New Delhi: After several complaints, the civil aviation ministry has asked the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi to find ways to reduce delays in moving passengers to the arrival terminal after their flights land, a problem that is caused by a new runway.
The matter is expected to be discussed at a meeting between the ministry, airports regulator Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the airport operator Delhi International Airport (Pvt.) Ltd (DIAL) on Monday, according to two government officials familiar with the issue. They didn’t want to be named.
Several passengers had complained of having to taxi in planes for at least 20 minutes after touchdown on the new runway, India’s longest, which became functional last year.
A SpiceJet Ltd executive said the airline has started making announcements urging passengers to bear with it for the duration of the taxiing. “There are two kinds of passengers. One with no comments and others who tell the pilot ‘you must be lost, you don’t know where you are going’.”
The executive, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the new 11-29 runway is used for landings and the old 10-28 runway for take-offs, forcing arriving aircraft to taxi some 20 minutes to the old runway before passengers can reach the arrival terminal.
“The quickest is 15 minutes; 20 minutes is the longest,” the SpiceJet executive said.
An airport official, who too didn’t want to be identified, said the taxiing time has been reduced to 18 minutes from 22 minutes late last year, and that airlines would be requested to incorporate this delay in their flight schedules.
The Delhi airport is being modernized for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in late 2010. DIAL is building a massive integrated passenger terminal near the new runway, which would cut the taxiing delays, but this will be opened only next year.
Another hitch is that the new terminal is only meant for full-service airlines such as national carrier Air India, run by National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, and Jet Airways (India) Ltd. Passengers travelling by low-fare carriers such as IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd, or SpiceJet may continue to be cramped inside the aircraft long after touchdown even in 2010.
“Parallel runways (like those at the Delhi airport) with requisite separation can be used for simultaneous independent operations even while they are under instrument flight rules,” said Robey Lal, former country head of International Air Transport Association and a retired AAI board member. “Considering the number of crossing of taxiways, it is possible to use contemporary simulation techniques to plan the best possible use of runways and save the most taxiing time.”
“Obviously, there is not much we can do,” the SpiceJet official mentioned earlier said. “Given 30 minutes for holding in the air or taxiing on ground; obviously we are better off with taxiing.”
Airlines carry about nine tonnes of fuel on a Mumbai-Delhi sector, above the actual consumption of 4.5-5 tonnes to factor for possible flight diversions.