Delhi misses busiest airport crown | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Delhi misses busiest airport crown

If it weren’t for crude oil crisis, forcing airlines to cut down on flights, Delhi could have been crowned the country's busiest airport instead of Mumbai, reports Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: Aug 05, 2008 01:30 IST
Sidhartha Roy

If it weren’t for crude oil crisis, forcing airlines to cut down on flights, Delhi could have been crowned the country's busiest airport instead of Mumbai.

But Mumbaikars need not be too happy also. Experts say Delhi is all set to overtake Mumbai by 2010, if not now.

It was predicted that by 2008, Mumbai and Delhi would come neck to neck in terms of air traffic movement if not passenger traffic. Mumbai has always been the busiest airport of the country both in the numbers of flights and passengers handled.

However, Delhi was inching towards Mumbai only a couple of months ago when the Indira Gandhi International Airport was handling 700 flight movements per day (landings and take-offs), while the figure for Mumbai was between 700 and 720.

However, the steep hike in the prices of fuel in the last few months has resulted in airlines cutting down on flights to manage the burden of fuel prices.

“While the Mumbai airport is now handling more than 650 flight movements per day, Delhi handles between 600 to 620 flight movements each day,” said a spokesman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said. The authority provides air traffic services at both Delhi and Mumbai airports, which are run by private operators. Delhi's traffic figures also dips as low as 580 on many days.

While the slump in the aviation industry and the hike in air ticket prices means many fliers can't afford air travel anymore, it also means less congestion at these airports. “With flight movements coming down to 580-600 each day, there is much less hovering even during peak hours,” said a senior air traffic control official of the Delhi airport. The number of flights is expected to increase in September when the present lean season ends.

Gurcharan Bhatura, Director General of the Foundation for Aviation and Sustainable Tourism, a non-profit research organisation, said, “Delhi would easily overtake Mumbai in a short time even if it has fallen behind in the race due to the fuel crisis.” “While airlines prefer Mumbai, its airport has no land to expand and its runway capacity is limited. Delhi, on the other hand, is already adding a new runway, new terminals and parking bays,” he added.

He said Delhi has much higher capacity and would soon catch up as it would be able to accommodate many more flights and passengers in the future.