The uncertainty over Chennai’s new airport has finally ended. The aviation ministry has received the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly which says the Airports Authority of India (AAI) should modernise the existing airport and also build a greenfield one near the city. The new airport could be built in a 5,000-acre area near Sriperumbudur.

The ministry is now awaiting a formal decision from the state that would be forwarded to the Group of Ministers and PMO for final clearance. But, perhaps sensing that it would get the Chennai and Kolkata airports, the AAI has already begun groundwork by inviting global design bids so that work can begin as soon as all clearances come.
“The immediate task will be to provide new domestic and international terminal at the existing airport. This work will be done in phases and at a cost of Rs 1,500-2,000 crore. By the time this terminal reaches peak capacity in 2015, we plan to have the new greenfield ready,” said highly placed sources. The new airport will come up in an area of 5,000 acres and at a cost of about Rs 5,000 crore.

Since Chennai would have two airports — with no condition being set by greenfield developer to close the existing one — the new place could be used for international and legacy carriers. The existing airport could be earmarked for low cost carriers, a practice widely adopted abroad to help keep no frill flights sustainable by offering them lower airport charges.

The decision has surprised many in the aviation industry, as earlier, there was talk of Chennai going the Delhi and Mumbai way of privatisation.