Air travel in India has grown at a phenomenal rate in recent years. In 2017, the Indian government announced that India had become the world's third largest domestic civil aviation market, with passenger traffic of over 100 million during 2016–17. According to recent projections, passenger numbers are expected to reach 7.2 billion a year by 2034. India also expects to be the world's largest aviation market by 2026.
The expansion is being driven by airport modernization, the success of low-cost carriers, foreign investment in domestic airlines, and emphasis on regional connectivity. Massive upgrades of major airports in India have been undertaken, with the significant input of private companies, and are still continuing as capacity is being stretched. India now has some much improved, glossy new airport terminals.
- Location: Palam, 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the city center
- Pros: Modern terminal with convenient access to downtown Delhi
- Cons: Fog from December until February often delays or cancels flights
- Distance to the City Center: A pre-paid taxi, which is recommended over a metered one, costs between $5 and $7. The journey takes 45 minutes to one hour during normal traffic. There's an express train, known as the orange line, that costs less than $1 and takes 20 minutes.
Delhi competes with Mumbai for the accolade of best airport in India. The airport was leased to a private operator in 2006 and subsequently upgraded, and as of April 2019, renovations to improve upon and expand the airport are ongoing. In 2018, Delhi airport handled 68.9 million passengers, making it the sixth busiest airport in Asia and the twelfth busiest in the world. The development of the airport includes the construction of an adjacent Aerocity hospitality precinct with many new hotels, which has convenient access to the terminals and a station on the Delhi Metro Airport Express train line (there's also a station at Terminal 3).
- Location: The international terminal is located at Sahar in Andheri East, 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of the city center. The domestic terminal is in Santa Cruz, 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the city center.
- Pros: The main terminal is modern and easy to navigate.
- Cons: The old terminal, which services low-cost carriers, is inconveniently located; there are often delays due to traffic on the runway.
- Distance to the City Center: A taxi will cost about $5 and will take one to two hours, depending on traffic. There are no direct public transportation options connecting the airport and city center. You'll have to take a taxi or rickshaw to a nearby transportation hub in order to do so.
Mumbai's major airport handled 49.9 million passengers in 2018, making it India's second largest airport. Similar to Delhi, it was leased to a private operator in 2006, and a new integrated domestic and international terminal constructed. The terminal, known as Terminal 2, opened in early 2014. Domestic airlines are currently in the process of relocating to Terminal 2 in a phased manner. Although the new terminal has greatly improved the airport's functionality, runway congestion and consequential flight delays are still a significant problem. In addition, low-cost carriers still depart from the old domestic terminal, which is inconveniently far away in a different area.
- Location: Devanahalli, 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the city center
- Pros: The terminals are well-kept
- Cons It's far from the city
- Distance to the City Center: A taxi will cost about $12 and take one to two hours, depending on the traffic. There's an airport shuttle bus that goes to the city center and costs $2 to $4, and it takes at least as long as a taxi would.
Kempegowda International Airport, formerly known as Bangalore Airport, is India's third busiest airport, located near Bengaluru. It's privately operated and handled 26.9 million passengers in 2018. It was constructed in on a greenfield site. Both the domestic and international terminals are in the same building and share the same check-in hall. Despite having low-cost facilities, the main issue is that it's located a long way from the city. The airport terminal opened in May 2008. Since then, it's been expanded in two phases. The second phase commenced in 2015 and involves the construction of another runway and terminal. Bangalore airport often experiences problems with fog early in the mornings during winter.
- Location: Pallavaram, nine miles (14.5 kilometers) southwest of the city center
- Pros: None (until renovations are completed in 2021)
- Cons: Currently under construction, poor infrastructure, safety concerns
- Distance to the City Center: A 20 to 30 minutes taxi ride to the city center will cost about $4. There's also a Chennai metro connection that costs a $1 and takes 10 to 20 minutes.
Chennai is India's fourth largest airport and the main hub for arrivals and departures in south India. It handles more than 20 million passengers a year, about half of whom are flying domestically. The airport is owned and operated by the Indian government. It's in the process of being expanded and redeveloped to handle some 30 million passengers by 2021. New domestic and international terminals were built and opened in 2013, and the secondary runway was extended. The second phase of redevelopment is currently being undertaken, including expansion of the new domestic and international terminals, and is expected to be completed by 2021.
The old domestic terminal, located between the two buildings, has been demolished to facilitate this. While the airport is functional, unfortunately, its infrastructure is incomplete and it lacks amenities. A Metro Rail station is also scheduled to open at the airport by the time the renovations are complete. Poor workmanship has caused some safety issues at the airport, with the repetitive collapse of glass panels, granite slabs, and false ceilings in the terminals.
- Location: Dum Dum, 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of the city center
- Pros: Modern terminals
- Cons: Fog in the winter delays flights
- Distance to the City Center: A taxi costs about $5 and takes 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic. There is a metro station at the airport—the fare is just cents, and takes about 75 to 90 minutes.
Kolkata is an international airport, but about 85 percent of its passengers are domestic travelers. It's India's fifth busiest airport and handled more than 21 million passengers in 2018. Like Chennai, Kolkata is owned and operated by the Indian government. The airport's old domestic and international terminals have been replaced with a much needed new and modern integrated terminal (known as Terminal 2), which opened in January 2013.
The airport's modernization resulted in it being awarded "Best Improved Airport in the Asia-Pacific Region" in 2014 and 2015 by the Airports Council International. New retail stores finally opened at the airport in 2017, providing passengers with something to do. Do note that Kolkata airport is affected by dense fog during the early hours of the morning from late December to early January. This causes regular flight delays.
- Location: Shamshabad, 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of the city center
- Pros: Environmentally friendly, very modern
- Cons: A bit far from downtown Hyderabad
- Distance to the City Center: Taxis cost between $7 and $14 and take one to two hours, depending on traffic. There's also an express bus that costs $1.50 to $3.50 and takes anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.
Hyderabad airport opened in mid-March 2008. It's operated by a private company and handles about 21 million passengers a year. The airport is world-class, with excellent facilities. Hyderabad airport also won an award for environmental management in 2015. The airport has a single integrated domestic and international terminal. Expansions are underway: Another terminal and another runway will be added by 2021.
Goa International Airport (GOI)
- Location: Dabolim, between north and south Goa
- Pros: Closest airport to the resorts of Goa
- Cons: Overcrowded, bad layout, bad infrastructure, lack of services
- Distance to Panjim: The 40-minute taxi costs about $15. There's no public transportation available.
Goa currently only has one airport that services the whole state, and it's situated on a military airbase The government-owned and operated Goa International Airport, also known as Dabolim Airport, has a capacity of five million passengers a year but is handling nearly eight million passengers annually. Unfortunately, this is apparent in its functionality. Even though the airport has been redeveloped, with its new integrated terminal inaugurated in December 2013, there have been frequent complaints from passengers about its infrastructure. These include overcrowding, haphazard layout, inefficient procedures, slow service, lack of food vendors and shops, dirty washrooms, and dysfunctional air-conditioning. A new airport is expected to open in Mopa, in north Goa, in 2020. However, works are also planned to expand the existing airport.