Home / News / India /  Mumbai airport’s main runway to be partially closed for five months

New Delhi: Airlines are preparing for major peak-hour diversions, cancellations and disruptions to flight schedules at Mumbai’s international airport, the country’s second busiest, on account of a partial shutdown due to the re-carpeting work of the main runway.

The main runway at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which can handle 46 flights an hour, will be shut for commercial flights between 9am and 5.30pm from 1 November 2019 to 28 March 2020, a spokesperson of Mumbai International Airport Limited (Mial), which operates the CSIA, told Mint on Friday.

The spokesperson, however, added that the runway will be operating on Sundays, and a few select days during the five-month period.

All operations will be shifted to the secondary runway, which can handle at least 36 flights an hour.

“All airlines have been informed about the unavailability of the primary runway at the Mumbai airport about a year back, so that they could prepare for the operations accordingly," the Mial spokesperson said, adding that airlines have been meeting airport operators every month to discuss the situation.

On a normal day, the CSIA handles around 940 flights. The airport, however, can operate only one runway. In comparison, Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi has three near-parallel runways.

“The airport authorities will be working with the ATC (air traffic control) to maximize the efficiency of the secondary runway during the time the primary runway is unavailable due to re-carpeting work," said a person aware of the matter.

Runway will be affected because of re-carpeting work
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Runway will be affected because of re-carpeting work

Meanwhile, passengers face a double whammy as the peak season for travel between November 2019 and January 2020 coincides with the expected disruptions.

“The main runway closure will definitely impact the overall capacity and this will obviously lead to airfare price hikes in the Mumbai sector," said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C), Yatra Online Pvt. Ltd. “With the runway closure falling within the peak travel season, ticket prices which would otherwise be high, will soar further due to the reduction in overall seats for the sector," he added.

“This will definitely impact our operations," said an official of a no-frills airline, requesting anonymity. “We are bracing for flight cancellations and re-scheduling. However, we have been preparing for this for sometime now."

The airport in Mumbai handled 48.5 million domestic and international passengers in 2018, according to data from the Association of Private Airport Operators.

In June 2018, the airport set a new record, handling 1,003 flights in 24 hours, surpassing its previous record of 980 flights on 3 February 2018.

In comparison, the IGI airport, India’s largest by passenger traffic, handled 65.7 million passengers in 2018. The airport handles about 1,300 flights daily.

This is the second time this year that the Mumbai airport has enforced a partial runway shutdown. The first instance, from 7 February to 30 March, was necessitated by repair works at the intersection of the two runways, leading to peak hour closures.

This led to an increase in airfares by about 5-10% for flights originating or landing at Mumbai, due to the reduction of overall supply of seats, as airlines operated fewer planes during the period.

However, a spokesperson of Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, said the partial shutdown will not have a major impact on the airline’s operations.

A GoAir spokesperson said: “GoAir is currently working with Mial on finalizing the effective flight schedule for minimizing the inconvenience/impact of runway closure on the passengers. The airline currently operates 96 flights daily to/from Mumbai. GoAir may have to cancel a couple of flights owing to the runway closure."

When contacted, other major commercial airlines didn’t offer comment.

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