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CSMIA Is A Pioneer In Implementing Innovative Solutions: CEO Prakash Tulsiani

In July 2021, the Adani Group formally took over the management of Mumbai International Airport (MIAL), which runs the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA). Prakash Tulsiani, Chief Executive Officer, CSMIA speaks to Ashish Sinha of BW Businessworld about the rapid growth in passenger and cargo traffic and how it is geared for 2022.

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What have been the highlights of the performance for CSMIA since the beginning of the year 2021?
The second year of the pandemic began on a visibly optimistic note with the first few months witnessing a record surge in passenger traffic ever since  Covid-19 hit the industry. The aviation sector overall had set out on the path of recovery and CSMIA was geared up to welcome the passengers back in full capacity. The highlights of the year have most prominently been around the unfolding of a new set of chapters with the Adani Group’s philosophy and the new set of values coming in, the takeover has evidently expedited the processes focused on upgrading and modernising CSMIA to set new benchmarks in the aviation space.

How does the entry of Adani Group into the airport segment help? 
Adani Airports Holding Limited’s (AAHL) venture into the airport segment aims to build on the vision of equipping the Indian airport infrastructure to meet the forthcoming demands of managing the pool of travellers which have now extended to a very dynamic set of tier II and tier III passengers. This set of passengers have significantly added to the traffic CSMIA caters to on an average and we are looking at this growth as an incredible opportunity to leverage the core competencies of this aviation space through CSMIA’s top-of-the-line service offerings to this augmented passenger set.

From immediately addressing the demands of catering to newer routes by adding around six new destinations to our roaster (both domestic and international) in the past few months to seamlessly incorporating technology and bolstering front-end capabilities to better streamline the movements and the overall passenger experience at CSMIA, have all added to our strengths.

On the other hand, our cargo capabilities have also been operationalized to full capacity. New partnerships with allies such as Hong Kong Air Cargo have turned into prospects, which have added to our potentialities

What was the uptake in passenger traffic post the second wave?

Post the second wave, the airport observed a record number of over 60,000 passengers per day where CSMIA stood by the nation as passengers took some of the most crucial journeys during these tough times. The numbers are a clear testament of CSMIA’s commitment towards inculcating the ‘passenger first’ approach in all its operations which has paid off the dividends throughout the course of this year. Since the start of the pandemic, all our employees and stakeholders worked diligently while proactively adhering to Covid-19 norms in order to provide utmost level of safety to every passenger transiting via CSMIA.  As we embarked on the path of recovery, the attempt was to further capitalise on the traffic witnessed in the year gone by and we were comfortably able to incorporate adjacencies that added to our strength. The year, therefore, has consistently been one of growth and feasible expansion opportunities.

With respect to aero marketing, what has the growth rate for CSMIA been since 2021 in terms of the passenger traffic and what do the prospects with respect to expanding to tier II and tier III cities and other additional routes look like for CSMIA?
The passenger traffic in 2021 has clearly indicated a pattern of increased travel across the country where the demographic has been a healthy mix of the tier I travellers which the airports have been catering to for the longest time, and the relatively new set of flyers from the mid-tier cities. The upward slope in passenger traffic further accelerated our endeavour towards strengthening CSMIA’s connectivity across destinations, both domestic and international.
Currently, CSMIA has already reached 88 per cent of pre-Covid domestic traffic and 25 per cent of international air traffic compared to the pre-Covid times. The period of July saw the addition of five new routes to tier II markets including Bareilly, Vishakhapatnam, Tirupati, Ajmer and Porbandar. Whereas the winter schedule, based on the passenger trend observed, has been especially charted out with a 35 per cent increase in average weekly flight movements. It is a notable jump from the summer schedules indicative of an increased demand for air-travel especially observed during the winter months.

CSMIA has witnessed a total traffic of over 42,090 flights from the four metros such as Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, collectively between January 2021 to 30 November 2021. An impressive trend to make note of, are the top four non-metros such as Goa, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Varanasi catching up to the metro city figures with a total of over 22,072 flights collectively between January 2021 to 30 November 2021.

Does the expansion plan also have new initiatives in the pipeline to further enhance passenger experience? 
With Covid-19 coming into play and passengers beginning to prioritise health and safety, CSMIA has also introduced various touch-less technology that allows for contactless travel. Changing technology has had an impact on the evolution of services at the airport as well; while it was considered a luxury in the earlier years, free Wi-Fi is now an indispensable need for the modern age travellers. Increased online connectivity has seen passengers making the shift from physically buying airline tickets at airports to now mandatory online check-in. Further, the airport has enhanced its Automatic Tray Retrieval System (ATRS) and is facilitating faster and better security checks for passengers to process their cabin luggage at the Security Holding Area (SHA). The increasing trend of automation in the aviation industry has led to the introduction of self-check in kiosks, self-baggage drop counters, advanced body scanners, motorized & automated wheelchair services amongst many others in the country targeted towards easing the travel experience.

What F&B and retail-centric strategic movements have been charted out for CSMIA to further enhance passenger experience?
CSMIA envisions to be a haven for retail and F&B experiences. Over the past couple of months, we have launched well-renowned luxury brands such as Armani exchange, Steve Madden, Crocs, Forest Essentials, Bercos, New York Burrito Company amongst others. In total, there are currently over 200 outlets of retail and F&B at CSMIA. Thus, with the aviation sector showing signs of pre-Covid days and expected increase in passenger footfall, we further plan to enhance our retail and F&B offerings and make passengers’ waiting time at the airport more fun and meaningful at their favourite retail store or cafe.

From a cargo perspective, what has been CSMIA’s approach to maximize movements which places CSMIA as South Asia’s gateway to the world? 
Even after surpassing the two waves of the pandemic, CSMIA emerged as one of the prominent gateways of export goods in the country. CSMIA has successfully facilitated the movement of essential goods by processing over 15,498 tonnes of Covid-19 supplies including diagnostic kits, face masks, other medical equipment and over 1,50,000 tonnes of pharmaceuticals throughout the pandemic.

In 2021, CSMIA witnessed a 52 per cent rise in the annual cargo volume as compared to that of 2020. CSMIA also witnessed a 115 per cent rise in the number of flight movement this year compared to 2020. Emirates, Qatar Airlines & Turkish Airlines catered to the highest tonnage this year with 47,610, 41,555 and 26,370 tonnes respectively. Pharmaceuticals, agro products and automobiles were among the top exported goods in 2021 and automobiles, electrical/electronics and pharmaceuticals were the top imported commodities. CSMIA also exported over 311 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to around 77 destinations across the globe and around 48 domestic cities in India.

Additionally, CSMIA has also handled 317 tonnes of oxygen concentrators, 150 tonnes of Covid medicines and 50 tonnes of oxygen generators for distribution across India during the second wave. In September 2021, CSMIA welcomed Hong Kong Air Cargo’s maiden freighter aircraft to India. Hong Kong Air Cargo’s A330-200 freighter holds an overall capacity of 65 -70 metric tonnes and aided the export of 49 tonnes from Mumbai to Hong Kong.

CSMIA recently upgraded its Air Cargo IT system and introduced D-Cube Application with a view to optimize its digital infrastructure to offer the Mumbai air cargo community with a more seamless and paperless transactional experience at the airport, contributing to reduction of dwell time. Through these current digital advancements CSMIA enables right information flow throughout the supply chain, resulting in minimal data errors and delays. With the consistent month-on-month growth in tonnage in 2021, we are optimistic that this growth will continue for the coming years as well.

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Magazine 28 Dec 2021 Prakash Tulsiani