Flying to and from Mumbai set to pinch as runways shut for repairs
2 min read.Updated: 07 Feb 2019, 12:23 AM ISTRhik Kundu
Maintenance work at Mumbai, partial shutdown at Bengaluru for Aero show may send airfares soaring
The airport in India’s financial capital sees about 46 arrivals and departures every hour
Domestic airfares to and from Mumbai are set to rise as both its runways will be closed for maintenance for six hours every alternate day from Thursday till the end of March, significantly reducing the total capacity of flights taking off and landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).
The maintenance work at Mumbai airport will be carried out at the intersection of the two runways, leading to both being closed. The runway closure during the peak hours of 11am to 5pm is expected to hit more than 250 flights during the affected days, said airport officials.
The airport in India’s financial capital sees about 46 arrivals and departures every hour.
“With the Mumbai airport being shut for six hours thrice a week because of runaway repair work, there has been a lot of cancellation and rescheduling of flights leading to a reduction in capacity by approximately 15-20% on these days," said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer at online travel portal Yatra Online Pvt Ltd.
Fares, especially between Mumbai and Delhi, and other trunk routes from the city, have already risen significantly ahead of the impending closure. Dhall said fares between Mumbai and Delhi are more than 30% higher during the days when the runways would be closed compared with other days.
“We would advise travellers to plan their travel well in advance to avoid paying these extremely high fares," he said.
“We have already informed the airlines months in advance about the situation and have encouraged them to bring in wide body aircraft so that they have enough capacity," said a CSIA spokesperson. Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport will also be on partial shutdown towards the latter part of February because of temporary closure of air space in the city for commercial flights in view of the biennial Aero India show that will take place between 14 February and 24 February. The airport, which sees about 30 arrivals and departures every hour, will also suspend its operations for a few hours during rehearsals and on show days.
The partial shutdown at two of the busiest airports will lead airlines to reschedule and even cancel flights. “Bangalore International Airport Ltd is working with airlines offering scheduled aircraft operations that will be impacted during this period, to ensure minimal disruption to existing scheduled flights during the reduced operating hours," the airport operator said.
India’s largest domestic airline, IndiGo, which operates 103 daily flights from Mumbai, expects as many as 30 flights to be affected each day when the runways would be closed. “We will operate flights to alternate destinations wherever possible. As part of the process, IndiGo will ensure that it accommodates passengers on alternate flights to reduce passenger inconvenience," said an airline spokesperson.
A spokesperson for full-service carrier, Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, said it has withdrawn 16 flights between 7 February and 30 March because of the runway maintenance work at Mumbai airport. “All customers booked on any of the affected flights are being fully refunded or accommodated on other suitable flights," the spokesperson said.
A senior official at national carrier Air India Ltd said the runway closure is a difficult situation especially as it will happen during the peak winter season. “The airline has added wide body aircraft to increase capacity. However, this exercise has been limited. This is a difficult situation for all airlines as flights will have to be curtailed," the Air India official said.