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Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has celebrated its 10th anniversary by opening a new Interim International Departures Terminal and revealing some bold expansion plans, writes Joe Bates.

Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport hasn’t looked back since its opening 10 years ago, the recent inauguration of its Interim International Departures Terminal providing a perfect example of just how it has grown over the last decade.

Built in Shamshabad, 24 kilometres south of Hyderabad, India’s first greenfield airport developed under the public-private partnership (PPP) model, replaced the city’s aging Begumpet Airport and handled 6.3 million passengers and 80,000 aircraft movements in 2009, its first calendar year of operations.

A decade of growth later and those figures now exceed 20 million passengers and 165,000 aircraft movements yearly.

Indeed, such has been its success that operator, GMR-Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL), is in the midst of expanding the gateway to avoid it becoming a victim of its own success.

Opened on October 23, 2018, the new Interim International Departures Terminal will ensure that India’s sixth biggest passenger gateway can continue to meet traffic demand while the existing passenger terminal building (PTB) is expanded to more than double the present capacity.

The new facility is used for check-in, and the security, immigration and customs processes for departing international passengers before they enter the main PTB, which contains all the retail and F&B outlets.

It is also equipped with a host of new innovative features such a dedicated concourse for premium passengers and India’s first remote hand baggage screening facility, which when coupled with the new automatic tray retrieval system (ATRS), promises to double the throughput at security checkpoints.

GBS Raju, the GMR Group’s business chairman for airports, says: “Hyderabad Airport has witnessed impressive growth, with the total traffic more than doubling over the past four years. This exclusive facility for international passengers is a testimony to GMR’s ability to proactively develop infrastructure and capacity to ensure unhindered growth of the civil aviation sector in the country.”

Talking about what comes next, GHIAL CEO, SGK Kishore, says: “The airport is currently handling around 20 million passengers annually and we expect the strong growth momentum to continue into the future.

“As a result, we have embarked on a large scale expansion project which will increase the airport’s capacity to up to 40 million passengers annually and also introduce a range of technology enabled solutions to deliver an enhanced airport experience for travellers.

“The projects include a modular expansion of all elements of the present integrated passenger terminal, construction of new aircraft parking bays and taxiways, and doubling the number of lanes on arrival/departure ramps at the forecourt.

“The ongoing $750 million expansion phase is expected to take around three years to complete.”

Traffic growth

A record 18.2 million passengers passed through the airport in its 2017/2018 financial year and this is set to reach new heights in FY18/19 following “robust” double digit growth of 23% during the first nine months of 2018.

Kishore attributes the continued upward trajectory in traffic to a combination of the rising business and tourism appeal of Hyderabad, India’s buoyant economy, the airport’s large catchment area, its successful route development strategies and favourable government policies.

He notes that a range of reforms and policies aimed at aviation development, such the regional connectivity scheme, UDAN, which aim to make flying affordable for all Indians, will almost certainly ensure that traffic growth remains strong over the next few years.

And he is quick to point out that the airport is reaping the benefits of a decision by the Telangana state government – Hyderabad is the joint capital of the Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh – to focus on establishing Hyderabad as a top global investment destination.

As a result, he says, in the last few years a number of leading global IT, technology, pharmaceutical and retail companies have chosen to make significant investments in Hyderabad, boosting the city’s economy and aiding the growth of traffic through Hyderabad Airport.

A total of 22 airlines currently operate international flights from Hyderabad, between them handling an average of 5,500 international departing passengers and 33 international flight departures daily to 18 destinations across the globe.

The top five airlines in terms of the international market from Hyderabad are Emirates, Air India, Etihad, IndiGo and Oman Air, while the biggest domestic carriers are IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India, Jet Airways and GoAir.

SriLankan Airlines, Jazeera Airways and Flynas are all new additions to Hyderabad’s airline network, which has been boosted by five new carriers and 20 new routes in the past two years.


Hyderabad is also growing as a cargo hub and Kishore is confident that new facilities on the way, and the recent announcement that the airport’s cargo terminal has gained World Health Organisation’s Good Storage and Distribution Practices (WHO-GSDP) certification for pharmaceuticals, will make the gateway even more attractive for shippers.

The WHO-GSDP certificate – awarded by SGS India, a leader in certifications in the pharmaceutical sector – underscores the airport’s commitment to and compliance with quality management standards and international requirements throughout the pharma supply chain.

“As a company which is committed to ensuring end-to-end product safety and its integrity, we are proud to achieve WHO-GSDP certification,” admits Kishore.

“Our rigorous quality standards, specialty logistics expertise and meticulous execution enable us to meet the demands of the Pharma City and optimise the supply chain for our customers globally.”

He adds: “Going forward, we are focused on bringing in new products such as perishables and express cargo and on developing our cargo infrastructure. To cope with increasing demand, the existing cargo facilities are also set to undergo large scale expansion.”

Pharma products account for around 60% of the cargo exported from the airport today, which is in keeping with Hyderabad’s status as India’s pharmaceutical capital.


