Take-off delays may now attract a fine

Take-off delays may now attract a fine

Mumbai: The civil aviation ministry plans to fine airlines that delay take-offs over late arrivals of pilots, cleaning aircrafts and boarding passengers, at busy and congested airports in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

For almost a year now, all of the country’s private airlines have been levying a congestion fee of Rs150 on each ticket to offset the cost of fuel spent while circling over airports awaiting clearance to land.

But, after a public litigation in the Delhi High Court earlier this year sought a waiver of the congestion chanrge, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation conducted a study at airports and found that the airlines were partly to blame for congestion. Deccan Aviation Ltd run-Air Deccan and National Aviation Co. of India Ltd or Nacil-run Air India (the new name for the combined Indian Airlines and Air India) had the most delayed flights in the periodof the study.

Many delays, the DGCA said, were because airlines were not taking off at the time allotted, in the process delaying others. Currently, the New Delhi airport can handle 35 flights an hour and the Mumbai airport, 30.

“If they can charge a congestion fee," said civil aviation minister Praful Patel, “they can have a congestion fine (too)." Patel did not specify the quantum of the proposed fines.

The ministry will conduct a new study on delays at airports and results will be available in a month after which the government will decide on how and under what conditions airlines can be fined.

Airlines, however, claim they cannot be blamed for delays. The delays emanate from late clearances from air traffic controllers and some X-ray machines being out of order, said Ramki Sundaram, chief operating officer, Air Deccan. “Yes, you can do this (study) but first understand the issue fully," he added.

Another airline, Air India, said it would accept findings of the study. “If you do not have convincing reason for the delay you should (comply). In European countries they have introduced such fines," said Jitender Bhargava, a spokesman for Air India.