India’s aviation industry has seen exponential growth over the last few decades, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets. Airports, the critical nodes in this burgeoning network, are not just transit points but catalysts of economic development and connectivity.

This article delves into the five biggest airports in India, exploring their significance, unique characteristics, and the roles they play in both national and international contexts.

1. Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi

Located in the capital city, Indira Gandhi International Airport stands as India’s largest and busiest airport. With a capacity to handle over 70 million passengers annually, it’s a hub for both domestic and international flights. The airport has undergone significant expansions, including the addition of Terminal 3, one of the largest terminals in the world. Its strategic location and state-of-the-art facilities make it an essential gateway for international travelers and a vital link in India’s aviation network.

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2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai

This airport, situated in India’s financial capital, is renowned for its high passenger traffic and striking architecture. It manages over 50 million passengers yearly, making it the second busiest airport in India. Its unique design, featuring intricate artworks and modern facilities, has won several awards. As a primary international gateway, it plays a pivotal role in connecting India with global destinations.

3. Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru

Bengaluru’s airport, a reflection of the city’s status as a tech hub, is rapidly expanding. Catering to over 33 million passengers annually, it’s known for its advanced facilities and passenger-centric services. With ongoing expansion projects, the airport is poised to increase its capacity and enhance the travel experience, further solidifying Bengaluru’s position in global and domestic markets.

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4. Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport

Since its inception in 2008, Hyderabad’s airport has emerged as a key player in South India’s aviation landscape. With a capacity to manage more than 20 million passengers per year, it’s celebrated for its eco-friendly practices and efficient operations. The airport’s modern infrastructure and commitment to sustainability significantly impact the region’s economic and social development.

5. Chennai International Airport, Chennai

Chennai’s airport, blending historical significance with modern advancements, serves as a crucial link in South India. Handling over 22 million passengers annually, it boasts a range of passenger amenities and robust operational capabilities. Its role in facilitating regional connectivity and supporting the local economy is indispensable.

6. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, located in Kolkata, West Bengal, stands as a testament to India’s rich cultural heritage and modern aviation advancements. Named after the prominent freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose, this airport serves as the gateway to Eastern India. It handles over 20 million passengers annually, making it one of the busiest airports in the country.

The airport showcases a blend of contemporary design with traditional Bengali elements, creating a welcoming atmosphere for travelers. Its efficient operational capabilities and range of passenger amenities ensure a comfortable travel experience. Serving as a crucial hub for both domestic and international flights, the airport plays a significant role in connecting the region to the rest of the world, fostering economic growth and cultural exchange.

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7. Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Ladakh 

Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, nestled in the stunning landscape of Leh in the Union Territory of Ladakh, India, is one of the highest commercial airports in the world at an altitude of about 3,256 meters (10,682 feet). Named after the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a revered Buddhist monk and statesman, this airport is a marvel of engineering and design, adapting to the challenging high-altitude conditions.

Despite its remote location, it serves as a vital connection point, handling a significant amount of passenger traffic, primarily catering to tourists drawn to the region’s breathtaking beauty and rich cultural heritage. The airport plays a crucial role in the socio-economic development of Ladakh, facilitating not only tourism but also essential services and connectivity for the local population in this relatively isolated region. Its unique location also makes it strategically important from a defense standpoint, given its proximity to several sensitive border areas.

8. Cochin International Airport, Kerala

Cochin International Airport, situated in Nedumbassery, Kerala, holds the distinction of being the largest international airport in the region. Remarkably, it is the first airport globally to be powered entirely by solar energy, showcasing an impressive commitment to environmental sustainability. This pioneering initiative reflects its ongoing efforts to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.

The airport is well-equipped with a range of amenities to enhance the travel experience. It boasts comfortable guest rooms, a variety of cafes, unique gift shops, complimentary Wi-Fi access, first aid facilities, exclusive lounges, foreign exchange services, ATMs, and convenient prepaid taxi car services. Located approximately 25 kilometers from the city center, the airport, with the airport code COK, serves as a crucial gateway for travelers to Kerala, blending eco-friendly practices with modern convenience.