Customer service

Kishore notes that GHIAL is a customer centric organisation and is proud of Hyderabad’s success in ACI’s annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) customer satisfaction survey, in which it is currently ranked the best airport in the world in the 5-15mppa category.

He believes that the adoption of its ‘one family, one mission’ mantra, based on the commitment to working closely together with all airport stakeholders to ensure that they buy into its customer service philosophy and share common goals, has helped in its ASQ success.

As has the 2017 creation of the airport’s ‘Passenger is Prime’ programme, which has proved the catalyst for the launch of a number of collaborative, passenger centric initiatives to further enhance Hyderabad’s already growing reputation for providing outstanding customer service.

These include employing more than 50 passenger service associates (PSAs) whose sole task is to assist and help people as they travel through the fast-growing Indian gateway, and the launch of the airport’s very own radio station.

The airport has also been an early adopter of new self-service technologies and cites the launch of India-first initiatives such as end-to-end e-boarding, the launch of express security checks and the elimination of hand baggage stamping as examples of enhancing the passenger experience at Hyderabad Airport.

“We are relentless in our focus on meeting the needs of our passengers and this philosophy and commitment to enhancing the airport experience has driven our success in ACI’s ASQ programme,” says Kishore.

Hyderabad Airport City

Ever ambitious GHIAL has also unveiled plans to build its own airport city project, Hyderabad Airport City, that is expected to include dedicated business, health, education, fun, logistics and aerospace zones.

Within these zones there will be a convention centre, commercial office space, business parks, a “big box retail and lifestyle experience destination centre” and a GMR Aerospace & Industrial Park, which will have its own US FAA approved MRO facilities and Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

“Each area is being developed in line with our stated vision of contributing directly to the airport business and acting as the engine of economic growth for the state of Telangana and the entire region,” enthuses Kishore.

Sustainable growth

Despite its expansion plans, Kishore is quick to point out that GHIAL is committed to sustainable growth and this is backed up by the airport’s impressive track record of environmental achievements and community initiatives.

As you will read on the following pages, Hyderabad-Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is an environmental pioneer and leader, earning a host of awards that include becoming India’s first carbon neutral gateway in ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.

Kishore reminds me that the airport’s passenger terminal was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ‘Silver’ status by the US Green Building Council.

The airport recently picked up an energy efficiency award from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and a ‘Gold’ accolade in ACI Asia-Pacific’s Green Recognition initiative for its innovative waste management programmes.

Talking about the energy efficiency award, Kishore says: “This is testimony to our efforts to make the best use of the energy resources available. As a responsible corporate citizen, GHIAL is committed to exploring best-in-class energy efficient solutions.

“As a part of our ‘Passenger is Prime’ programme, we have deployed several eco-friendly measures such as electric-powered buggies, ground handling vehicles, baggage trolley movers and e-cars to name just a few.”

Its energy conservation efforts also include replacing all the halogen lights with LED lights in the terminal building, on the apron and in offices, and very soon the entire airport will be converted to 100% LED lighting.

Referring to ACI Asia-Pacific’s Green Recognition award, he notes: “Environmental sustainability has been a key theme in the development of the Hyderabad Airport, and it permeates every aspect of the airport’s infrastructure and operations to this day.”

The airport recycles wastewater which it uses to flush toilets, cool the terminal and water trees and plants on the airport site.

It has its own composting plant for processing all food waste generated at the airport. The organic manure produced by the compost plant is then used to help maintain the flora and fauna across the airport site, which looks good and absorbs about 240 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

The airport also has a captive 10MW solar power plant which meets a sizeable chunk of its energy requirements.

And there’s more, as earlier this year GHIAL won a ‘Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Social Responsibility’ for its outreach programmes with the local communities.

Kishore explains: “Through GMR Group’s CSR wing, the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation which has been actively working in the villages around Hyderabad Airport for the last 12 years, we have undertaken initiatives in education, health, hygiene and sanitation, empowerment and livelihoods with a focus on skill development and sustainable community development.

“This recognition will surely serve to motivate our team to strive further towards our objective of making a real difference to the communities around us.”


Ten years and counting

So, is it safe to say that the first 10 years have been good ones for Hyderabad-Ranjiv Gandhi International Airport?

“Hyderabad has been a true symbol of India’s progress in the aviation sector,” answers Kishore. “The airport has consistently raised the bar and created its own benchmarks in terms of service quality and operational excellence.

“An airport is not only a barometer of a region’s growth and development but also a growth engine of the region it serves. The National Council of Applied Economic Research has conducted a study into the economic impact of Hyderabad Airport’s development and subsequent operations.

“It found that during the construction phase, the airport eco-system contributed over $2.3 billion of income to the national GDP and generated 15,800 direct and indirect jobs. The study also found that in 2009-10, a single year of operations at the airport supported over 840,000 jobs.

“It estimated that by 2025, the airport will contribute around $9.5 billion to the national GDP and generate up to 198,000 jobs.

“The findings effectively reaffirm Hyderabad Airport’s role as an enabler and catalyst of economic growth for the city of Hyderabad and the entire region, and we are committed to working with the state government and all other stakeholders to ensure that it realises its maximum potential.”

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