Prepare for fewer flights and longer waits on the tarmac this winter.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has okayed a massive runway overhaul for Mumbai airport last week.
From October-end, 14/32, the city’s secondary runway – which handles about 150 departures every day – will be completely shut for reconstruction for three months. And every Tuesday, an important patch of the main runway will be shut for six hours. This patch is the area where both those runways intersect.
The airlines have reportedly agreed to use the shortened runway. “Flight schedules from October to March (winter schedule) will be formed accordingly,” said the Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson. “Every Tuesday, about 100 air traffic movements (take-offs and landings) are likely to be affected.”
People who have already booked air tickets for that period are likely to see their plans changed. “We haven’t got details from the airlines yet but there will be changes in schedules,” said Ajay Prakash, owner of Nomad Travels in Andheri.
“Yes, we’ll draft new flight schedules as per runway availability during this period, and we have enough time to intimate fliers who have booked for that period,” said Air India spokesperson Jitendra Bhargava.
October to December is the second peak season after the summer vacation. “Due to the monsoon, we just have eight months to do this (runway overhaul). This is the best possible period to do it”, the MIAL spokesperson said.
But the country’s busiest airport — which handles about 700 movements daily — cannot afford to skip the exercise. This is arguably its first complete runway overhaul since the landing strip was built. This time, runway experts will dig out every layer till its foundation and build it all over again.
“This (complete overhaul) is imperative. We calculate that this exercise will make the new runway rock solid for at least 10 years,” the spokesperson said. The city’s runway has had problems due to constant wear and tear. Last August, the main runway was shut for 40 minutes, diverting four flights carrying about 800 passengers to Ahmedabad.