The Delhi airport is now officially the busiest in the country, having overtaken Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. But the honour has come with a price: air-traffic congestion and delays.
“The Delhi airport has a new runway, which helps in handling more aircraft,” said a spokesman of the Airports Authority of India, which handles air traffic at both the privately run airports. “Both Delhi and Mumbai airports handle a similar volume of traffic but Delhi has seen more flight movements lately.”
Along with the third runway, more slots for flights and the sizeable number of VIP and other unscheduled flights have led to an increase in air traffic over the capital. The new runway enables Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport to handle up to 42 flights per hour, compared with Mumbai airport’s 34 flights an hour.
The extra flights are slowing things down.
“The problem is not the large number of flights but the way slots are distributed over the day,” said a senior air traffic control official who did not want to be named. “There is a bunching of flights during peak hours and flights get lined up in a sequence.”
An official with a full-cost carrier, who refused to be identified, said: “Air traffic congestion starts at 6 am and continues till 9 am. Most flights get delayed by 15 to 30 minutes routinely. We see similar problems during the evening peak hour, from 5 pm to 7 pm.”
Moreover, it takes 45 minutes for a domestic flight to reach the parking bay after landing at the new runway. The maximum distance between the new runway and domestic terminal is 9 km.
Things are expected to improve when all airport operations shift to Terminal 3 next year. The building, coming up next to the new runway, will mean less taxiing time for aircraft.