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9. Bhogapuram Greenfield International Airport, Vizianagaram

The Bhogapuram Greenfield International Airport, set to emerge in Vizianagaram with an investment of $593 million (Rs 49 billion), marks a significant development in India’s aviation infrastructure. Also known as the GMR Visakhapatnam International Airport, this state-of-the-art project broke ground in May 2023 and is on track for completion by early 2025.

Spanning a vast area of 2,203 acres, the airport is designed to feature a modern terminal and a lengthy 3,800-meter runway. Phase 1 of the project aims to accommodate 6 million passengers annually, with plans to expand this capacity to 18 million passengers following the completion of Phase 3.

This ambitious venture is a collaborative effort between the GMR Group and the Andhra Pradesh Airports Development Corporation (APADCL), supported by the government of Andhra Pradesh under a public-private partnership model. In a strategic move to enhance operational efficiency, APADCL has also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Navy. This agreement facilitates the relocation of the existing Visakhapatnam Airport’s civil enclave to the new Bhogapuram site, paving the way for a significant upgrade in regional air travel and connectivity.

10: Lalitpur Airport Development, Lalitpur

The Lalitpur Airport project is about turning an old, unused airstrip from World War II into a working airport. This airstrip, located in Lalitpur, hasn’t been used since the war.

There have been several ideas in the past to develop this site, but it was only in March 2021 that the government of Uttar Pradesh decided to go ahead with the project. To start, this new airport will be for smaller, local flights. But, there’s hope that it might grow into an airport for international flights in the future.

The Airports Authority of India owns this project. The airport will take up about 90 hectares of land. Its opening is expected to be a big help to the Bundelkhand area, as it will be the fourth airport in this region.

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11. Navi Mumbai International Airport, Mumbai

Mumbai is getting a second airport called the Navi Mumbai International Airport. This new airport will work together with the already busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.

The Navi Mumbai Airport will be big, covering 1,160 hectares. It will have three places for passengers to go through and separate areas for local and international goods. There will be two runways. When the first part of the building is done in 2025, it can handle 25 million people a year. Once everything is finished, it can serve up to 90 million people.

The City and Industrial Development Corporation and Adani Airports Holdings Limited are in charge of building this airport. Also, the Navi Mumbai International Airport is part of a bigger plan. There will be a fast train line going from Mumbai to Hyderabad, and this airport will have one of the main train stations.

12. Noida International Airport, Jewar

The Noida International Airport, also known as Jewar International Airport, is the biggest airport project happening in India right now. They started building it in 2021 and plan to finish by 2040. The company called Yamuna International Airport Private Limited, which is part of Zurich Airport International AG, is making this airport.

At first, this huge airport will have two runways and will be able to handle 12 million passengers a year by 2024. Then, it will grow slowly over 30 years to have six runways. When it’s all done, it could serve between 60 to 120 million people each year. This will make it the biggest airport in India and Asia, and the fourth biggest in the world.

The goal is for this airport to make traveling easier for people in Noida, Western Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and the National Capital Region. It will help reduce the number of people at the already busy Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Also, the Noida International Airport aims to be the first airport in the country that doesn’t add to pollution – it will be a net-zero airport.

Future Trends in Indian Aviation

India’s aviation sector is poised for further growth, with new airport projects and expansions on the horizon. Technological advancements, such as digitalization and sustainable practices, are setting the stage for a more efficient and eco-friendly future in air travel. The expansion and modernization of these airports are expected to significantly impact India’s standing in global aviation.

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The biggest airports in India are more than just travel hubs; they are the engines driving economic growth, regional development, and global connectivity. As we look to the future, these airports, with their expansions and innovations, are set to redefine the aviation landscape, not just in India but globally.