Covid grounds Calcutta airport expansion plan
The city airport has put on hold a Rs 1,000-crore expansion project because the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp drop in the passenger count and revenue and the authorities are not sure when the volume would reach the pre-pandemic level.
In the past year, the airport has lost 10 million passengers and a Rs 600-crore profit plunged to aRs 200-c rore loss. The shelving of the project once again shows how the Covid-19 pandemic had a deep impact on the country's economy.
“The airport recorded a huge drop in the passenger count in 2020-21. We are not sure when the passenger count would go up again because there is a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases.
Also, there is a shortage of funds because of revenue loss. So, at this point the expansion project has been shelved,” said an official of the Airports Authority of India.
According to the official, a project consultant, a construction agency and around 10 other subsidiary firms would have received contracts for the job had the project taken off in 2021-22.
In the financial year 2019-20, the airport had handled 22 million passengers, said an official. Because of the pandemic, the airport would have handled only around 12 million passengers in the 2020-21 fiscal, which will end on March 31, an official at the airport said.
In 2019-20, the airport had earned a profit of Rs 600 crore. With a sharp drop in the number of passengers and most commercial activities stalled, it has suffered a loss of Rs 200 crore this fiscal, the official said.
The integrated terminal was built to handle 26 million passengers in a year. According to estimates of the authorities, the airport would have achieved the capacity to handle 26 million passengers by 2022-23 if things had gone the usual way.
The extended terminal in the first phase of expansion was supposed to become operational by 2024. But now, officials said, it was not clear when the project would finally take off.
In February 2020, Metro had reported that the AAI had sanctioned the Phase I of the expansion plan. The master plan of the expansion, designed by Landrum & Brown, a US-based firm that specialises in aviation planning and development, was sanctioned in 2020.
The plan included demolition of the existing old domestic building adjacent to the new integrated terminal. An extension of the integrated terminal, spread across 80,000sq m, was to come up there.
There would have been a new boarding area with at least 10 aerobridges, more security check-in and airline check-in counters.
Passenger flight services were completely stalled from end-March till end-May. Later, domestic flights resumed in phased manner.
Now domestic flights are operating but regular international flights are yet to resume. A few international flights from places like Dubai are operating to Calcutta as part of an air transport bubble arrangement.
Transport bubbles are arrangements between two countries to resume commercial passenger flights when regular services are suspended because of the Covid pandemic.
Many retail and food stores had also remained closed for several months and they had appealed for concessions in licence fees.
“Because of lack of earnings and the concessions given to several agencies, the airport suffered a loss of Rs 200 crore,” said an official.
The number of active Covid-19 cases in Bengal rose by 70 on Wednesday, taking the count to 3,782.
The state on Wednesday recorded 462 new infections and 334 recoveries.