Central government’s regional air connectivity scheme `UDAN’ is adding to the woes of the capacity-constrained Mumbai airport as smaller aircraft take more time to clear the runway, a top airport executive said. The single-runway-operated Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai handles 970 aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) per day. The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), joint venture company between the GVK-led consortium and the operating the airport, however, is in discussions with the UK-based NATS and another foreign consultant to help it improve efficiency in flight operations, MIAL chief executive officer Rajeev Jain said today.
The country’s second busiest airport, rated as the world’s best airport in the over 40 million passengers per year category aerodromes, handles on average 970 aircraft movement per day. “UDAN has reduced the capacity of airports as (small) aircraft occupies more runway time. So if you see, the capacity of the airports goes down,” Jain said during an interaction here. Whatever slots were available for the UDAN scheme have been given to two operators, Air Deccan and TruJet, he said, adding “(even) that is causing great problem as a small aircraft can carry only 19-20 passengers and takes more time at the runway than a bigger narrow-body plane which can fly as many 180 passengers”.
“Does it (UDAN) make economic sense? Is it more economically viable to connect Delhi and Mumbai than Mumbai-Kolhapur?” he asked, in an apparent reference to Air Deccan founder Captain Gopinath’s suggestion that 25 per cent of the slots at the metro airports should be allocated for regional operations. The civil aviation ministry had sought 20 slots for the first phase of the UDAN scheme at the Mumbai airport, but only eight were given due to capacity constraints. Under UDAN or `Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’ Scheme, the government seeks to provide air connectivity to the under-served and unserved airports across the country and the fares for such flights have been capped at Rs 2,500 for a one hour journey.
According to Jain, an aircraft operating an UDAN flight takes one-and-half times more time on the runway. Last financial year, the Mumbai airport was named the world’s busiest single-runway aerodrome, as it handled a record 837 flights a day, or one in 65 seconds on average as compared to London’s Gatwick airport that had 757 flights a day. On low on-time performance of domestic airlines from the Mumbai airport, Jain said variation in the block hours quoted by each operating domestic airline was one of the reaons. “It (OTP) is rather a manipulation by the airlines, I will choose the word because it is just to grab the slots,” he said, adding that if reasons like airlines arriving earlier then their slotted time are removed, then Mumbai Airport is as “good” as any other airport in the country in terms of punctuality. The Mumbai airport is expected to record 48.3 million passengers in this current fiscal while the aim is to achieve the 60-million passenger mark over a period of time, he said.