Delay prompts airlines to scout for other hubs

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: Oct 6 2010, 06:34am hrs
With uncertainty still clouding the proposed second airport in Mumbai, carriers are beginning to look at other metros, including New Delhi, as an alternative to the already saturated Mumbai.

Mumbai airport handles around 25 million passengers in a year and has plans to enhance capacity to 40 million by 2013. Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of IATA, said, The greenfield site at Panvel, with a phase 1 capacity of 10 million, is not a serious solution. We need an airport that can adequately serve 100 million passengers. Meanwhile, low fare carrier Go Air is planning to have more flights from New Delhi, since the airline feels Mumbai has reached a saturation point in terms of passengers and infrastructure. Kaushik Khona, CEO, GoAir told FE, Since airport infrastructure is inadequate at the Mumbai airport, we have shifted our focus to New Delhi.

The Wadia-group promoted airline has added four new destinations Patna, Pune, Lucknow and Leh to its flight network With the addition of these four stations, GoAir will operate more than 1,162 weekly flights, connecting 19 stations. GoAir will now serve daily non-stop flights between Delhi and the four new stations. There is high density traffic towards the north, hence the focus to increase flights from Delhi makes sense, said an analyst.

Flag carrier Air India is also planning to take almost all international long haul flights away from its former primary hub at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport due to lack of space to the newly launched Terminal 3 at New Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport. AI would be serving a total 22 international destinations. On the domestic front, AIs operations from Delhi would be strengthened. Mumbai-based private carrier Jet Airways, with a 27% market share, feels it is very critical to have a second airport to decongest the existing one. Jet Airways executive director, Saroj K Datta has warned that if the capacity and efficiency of Mumbais airport is not increased urgently, airlines would be forced to drop Mumbai from their destination list.

He further said, Managing operations at the Mumbai airport, which has nearly reached saturation in terms of handling airline traffic, has become a nightmare for airlines. Irrespective of when and where the second airport is developed, the government must decide, as an interim measure, to increase the existing capacity and efficiency of the current airport.