Flight International online news 13:00GMT: IATA is calling on the Indian Government to urgently improve its airport infrastructure, warning of “chaos” unless upgrade work on key hub facilities starts soon.

Director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said at a meeting hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi: “Airport and airspace capacity must be expanded to fully gain the benefits of a vibrant airline sector. Without massive change, infrastructure will not be able to handle growth.

“Airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore are not adequate. Among them, Mumbai is the worst with poor service levels and insufficient capacity. A commercial centre needs an efficient airport. Delays due to bottlenecks in the air traffic control system are common. They are costly to airlines and inconvenient to passengers. And when all the aircraft orders made during the Paris airshow are delivered, we risk chaos if we do not move quickly now.”

India’s aviation sector has been booming over the past two years after the Government eased many restrictions on airline operations that for so long had stifled growth in the market. At the recent Paris airshow privately owned Indian carriers announced orders for hundreds of new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing.

Bisignani says: “The Indian air transport sector is among the most vibrant and fastest growing in the world, but it could be a much greater catalyst for economic growth if critical bottlenecks in the system are removed. The most urgent is infrastructure, particularly Mumbai airport. Government policy is moving in the right direction. Now we need to see some results urgently to keep pace with rapid growth. We need results fast, or a great start could turn into a disaster.”

He says IATA is forecasting average annual growth in Indian domestic and international air traffic “in the 15% range” between 2004 and 2009.

In his speech Bisignani also called on Indian authorities to: make the IATA Operational Safety Audit programme part of their safety oversight regime; reduce high taxes over the airline sector; and continue to liberalise air services agreements with other countries.

In addition, Bisignani urged the Indian airline sector to make electronic ticketing a priority, in line with IATA’s goal of having 100% global electronic ticketing by the end of 2007.

“E-ticketing is the most pressing because it has a deadline of the end of 2007. At that time, we will stop printing the 350 million paper tickets that are used today. Our target is 40% global e-ticketing penetration by the end of 2005. Globally we are past 33%. Asia-Pacific is near that at 30%. But India is far behind at just 5.4%,” says Bisignani.

“It is extremely disappointing that a country as advanced in software development as India can be so far behind. India must be a leader in this region, not the last to get on board.”

He added: “The challenges that face India are enormous. Urgent decisions on infrastructure, liberalisation, safety oversight and taxation are critical. And we must move quickly. IATA has strengthened its presence in India to help both its members and the Government at this time of great potential. The stakes are high, but the rewards for our efforts will be enormous.”

Source: Flight International