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Business News/ News / India/  Govt directs Mumbai Airport to cut flights, limit business jet movements to address congestion concerns
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Govt directs Mumbai Airport to cut flights, limit business jet movements to address congestion concerns

Mumbai Airport has been instructed to reduce scheduled flights and restrict business jets during peak hours in order to alleviate congestion and improve on-time departures.

File photo of planes taking off from Mumbai airport. (Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)Premium
File photo of planes taking off from Mumbai airport. (Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

The government has instructed Mumbai Airport to reduce scheduled flights and restrict the movement of business jets during peak hours, aiming to alleviate congestion and improve on-time departures. The Ministry of Civil Aviation revealed that, despite the escalating air traffic post-pandemic, the airport had failed to take sufficient measures, as reported by ANI. 

The ministry said that the airport operator did not take steps to streamline and regulate the air traffic movements to resolve this problem, therefore forcing it to step in the matter.

As per Economic Times report, the decision is expected to impact around 40 flights and disrupt the operations of private jets frequently used by top business houses in the country.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI), responsible for air navigation services, has directed the airport to decrease aircraft movement from 46 to 44 during rush hours and from 44 to 42 during non-peak hours.

This directive will lead to the reduction of approximately 40 flights, with IndiGo facing the highest cut of 18 flights and the Air India group, including Vistara, having to cut 17 flights, sources told the daily.

The ministry said that the airport "suffers from congestion and excess capacity on its runways, which inadvertently leads to air space congestion, where flights are forced to hover over the city for a long duration of around 40-60 minutes."

According to the ministry, an aircraft uses 2000 kg of fuel on average per hour, so the long circling times result in significant fuel waste for the aircrafts. For example, a 40-minute flight uses 1.7 kiloliters of jet fuel (costing approximately 1.8 lakh) and a 60-minute flight uses 2.5 kiloliters of jet fuel (costing approximately 2.6 lakhs).

The causes of congestion were identified as excessive slot distribution with limited time margins, non-adherence of slots by airlines, and non-scheduled operations during peak hours. While the airport is operating at full capacity, the government emphasised that the airport operator should have proactively taken steps to regulate air traffic movements.

Extended Curfew for Business Jets Sparks Corporate Protests

Simultaneously, the curfew on the operation of business jets has been extended from four hours to eight hours. This move has prompted protests from major corporate groups such as Reliance Industries, JSW, and the Mahindra group, the Economic Times report states. 

MIAL, the airport operator owned by the Adani group, did not comment, the report added.

The decision to reduce flights and extend the business jet curfew comes after Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia expressed concerns about the declining on-time departure performance at the airport.

Senior air traffic controllers attribute delays primarily to overscheduling by airlines amid a surge in demand for air travel. Government officials emphasised that factors such as infrastructure availability and unscheduled movements, such as government and business aircraft, contribute to delays, the report said.

Impact on Aviation Operations

Rajesh Bali, MD of the Business Aircraft Operator Association, told the paper that additional restrictions on business jets would significantly impede business aviation operations, affecting Mumbai's role as the nation's commercial hub.

Airline network planners said abrupt flight cancellations would pose challenges in redeploying aircraft, leading to financial losses. They also anticipate significant compensation payouts to affected passengers, as per the report.

The government's decision reflects the broader challenges faced by airports nationwide due to increased air traffic post-Covid. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has mandated that any addition of new flights must consider the passenger-handling capacity at security checkpoints, setting standards for the maximum number of passengers handled per hour by X-ray machines on both domestic and international sides.

(With inputs from ANI)

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Published: 13 Feb 2024, 11:59 AM IST
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