or cargo services. In terms of passenger throughput, we have seen several
new destinations being added to our route map this year, and next year we expect to see some new tails on the apron. Like I mentioned before, this terminal is designed to handle 34 million passengers per annum in its comÂplete configuration and we have a lot of room for growth of traffic.
In terms of unprecedented cargo throughput, I am happy to say that we are on our way to becoming the cargo destination within India. We are adding another terminal in our cargo complex, so that more goods can be processed in the shortest possible time. Our biggest strength lies in utilising our resources. Our Airport Operations Control Centre (AOCC), the nerve centre of the airport in conjunction with the Air Traffic Control is doing a fantastic job in making the most of our airside assets. We are the only airport in India with an ability to have mixed mode operations-simulÂtaneous landings and take-offs on one runway. This increases our total airport handling capacity immensely. There are a limited number of airports in the world with such capabilities, and we are proud to say that we are one of them. Our master plan calls for a total hanÂdling capacity of 100 million passengers per annum in the coming years, and since our infrastructure is modÂular, the trigger for our expansion plans will stand justified, given the market demand and resulting groÂwth in traffic.
How are you progressing on making non-aero revenues a prominent form of revenues?
A combination of aero and non-aero earnings makes for a balanced approach in realising the total picture of optimising airport revenues. We must never forget that the passenger is the catalyst of all our operations. In the past, the opportunity to realise non-aero revenues was limited as there was no infrastructure like that of T3 offered to the traveller. It was common to read in leading aviation magazines that the Indian traveller was actually one of the largest airport spender whilst connecting through Dubai or Frankfurt.
With the advent of T3 and the experience it offers, we are certain that we are working towards changing that headline and encouraging our citizens to shop within our borders. This is a psychological mindset and it will take some time to mature but we are certain that we are onto a good start for the sake of our business partners and the airlines. For new, non-stop, long haul destinations like Toronto and Chicago, we not only give the passenger the comfort and ease of travelling west in the shortest possible time without a connection, but also offer them an unprecedented opportunity to experience our retail and duty-free offerings.
Our processes have been streamlined so that passÂengers can be at ease, increase their dwell time in our retail area and explore around. New hotels are slowly coming up in the area now being referred to as the hosÂpitality district, which will be connected via the metro station. We see a lot of opportunities through which the non-aeronautical revenues can contribute. Very soon, we will be in a position to benchmark our numbers
to that of other mature airport infrastructures across