Pune: In 1960, Pune’s defence airport was opened for domestic civil airlines and on a monthly basis, only 400 passengers would enjoy the luxury of travelling by air. Today, approximately 55,000 passengers use the Pune airport daily! Today, about 94 flights land and depart from the airport every day.
The civil operations at Pune airport had started in 1960. As per a report of Civil Aviation Ministry in 1997, in that year, the total passenger movement from various airports and civil enclaves in the country was 24.3 million. Of this, Pune had a 0.6 share passengers flying in and out of Lohegaon airport.
According to Dhairyasheel Vandekar, an aviation activist, in 1997-2000, only two to three civil flights were operating from the Lohegaon airport.
“Only Air India and Indian Airlines were operating from India. Private operators came in later. In 2004-05, every month, 6 lakh passengers were using the airport. The cargo turnover was of 8,600 metric tonnes every month. Only three airlines namely Air India, Jet Airways and Air Sahara were operating from Pune,” said Vandekar. According to him, although the traffic grew steadily, it remained low.
International flights and passengers
On December 12, 2005, the first international flight flew out of Pune airport to Dubai. It was an Air India flight. Another international flight that was started at the same time was Pune to Singapore via Hyderabad by Indian Airlines - which was later merged in Air India. Today, there are four international flights to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Frankfurt. According to the figures provided by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the period of April to June 2017-18, around 69,976 international passengers arrived and departed from Pune, which is 12.2 per cent higher than April to June 2016-17 with 62,382 passengers.
According to S K Jain who headed the civil aviation committee of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) for 18 years, said, “Many multinational companies chose Hyderabad or Bengaluru over Pune just because the city didn’t have connectivity with their countries.”
Expanding the wings
While the facility and capacity of Pune airport is nowhere close to the needs of the city, it has seen considerable development in last 10 years.
“Airport officials were caught off the guard by the growth of the sector because they had not expected it. Had they taken necessary action to expand the infrastructure in the early 2000s, it would have complemented the growth. Not only did the airport not expand but its connectivity with the city too remained bad.
“This changed to some extent post-2007,” said Vandekar.
Recently, the airport authorities have obtained about 32 acres of land from defence authorities which will be used for expansion of the existing airport. The expansion plans include to the creation of new parking bays, construction of a new terminal building among other things which is expected to increase the capacity of the airport by about 45 per cent.