New Delhi: Come September and the long waiting time for those flying in and out of New Delhi will come down significantly as the country’s second busiest airport by passengers presses a third runway into service.
Delhi International Airport Ltd, or DIAL, which is modernizing the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, plans to start test flights on the new runway next month and open it for commercial flights by the peak tourist season starting September.
With planes hovering over airports in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore at peak hours in the morning and evening for as much as 30-40 minutes, airlines introduced what they called a congestion surcharge of Rs150 on all air tickets in India last year. They have not rolled back the charge despite civil aviation minister Praful Patel asking them to do so.
Welcome arrival: A file photo of an Airbus A380 at the Delhi airport. The new runway, among the longest in Asia, will be capable of handling the super jumbo and will nearly double the airport’s peak hour capacity. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
DIAL is planning a “soft-launch” of the new runway in mid-August with national carrier Air India, DIAL’s chief operating officer Andrew Harrison said in a recent interview. “There is no reason why the commissioning of operations cannot commence by September,” he said.
The addition of a runway is one of the first key projects DIAL is mandated to complete by March 2010 under a privatization agreement signed in 2006 with the government. The new runway will nearly double the airport’s peak hour capacity from 35-40 aircraft movements currently to about 75.
While the runway construction is nearly complete, navigation equipment are now being installed by the airports regulator Airports Authority of India. Once the equipment is in place, the runway will need to go through the procedural checks by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Currently, the Delhi airport uses two parallel runways that handle nearly 700 flights a day. Yet, the hovering time, which has come down with measures such as adding rapid exit taxiways that allow aircraft to move away from the runway faster, and reducing time between two flight take-offs, is still about 20 minutes.
Delhi airport is yet to decide whether the new runway will be used just for international flights or domestic or both.
But the distance between the new runway and the domestic terminal would take nearly 25 minutes for the aircraft to taxi, leading to a lot of jet fuel being used in the process, said J. S. Dhillon, low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd’s executive vice-president of flight operations.
The real benefit, DIAL’s Harrison agreed, will be visible in 2010 when most airlines move to the new terminal building that is being built along the third runway.
By end-2010 or early the next year, four international carriers—Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France—may start their A380 service to Delhi from Dubai, London, Frankfurt and Paris.
The two new airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad are also capable of handling the A380.