Airports continue to report losses amid COVID turbulence

NEW DELHI: Passengers avoided flying amid the covid-19 pandemic, and 107 of the 136 airports administered by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) lost money in FY21, totaling Rs 2,948.97 crore. According to data given by V.K. Singh, minister of state for civil aviation in the Lok Sabha, the losses were more than double those reported the previous year, when 91 of these airports reported total losses of 1,368.82 crore.

In comparison, 101 of the AAI-operated airports lost a total of 1,668.69 crore in FY19. During FY19, 18 of the 136 airports administered by the state-run AAI were not active, while 19 were not operational in FY20 and FY21.The majority of these airports are completely owned by AAI, although a joint venture owns a minor number of airports in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Nagpur, Hyderabad, and Kannur.

According to Singh’s data, most airports in tier-I and tier-II cities have seen losses in the last three years. For example, in FY19, FY20, and FY21, major tier-II airports such as Bhopal, Aurangabad, Belgaum, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Delhi (Safdarjung), Dimapur, Dibrugarh, Gaya, Hubli, and Imphal incurred losses. Other notable airports, including Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Varanasi, Mumbai, New Delhi, Leh, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ranchi, Vadodara, Vijayawada, Pekyong, Udaipur, Surat, Rajahmundry, Madurai, and Mangalore, also reported losses in FY21 after profiting in one or both prior years.

Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Varanasi, Mumbai, New Delhi, Leh, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ranchi, Vadodara, Vijayawada, Pekyong, Udaipur, Surat, Rajahmundry, Madurai, and Mangalore, among others, declared losses in FY21 after profiting in one or both of the previous years. The second busiest airport in the world, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), made a profit of 96.1 crore in FY19, 2.54 crore in FY20, and 384.81 crore in FY21.

In 2018-19, the Kolkata-based Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport made a profit of 461.19 crore, a profit of 545.07 crore in 2019-20, and a loss of 31.04 crore in 2020-21. During 2018-19 and 2019-20, the AAI-operated Goa Airport made earnings of 137.48 crore and 146.87 crore, respectively. The airport, on the other hand, reported losses of 65.75 crore in the fiscal year 2020-21.

In the meantime, the Pune airport was one of the few to make a profit over the last three years. During 2018-19, the airport made a profit of 174.05 crore, followed by a profit of 123.13 crore in 2019-20, and a profit of 16.09 crore in 2020-21.Interestingly, despite the government’s push to connect smaller airports through the regional connectivity scheme, most regional airports have been losing money since 2018-19. According to the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) scheme, which aims to improve regional connectivity, only 47% of total routes and 39% of airports (unserved and underserved) have been operationalized as of May 31, 2021.

In FY21, total passenger traffic at Indian airports plummeted by 66.3 percent to 115 million, the lowest level since FY08. According to Capa, the FY21 number included 105 million domestic airport passengers (equal to 52.5 million airline passengers tallied twice at the departure and arrival airports) and little over 10 million foreign passengers.

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