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How runway closure at Mumbai, Bengaluru airports hurting fliers

Rediff News 2019-02-11 05:30:00

According to a survey by travel portal ixigo, economy airfares from Mumbai have shot up by almost 25- 30 per cent till the end of March.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Last-minute airfares have almost doubled on Mumbai and Bengaluru routes due to simultaneous runway closure at two of India’s busiest airports.

Airlines have been forced to cancel and reschedule flights leading to the surge in airfares.

 

Mumbai airport announced a runway closure from February 7 to March 30 due to the recarpeting of the intersection of two runways.

There are no flight movements between 11 am to 5 pm every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at Mumbai airport.

Recarpeting of runway is part of scheduled maintenance process and Mumbai airport had given advance notice about the closure. As part of the process, two layers of asphalt will be laid on the runways to strengthen the surface.

The work is being carried out prior to monsoon to ensure continuous availability.

Similarly, at Bengaluru airport, over 100 flights will be affected as the runway will be closed from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm, between February 14 and 17.


The closure will be due to the practice session of the Indian Air Force for the Aero India show.

According to a survey by travel portal ixigo, economy airfares from Mumbai have shot up by almost 25- 30 per cent till the end of March.

"Ahmedabad-Mumbai has seen a hike in airfares by over 80 per cent as compared to last week.

"Last-minute non-stop and stop-over flights have been impacted the most, recording a price surge of over 200 per cent in some cases.

"Around 33 per cent of all flights from Mumbai airport were delayed today and we expect a further increase in cancellations and delays over the next few days," said Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of ixigo.

According to officials at Mumbai airport, almost 276 flights are likely to be cancelled daily till the runways are reopened.

“Fares have started to rise. Both close-in and advance fares are marginally up. But close-in fares are higher due to disruptions in Mumbai and Bengaluru airports. Close-in fares for Mumbai are 70-100 per cent higher,” said Balu Ramachandran, head of air and distribution, Cleartrip.

Senior airline executives also said that there is scarcity of tickets as people are cancelling leisure travels during the closure period and re-planning them.

“We are seeing a trend in Mumbai where people are cancelling travels on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Our priority is to find alternate arrangements for existing customers rather than take new bookings. The demand-supply situation has reached an inflection point,” explained an executive of a private airline.

Airline executives also pointed out that such a scenario rakes up the aviation infrastructure problem that the country is facing.

“It’s for years now that Mumbai needs a second airport. For an airport running at 100 per cent capacity and surviving on one-runway operation; such situations are bound to emerge,” he said.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport has two crossrunways, so they cannot be used at the same time.

The airport, on an average, handles 950 aircraft daily. It handles 46 flights in an hour, making it the busiest airport with a single runway in the world.

The main runway (09-27) handles maximum flight operations, while the secondary runway (lesser efficient than the main runway) is used when the main runway is not available for flight operations.

The airport handles 46 flights in an hour making it the busiest airport with a single runway in the world.


Over 80 IndiGo flights cancelled, 11 diverted on bad weather, crew shortage

Over 80 IndiGo flights were cancelled over the weekend as a consequential impact of diversions and pilots shortage.

Thirty eight flights were diverted, eleven of them of IndiGo as Delhi was hit by a hailstorm on Thursday evening.

This had a cascading impact on the airline's operations resulting in flight delays and cancellations over the next three days.

Flight diversions results in duty time extension for pilots and while the civil aviation regulator does allow a dispensation in work hours, this puts a strain on airline's operations.

Pilots shortages also aggravated the situation as the airline has just enough number of pilots to maintain it's daily operations.

"Even a two hour flight disruption has severe impact on the schedules," an airline source said.

The airline operates over 1300 daily flights and has around 3000 pilots on its rolls.

IndiGo confirmed it's flights were impacted due to hailstorm.

"Due to a severe hailstorm in North India, 11 IndiGo flights were diverted. Consequently, this disrupted operations across our network the following day.

"As part of recovering our schedule, positioning of the crew and aircraft had to be readjusted. As a result, a number of flights were cancelled.

"We regret the inconvenience caused to our customers," the airline said in a statement.

Aneesh Phadnis