Holding public interest above business interest, the Delhi High Court has dismissed IndiGo’s prayer against part shifting of its flight operations to and fro Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 of Indira Gandhi International Airport but granted it one last opportunity to suggest other sectors which it would want to shift to T-2 to reduce passenger volume at T-1.
Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Rekha Palli dismissed IndiGo’s appeal against the single judge order from last year by which it was declined any relief against DIAL’s administrative decision directing IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir to shift their operations in the three sectors to T-2 by January 4 to reduce passenger traffic at T-1 during its redevelopment.
The bench also rejected IndiGo’s prayer that T-1 be dedicated to exclusively to its use, while calling upon SpiceJet to move out its entire operations to T-2, while noting that the suggestion “springs from the appellant's own commercial considerations and has not been made in the larger public good… Going by the volumes of passenger traffic generated by them, the appellants/IndiGo may be on top of the heap, followed by the respondent No.5/SpiceJet and then the respondent No.6/GoAir, but this consideration would not entitle IndiGo to claim monopoly over T-1, to the exclusion of the rest”.
“In the present case, public interest lies in expediting the redevelopment activity at T-1, which is a purely administrative decision. The date of shifting a part of the operations from T-1 has had to be pushed thrice over, thereby delaying the date of commencement and postponing the conclusion of the renovation work. It is not as if the appellants/IndiGo, and for that matter, SpiceJet and GoAir have been banished forever from T-1. If we may twist the American idiom, “My way or the Highway” to fit the present context, then the appellants/IndiGo cannot be heard to say that it is either their way, or the runway. The appellants/IndiGo are tending to forget that this part relocation from T-1 to T-2 proposed by the respondent No.2/DIAL, is only a temporary measure and once T-1 is renovated and commences its operations after capacity building, all the airlines can operate from there full throttle and take wings,” said the division bench.
The bench granted “last opportunity of one week to the appellants/IndiGo and the respondent No.5/SpiceJet to approach DIAL to suggest other sectors that they would be ready and willing to shift from T-1 to T-2, as long as they collectively meet the yardstick of one third passenger traffic volumes of their operations at T-1”.
In case no such request is made, DIAL will fix a deadline for shifting one-third of the flight operations of the concerned airlines from T-1 to T-2, under written intimation to them.
While IndiGo was represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Sandeep Sethi, GoAir was represented by senior advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Darpan Wadhva, advocate Raj Shekhar Rao briefed by Meghna Mishra, partner, and Ankit Rajgarhia, senior associate from Karanjawala.
The bench was also of the view that GoAir, which has shifted its operations to T-2, cannot be dispossessed again.
During the hearing, the bench also compared the traffic load of the three airlines and noted that IndiGo handled 16.1 million passengers in 2016-17 while SpiceJet’s passenger traffic was 4.3 and GoAir’s 3.6 million totalling to 24 million passengers per annum (mppa).
It also noted that the estimated aggregate domestic passenger growth at T-1 for financial year 2017-18 is 27 million passengers with 18.09 million share from IndiGo and concluded that T-1 does not have the capacity to handle volumes beyond 13 to 17 mppa over the next three and a half years and that too, if the expansion phase is concluded within the estimated timeline.
The court went into the analysis to test IndiGo’s claim that instead of part shifting of its operations, T-1 should be dedicated exclusively for its operations.