Much is being spoken, written and debated about the recent purchase of 470 aircrafts by Air India from Airbus and Boeing. So much so, that the US President made an official statement that this could create a million jobs for his countrymen. Many politicians thanked the Indian Prime Minister while so many questioned his role in this private affair between a buyer and a seller – why and how would the Governments on both sides have any role. Leaving all the controversies (if one exists!) aside, let us see the opportunity that we are sitting on.
In the past 8 years or so, the present Government has reactivated over 70 airports. These are not new ones really, for they already existed. Barely. These were airstrips with an ATC Tower at best built before WW 2 by the British. The Union Government through its ambitious project to make the common man fly – Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik (UDAN) was activated and many unused airports were operationalised. It is another thing altogether that our railway networks are choked and a small section of travellers do not mind paying a premium for air travel.
|A view of the Udaipur Airport developed under UDAN|
Altogether, the number of air passengers have grown from 37 mn pa in 2010 to 167 mn in 2019 (sans 4 days of the first lockdown!). The number halved for FY 2021, grew to 123 mn in 2022 and would be around 130 mn in the current FY. By 2027, we expect over 200 mn passengers to hit the sky in a year. To give it a perspective, over 2.2 mn (2 Crores) people took train journeys daily in 2019 of which an estimated 8% of them travel in airconditioned classes.
What excites me, as a (Travel) Retail Professional are the possibilities for retail at airports. To accommodate these new 470 aircrafts plus another equal number from all other incumbent airlines at the moment in India, we are expecting a blast in the skies. Don’t worry, it wouldn’t be so choked like our railway networks where one express train has to stop at times to let the other one travel. But the congestion at airports (runways) would be inevitable.
|IGI Airport, New Delhi|
The new Terminal 3 built at New Delhi Airport a decade back is already choking during peak hours. Mumbai is building another new airport and the same is the case at Noida. Bangalore has commenced a new parallel runway last year and a brand new terminal T2 which will be fully activated by Q3 FY 2024. Goa has a brand new airport in the north while there is no confirmation of shutting down the existing one in the south of Panjim.
Keeping aside the top 20 airports – 2 super metros, 4 metros and the top 16 cities in India – there would be 175+ operational Airports across the country by 2025. The bare minimum would be a daily passenger count of 1,000 pax/day while the maximum would be 30,000. The top 6 airports, by then would be handline 30,000 – 60,000 passengers per day!
At the moment, the spend per passenger in Indian airports is abysmally low. Singapore’s Changi Airport recently announced their CY 2022 revenues from Travel Retail – USD 870 mn. That would be 38% of 2019 revenues, which means in 2019, it would have been USD 2.2 Bn pa. Dubai’s retail and F&B revenues pre-pandemic were a little over USD 2 Bn pa; Hong Kong, Paris CDG, Frankfurt and Zurich Airport, each had Travel Retail Revenues between USD 600 mn to USD 1 Bn pa. All this crashed due to Covid-19 but is slowly bouncing back.
|New Integrated Terminal Building coming up at Chennai Airport|
In India, Travel Retail has been a non-starter except at the top airports, especially those which were privatised. AAI continues to operate quite differently, in a manner that is neither exciting nor enticing for retailers to embrace the opportunity. However, change is inevitable and we see a huge improvement coming our way. By 2025, over 5 lakh people would be travelling through our Airports every day. Imagine the potential retail opportunity that we are eyeing. And these are reasonably affluent passengers with disposable incomes. From a humble cup of tea or coffee to a beer / gourmet meal, F&B seems to be a larger pie than product retail at airports. I had written the reason for this in my previous post.