Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi could lay the foundation stone of the Noida International Airport (NIA) on November 25, 2021, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union Minister Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports Anurag Thakur claimed that the upcoming airport in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh, will be Asia's largest.
"As Asia's largest airport, Noida International Airport is also going to bring with it an investment of Rs 35,000 crore. This will provide employment to more than one lakh people and will also accelerate the pace of development in the region," tweeted Anurag Thakur.
A day ahead of the foundation-stone-laying ceremony by PM Modi, Scindia was quoted as saying by The Hindustan Times that, "The Noida International Airport in Jewar, Greater Noida, will be Asia's biggest aviation facility and generate employment for more than a hundred thousand people."
The context of the claims of both the ministers is unclear. Neither of them specified if they were referring to NIA to be Asia's largest airport for its passenger capacity or air traffic movement or its size. But, when verified, FactChecker found that no matter which criteria NIA doesn't seem to be becoming the largest airport in Asia.
What's the Plan?
The masterplan for the upcoming 1,334-hectare airport in Jewar includes building it in the next 40 years in four phases in the Yamuna Expressway International Development Authority (YEIDA) notified area of district Gautam Budhha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. The masterplan was prepared in collaboration with the aviation consultants at Landrum & Brown, and experts from Zurich Airport International. The airport will have two terminals, where Terminal 1 will have a capacity of 30 million passengers a year, and Terminal 2 40 million passengers annually. More so, the airport will house two runways, which are 3,900 and 4,150 metres long.
The first phase of the airport is planned to be completed by September 29, 2024, which will serve around 12 million passengers annually.
NIA May Not Be Asia's Largest
The NIA is touted as the largest airport in India with an annual passenger capacity of 70 million. But, there are seven airports in Asia that hosted over 70 million passengers in 2019, according to Airports Council International (ACI), a global trade representative of the world's airport authorities.
Since passenger traffic numbers were impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 and the world's top 10 busiest airports reported a 45.7% dip in passenger traffic, FactChecker referred to ACI's 2019 data for the comparison.
In 2019, 15 airports in the world reported a passenger traffic of over 70 million and of these seven were in Asia with the most passenger traffic reported by China's Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) of 100,011,438 passengers. PEK was followed by Dubai International Airport (86,396,757), Tokyo's (Japan) Haneda Airport (85,505,054), Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China (76,153,455 ); Guangzhou BaiYun International Airport in China (73,386,153); Hong Kong International Airport in China (71,415,245); and Incheon International Airport in Korea (71,204,153).
But, according to the Techno-Economic Feasibility Report done for the airport at Jewar by PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited for Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority, the airport can have a maximum capacity of 77 million passengers annually. Despite this higher estimate, NIA may still not bag the top spot as three airports in Asia have already hosted more than 77 million passengers.
Size: While NIA is estimated to have a total area of 1,334 hectares and is being lauded for its size, King Fahd International Airport in the UAE holds the Guinness World Record for being world's largest airport with an area of 78,000 hectares. It is bigger than the nearby country of Bahrain, which itself has three airports. And, more importantly, it is almost four times the size of Noida, which spans over 20,316 hectares.
Air traffic movement: While NIA is estimated to have a total air traffic movement of 489,700 annually, in 2019, three Chinese airports reported aircraft movements greater than 489,700. These were:
Beijing Capital International Airport (594,329)
Pudong International Airport in Shanghai (577,846)
Guangzhou BaiYun International Airport (491,249)