IGI choked: No new peak-hour flights in Delhi this summer

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NEW DELHI: Indians may be flying like never before but the infrastructure crunch at metro airports is limiting their choice of flights. The problem is so acute that putting an additional flight in peak hours is becoming tough at most metros.

Delhi airport, for instance, will not be adding a single flight between 7am and 10pm this summer.

Airlines are pleading with Mumbai airport to allow more domestic flights at night as the airport has no additional slots left.

These two airports alone accounted for almost 10 crore of the total (domestic-cum-international) traffic of just over 15 crore last year.

The severe infrastructure crunch at major Indian airports was highlighted during recent deliberations aviation authorities held with airlines to finalise the summer schedule this year.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) cleared a summer schedule of 17,170 domestic flights a week from 77 airports by 12 airlines.

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TOI accessed the minutes of the meeting, prepared by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which reveals that big airports are bursting at the seams. So much so that airlines have ordered hundreds of planes but no one knows where they will be parked.

The Delhi airport’s representative said at the meeting that “no new flights are being accepted from 7am to 10pm as Delhi airport is full during that period”.

Delhi is the only airport in India that has three runways but due to airside infrastructure crunch, the hourly aircraft movement remains way below potential.

The minutes say that while the maximum hourly capacity of IGI Airport’s three runways is 75 aircraft (70 schedule and 5 non-schedule), the “practical hourly capacity to be considered for allocation of slots” is much less at 67 (62 schedule and 5 non-schedule).

A reduction of eight schedule flights means 192 fewer flights a day. With two IGI runways (when one is closed for repairs), the hourly capacity is between 45 and 60.

Also between 11pm and 6am, it can handle a maximum of 45 flights an hour due to special runway usage procedure to cut on night-time noise from planes The Mumbai airport representative admitted that his was a “constrained airport”.

On its part, AAI admitted that the “runway capacity (aircraft handling) of airports is the same as the past season”.

Airlines are seething as they had been ordering planes but the big airports don’t have slots for additional flights or even adequate parking stands.

According to the minutes, Neville Mehta of Jet AirwaysBSE 3.96 % said: “There needs to be a way forward to increase air traffic movement at metros especially Delhi and Bengaluru… given the status of airport infrastructure almost across the country and with no immediate solution in sight, airlines have no room to either expand or manoeuvre their schedules/network commensurate with passenger growth.”

The minutes quote Debashis Saha of SpiceJetBSE 2.79 % saying: “There has been no increase in runway capacity at major airports.

Delhi remains a major concern with just 62 movements an hour and both AAI and DIAL (Delhi International Airport Pvt Ltd) have indicated no new slots at Delhi Airport between 7am and 10pm.

Mumbai continues to remain capacitated and Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru are also capacitated in peak hours.

There is a real capacity constraint in Mumbai… to procure slots, MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd ) should look into allowing domestic airlines on regular basis to operate late night flights.