India's civil aviation minister wants to turn Delhi International Airport into India's first global aviation hub, and has held talks with the airport's operator as well as Air India (AI, Delhi International) and IndiGo Airlines (6E, Delhi International) about this.

Speaking to the Business Today outlet, Jyotiraditya Scindia said he wanted to establish Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport as a hub to compete with regional rivals like Istanbul Airport and Singapore Changi. "Our international hubs are not in India. Our international hubs are either located in countries close to our borders in the east or in the west," said the minister. “It’s very important to look at setting up a hub within India to serve India."

Scindia said India's Ministry of Civil Aviation is in advanced talks with Delhi International Airport Ltd and the two biggest airlines using the airport. High on the agenda is resolving scheduling issues that hinder or prevent smooth transfers between international and domestic flights. "We are working on minimising the connecting time between two flights at airport terminals to offer greater flexibility," said Scindia.

Delhi is India's busiest airport. It handles approximately 1,200 scheduled aircraft movements a day, or 438,000 annually. Of that number, around 91,000 are international flights. "We must venture into the international markets; we must eventually move into the long-haul markets, and we must be able to provide point-to-point travel for our domestic fliers internationally to ensure that we attract them to our carriers, as opposed to their going via hubs lying outside the country’s western or eastern coasts,” said the minister.

According to ch-aviation PRO airports data, IndiGo Airlines is Delhi Airport's biggest customer, providing 36.8% of all seats offered in and out of the airport each week. That airline is followed by Air India (17.95%), Vistara (UK, Delhi International) (12.37%), SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) (7.13%), and Go First (GOW, Mumbai International) (5.72%). The biggest international operator into Delhi is Emirates (EK, Dubai International) (1.23%). Scindia name checked Dubai as one of the regional hubs he wants Delhi to better compete against.

Scindia's comments coincide with India hosting an aviation summit in Delhi this week under the umbrella of the EU - India Strategic Partnership. The minister pushed back on reports India was not awarding foreign carriers additional flying rights into the country, despite the terms of existing bilateral agreements, in order to protect local airlines.

Scindia said the terms of existing agreements state that Indian carriers must reach 80% of capacity on relevant country or city pairs before India will start allowing foreign airlines to put additional seats into the local market. "We shall certainly look into it," he said. "But at this point in time, we are both looking at issues domestically as well as making sure that there’s enough connectivity available in international sectors."